Friday, October 23, 2009

Eugene Robinson's Latest

Sometimes I agree with what Robinson has to say, as when he tells it like it is about Polanski.  But how hard is that?  When he touches on politics, that's when he goes wrong.  Maybe he's a nice guy, but boy he gets away with pretty journalist newbie mistakes, such as not bothering to look up quotes.

His latest article is about the Rush Limbaugh NFL controversy, a political footnote (although disturbing in the way people are reacting to it).  He's correct in stating that Rush isn't guaranteed ownership of a football team, even if he can put up the dough.  Ultimately, the NFL owners and the contracts they have with teams and their owners must be followed.  Being an econ nerd, I take this stuff seriously:  contracts must be enforced, and private enterprises can refuse to do business with anybody for any reason--and that's how it should be.

What makes the article appalling are statements like these:

"It's one thing for fans to debate a questionable pass interference call; it's quite another for sports-talk hosts and their callers to argue about whether the league endorses tendentious and stereotypical views about African Americans."


"Attention has focused mostly on Limbaugh's contention in 2003 that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was overrated and that he was being hyped because "the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well." This was stupid and wrong on every level -- black quarterbacks had already excelled, with Doug Williams having led the Washington Redskins to a Super Bowl victory 15 years earlier; and McNabb was good enough to take the Eagles to the Super Bowl two years later. The statement offended so many people that it got Limbaugh fired from his short-lived job as an ESPN football analyst."

And others which I will get to later.  Ya see, this isn't even a political issue, or a racial issue, it's about comprehending language--understanding what people are actually saying.  The Limbaugh quote above is not a comment on black quarterbacks, it's a comment on the media, people.

There's not an iota of criticism of blacks or black quarterbacks in that sentence, though there is criticism of the media for overhyping a player for no other reason than wanting to have a black quarterback to hype, in the same way Obama became President because the entire media prostrated to him, buried his skeletons in the closet, gave America an inaccurate picture of who he was, didn't bother investigating him or his background, et cetera et cetera.

"But Limbaugh has made other ugly observations. He gave this overview of the preponderance of black players in the league: "The NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it." He has referred to basketball as "the favorite sport of gangs." He has called President Obama "the greatest living example of a reverse racist" and "an angry black guy" and -- because of his biracial heritage -- a "Halfrican-American." An equal-opportunity offender, Limbaugh also has called Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor a "reverse racist," compared Latino illegal immigrants to an "invasive species," and referred to Native Americans as "Injuns.""

Robinson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, could have spent five minutes each investigating each of these quotations to see if they held up to scrutiny.  Let's go through them one by one:
"Bloods and Crips":  Oops, wasn't about "the preponderance of black players" at all, it was about violence, fighting, and unsportsmanlike behavior on the field, and "bloods and crips" two notorious street gangs, were the metaphor Rush chose in a split second to describe this.  Racial prejudice is when you look at a person's race, and assume they are up to no good, you interpret their every move as nefarious.  Kind of like assuming that because Rush is white, he was making a racial remark when his remark was 100% about brouhahas on the field of play.
"favorite sport of gangs":  Said as he was ridiculing midnight basketball as ineffective at curbing gang violence.   It was a tongue-in-cheek comment.  It wasn't racist.  Nobody would say it's racist to say football is the favorite sport of doughy midwesterners, or that NASCAR is big in the south, but BOY OH BOY you better not insinuate that gang members seem to have an enjoyment of basketball.  This is one of those cases where something is said by a white guy that isn't racist, but because it kinda sorta relates to race, it just "seems racist" even though nobody can put their finger on exactly why.  Rush was simply satirizing the midnight basketball thing by putting into words the ostensible thinking behind it, IOW he was explaining that proponents of midnight basketball are the ones who think that basketball is the favorite sport of gangs.
"reverse racist":  So now calling somebody racist is racist.  That makes Eugene Robinson a racist.
"angry black guy":  So now just giving your opinion that a person is angry, black, and a guy, is racist?  Anybody who attends black Hitler Jeremiah Wright's church for twenty years and makes him a close adviser and confidante has got to be angry.  And that Obama is a black guy is debatable, I admit.  If Obama's a black guy, he's also a white guy, being half white.  Which brings us to...
"Halfrican-American": How is this racist?  That's a term I see other people use, to describe Obama, others, or even themselves.  It's just a dumb pun, it's not a slur.
"reverse racist [Sotomayor version]":  Guess what?  She is.  I wonder if Robinson was as offended at her remark that "wise Latinas" would make better decisions than stupid white people?

"invasive species": You know, I'm surprised that wise, genetically superior progressives haven't figured this out:  "illegal immigrant" is a legal classification, not a race.  Ah, he meant "illegal Mexicans," is that what you're saying?  Mexicans aren't a race either.  Sorry.  There are a variety of ethnic groups in Mexico, from blue-eyed blondes, to blacks, to Jews, to full-blooded Amerindians, and all sorts of in-betweeners.  But let's say he was referring to illegal immigrants who also happen to be one particular "race."  Was that a racist comment?  By itself, no.  It's purely a metaphor, like saying Yankees invading Florida are an invasive species, or yuppies invading and gentrifying inner-city neighborhoods are an invasive species, or Californians migrating to Arizona are an invasive species, etc.

"Injuns":  Oh come on, saying "injuns" is so ironic and old-fashioned that it's practically camp. Rush more often says "American Indian," he says "Injun" when being ironic.

99% of racial outrage is faked so that the faker can gain the upper hand, politically.  Robinson is a good example of that.  I'm sure he knows darn well, being such a avid archivist and expert on the Rush Limbaugh Show, that his show engineer and silent cohost Bo Snerdley is black, as is one of his most common guest hosts, black economist Walter Williams.  And one of Rush's most-referred to intellectuals is black economist Thomas Sowell.  Rush has endorsed black politicians, interviewed black politicians, intellectuals, and celebrities in his magazine, hires black people for important jobs and has black friends.  He is racially colorblind, as virtually all conservatives are.  And that's what really rankles the Eugene Robinsons of the world:  we see people for who they are, and we hold everybody to the same standard.  We don't lower our expectations because of a person's ethnicity or color, we don't think people deserve special treatment from the government because of their ethnicity or color, and we don't think more highly of people because of their ethnicity or color.

If journalism were colorblind, Eugene Robinson would still be a city hall correspondent.  If politics were colorblind, Obama would still be in Hawaii working for Baskin Robbins.  Easily offended people would think that I'm saying there would be no prominent black journalists or politicians were it not for unwritten affirmative action policies.  I've heard affirmative action opponents called racist because ignorant people think we are saying minorities can't excel, because we point out these examples of people who are way over-promoted due to their race.
Not so.  In a colorblind society, there would still be black scientists and doctors and economists and politicians and judges and movie stars and athletes and academics and journalists.  There just wouldn't be any who don't deserve to be.