August 29th, 2010

Where's Waldo?

Where's Waldo? And by that I mean, find the black people at Glen Beck's Rally.

It's a fun game and you can play it with all the photos I found on

In case you need a clue, there is one gentleman in the upper left-center wearing a badge, presumably telling the white woman where to find the restroom.

[Edited for the benefit of Htpcl]

The Power Of Words

(I'll be taking bets on how quickly this post becomes an utter crap-fest)

So, obviously, a word or two can have immense power. People respond viscerally and vehemently to certain words or word-pairs. I would like to attempt to pre-empt the inevitable accusations of racism, sexism and so on, by saying this:

I firmly believe that all humans deserve equal treatment--insofar as they behave equally [ie. treat all murderers the same, but don't treat them equally with the person who works at a soup kitchen]. That is, any person, male or female, black or white, short or tall, straight or gay, etc etc.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

That said:

I've got a friend who, occasionally uses the word "nigger" or "niggerish" when we're hanging out. He says it in an offhanded way, usually at something negative. I occasionally get on his case about it, asking him why he uses that word and not some other--and one day he gave me a response I simply didn't know how to address.

And on this particular day he also threw out the word CUNT. So I challenged him on his usage of those two words: nigger and cunt.

His response? "I like the way that they sound."
I kinda pushed on it a little more, wondering if that was really true.
He's a nice guy--he doesn't wish harm to women and blacks--and he wouldn't use such language around them (which I then tried to show him, that the very fact that he wouldn't do so that means he probably shouldn't be using the words even when they are not around)

He, to the best of my knowledge (and I've known him for years) is not a racist or sexist. He doesn't think of women or blacks as inferior to men or whites. He doesn't demean actual people--and he's aware that some words may be offensive to some people, so he only uses those words when the kind of people that the words would be offensive to aren't around (exception being "gay"--which he'll use as he uses nigger to describe something negative--and he'll do this around our openly gay/bisexual friend who takes no offense at this other friends use of language--and will sometimes use "gay" in the derogatory sense himself)

So what are we to make of this? What would you suggest I do? As I do believe in the power of words, and I'm not one to toss around nigger or cunt. {Although I have no hesitation in saying the words when discussing linguistics or the usage of the word by others--I do prohibit myself from using such words in reference to a person or thing I dislike.} What would you do if one of your friends (a white male--as it seems blacks can toss out nigger and women, presumably, could toss out cunt without a problem) said nigger/cunt in your presence, and when pressed on why, he simply said: "I like the way it sounds" ? I mean, that seems like a lame excuse to say a word that he knows is a slur--and he'll only say it around people who aren't part of the group that the slur attacks. But what was I to say to him?

And to end this post, with what I'm sure will inflame even more drama-wank, a video:

"There's black people and there's niggers and the niggers got to go" (hey, they ain't my words)
  • paft

"In Her Words" (Not Ours)

I was watching local coverage of the arson in Murfreesboro Tennessee. Some of you may have heard about it. It’s just one of a series of vandalisms and/or arsons aimed at American Muslims. In this case:

Federal agents have been called in after someone poured flammable liquid on four pieces of construction equipment early today at the site of a planned new Islamic center and mosque just outside Murfreesboro. A CBS television affiliate is reporting that it is being investigated as arson.

Collapse )
Quaero togam pacem.
  • mahnmut

The century of the Self

While we're still about books and documentaries... First, a comment from a very interesting recent conversation around here:

I didn't leave the democratic party, it left me

An interesting observation, and much in line with this documentary (caution: lengthy material).

In a nutshell: psychoanalysis became an important tool for companies to read the mind of customers and shape the preferences of consumers in pursuit of more sales and profits; seeing this, politicians also used psychoanalysis (in its many forms) to detect the public's inclinations and then adjust to them in pursuit of more votes and power. This shifted the paradigm from "Here's our set of principles, vote for us if you agree with them" to "Tell us what you want, and we'll deliver it to you".

The documentary argues that the Conservative victories in the Reagan-Thatcher era were mainly due to their new message to the people: "You can be the master of your destiny, and we're the government that's gonna let you govern yourself on your own". Seeing that, Liberals realized that their only chance of regaining power was to adopt a new approach and instead of telling people what's best in their interest, they'd rather listen to what consumers voters expected from politicians and then give it to them. In the process, Liberals would abandon their inherent principles for the sake of appealing to the public, and thus they were successful - Liberal victories swept across the Western world (Blair, Clinton, etc). Conservatives weren't late to follow that trend, either, and we've ended up with the new way of doing politics that we have now.

