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Tilting at Windmills

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April 15, 2010

THE RIGHT STILL DENIES SLURS FROM HCR PROTEST.... It's been nearly a month, but the far-right obsession continues. It's getting embarrassing.

On March 20, House Democratic leaders walked from a caucus meeting to Capitol Hill, en route to the final debate over health care reform. As the lawmakers approached the building, assorted right-wing activists chastised Dems, reportedly used racial and ethnic slurs, and in one instance, spat on an African-American lawmaker.

Prominent far-right voices have gone to truly ridiculous lengths to insist that the slurs never happened.

Conservatives apparently can't help themselves. James Taranto, a Republican writer at the Wall Street Journal, got in touch with Rep Heath Shuler's office after the North Carolina Democrat expressed his disappointment to a local newspaper over the ugliness of the right-wing, mid-March protests.

[W]hen we phoned Shuler's office this afternoon, press secretary Julie Fishman told us the local reporter misunderstood. According to Fishman, Shuler's comments to the Times-News referred to the general tenor of the protests, not to the black congressmen's specific allegations.

Fishman said that Shuler was not walking with Cleaver and did not hear the "N-word." Shuler was, however, in proximity to Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts and heard someone call Frank, as Fishman put it, a "communist F-word" (that would be "faggot," not the other F-word). At least one reporter also was said to have heard the antigay slur directed at Frank, so we're inclined to believe that claim. But the allegations of racial slurs remain uncorroborated.

Greg Sargent added, "Okay, so yes, someone at the Tea Party rally did call Barney Frank a 'communist faggot,' but the racial slurs remain unproven! So there: The liberal media's efforts to smear the Tea Party movement as a hotbed of intolerants and bigots has been conclusively debunked!"

If there's any sense in this strategy, it eludes me. Even far-right members of Congress see no value in pushing this line of attack. House Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) said, "I take at face value what John Lewis said. If John Lewis said he heard it, I believe he's a man of integrity. And I would denounce those kinds of statements in the strongest possible terms."

That's really all conservatives have to say to put this matter behind them. Instead of accusing John Lewis and other black lawmakers of lying, conservative activists like Taranto, Andrew Breitbart, and Mark Steyn have a far more sensible alternative. They can say, "We didn't hear the racist slurs, but if they occurred, we reject them entirely. Those misguided individuals don't speak for our movement, and there's no room for bigotry in the Tea Party."

But, no. Instead the message, in effect, is, "Don't trust those black Democrats. They say they heard racism, but they're probably lying."

What's more, they keep saying this. Taranto's piece didn't run in March; it ran yesterday. It's as if the right believes if they just keep accusing African-American lawmakers of being liars, the allegations of racist rhetoric will disappear.

Usually, the right is more adept when it comes to political rhetoric. This is just bizarre.

Steve Benen 12:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (26)

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Comments

When in doubt, turn to The Bard:
"Methinks the gentlemen doth protest too much. . ."

Posted by: DAY on April 15, 2010 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

It's difficult to demonstrate your racism and your anti-racism simultaneously.

Posted by: dob on April 15, 2010 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

No this is on purpose, because white people get especially riled up if they think black people are exploiting false claims of racism for personal gain.

Posted by: Christopher on April 15, 2010 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Whew! Barny Frank only got called a faggot. I guess all is right with the world.

People were bringing sock monkeys to Sarah Palin rallies

People have carried signs with Obama as a witch doctor

Someone carried a sign that used the word nigger (niggar, actually)

A black congressman was spit on (captured on film)

Even giving them the dubious benefit of the doubt, these people have a history that can't wriggle out from under.

Posted by: SaintZak on April 15, 2010 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

The only thing more wretchedly repulsive than the revisionist rhetoric of a reactionary Rethuglican is the cultural revolution of Mao, the pogroms of Stalin, and the cleansing procedures of Pol Pot.

Posted by: S. Waybright on April 15, 2010 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure I agree. The specific message may seem a little silly -- not to mention dated -- but the general message is important, even central, and so worth repeating endlessly.

And that message is: African-Americans (and gays and lesbians, and liberals, and women) are second-class citizens. They're not to be trusted, they're probably conniving for advantage, they're parasites, they don't earn what they get, and they especially don't deserve leadership positions.

It's standard in-group / out-group messaging that's consistent across all authoritarian organizations, from fundamentalist religions to Fasicst political regimes. We are inherently good, they are inherently bad; our actions are inherently good, theirs are inherently bad.

It may seem silly, but it's dog-whistle politics. And there's a lot of people who hear it and agree.

Posted by: bleh on April 15, 2010 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

One of the mythologies of the modern conservative movement is that racism is overblown in today's America, and if there's any racism AT ALL, it's perpetuated and instigated by blacks and their endless sense of victimhood for their own problems.

This story fits neatly in the conservative myth.

Posted by: Archon on April 15, 2010 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter: "Don't believe those dirty, lying n*****s! This is NOT about race!"

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on April 15, 2010 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

They are talking to the Ditto-Heads.

In the world according to Rush Limbaugh, you see, ALL claims of racist acts by whites against blacks are lies, and the only racism that really exists is the racism of "Liberals" who want to steal from the whites and give to the n***ers.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on April 15, 2010 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Quote: 'Usually, the right is more adept when it comes to political rhetoric. This is just bizarre.'

