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This post is not about Katrina

Because I just can’t take it anymore.  I don’t want to get all pessimistic and shit on this happy-go-lucky blog, but as Janet said today, “I think we should get ready for one vicious, racist backlash,” and you know, I think she’s right.  That backlash will establish its “intellectual” home base at the National Review, which, after all, spent its first decade or two arguing that Negroes weren’t ready for integration.  Earlier today, Roger Ailes (the good one) spotted Jonah Goldberg saying this while railing about Kanye West:

The danger here is real. Tens of thousands of black New Orleaneans persevered with dignity and sacrifice in the face of Katrina. But a sizable minority of blacks—including police—behaved reprehensibly in the aftermath, shooting at rescue workers, raping, killing and, yes, looting (though no cannibalism).

No cannibalism! Ha ha, that’s a good one.  What about the old bone-through-the-nose joke?  That always gets ‘em going over at the American Spectator, especially when it’s applied “evenhandedly” to black police officers.  But note:  strangely enough, Jonah’s complaint about “racial generalizations” does not mention the important scholarly work of his colleague at the National Review, John Derbyshire, who has recently cited with approval the claim that African-Americans “tend to possess poorer native judgment than members of better-educated groups,” and “need stricter moral guidance from society.” As I noted in a comment on Roger’s site, here Goldberg is carrying not only Derbyshire’s water but the torch passed to him by William F. Buckley—and the hood, too.

Within two weeks, Andrew Sullivan will issue a passionate denunciation of far-right Christian preachers’ ravings about gays and lesbians in the Crescent City, while pointing out the public service he performed, while editor of The New Republic, in giving Charles Murray’s and Richard Herrnstein’s The Bell Curve a fair and balanced hearing.  Following a suggestion made on this website by Ophelia Benson, Rick Santorum will introduce a bill on the Senate floor, requiring 100,000 New Orleans evacuees to work at Wal-Mart for $5.15/hr, 6 days/wk, 51 wks/yr, for 95 years (do the math!) in order to pay off the $150 billion they cost us by not leaving the city when they were told.  John Stossel will blame the bleeding-heart New Deal for the debacle.  Tom DeLay will blame the teaching of evolution, just as he did after Columbine.  And every last wingnut in the country will turn with fury on the looters and the thugs who prevented Bush, Chertoff, and Brown from delivering the aid they so desperately tried to deliver.

For this, folks, is the American right’s massive Ward Churchill moment, the moment in which they get to blame the underclass victims of Katrina for the devastation the Gulf Coast has suffered these past two weeks.  One difference between our Ward Churchill moment and theirs is that we didn’t even know ours was happening at the time:  Churchill’s ravings about the “little Eichmanns” of 9/11 appalled their tiny original audience in September 2001 (scroll down to the “update” on Kevin Drum’s post) and circulated for three years only on lunatic-fringe websites, the kind of places where readers could also learn that the Trilateral Commission killed Bruce Lee on secret orders from Queen Elizabeth.  Another difference, of course, is that their Ward Churchill moment will quickly become the stuff of national policy.  For it’s perfectly all right to blame the victims of a catastrophe—so long as they possess poor (ahem) native (ahem, ahem) judgment.

Digby has more on this theme, ably assisted by Rick Perlstein.  Just so you can’t say, as did the Incompetent Horse Whisperer and his friend The Devil, that you weren’t warned.

UPDATE:  In comments, Glaivester notes, “Actually, Jonah’s ‘no cannibalism’ quip was probably not a gratuitous reference to a racist stereotype, but rather a reference to claims (later retracted) made by Randall Robinson that blacks in New Orleans were being reduced to cannibalism to survive. Point taken, Glaivester, and thanks for making it.  I’m willing to believe that Goldberg’s remark was not quite the gratuitious, racist quip I had taken it to be.  And it was foolish of Mr. Robinson to open a post with such an incendiary, unsubstantiated, and dubious claim.  I think Goldberg was having a little fun with the claim nonetheless, and frankly, after reading his remarks on the “Thunderdome” in New Orleans, I was willing to suspect the worst.

But I urge you all to read the comments in response to Robinson’s post.  Many of them are chilling: 

Most of these people CHOSE to stay in New Orleans, and now they’re regretting their poor choice.