Interesting stuff. I don't know how much you'd agree with it but it's interesting to consider nevertheless. Personally I think it's pretty much spot on. The cultural clash that we hear so often talked about is in my view exactly the clash of these two paradigms: the role of government in social life, and the two opposing ideas: A) S.Freud / E.Bernays / A.Freud: There are evil primitive forces lurking underneath the surface of every one of us, they should be suppressed and never let out because they're destructive, so society is one step away from becoming a mob, and we should keep it under control through psychoanalysis. B) W.Reich / P.Gould / M.Freud: The hidden powers of the ego should be let out to become the driving force of social progress, they should be catered to, listened to and let to define the making of policies, and psychoanalysis should be our primary tool for detecting, defining and recognizing them.

(no subject)

Pigford v. Glickman: 86,000 claims from 39,697 total farmers?

This means that the U.S. may be recompensing at least 86,000 African-American farmers for past racial discrimination. But how could that possibly be true if there are only 39,697 African-American farmers in existence nationwide? And if only some subset of them ever applied for loans in the first place and were then unfairly denied loans?

I doubt this is something you've heard of and probably don't think it terribly important. It probably isn't. But it's interesting as an instance of how racial politics muck things up. It's also interesting to see just how many people are trying to scam money out of the government, even on obscure things like this. And how the government seems to be unable to check and verify simple facts about people's claims.

Racism and the Glenn Beck Fandom

In a recent post, eracerhead attempted to argue that the "Glen Beck fandom" is motivated primarily (or perhaps even solely) by racism. This argument is not original to him, and it even enjoys a relative degree of popularity. I think it will be instructive to consider it in more detail.

In brief, the argument is that since none of the fandom's grievances are legitimate, their actual motive must be racism because 1) they are predominantly white as a group, and 2) the current president is black.

This is an odd idea. eracerhead surely doesn't intend to imply that any white person who disagrees with the president must ipso facto be a racist. It seems that the disagreement of white Beckites in particular is being singled out here, probably because some of them actually are racist. But in spite of that, and even if all the Beckites' grievances are illegitimate as well, it doesn't follow that their primary or sole motivation must be racism.

eracerhead offers us the following list of afflictions from which the Beckites purportedly want to "take back the country:"

Could it be spending or big government? Nope, as they did not object to Bush or Reagan.
Could it be taxation? Nope, as taxes are lower now than when Bush was in office.
Could it be socialized medicine? Nope, as the healthcare bill was in no way socializing medicine.
Could it be the secularization of America. Nope, as America has always been a secular nation.

The assertions with which eracerhead dismisses these grievances are all painfully glib. Nonetheless, they are the crux of his accusation against the Beckites (unless you count the photograph accompanying his post, which I am charitably ignoring).

But let's disregard this glibness. Let's suppose that eracerhead is correct in every case, and that the Beckites therefore hold grievances based on beliefs which are either inconsistent or false. Does this entitle us to conclude that the Beckites are only motivated by racism? Of course not. Incorrect or nonsensical grievances do not thereby lose their power to motivate, for human beings have an apparently boundless capacity to sincerely believe things which are incorrect and nonsensical.

In addition, even if we allow false grievances to be disqualified as valid motives, there's no reason to single out racism as the only remaining motivation. One can easily identify any number of distinct motivating factors behind the Beckites' disapprobation. As a group, they consist mostly of rural middle-class people with a paucity of education — that is, one of the groups hit hardest by the recession. They are also older, and they adhere to standards of value which are becoming increasingly outmoded. In short, they feel themselves to be disaffected. And on top of everything else, they are inflicted with the bitter sectarianism which has increasingly come to be the predominant feature of political discourse in the US.

These people are not equipped to think clearly about any of the issues mentioned above, but that doesn't lessen how seriously they perceive their predicament. And to a considerable extent, their predicament extends to the rest of us as well. The US is in the midst of a serious recession: government spending is indeed going to be affected by public debt and a depressed economy, and taxes will probably have to be raised; current social programs will be imperiled and new ones will be difficult to implement; and public battles between and amongst secularists and various believers, while certainly not as pressing as the other items on the list, are at least a continual irritation. I don't think it's unreasonable to assert that everyone (as long as they are fair-minded) should be able to identify with the root causes of the Beckites' discontent.

To conclude: there is no good reason to suppose that Glenn Beck and his fans are primarily or solely motivated by racism, even though many of them may be racist. (My suspicion is that the racial bigotry in question has the same relation to Tea Party ideology — whatever that may be — as pork does to a Congressional bill.)

It is both disingenuous and uncivil to sweepingly dismiss an entire group based on a glib accusation of racism. At best, it displays the same shallowness and truculence of which it is so delightfully easy to take note in the political engagements of the Beckites, and at worst, it can only be a malicious rhetorical stratagem intended to evade debate. In either case, it is unfortunately symptomatic of the political sectarianism mentioned above, and as such it should be abandoned by anyone who cares about the quality of public political discourse.