Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

July 26, 2010

THE RIGHT ISN'T QUITE DONE WITH SHIRLEY SHERROD.... Perhaps the only person who came out of the Shirley Sherrod controversy looking better was the one who was forced to resign from her job. The right went after Sherrod, but the result of the dispute was her looking like something of a hero, and her attackers losing all credibility.

But conservatives aren't quite done with Shirley Sherrod just yet. They've started with the conclusion -- Sherrod must be wrong about something -- and are working backwards to rationalize the preconceived narrative. To that end, the American Spectator has a piece today accusing Sherrod of lying about sheriff Claude Screws lynching Bobby Hall, a Sherrod relative.

If you're unfamiliar with the case, it originated in Baker County, in rural southwest Georgia, where Sherrod is from. In 1943, Screws, the white sheriff, arrested a black man, Hall, who was accused of theft and taken to the local courthouse in handcuffs. Upon their arrival, Screws and his two white deputies mercilessly beat Hall, by some accounts for as long as 30 minutes. Screws then dragged Hall's unconscious body, feet first, through the courthouse square. Hall died soon after.

Screws was convicted on federal charges, but the Supreme Court ultimately overturned the conviction over inaccurate jury instructions.

In her speech, Sherrod explained, "Claude Screws lynched a black man." The American Spectator wants readers to believe she was lying -- because Screws didn't use a rope. Hall was beaten to death, but to writer Jeffrey Lord, a former Reagan political aide, that apparently doesn't count.

As Paul Campos noted, "It's hard to understand how this kind of thing gets published in a world that includes editors, higher cognitive function, and/or common decency."

I'll just let Adam Serwer take it from here:

A lynching is an extrajudicial mob killing. No one who worked to document the practice of lynching in the South limited the definition of the term to solely include those lynchings that occurred using a rope. [...]

Now does three guys beating someone to death sound like an extrajudicial mob killing to you? Well Lord thinks it's merely "brutal fisticuffs" because under the definition of lynching he just made up, you need a rope to make it official -- I mean they didn't even set the guy on fire for crying out loud! It's almost as if instead of being a Southerner tortured by the knowledge of past racial injustice, he's someone who didn't know very much about lynching or segregation before he decided to call Shirley Sherrod a liar without bothering to use Google first.

The right's misconduct last week was nauseating, but the American Spectator's piece is beneath contempt.

Steve Benen 1:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (40)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

Have they reached bottom yet? This has to be pretty close, no?

Posted by: tommybones on July 26, 2010 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Don't I remember one of the right's heroes saying something about a "high-tech lynching?"

Posted by: Virginia on July 26, 2010 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

Clarence Thomas and the right claimed that merely asking him questions was enough to constitute a lynching.

Posted by: eightnine2718281828mu5 on July 26, 2010 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

This is typical of the American Spectator. They are willing to claim any slight misstatement is a lie. In this case the murder was performed by the police and not a "mob" but it was a brutal racially inspired murder of a black man by whites in the grand tradition of the South of the first 6 decades of the 20th Century. Benen is right, this silly is beneath contempt.

Posted by: Ron Byers on July 26, 2010 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

"brutal fisticuffs" eh?

sound like "enhanced interrogation techniques" to me.

The GOBP is consistent in their @ssholery.

Posted by: efgoldman on July 26, 2010 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

You're a quicker typist than I am, Virginia. ;-)

Posted by: eightnine2718281828mu5 on July 26, 2010 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

And tommybones:

I think they can't even see the bottom yet from where they are.

Posted by: efgoldman on July 26, 2010 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Really, what can be said about these kind of guys. They are truly pathological. But it is somewhat amazing that this sort of thing can actually spark a discussion about whether or not Sherrod possibly misused a word as if that was even some sort of a meaningful issue here. As if the meaning of her life experience is somehow dependent upon a semantic choice.

The fact that Lord doesn't know the proper definition of lynching ought to humiliate him. The fact that he thinks that is even relevant ought to shame him to his core. But then, if he were capable of shame, he would not have even considered making such an argument in the first place.

Posted by: brent on July 26, 2010 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Wow. By that ridiculously restrictive definition, Emmett Till wasn't "lynched".

Posted by: Brock on July 26, 2010 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Standard right wing practice: when the narrative isn't supported by the facts, change the definition to make the facts match the narrative. See, Jonah Goldberg.

Posted by: inthewoods on July 26, 2010 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Message to the right-wing noise machine: I think you should continue to go after Shirley Sherrod, because it's a REAL winner. Don't stop until after the November mid-term elections. Please.

Posted by: bdop4 on July 26, 2010 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

"Have they reached bottom yet?"

They've gone so low they should smell of sulfer by now.

Posted by: Doug on July 26, 2010 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

As Adam Serwer pointed out, the Hall murder fits a 1922 anti-lynching law to a t"ea." No rope requried. Whereever three or more racists are gathered it's a mob. Screws lead a lynching.

