I thought long and hard about whether to write this post, and I resent the fact that I had to think about it at all. But it involves piggy-backing on a theme that has been finding voice on conservative talk radio, and concerns an unfair and dishonest theme being pushed by liberal talk television and certain media pundits. That means that whatever I write will immediately be taken, by those who view the world in narrow ideological terms, as a declaration of alliance when it has nothing to do with politics at all. It has to do with unethical journalism, sloppy reasoning, and dirty politics. I resent the fact that Right Wing radio is so frequently uncivil and unfair that it sullies every legitimate observation and position that it takes. I resent the fact that so much of the public decides what they believe, not by the quality of the ideas in question, but by the identity of who advocates them. Communication is hard enough without bias serving as a perpetual hurdle to comprehension.
The effort by certain commentators, TV hosts (notably MSNBC’s troika of Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann), liberal columnists and Democratic Party flacks to stereotype the Tea Party movement as a thinly-veiled racist protest is despicable, unsupportable, dishonest and unfair. It is also insulting to Americans generally. And yes, I resent that too.
The simplest basis for this observation is the simple-minded justification for the accusation: the Tea Partiers are overwhelmingly white. “Monochromatic!” sneers Matthews. “Where are the black faces?” insists Olbermann. To begin with, this is demonstrably untrue. I was caught in a Tea Party rally in Washington, D.C., and I saw several black participants….more than I expected, in fact. But, as I am a fair and logical individual, the reasons for my expectations were these: 1) Blacks represent only 13% of the population, 2) Over 95% of these supported, and still support, Barack Obama, and 3) Most of the Tea Party protesters are Republicans, and more than 8 out of 10 blacks are Democrats. Why, in other words, would anyone expect a significant number of black Tea Partiers? They were clearly not, however, unwelcome, and the mere absence of a significant black contingent does not indicate a racist group. Fenway Park crowds, for example, are almost completely white in composition—more so that the Tea Party group I saw in Washington. I don’t think rooting for the Red Sox is racially motivated.
After all, there weren’t many Klan members there, either.
Olbermann bases his entire argument that the Tea Party movement is racist on this self-evident logical fallacy and failed syllogism. All anti-black racist movements are made up of white members, but the fact that a group has mostly black members does not mean it is racist. Go back to whatever college that is burying its head because it graduated you, Keith. You’re embarrassing yourself.
The more sinister part of the racism charge, however, is the continuing effort to paint any opposition to America’s first African-American president as based on prejudice against his race, as if there are no other legitimate and honorable reasons to question the competence, philosophy, allies, appointments, agenda, goals, fiscal policies and diplomatic efforts of his Administration. (To be fair, if his words are to be taken seriously, Olbermann actually believes this.) So, for example, the fact that I find that a Presidential advisor’s casual comment that he regards a 20% recidivism rate among released terrorists pretty darn good is per se evidence that a responsible president should replace him with the first hot dog vender available makes me a racist by this standard.
It would be laughable, if it wasn’t so anti-democratic, cynical, and transparently dumb.
Are there racists among the Tea Party protesters? Of course. I found the tone of Tom Tancredo’s remarks at the Yea Party convention offensive; if he’s not a racist, he’ll do until one shows up. I’ll even concede that a legitimate protest of the policies of a black president will attract more than its share of racists, for the same reason that legitimate peace demonstrations attract assorted anti-American and pro-totalitarian groups. That doesn’t make the Tea Party movement itself racist.
If Olbermann, Matthews et al. have any honesty and integrity, then they can set out to prove their point the ethical way: with investigation, not facile stereotypes, with facts, not innuendo, with data, not slander, with substantive argument, not insults. If they do that, then I’ll be among the first to congratulate them for good and fair journalism.
From what I have seen so far, I don’t think they are capable of it.