Dumb Quote of the Day: Standing on a Collapsing Roof edition

>> Friday, August 28, 2015

Flanagan was consumed with race hatred, and was disciplined by the television station for which he worked at the time for, among other things, wearing a Barack Obama button while he stood in line to vote. So why do we not retroactively conclude that images of Barack Obama are hateful, like the Confederate flag, and must be banned? Glenn Reynolds asks, "Will Obama apologize for the behavior of one of his followers?" Of course not. But imagine if a racist white killer who worked for a television station had been similarly disciplined for wearing, say, a Ted Cruz button. Do you not think that fact would be deemed highly relevant, and highly embarrassing to Senator Cruz?
Powerline, August 27th, 2015

Where do we begin?  Do we perhaps begin with the basic factual error in the above paragraph, which is that Vester Lee Flanagan wasn't reprimanded for wearing an Obama button while voting, but for wearing an Obama sticker while covering the 2012 election at a polling place for WDBJ?  (That link, by the way, being the very same one Hinderaker provided, so he certainly seems to have failed the comprehension portion of the reading test.)  Do we begin with the fact that the only people who have ever associated President Obama with racism have been a vocal subset of white reactionaries who have been looking for "reverse-racism" from the President going all the way back to the Reverend Jeremiah Wright nonsense, while the various Confederate flags have been a symbol of white supremacy movements all the way back to 1861?  Do we simply skip to the rhetorical question at the end and answer that the fact a murderer once wore a Ted Cruz button at some moment in his career would probably be pretty irrelevant and not particularly embarrassing to Senator Cruz unless, perhaps, the killer tried to credit Cruz for his actions in much the same way two Bostonians apparently credited Donald Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric for their alleged assault on a Hispanic man, in which case, maybe?

What's really swirling around the bottom of the drain in Hinderaker's post is a profound ignorance.  Dylann Roof's spree-killing wasn't the reason the Confederate battle flags started coming down or almost coming down across the South.  Or it wasn't exactly the reason; all Roof did was create a situation horrible enough that even politicians who previously supported the flying of the Confederate flag had to agree with people who had been calling for its removal for decades.  To be even more specific, one of Roof's victims was an extremely popular fellow-legislator whose death rattled colleagues whose only stake in the issue had previously been its appeal as a hot-button issue for some of their supporters or a historical interest in their own family's role in the war.  Perhaps if Hinderaker knew what he was going on about, he'd realize that what happened wasn't so much a "leftist" exploitation of a new tragedy, but rather a tragedy that personally touched people forging a consensus around one side that had been critiquing, lobbying, and occasionally picketing since the 1950s.

Indeed, it's worth mentioning that Hinderaker's framing does a grave disservice to his own side.  The fact is that the politicians who brought down the Confederate flag in South Carolina were Republicans; the Democrats never had the votes or influence to make it happen, and the change had to be brought about by conservative stalwarts like Governor Nikki Haley and Representative Doug Brannon, with the support of national-level Republicans like Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush.  (Regular readers may well note the date and time of this post as being one of the few and rare times this blog has ever unironically and unsnarkily praised members of the GOP.)  One might uncharitably wish that it hadn't taken a mass-murder for some of these folks, members of the Party of Lincoln, to recognize both the root-history of the Confederate flags and the taint of the flags' embrace by contemporary white supremacist groups, but the thought is unkind, unfortunate and irrelevant: what matters is that these folks decided to plant their feet on the right side of history and take a hard stand that brought them death threats and hostility from many of their own supporters.  Doing the right thing even when it's a hard thing is a sign of nobility, and I may disagree with Governor Haley et al. on nearly every other thing you could think of, but I'm pleased to thank them and praise them for this one thing, at least; Hinderaker, on the other hand, would take away the pride, nobility and bravery of their accomplishment and pin it on my side as if framing us for some supposed crime.

No thanks: all we did was stay the course and we're happy some of our former opponents came around and saddened by the loss--including the personal loss of a friend--that helped them come around to our way of thinking about this one issue.

Hinderaker does go on to say some less-stupid things about the lack of mental health care in the country, though I'm not sure he and I would agree on what could be done about it.  Of course, he also does that as a bit of misdirection away from the gun control issues that Vester Flanagan raises: Flanagan may have been violently mentally ill, but perhaps if he'd been a violently mentally ill man with a chainsaw or a pair of rusty garden shears, he'd have been easier to get away from or capable of less damage (especially if he tried wielding such things one-handed while filming his crime with his cell phone).  

Gun control is basically a dead issue in this country.  If the deaths of a bunch of little kids in school didn't change that, one doesn't imagine the deaths of a couple of adults doing so, either.  But since Mr. Hinderaker brings it up (if only to wave his hands at mental illness and shout, "Look over here!  Over here!"), I'll just say, yet again, that all the gun-advocates seem bizarrely smitten with the idea that decreasing the number of firearms in circulation would accomplish nothing because crazy people are crazy.  Hinderaker tries to make some hay out of saying, "insane people like Dylann Roof and Vester Flanagan keep passing background checks" without getting anywhere near the point that background checks are a poor compromise between making guns slightly harder to sell without making them noticeably more difficult to own, and that an extended program of grandfathering-out classes of firearms (for instance) would eventually result in people like Roof and Flanagan having less opportunity to get hold of firearms, would limit the kinds of firearms they might manage to get anyway, and would perhaps prove to be such a pain in the ass to people who want to kill right now that they might have to resort to things like knives that are capable but not nearly so efficient.

(On a tangent: earlier this week I read a New York Magazine story about a pair of mentally-ill children who stabbed another child 19 times and managed to not-kill her.  The story is depressing and troubling, and is a must-read if you're strong of heart and a must-avoid if you don't want to spend a long quiet interval staring into space contemplating despair, and I really only include the link in case you don't believe me: 19 times.  And one wonders how many people--surely some, surely not many--and how many children, especially, might survive being shot 19 times, as opposed to being stabbed 19 times; a knife being a lethal weapon, yes, but one that requires exertion, a lethal weapon that can be fended off, a lethal weapon that requires a physical intimacy with the victim, a lethal weapon that can only penetrate flesh so-far before it has to be withdrawn--sometimes with nearly as much physical effort as burying the blade was in the first place.  There's a reason people don't hunt for deer with knives (I mean as a weapon, not as a tool for cleaning a carcass, and you knew that), a reason people don't fight wars by charging each other across a field with kitchenware drawn and ready.  Nineteen times.  The body, even a child's body, is a resilient thing--it has to be, that's how Nature forged us over millions of years of evolution--but it's not immortal or indestructible.  Nineteen knife wounds.  And the poor child will suffer grievously, but lives.)

There's a bit more stupidity about "Flanagan’s hateful ideology."  Hinderaker, echoing some idiocy on the part of the I-thought-he-was-smarter-than-that Glenn Reynolds wonders why Black Lives Matter won't "disband, and stop stirring up race hate," which is something I hadn't noticed them doing; I thought they were simply trying to point out that the black lives matter as much as white people's lives in a country with a depressing history of completely devaluing black lives in the century-and-a-half since it became illegal to price them in dollars at auction houses.  Regardless, it's awfully convenient and facile for Hinderaker (and Reynolds) to suggest an equivalency between organizations that Flanagan might have supported and organizations Dylann Roof is known to have supported when the latter includes groups like The Council of Conservative Citizens, "an American white supremacist organization that supports a large variety of conservative and paleoconservative causes in addition to white nationalism."  Reynolds, calling Flanagan "a black Dylann Roof," asks, "Will we see culture war unleashed against any organizations he [Flanagan] might have supported?" and answers himself, "Of course not. That sort of thing only goes in one direction," which saddens me a bit because I really did think Reynolds was better than that even if I disagreed with him: I really, sincerely assumed that if there was one thing the left and right could declare "culture war" on as a united front it would be things like the CCC, but Reynolds' tone suggests I may be wrong about that and that I'm supposed to feel bad about declaring a "culture war" on neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, white supremacists, and proud race-mongering fascists.

It's typically considered bad form to answer a question with a question, but at this point the only response I can come up with to the rhetorical questions about culture wars and disavowing Flanagan and embarrassments and whatever is, What the fuck, man?.  "WTF?" as the kids these days like to say.  And at first I thought I'd ask this rhetorically, as a rhetorical flourish, What the fuck, man? and then mic-drop and roll offstage (stage left, natch), but as I think about it, I really must ask this question with some sincerity and wondering about fucks.  I can get a certain white lack-of-comprehension or thin-skinnedness about Black Lives Matter--it's stupid, please understand, but I can get how the phrase can be almost-willfully misconstrued into some kind of relative statement about non-black lives--but to then go the extra step and compare a movement that has engaged in mostly-peaceful pickets and assemblies for the cause of holding police officers accountable for the people they shoot to groups that basically think the wrong side won the American Civil War? 

What the fuck?

An update/addendum: as originally posted, I wrote about Dylann Roof as a supporter of Stormfront, a neo-Nazi group.  Upon further self-checking, I find that Roof's connections to Stormfront, if any, are apparently still unclear.

It appears that a more-certain influence on Roof was The Council of Conservative Citizens, an organization whose status as a hate group is a little murkier.  That is, there are several prominent conservatives who have been or are associated with the organization, deny that its a "racist" organization despite the group's apparent sympathies with white separatists and white supremacists, and the group has the continued endorsement of Ann Coulter (who I swore to myself I'd never mention by name again, having decided she's a troll who very possibly doesn't believe a word she espouses) and Pat Buchanan  (who is a prince among men, a real prize specimen).

This does lead me to reappraise what I wrote, a little; there are people on the right who think the CCC is being misjudged and maligned by the left, and that they're just another conservative club being slandered and libeled and the questions and criticisms politicians like Trent Lott received about their association with the CCC were/are nothing more than witch-hunting.  And if you believe that, I suppose you might find what I consider to be an obvious (and offensive) false equivalency to be palatable.

So, y'know, I'll float that just in the interest of fairness: maybe you think the Council of Conservative Citizens has gotten a bum rap and focusing on Dylann Roof's admiration for the organization is even bummier.  I have to admit, I think less of you if that's where you're coming from, but I guess it's less-obviously stupid even if I think it makes you something of an asshole for equating Black Lives Matter to an organization that "...oppose[s] all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called' affirmative action' and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races."  I'm not aware of anyone from Black Lives Matter getting on about "race-mixing," but hey, you say "potato," I say, "bunch of unreconstructed redneck racist fuckwits who subscribe to vile prejudices," but hey, y'know, maybe that's just the funny regional way words get pronounced differently in different places, or depending on how you grew up.


Warner Saturday, August 29, 2015 at 3:58:00 PM EDT  

I have in my possession a copy of a memo sent to all ABC News staff in 1972 concerning the election that year. Specifically convention coverage.

It reads in part.

" ... Specifically there must be no display of candidate stickers or buttons by anyone. ..."

That was the first year I covered a Presidential election, although for a different network, specifically RKO General WXLO. The rule held there as well, this rule did not change through the last election I covered in 2008. I know it didn't change in 2012 because a discussion of this inflexible rule brought forth the 1972 memo as a 'We do it this way'.

Disciplined? That is a firing offense at any of the stations or networks I've worked for.

Some on air people won't even vote as that would influence their impartiality.

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