Posted by: Ron Byers on July 26, 2010 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

At this point, the right-wing response is just noise, no signal whatsoever. The writers at American Spectator know they're right. Period. The message is that libruls are just wrong, evil, racist, elitist, smug liars-- and if facts, dictionaries, and delicate moral sensibilities suggest otherwise, that's just more reason to hold the fort.

Posted by: MattF on July 26, 2010 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

It's not like they have a readership that expects intellectual rigor. Keep Mr. Scaife or Mr. Koch or one of the Waltons happy and the meal ticket keeps getting punched.

Pretty soon their articles will consist of pictures of bright shiny stuff.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on July 26, 2010 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

"Have they reached bottom yet?"

Every time I think Dante was right to have only nine rings of Hell, today's Republican Party makes me rethink my math.

Posted by: Tom Allen on July 26, 2010 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Oh please, now everyone's talking about Jeffrey Lord, and he's probably cackling with glee as he watches the reports from some web-crawler counting up the number of times his name is mentioned.

Plus, it's another bit of slander for the Right Wing Noise Machine to keep their thralls entertained and their limbic systems set on "boil."

It's win-win! No wonder the Spectator published it!

And as to notions of shame, please remember that they do not apply when dealing with untermenschen.

Posted by: bleh on July 26, 2010 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

"As Paul Campos noted, 'It's hard to understand how this kind of thing gets published in a world that includes editors, higher cognitive function, and/or common decency.'"

Is Paul Campos accepting applications from people who want to move to this strange and fascinating world of his? Is there a waiting list? It sounds interesting, anyway. Maybe there's an interdimensional website? Please let us know.

Serwer: "A lynching is an extrajudicial mob killing."

AHAAAAA!!!! Is there anything you libs won't lie about? It wasn't a mob, you liars. It was only a sheriff and his two deputies. Hardly a mob. Boys will be boys. So, it wasn't a hanging and there was no mob. Did Hall even die or is he now walking among us under the assumed name of...

Shirley Sherrod?!!!!?

I have seen no proof that he isn't. Until I do, it's what I believe...

Posted by: Perspecticus on July 26, 2010 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

If Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert aren't all over this story tonight, I will be very disappointed.

Jon won't need writers for this. All he has to do is read the article and do a spit take.

And tonight's Word can by "lynching".

Posted by: arkie on July 26, 2010 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

Yglesias linked this chart from the Truman library on anti-lynching:

http://www.trumanlibrary.org/civilrights/srights2.htm#20

Am I reading this graph right? There were more white people lynched than blacks? I seem to recall hearing something about this once in my American History class in university (I'm Canadian). But it's all very fuzzy. Something about southern reconstructionists getting lynched for helping newly freed slaves as a form of social control?

Can anybody help me out?

Posted by: neilt on July 26, 2010 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

"Did Hall even die or is he now walking among us under the assumed name of...Shirley Sherrod?!!!!?"

Has anyone seen the State of Georgia long form death certificate for Hall?

Posted by: arkie on July 26, 2010 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

The Lord article is even more ridiculous when you read it through.

First, it's full of grammatical errors. Doesn't anyone at the American Spectator edit their content?

Second--and more substantively--Lord goes into a long, semi-coherent rant about the truth of the Screws incident that the liberals WON'T TELL YOU: That Hugo Black, who voted with the majority of the Supreme Court in reversing the case and sending it back to the lower court for retrial, and Richard Russell, then (according to Lord) the most powerful politician in Georgia, were both racists and--get this--progressive on New Deal domestic issues. I'm not sure what point Lord thinks he is making with this--perhaps that, in 1943 conservatives weren't the only racists?--but whatever it is, Lord seems to think this is an important discovery.

Totally pathetic.

Posted by: DRF on July 26, 2010 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Re neilt's query about the Truman Library chart, I believe the top solid line is supposed to illustrate the total number of lynchings (black and white), with the white area just below that line illustrates only the number of whites and the black area on the bottom illustrates only the number of blacks.

So, in 1882, there were about lynchings of blacks and about 75 lynchings of whites; there were not 125 lynchings of whites. That white area gets smaller and smaller as the number of lynchings of whites gets smaller and smaller; it's not meant to suggest that the difference between the number of whites and blacks being lynched is getting smaller and smaller.

Posted by: Dusty on July 26, 2010 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Readers of those right wing rags are like us rabid Eagles fans. We never tire- nor can we get enough derogatory comments about- the Cowboys. Truthiness is irrelevant.

Posted by: DAY on July 26, 2010 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

"Have they reached bottom yet?"