The right recognizes the power that derives from pinning a negative label on one's opponent, it's really the only effective tactic they have given their total lack of any policy that's widely popular. So, they MUST remove and repel any negative label that gets attached to them or their puppets in the tea-bagger movement. Apologizing for such comments is bad from their standpoint for two reasons, one, it verifies the reports that it actually happened and, of course, an apology is a sign of weakness to the lizard brain. Total denial that the baggers and the GOP are racist is the only viable option. Of course, racism is not actually looked down on by these louts, but they are smart enough to know that it doesn't sell outside their clan.

Posted by: BillFromPA on April 15, 2010 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Here's what I don't get: if the black Congressmen involved say it happened, why is that not acceptable "proof"? Doesn't the very fact that the right-wingers won't take their word for it speak to a more profound and signficant racism than a few unhinged outbursts by fringe members of the movement?

The whole thing reminds me of those societies where a woman's claim of rape is worthless unless it's supported by male witnesses.

Posted by: retr2327 on April 15, 2010 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Steve sez:

They can say, ". . . and there's no room for bigotry in the Tea Party."

They could say that, yes. But they'd be lying. (not that its ever bothered them before)

Posted by: zeitgeist on April 15, 2010 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Benen, if you're looking for political strategy from this relentlessness you will not find it, for it is a strategy of denial on a more personal level for each of the Teabagger racists who somehow can't understand the merits of an open, democratic society! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on April 15, 2010 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, the full Breitbart defense goes like this: "It didn't happen, they're lying, and it was probably liberal plants who shouted those words."

Posted by: T-Rex on April 15, 2010 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

retr2327 - exactly. they're using many angry words to avoid directly saying, "all these black congressmen are lying."

Posted by: Rathskeller on April 15, 2010 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

No this is on purpose, because white people get especially riled up if they think black people are exploiting false claims of racism for personal gain.

Exactly right. It enrages baggers and feeds their sense of victimhood at the hands of the "real racists," black people. They totally get off on it. No modern winger ever went wrong shilling this crap.

Posted by: shortstop on April 15, 2010 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Exactly right. It enrages baggers and feeds their sense of victimhood at the hands of the "real racists," black people. They totally get off on it. No modern winger ever went wrong shilling this crap.

A conservative friend was ranting to me today about the government's failures and high taxes how they've contributed to his financial problems, and while he didn't say that minorities were the real racists he did claim that government programs for minorities were taking needed money out of his pocket and "killing" the middle class.

This is someone in a one child family who makes over $100k/year, gets two lease cars from his company, and spent himself into over $100k worth of personal debt in order to buy an inground swimming pool, custom deck, renovated granite and cherry kitchen, and a house with over a dozen televisions and DVR's.

But it's the minorities who are to blame for his money issues.

Posted by: trex on April 15, 2010 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

What Christopher said: "No this is on purpose, because white people get especially riled up if they think black people are exploiting false claims of racism for personal gain."

THis is in the Tea Partiers' wheelhouse, their amorphous anxiety that WASP society is being overrun, that their tax dollars are going to "welfare moms." that the Civil War can be remembered without mentioning slavery. These are the beliefs that arise in the Tea Party right when you mention race. And since Breitbart etal are propagandists, propagandists and nothing else, they're sending coded messages to the people they want to keep energized for November. This is moral bankruptcy, but not the kind we think it is.

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Posted by: wyhdhdq on April 15, 2010 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

If this type of indignity (slurs, denial, dog-whistle, etc) is the worst that the righteous have to fear from the weak, the ignorant, and the evil, then we as a nation are doing pretty well.
However, I fear that is not the case.

Posted by: Govt Skeptic on April 15, 2010 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

Excuse me for asking, but why should we expect an apology from a bunch of assholes for their atrocious and increasingly anti-social behavior? I've long since come to expect the least common multiple from these clowns, and I've really got better things to do with my time.

To paraphrase what the late Hawaii Gov. John Burns once told a Republican opponent 40 years ago, any goddamned fool can draw lines in the sand and issue threats, and who am I to argue with one?

If I do have to engage in a pissing contest with these fucking ignorant crackers, I'll first make sure that I'm standing immediately upwind of them, with a very stiff breeze at my back.

Aloha.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on April 15, 2010 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, the full Breitbart defense goes like this: "It didn't happen, they're lying, and it was probably liberal plants who shouted those words."

-- T-Rex

I wish you were making this up. Breitbart and his loathesome fanclub act just like this. The attacks on John Lewis , caling him a "liar" are just disgusting and the Very Serious People pretend that's proper.

Vile.

Posted by: Miss_Otis on April 15, 2010 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

Who are you going to believe?

Lilly white me or your lying eyes and some lying n*ggers!

Posted by: TheReichWing on April 15, 2010 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

On the evidence, Breitbart simply can't tolerate being caught in a lie. He goes out of his mind every time someone sticks his lies back in his face.

That's where he's at, anyway. He apparently can't help himself--he'd rather lie than tell the truth about much of anything, and when his lie is jammed back down his throat, he just coughs it up and repeats it.

Ridiculous clown, that's Breitbart.

Posted by: LL on April 15, 2010 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, I think they're being quite adept with their rhetoric.

If one assumes they were trying to take the high ground, and return to rational (or even relevant) debate, then, yes, their rhetoric would serve that purpose rather poorly.

On the other hand, if they are trying to insult black democrats and win favor with racists while achieving plusable denyability, their rhetoric is spot on.

Posted by: Fides on April 15, 2010 at 6:44 PM | PERMALINK

By continually whining about the accusations aren't the Tea Baggers forgetting their Goebblesesque rule of "repeat a lie often enough it becomes a truth?"
By continually bring the issue up they are imprinting the incident more heavily in people's minds.

Posted by: Marnie on April 15, 2010 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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