Only the most foolish of morons would stoop to call this a race issue. Please. Spare me. All the race baiting does nothing. FOUR days before the hurricane, people were told to leave. They chose not to. Now, I am not saying that their suffering is to be ignored, but when the government tells you to leave, you ignore them, and then you blame the government for your suffering? That is beyond ignorant. What happened to Americans being about personal responsiblity?

If you want to blame someone, blame the people “running” Louisiana’s government. Blame the incompetent mayor. Blame the people that ignored their warning.

And some are worse:

This is just chlorine in the genepool, dummies too stupid to leave deserve what they get.

This is not about race, this was a natural disaster, and I am so tired of race hustlers like you not taking responsiblity for yourself, your actions, and your communities. This was a double pronged natural disaster ( hurricane + flood). You would have to live on Mars to not know a category 5 hurricane was bearing down on New Orleans. Where the hell is people’s common sense. If they didn’t have it before they just learned a very hard lesson. It is so easy to monday morning quarterback this thing and say that because of race, they were left behind. It looks to me, and to most Americans that I have talked to, that they made a conscious choice.

These remarks would be beneath notice—and beneath comment—under ordinary circumstances.  They do not represent the sentiments of the vast majority of white people—or, indeed, the vast majority of sane people of any hue.  (On the contrary, the vast majority of white people are donating their time, money, labor, and homes to help the evacuees.) But the echoes of these remarks can be heard in much more “respectable” places—in the words of Mike Brown (blaming those who did not leave) and John Derbyshire (attributing that “choice” to their race).  The backlash of which I speak is not a mass phenomenon; but the O’Reilly-Hannity-Limbaugh crew are saying things that are very much like these comments, and there’s no telling where that might lead.


Blogtending Notes: Theory Tuesdays will return eventually.  John McGowan will post tomorrow—his last Thursday under the Bérubé-McGowan Comprehensive Co-Blogging Agreement of 2005.  After that, John will post on every other Tuesday.  Yeah, I know, his posts have been better than great, but he’s got other work to do, as do I (though I haven’t been doing some of it lately, for obvious reasons).  When we met with Roxanne Cooper in DC we promised each other we’d keep our posts under 2000 words from here on in.  This we solemnly swear to you, even as our government descends to tinhorn-generalissimo standards of behavior.  I’ll be on the road again for the next few days, with Internet access here and there.  In the meantime, check out Gary and Julia for all the things I can’t even begin to catalog here. . . .

Posted by on 09/07 at 10:32 PM
  1. Michael:  Agreements with John and Roxanne aside, I’ll donate $25 more to the Red Cross (or the charity of your choice) if you can say everything you want to say in your next three posts while keeping each under *1500* words.  Or, if you prefer, you can take a pound of flesh (no more, no less) from Karl Rove’s left buttock.  Just let me know.

    Thanks for the great Katrina coverage and links in the last 10 days.

    Posted by  on  09/08  at  01:30 AM
  2. The 1500-word challenge has been issued. Lance, that’s a great idea (and the Red Cross is fine with me, so long as FEMA allows it into the city), but can we up the ante?  Can people kick in an extra five or ten cents for every word under 1500?

    Seriously, about donations:  as I said last week, give what you can, and then do it again (and not to Operation Blessing).  But remember all those pathogens in the water, and remember that when it comes to health care, our poorest citizens might as well be living in the poorest nations on the planet.  So pace yourselves.  Janet and I have decided to make our contributions to Katrina relief in stages, because the serious health and infrastructural crises following from this debacle will come in stages.

    Posted by Michael  on  09/08  at  01:57 AM
  3. I like Habitat for Humanity.

    I can’t stand Andrew Sullivan, but he hasn’t shied away from acknowledging that there’s been a lot of racism flying about.

    Posted by  on  09/08  at  03:55 AM
  4. True.  But my point is that ten years ago, he enabled some truly virulent, Pioneer Fund-quality tripe to get a “hearing” in a respectable journal of opinion, and has never had a second thought about it.  When the Murrays and Derbyshires aren’t repudiated by the respectable right—when, on the contrary, they are embraced by and even constitute the respectable right—things can get very bad very quickly.  Before long we’ll be talking about how “wilding” and “superpredators” in New Orleans held up the rescue efforts.

    Posted by Michael  on  09/08  at  07:05 AM
  5. Actually, Jonah’s “no cannibalism” quip was probably not a gratuitous reference to a racist stereotype, but rather a reference to claims (later retracted) made by Randall Robinson that blacks in New Orleans were being reduced to cannibalism to survive.

    Posted by Glaivester  on  09/08  at  09:12 AM
  6. “Banana republic”? In a post about pernicious racism, Michael, that phrase strikes a false note. . . .

    Posted by AKMA  on  09/08  at  09:26 AM
  7. Michael, I’ll add ten bucks to my planned Red Cross donations for each post you make in the next two weeks that does not contain the word “limn.”

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  09/08  at  10:18 AM
  8. Thanks, Glaivester.  I’ve since checked out that Robinson post, and I’ll put your comment and my reply up top.  AKMA, point taken, and I’ll revert to my previous epithet for Bush/Cheney at their worst, “tinhorn generalissimo” government.

    Posted by Michael  on  09/08  at  10:25 AM
  9. Good to hear again about the 2000-word rule. Now let’s aim for 1000. Studies by entities with spiraling circulation show that the kids won’t read more than 6 inches!

    Posted by Roxanne  on  09/08  at  10:53 AM
  10. Thank you kindly for the link.  As I read your post, I was going to point out the Randall Robinson claim as the obvious source of the “cannibalism” reference, but I see that was taken care of.  Alas, I fear I was low enough to take a shot at Mr. Goldberg even earlier, on the 2nd.  It’s just a sad day when one can’t rely on Jonah Goldberg’s good taste and sound judgment; whatever is the world coming to?  In these fallen times, perhaps even Ann Coulter will lose her cautious and prudent moderation, and Michelle Malkin will lessen her solemn committment to a sturdy defense of American civil liberties and the rights of minorities.  Woe.

    Posted by Gary Farber  on  09/08  at  12:22 PM
  11. The all-time funniest line uttered by Archie Bunker in All in the Family:

    “It’s like that there Charles Derwood fella said: ‘It’s survival of the fattest.’”

    I think that sums up the worldview of the Jonah Goldbergs of America.

    Posted by mat  on  09/08  at  02:55 PM
  12. John Stossel will blame the bleeding-heart New Deal for the debacle.

    Bob Barr has beaten him to it. He blames the local governments for giving so much power to the Feds after the 1927 flood. From the print Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Wednesday, Sept. 7:

    “In return for surrenduring control over their own affairs, the residents of the Mississippi Delta, and especially...New Orleans, had a huge burden lifted from their shoulders. No longer would they have to worry about the folly of their actions: they could party and pretend the waters of the mighty Mississippi...would be taken care of by the US Army Corps of Engineers....Government leaders in Washington are more than happy to assume responsibility for Hurrican Katrina and other disasters, for out of that comes the power to control dollars, events and lives.”

    Oh, and he’s appalled that the NOPD is sending some officers on 5-day breaks to Atlanta and Las Vegas. 

    When people get this far out on the edge of reason, it’s no longer possible to do an effective parody.

    Posted by  on  09/08  at  04:42 PM
  13. Ah, yes, Roxanne. The James Guckert rule: six inches, uncut.

    Posted by  on  09/08  at  07:31 PM
  14. I think Goldberg was having a little fun with the claim nonetheless, and frankly, after reading his remarks on the “Thunderdome” in New Orleans, I was willing to suspect the worst.

    Oh, I agree that Jonah is a fool.  Not that I don’t think he is intelligent, but he has no common sense.

    I commented on his “Thunderdome” idiocy myself.

    Posted by Glaivester  on  09/08  at  07:33 PM
  15. When reading the comments about punishing the people who didn’t evacuate in New Orleans, I thought of the following:
    My mother-in-law lives in a poor neighborhood in Montevideo, Uruguay. Her house is made of cement blocks, is surrounded by a wall that’s 8 feet high & topped with broken glass. I asked my husband what she would do if government officials drove around in trucks instructing everyone to evacuate the neighborhood immediately due to an incoming storm. My husband said no one would leave because they knew if they left their homes, they would return to an empty house. Any house in that neighborhood left unoccupied for several days or more would be broken into & everything stolen. That’s the reality for poor people around the world, including, I would think, poor neighborhoods in New Orleans.

    Why is it so hard for pundits on the right to realize that? Isn’t being poor punishment enough?

    Posted by  on  09/08  at  10:18 PM
  16. But the echoes of these remarks can be heard in much more “respectable” places

    I suspect, rather, that these remarks are themselves echoes of the sophistry being rehearsed in more “respectable” places. Much of this has the feel of The Base picking up its well-practised amen corner role, dutifully (and gleefully) recycling moral sewage designed specifically to cater to its tastes by the RNC.

    Posted by  on  09/09  at  11:19 AM
  17. Hey, wait a minute!  I agree with you about backlash and what I wonder is whether the decent folk of America, who have shown themselves to be extraordinarily decent and helpful here in Texas and elsewhere in response to the disaster, have the huevos to stand up to viciousness and racism—to actively shame it out of existence.  A movement the size, color and strength of the civil rights movement. 

    What we’re seeing here is an unleashing of leftover furies on the part of the uneducated and radical righties, the ones who’ve hated us and everyone else associated with peace and justice.  They felt maligned and put down.  Hell, they were maligned and put down!  They’re not to be persuaded.  Instead, they mock decency. 

    Time to give them the knock-out punch. Can we do it? It’s going to take all of us and it needs to begin yesterday.  It means standing up and responding on camera, on the radio, and in print with a helluva lot more moral fibre and well-articulated arguments for democracy and decency than we’ve exhibited to date.  Dare I whisper the word “leadership”?  Can our side organize?  lead?

    Posted by PW  on  09/09  at  02:09 PM
  18. Stossel has instead taken up the cause of the poor, maligned profiteer.

    From the aways excellent Axis of Evel Knievel (http://axisofevelknievel.blogspot.com//

    “Shorter John Stossel: Hurricane Katrina has allowed us to taste the sweet juice of free market economics, from which all human blessings and sustenance flow. Price gougers are merely performing their assigned role as the rational actors who ensure the continuance of civilization and order. All hail the profiteers, the forgotten humanitarians!”

    If you want to dirty your eyes with Stossel’s crap its at http://www.townhall.com/columnists/JohnStossel/js20050907.shtml

    Just how stupid is Stossel?

    Posted by rev.paperboy  on  09/11  at  10:54 AM
  19. Just how stupid is Stossel?

    How vast is space?

    Posted by Michael  on  09/11  at  04:21 PM
  20. How high is “up”?

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  09/11  at  04:43 PM
  21. "You would have to live on Mars to not know a category 5 hurricane was bearing down on New Orleans. Where the hell is people’s common sense.”

    Interesting juxtaposition with this:

    “President Bush knew the storm and its consequences had been bad; but he didn’t quite realize how bad.

    “The reality, say several aides who did not wish to be quoted because it might displease the president, did not really sink in until Thursday night. Some White House staffers were watching the evening news and thought the president needed to see the horrific reports coming out of New Orleans. Counselor Bartlett made up a DVD of the newscasts so Bush could see them in their entirety as he flew down to the Gulf Coast the next morning on Air Force One.

    “How this could be—how the president of the United States could have even less ‘situational awareness,’ as they say in the military, than the average American about the worst natural disaster in a century—is one of the more perplexing and troubling chapters in a story that, despite moments of heroism and acts of great generosity, ranks as a national disgrace.”


    Posted by  on  09/12  at  04:23 PM
  22. blacks in New Orleans were being reduced to cannibalism to survive.
    Reduced? how could u say that. Living mutha-f-n large, homie! Now cut me a piece of that fine white ho breast meat and pass the Tobasco, foo.

    Posted by perezoso  on  09/12  at  11:53 PM
  23. These remarks would be beneath notice, and comment, under ordinary circumstances.  They do not represent the sentiments of the vast majority of white people

    Here I think you’re mistaken, sadly...I’d say about 50%-70% of whites would agree with such sentiments. Our liberal, blog-reading friends aren’t exactly representative of “white people” in the US.

    Posted by  on  09/14  at  10:51 PM
  24. Your site is realy very interesting.

    Posted by Gaane  on  09/17  at  02:22 PM





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