Every time I think Dante was right to have only nine rings of Hell, today's Republican Party makes me rethink my math.
Posted by: Tom Allen on July 26, 2010 at 1:58 PM

Had Dante lived to see the repulsive extremism of today's right wing Republican gargoyles, the Inferno would probably be twenty volumes long as he wouldn't have been able to invent new rings of Hell fast enough.

Posted by: electrolite on July 26, 2010 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure what point Lord thinks he is making with this--perhaps that, in 1943 conservatives weren't the only racists?--but whatever it is, Lord seems to think this is an important discovery.

Where've you been? "Dixicrats fought the hardest against civil rights; therefore the Democrat [sic] Party are the real racists!!!!!" (entirely skipping over the Southern Strategy and everything since) has been a major talking point of the right for about a year now. Sometimes they tart it up even more with a delicious "The GOP: Party of Abe Lincoln" reference.

Posted by: Maria on July 26, 2010 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

Dixiecrats, not Dixicrats, of course.

Posted by: Maria on July 26, 2010 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Will the Whites never forgive the Blacks for
Kicking them Out of Africa?

Posted by: cwolf on July 26, 2010 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

You know, if the Right viewed what typical Republicans say with this much skepticism and reviewed it with this much scrutiny, well, they'd be Democrats.

Also, did American Spectator go over Breitbart's statements this carefully? Would they ever? You know, just to prove what a stand-up guy he is and all?

Posted by: chrenson on July 26, 2010 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

A bit more recently, Bay Buchanan referred to it as a lynching when one of her white staffers received a lot of bad press for physically assaulting a black woman and calling her a n*****.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. I just don't consider Republicans to be human beings any more. When I learn someone is a Republican, the burden shifts to them to prove that they're not a soulless lizard person like the aliens from "V".

Posted by: Citizen Alan on July 26, 2010 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

There's also a piece on Ace of Spades smearing Sherood's huband.

Posted by: zappawannabe on July 26, 2010 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

re: Dusty.

Thanks for the clarification - on further review I think you're correct, the top line is the total amount of lynchings, not the total white lynchings.

As for my second question - am I right? was the big spike in white lynchings in ther 1880s due to a backlash against reconstruction and white southerners who helped blacks?

Posted by: neilt on July 26, 2010 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

Whoa. That's really, really awful.

Posted by: KilgoreTrout XL on July 26, 2010 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK
Have they reached bottom yet? This has to be pretty close, no?

You'd like to think so, but every time I think they've reached bottom, they demonstrate that there are further depths to be plumbed. As in, the Lord article is bad enough, but get a load of some of the comments.

Posted by: noncarborundum on July 26, 2010 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

@DRF...i had the misfortune of wandering into the spectator website too close to bedtime last week...

some writer [possibly the same person we're talking about here] was arguing that the kkk were progressives [i sh#t you not] and a staggering number of commenters agreed with this idea....

Posted by: dj spellchecka on July 26, 2010 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

Equating a lynching with rope use comes from seeing lots of old movies while reading relatively few books. I mean films such as "Ox- Bow Incident" (1943) and "Intruder in the Dust" (1949). Not until the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court hearings did "lynching" become metaphorically associated with "mob action" not involving a hangman's noose. That still doesn't excuse American Spectator's outlandish conduct.

Posted by: Jerry Elsea on July 26, 2010 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK
Not until the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court hearings did "lynching" become metaphorically associated with "mob action" not involving a hangman's noose.

Evidence to the contrary: the definition of "Lynch" from Webster's Dictionary, 1913 edition:

Lynch (?), v. t. [imp. & p. p. Lynched (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Lynching.] [See Note under Lynch law.] To inflict punishment upon, especially death, without the forms of law, as when a mob captures and hangs a suspected person. See Lynch law.
Note that the idea of hanging appears in the illustration, not in the definition.

The entry for "Lynch Law" in the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica is even more interesting:

LYNCH LAW, a term loosely applied to various forms of executing rough popular justice, or what is thought to be justice, for the punishment of offenders by a summary procedure, ignoring, or even contrary to, the strict forms of law. The word lynching " originally signified a whipping for reformatory purposes with more or less disregard for its legality" (Cutler), or the infliction of minor punishments without recourse to law; but during and after the Reconstruction Period in the United States, it came to mean, generally, the summary infliction of capital punishment.

Posted by: noncarborundum on July 26, 2010 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

I'm they're only spectators of the American government, because it would be frightening if they were actual participants.

Posted by: fry1laurie on July 26, 2010 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder how the parents of Emmett Till, Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman would view such a parsed definition of "lynching."

Posted by: touché on July 26, 2010 at 10:19 PM | PERMALINK

So.... then by following the logic of the American Spectator, when the Senate acquitted President Clinton, that meant he did none of the things that he was accused of!

Thanks for clearing that up, American Spectator! From now on, I will call you the Best Friend of Bill!

Posted by: GOPhuckYourself on July 27, 2010 at 7:51 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly