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Tilting at Windmills

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July 27, 2010

QUIT WHILE YOU'RE BEHIND.... Yesterday, the American Spectator's Jeffrey Lord decided to go after Shirley Sherrod, this time accusing her of lying because she said Bobby Hall was "lynched" in 1943. Hall was beaten to death by a white sheriff and his two white deputies, but as far as Lord was concerned, rope wasn't involved. Ergo, Sherrod's credibility is in question.

As Adam Serwer responded yesterday, "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?"

Today, Lord answered that question and defended his offensive argument.

Random House Webster's College Dictionary defines lynching as: "to put to death, esp. hanging by mob action and without legal authority."

I have read the Court's decision. Three people are not a "mob." A mob is defined as a "large crowd." So there was no "mob action" because there was no mob.

Look, this is ridiculous. Lord wisely gave up on the whole rope line of argument, but now wants to parse the meaning of the word "mob." Three white cops beat a black man to death. They arrested him on weak evidence, beat him mercilessly for a half-hour, and dragged the man's unconscious body, feet first, through the courthouse square before his death.

If there were four white cops would Lord be comfortable with the word "lynching"? How about five? Emmett Till was killed by two men. Was he not lynched either?

But wait, there's more. Lord went on to suggest that people need to "understand the connection between what they are seeing in the headlines everyday -- and history."

There is, I'm sorry to say, a direct connection between Southern racists of yore and, say, the Obama Administration policy in Arizona. The Black Panther case. And what Ms. Sherrod was doing in her speech when she ever so casually linked criticism of health care to racism, which is to say not supporting a (her words) "black President."

This is all of a piece.... [W]hen Ms. Sherrod uses the highly inflammatory word "lynching" -- when it is quite specifically not so because of the above reasons -- what is she doing? Why is she doing it? She was factually wrong. She was legally wrong. She did it anyway.

Keep in mind, this is not satire intended to make conservatives look like deranged racists. Lord seems to be entirely sincere.

And the whole point of the exercise is to do what Breitbart tried and failed to do last week -- go after Shirley Sherrod. It's quite twisted, really.

Postscript: More than a few historians believe Jeffrey Lord has no idea what he's talking about, but I suspect that won't change his mind. We're well past the point at which reason and evidence have meaning with this guy.

Steve Benen 1:55 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (38)

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Comments

Lord and his ilk have learned the Rove-Cheney lesson well: Never backtrack, never apologize, when called on a lie or an illegal act, go on the defensive. Attack your opponent where YOU are weakest and never pause long enough for bystanders to have a chance to think about what you're saying.

Posted by: Gummo on July 27, 2010 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, that should be, "go on the OFFENSIVE."

Oops.

Posted by: Gummo on July 27, 2010 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

What is Lord's spin on Clarence Thomas's assertion (in his official statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee) that the Anita Hill charges were "a high-tech lynching?"

Posted by: ameshall on July 27, 2010 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe I wasn't paying attention, or perhaps senescence is settling in, but I don't remember ANY of this sub rosa and overt race baiting BEFORE we had a, y'know. . .

Posted by: DAY on July 27, 2010 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

The comments, even from a lot of conservatives, under Lord's post have renewed my faith in America.

Posted by: MMonides on July 27, 2010 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

Who elected "Random House Webster's College Dictionary" as the ultimate arbiter of the meaning of words ?

Posted by: H-Bob on July 27, 2010 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

so we're arguing about the definition of lynching. Wow. Isn't funny how you think things can't get any worse and then they suddenly do? Wow.

Posted by: Jamie on July 27, 2010 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

This woman, who decided to stay in the south and fight for AMERICAN VALUES such as equality and justice, after her father was MURDERED, is one million times the person than this Lord pipsqueak, silver spoon coward could ever hope to be. Hell, I bet she has balls that dwarf his.

The ugliness, ignorance and hatred displayed by people like Lord make me ashamed of this country.

Posted by: citizen_pain on July 27, 2010 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Gummo! (yes I'm waving at U)

Jeffrey Lord is acting like a four yr old defending his assertion that SANTA CLAUS DOES TOO EXIST!!!

too moronic for words. Listen, I am white. No one in my family tree (in recent centuries anyway) has ever been arrested and beaten to death by the police - nor have any of us ever been in danger of that.

I just don't understand why conservatives can't understand that the black experience with this sort of horror just doesn't go away.

But, like MMonides, I was pleased to see so many conservatives beating him about the head and shoulders in the comment section.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on July 27, 2010 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Lord worked for Ronald "let's champion states rights when I kick off my 1980 presidential campaign in Philadelphia, MS (where three civil rights workers were murdered and buried in an earthen damn)" Reagan.

For 30 years, the beltway msm asked why the Democratic Party lost the solid south. The answer was clear. The Democratic Party passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, etc. The beltway msm also asked why moderate GOPers were eliminated from the GOP ranks over the last three decades. The answer was obvious. The GOP has been Dixified.

Lord and his fellow Reaganites have reveled in the glow of Reagan's post-presidency popularity, thinking the Faustian bargain they made for electoral gains in the south would be forgotten. Facts are stubborn things.

The GOP is the party of resentment and white victimhood. A victimhood Nixon, Wallace, Reagan, Helms, Atwater, Gingrich, Lott, Boener and Rove exploited deliberately over the last 40 years.

With Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity, Breitbart, et al and Fox News in full force, Lester Maddox would be proud. Why use an axe handle when you have a radio and television broadcast/cable platform?

Posted by: MGDub on July 27, 2010 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

"And the whole point of the exercise is to do what Breitbart tried and failed to do last week -- go after Shirley Sherrod."

No, the whole point of the exercise is to keep race up front and center. Notice anything strange, a little bit suspicious here. We're watching the Republican's 2010 strategy unfold. The 2010 elections will be all about race. The GOP is letting their lunatic fringe do the heavy lifting to keep their own hands clean, but make no mistake, this is a carefully orchestrated strategy and the Democrats will be left wondering what happened.

Posted by: SaintZak on July 27, 2010 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

"I have read the Court's decision. Three people are not a "mob." A mob is defined as a "large crowd." So there was no "mob action" because there was no mob."

Come on, Benen! I nailed this one yesterday. What do I win? Is there some kind of gift certificate or something?

Posted by: Perspecticus on July 27, 2010 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

I really think its an error to get in an argument with this buffoon about whether or not Sherrod used the right term. Yes he is obviously wrong and apparently too stupid to realize it, but really, the issue is that his argument is so far off point that it is fundamentally absurd to even bother treating it seriously. He can clownishly attempt to make words mean whatever he likes, it won't change the fundamental truth about racism revealed in Sherrod's story.

Posted by: brent on July 27, 2010 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

If he's going to parse "mob", maybe he should look it up:

-noun
1.
a disorderly or riotous crowd of people.
2.
a crowd bent on or engaged in lawless violence.
3.
any group or collection of persons or things.

4.
the common people; the masses; populace or multitude.
5.
a criminal gang, esp. one involved in drug trafficking, extortion, etc.
6.
the Mob, Mafia ( def. 1 ) .
7.
Sociology . a group of persons stimulating one another to excitement and losing ordinary rational control over their activity.

8.
a flock, herd, or drove of animals: a mob of sheep.
-adjective
9.
of, pertaining to, or characteristic of a lawless, irrational, disorderly, or riotous crowd: mob rule; mob instincts.
10.
directed at or reflecting the lowest intellectual level of the common people: mob appeal; the mob mentality.

Posted by: Julene on July 27, 2010 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

Spell "mob" backwards and you get "bom".

Add a "b" and you have "bomb"

Who bombs? al Qaeda, that's who.

Take the "b" in "bomb", the "h" in "who", and the "o" in "mob" and whaddaya got?

B. H. O.

I think I see where Lord is going with this.

Hussein.

