Part 4—Division through race: We liberals have a great many ways to divide the 99 percent.
When the 99 percent divide, the one percent tend to conquer. For that reason, it isn’t wise to split into tribes unless we really need to.
Alas! In emerging pseudo-liberal culture, we love to divide ourselves into tribes! Consider some recent reactions to something David Brooks said.
Last Sunday, Brooks appeared on Meet the Press. At one point, he engaged in this exchange with Chuck Todd concerning the challenge facing Obama due to Russian conduct in Ukraine:
TODD (4/20/14): There is this fear, as you know. [Obama] doesn't want this to become the rest of his presidency, you know. But in many ways, he is being tested here in some way on how he handles Ukraine.In the highlighted passage, Brooks spoke sixty words about a problem, “a rap,” Obama was said to be facing.
So for instance, I'm about to hop on a plane in two days. We're going on this Asia trip. And oh, by the way, Japan has an issue with islands with China; Korea has some territorial issues. There are a lot of countries in Asia that have territorial issues with China. How is the United States, where are they going to sit when this decides to raise its head and become an issue there? So that's why this does matter globally, sort of how the White House responds to this. And they have no interest right now in doing sectoral things.
BROOKS: I mean, basically, since Yalta we’ve had an assumption that borders are basically going to be borders. And once that comes into question, if in Ukraine or in Crimea or anywhere else, then all over the world—
TODD: All bets are off.
BROOKS: All bets are off. And let's face it, Obama, whether deservedly or not, does have a—I'll say it crudely—but a manhood problem in the Middle East: Is he tough enough to stand up to somebody like Assad, somebody like Putin?
I think a lot of the rap is unfair. But certainly in the Middle East, there's an assumption he's not tough enough.
At two or three different junctures, Brooks made a key point. He said he didn’t necessarily agree with “the rap,” the “assumption he’s not tough enough.”
Brooks said Obama’s problem may not be deserved. He said he thinks a lot of the rap is unfair.
Meanwhile, as he described the rap against Obama, Brooks said he would put it crudely. He said Obama has “a manhood problem in the Middle East.” He said there’s an assumption on somebody’s part that Obama isn’t “tough enough to stand up to somebody like Assad [or] Putin.”
Who is making that assumption about Obama? David Gregory didn’t ask, and Brooks didn’t say.
Is anyone making that assumption? For ourselves, we have no idea—but rather plainly, Brooks was describing someone else’s assumption.
Alas! Everyone knew how We the Liberals would react to Brooks’ statement. At Salon, an R-bomb was dropped. These exciting headlines sat atop a furious piece by Paul Rosenberg:
David Brooks’ twisted “manhood”: Questioning Obama’s masculinity isn’t just racist, it’s wrongAt Salon, headlines rarely correspond to the contents of the article. Keeping that basic point in mind, this is the way Rosenberg started his analysis, which we’d have to call unfortunate:
Obama foreign policy's rooted in successful realist tradition. Questioning his manhood is rooted in white supremacy
ROSENBERG (4/22/14): This just in: New York Times columnist David Brooks and NBC’s Chuck Todd want you to know that President Obama has “a manhood problem”—or at least the appearance of one. That’s the conclusion the two white men reached on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, following comments by another white man, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Corker warned, “I think we’re going to lose eastern Ukraine,” which would be “a geopolitical disaster,” resulting from “an era of permissiveness the U.S. has created around the world.”At this point, Rosenberg quoted the passage from Brooks which we highlighted above. After quoting Todd’s reply to Brooks, Rosenberg continued his analysis:
But that perception doesn’t only belong to Republicans. No, it was international, Brooks claimed.
“There’s so much BS involved here, one hardly knows where to start. Because it can cloud out everything else, it’s best to hold back the black masculinity aspect, and start with foreign policy facts.”
Rosenberg saved “the black masculinity aspect” for later.
As Rosenberg started his analysis, he struggled to observe a distinction which was obvious in Brooks’ statement—Brooks was describing someone else’s view of Obama, not his own. Rosenberg even linked to Steve Benen, who had had the same problem.
But, more than anything else, Rosenberg ended up tossing his R-bombs around, just as the headline writer had done.
In Rosenberg’s view, three “white men”—Corker, Brooks and Todd—had been wallowing in an analysis which involved a “black masculinity aspect.” Before he was done, Rosenberg went through a long exegesis of the problem with what the three white men said, which seemed to be driven by “white male anxiety about black manhood.”
Or something. No sane person could hope to follow these latest ramblings at Salon.
Rosenberg’s racial approach to this exchange is typical of the new Salon. The approach is common elsewhere in the emerging pseudo-liberal world.
In our opinion, Rosenberg’s piece is amazingly dumb, in at least several ways. But it’s guaranteed to divide the 99 percent into those who can swallow this scripted approach to the three white men versus those others who can’t.
Rosenberg’s instant racial approach is common at the new Salon. It made us think of a recent post by Joan Walsh.
Bill O’Reilly had interviewed John Calipari, the University of Kentucky men’s basketball coach. In our view, O’Reilly seemed to be wildly out of touch with the world of contemporary college basketball. He painted an unflattering view of the culture of the sport, in a way which might easily reinforce a range of racial stereotypes.
In O’Reilly’s defense, his entire discussion proceeded from one of his basic frameworks, a framework which isn’t completely wrong. He kept assuming that “the coarsening of the culture” was affecting college athletes in extremely negative ways.
To us, O’Reilly’s interview was largely dumb and rather unfortunate. He seemed to think that college basketball players are being bestialized by the culture.