Posted by: John Thullen on July 27, 2010 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

Random House Webster's College Dictionary defines lynching as: "to put to death, esp. hanging by mob action and without legal authority."

Isn't the key word here "esp" (especially), which means usually, but not always?

Posted by: Marko on July 27, 2010 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

"We're well past the point at which reason and evidence have meaning with this guy." What, the point he was born? Christ, talk about a shitload of blogs wrestling with pigs.

Posted by: norbizness on July 27, 2010 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

He also completely misunderstood the phrase
"under color of the law" as to mean since they were lawmen, what they did was legal.
Second, the Supreme Court specifically said the Sheriff and his deputy and a local policeman acted “under color of law.” Which means they had legal authority.

Posted by: grandpajohn on July 27, 2010 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

What IS his point, anyway. Is he asserting that she deliberately chose the word "lynch" in blatant disregard of the fact that no rope was used --- oops, sorry --- that only three men --- oops, her bad --- beat the man to death? That by somehow using the word "lynch" she was dishonestly exaggerating the crime, since it was simply a mere case of 3 (only 3!) cops beating a handcuffed man to death?

I mean, really, talk about whipping up folks in a frenzy. It wasn't a lynching, people, it was only a blatantly racist brutal beating. She's clearly trying to enflame this....

Is this his argument?

Posted by: g on July 27, 2010 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

Makes one wonder how understated the numbers were from the bad old days.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on July 27, 2010 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

"The American Spectator"? Apt name for a conservative magazine. Or anything associated with Ben Stein. Completely powerless, so just sitting around and booing.

Thankfully, Lord's target demographic are not big on reading magazines.

Posted by: Ohioan on July 27, 2010 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

Aside from the disgusting motives, his sort of "cleverness" calls to mind a Supreme Court case a few years ago about the ADA, where it was clear that one of the justices thought that "disability" meant "in a wheelchair," because, y'know, there's a picture of a wheelchair on the handicapped sign.

You can just imagine the wheels grinding inside this pinhead: "All the pictures of lynchings are of people being strung up -- ha! Got 'em!"

That's what passes for "thinking" at conservative "think" tanks these days.

Posted by: Redshift on July 27, 2010 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Lord says, "There is, I'm sorry to say, a direct connection between Southern racists of yore and, say, the Obama Administration policy in Arizona. The Black Panther case."

Huh? Whazzit? Southern racists of yore = Obama's policy in Arizona? I don't follow the logic, not at all. It's just crazy. Is it that the communist/socialist/fascist/Muslim/not-American labels didn't stick? Are charges of sexual perversion queued up and ready to roll?

But it is clear to me that Shirley Sherrod is not the target of this conservative frenzy. As SaintZak points out, this is the Republican Southern strategy, redux. I have to give the Republicans points for persistence. It doesn't seem to matter to them how wrong they are, morally, economically. They never learn, and they never give up. Racism worked before, and it can work for them again.

Is there anything we can do to help average Americans understand that this irrational fear-mongering is not about race but about wealth & power?

Posted by: PTate in MN on July 27, 2010 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

I love these crazy semantic arguments. Just for the record, here's how The Oxford English Dictionary defines lynching:

"The practice of inflicting summary punishment upon an offender, by a self-constituted court armed with no legal authority; it is now limited to the summary execution of one charged with some flagrant offence."

There is no secondary definition.

Posted by: Tim on July 27, 2010 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't the key word here "esp" (especially), which means usually, but not always?

Yes. Was just going to point this out myself.

In dictionaryese, "esp" is called a "sense divider," one of several that dictionaries use to refine definitions; "esp" is used to highlight the most common meaning.

So "mob" doesn't limit the definition of "lynching" at all, according to Random House. A lynching could be accomplished by a single individual.

Posted by: Swift Loris on July 27, 2010 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

Why are we still talking about Jeffrey Lord? He's an obvious asshole who needs no more deconstruction.

Posted by: Bob C on July 27, 2010 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

It's a little like asking how many grains of sand make a "pile." 3? 5? 100?

If you've ever been attacked by 3 people, it sure feels like a mob. I'm recalling petty elementary schoolyard bullying, but it was scary enough. I suppose I would have been inflaming the debate with heated rhetoric if I had told on them and claimed to have been attacked by a "mob".

Posted by: Bill on July 27, 2010 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

Back in my Quaker prep school days we had a prayer that began, "When two or three are gathered together in Thy name. . ."

-of course, we were better known for our Underground Railroad than for lynching.

Posted by: DAY on July 27, 2010 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

Rule of thumb: when faced with a dispute about the meaning of the word "lynching" between a black Southern woman whose own father was killed by a white man in the worst of our Jim Crow days and a man who writes for the American Spectator and resorts to a white-man's dictionary to make his defense, well, the choice is obvious. One knows what it is, the other read about it in a book.

Posted by: biggerbox on July 27, 2010 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, I've always had a fondness for MIssissippi since I was born there. It would appear that the year is 1962 as well. Conservatives, charming to the last! Where will they take us next?

Posted by: Trollop on July 27, 2010 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

We're well past the point at which reason and evidence have meaning with this guy.

Wait, he's a conservative, right? Why would anyone think reason and evidence ever had any meaning for him?

Posted by: David Bailey on July 27, 2010 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

This GOP racism is purely their get out the vote strategy for 2010 and 2012. With no actual policies to put on the table their only option is pissing off their base to get them to vote and hoping that Dems and Independents dont turn out in enough numbers. Could it work? Yes that's why we need to remember that there is still a lot of work to be done in 2010 to defeat these pathetic and ignorant GOP politicians.

Posted by: just guessing on July 27, 2010 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

And the whole point of the exercise is to do what Breitbart tried and failed to do last week -- go after Shirley Sherrod.

Lord's article is stupid on purpose, as the phrase "esp. hanging by mob action" does not narrow the definition to either hanging or mob action. The keys are "to put to death" and "without legal authority". That it's stupid on purpose is supported by his stupid defense.

However, Breitbart went after NAACP, not Shirley Sherrod, as he clearly wrote in his first post. And he succeeded, as acknowledged by NAACP's response to Sherrod's resignation, in which they acknowledged racial sentiment expressed by the audience; and called on their members not to display such sentiments in future fund raisers.

For some reason, you consistently omit mention of what Breitbart considered his most important point, then and since, namely the manifest racism of NAACP.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on July 27, 2010 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

If you check in on the conversation over at Ta Nehisi Coates' blog, someone points out that the anti-lynching federal statute defines a mob as this:
"An assemblage composed of three or more persons acting in concert for the purpose of depriving any person of his life without authority of law as a punishment for or to prevent the commission of some actual or supposed public offense."

Also, Breibart DID go after Sherrod in his first post, MatthewRMarler. And the NAACP audience DID NOT laugh, no matter how much Breibert lies through his teeth.

Posted by: lou on July 27, 2010 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

Most legal definitions have to do with the very fact of collaboration by a group and not how many are in it, as for racketeering etc. as in RICO. Am I right?
" ...and called on their members not to display such sentiments in future fund raisers." - proof!

Posted by: Neil B on July 27, 2010 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

Lou - right, it's the legal definition of each word that matters, not *separately accessed* dictionary definitions of the constituent words.

tyrannogenius

Posted by: neil b on July 27, 2010 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

Don't forget about the notorious "high tech lynching" made famous by whatshisname on the supreme court. I think Sherrod is a victim of some of this high tech lynching just as Thomas claimed.

Posted by: Bonnie on July 27, 2010 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

"Postscript: More than a few historians believe Jeffrey Lord has no idea what he's talking about, but I suspect that won't change his mind. We're well past the point at which reason and evidence have meaning with this guy."

Change 'this guy' to 'republicans/conservatives' and it'll be fixed.

Posted by: don on July 28, 2010 at 3:34 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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