For what it’s worth, our own assessment of college basketball culture is quite different. It seems to us that college players have never been so disciplined and so amazingly hard-working, especially on defense.
We’re sorry, but college players bust their keisters in ways seldom seen in the past. Across the board, college players have rarely been such superb role models.
We thought O’Reilly’s interview was unfortunate. We thought Salon’s instant misquotation of Calipari was a sign of the times—times in which our college athletes are much more disciplined than our pseudo-journalists.
A day or so later, Walsh jumped into the fray, eager to call O’Reilly names and settle various scores. By now, Salon had corrected its misquotation, so she was spared the indignity of pushing that error in her own account of O’Reilly’s interview.
In our view, Walsh still overstated the extent of Calipari’s differences with O’Reilly. In our view, she mainly seemed interested in settling a pair of scores:
WALSH (4/16/14): It took me a day to catch Bill O’Reilly’s dreadful interview with University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari, which mainly consists of O’Reilly hectoring Calipari to tell him what it’s like to coach those people—you know, the ones raised on “hip-hop stuff.” Can we finally conclude, together, that O’Reilly no longer deserves the “presumption of innocence” when it comes to race? Can we all acknowledge that the essence of his show is racial fear-mongering? It’s been clear to me for a long time, but not to others. It ought to be now.Has Walsh read Calipari’s book? Of course she hasn’t! But she was settling scores with O’Reilly, who no longer deserves the “presumption of innocence when it comes to race,” and with Jonathan Chait, who had dared to criticize Walsh, saying that O’Reilly did deserve that presumption with respect to a different statement.
Poor Calipari was on the show to promote his book, “Players First: Coaching From the Inside Out,” which O’Reilly clearly didn’t read, since he set out to stigmatize the very players Calipari puts first.
We don’t think much of Walsh’s current approach to such matters. We don’t think much of her heroic yelling, which follows a decade of silent ass-kissing aimed at the authority figures running the mainstream media.
We don’t know why Walsh has reinvented herself in this loud heroic manner—why she has gone from useful keister-kisser to loud racial archangel. That said, each approach has helped her advance, though we can’t say that’s why she adopted these poses.
We will say this:
Among the three million ways to split into tribes, race provides the easiest route. Walsh, who was such a quisling not long ago, is a very loud loudmouth now.
Can we tell you why we don’t think much of Walsh’s approach? It’s because she lives to trash O’Reilly, not to praise black kids.
Last weekend, by happenstance, we had the chance to sit around with some college athletes! They were in Baltimore for a two-day, dozen-school track meet at Morgan State. One of their coaches is married to our niece!
We were very impressed by those athletes. They’ll never make money from track and field. They aren’t competing in pursuit of a score.
One of them is a favorite of our 7-year-old great niece, who was along for the ride. After sitting around with that young woman and one of her teammates, it was pretty obvious why.
At one point, Calipari told O’Reilly that his athletes come from good homes. At the start of that exchange, O’Reilly is acting on his assumption that these kids today have been coarsened beyond belief:
O'REILLY (4/14/14): But do they act differently toward you [than in the past]? I mean, do they use four-letter words towards you?In our view, O’Reilly was unfortunate throughout. But we’ll promise you this:
CALIPARI: No, no, no, not—
O'REILLY: None of that. So you impose strict discipline on them?
CALIPARI: Oh, yes, yes. But here's what I would tell you. These kids come from good homes. You know, people will say, “Well, he doesn't have a father.” Some of the best kids I coached were raised by a grandmother who was so firm that they understood.
O'REILLY: So, you evaluate their character before you give them the scholarships.
CALIPARI: If I walk in a home and a young man disrespects his mother or grandfather, grandmother in front of me, I'm out. Because if that's the case, he respects no one. He's not going to respect me.
The high jumper our great niece likes doesn’t come from an economically upper-end home. (This year, several of Calipari’s star players did.) But she does come from a very good home. Sitting and talking to her and her teammate, it would have been hard to draw some different conclusion.
The city of Baltimore is full of impressive black kids. We see them every day, in various locations and settings.
And not only that—black kids’ test scores are way up. In reading and in math, black kids all over the country are scoring much better than their parents and grandparents did.
Other data all point in good directions. But people like Walsh never stoop to the task of conveying good news to the public.
They live to call O’Reilly names. They refuse to tell the public about those rising test scores.
Joan Walsh doesn’t seem to like black kids. After years of astonishing silence, few things could be more clear.
In our view, people like Rosenberg are the bane of progressives’ existence. It feels so good to drop those bombs. It makes us liberals feel so much better than all the rest.
Walsh, who may be worse than O’Reilly, “earns” her living dogging him down. But have you ever seen Salon inform the country about the rising test scores of black kids?
We don’t mean to sound condescending here. In the end, each college athlete, each third-grader, is just him- or herself.
But citizens are constantly being told that nothing works in our public schools, especially in the cities. Walsh, who has a very high platform, refuses to challenge this.
She refuses to tell the world the good news. She’s too busy trashing O’Reilly, thus affirming her own moral greatness.
Many people would be happy and impressed if someone bothered to tell them about our black kids’ greatness. Long ago, Langston Hughes imagined such a day in a very short, famous poem.
Hughes’ poem bounced around in our heads after we talked to those college athletes. But the new Salon seems to live to divide the world, thus helping the one percent conquer.
Coming next week: Tuscaloosa
Update: We’re sure that Walsh means well, or something like that. Then too, on many occasions, we’ve seen O'Reilly get things right.
Might a little tenderness, a little praise, perhaps a bit of understanding, move us into the future?