Monday, October 26, 2009

Don't Lose Sleep Over Conservatives Defending Limbaugh

I was over at BlogHer.com, and truly I felt the pain of Mata H. who reached out to a conservative pundit who blogs on the site and who is climbing the pundit ladder in the media. Mata attempted to appeal to this person with logic, respect, and compassion.
Dana, I don't mind that you are a conservative. This country has lots of room for differing opinions. I do mind that you post strong statements without doing research first. If you would like to see a list of racist coments by Rush Limbaugh (AND the accompanying long sound bites in Limbaugh's own voice) just click here. By the way, are you even reading this? (Mata H.'s comment)
Yes, the pundit, Dana Loesch aka Mamalogues, is making a case that there is no proof that Rush Limbaugh has ever said anything racist and that conservatives are facing a double standard in free speech. That's become a conservative/possibly Republican talking point in case you missed the memo.

I used to feel a need to respond to people like far-right conservatives and related minions, especially when they attempted to define racism for people who've been oppressed by race. Just as an abusive male will attempt to define spousal abuse as a black eye or broken ribs so something like forbidding his wife to have a checking account is not included, some conservatives attempt to define racist speech and rhetoric as narrowly as possible so they may be excused.

Furthermore, some in the far-right wing, such as Rush Limbaugh, desperately hide behind the right to free speech so they may use hate speech to harm others with impunity when it suits them. Their hope seems to be to redefine racist rhetoric to use of the word "nigger," insults like "wetbacks" and "chink," or an obvious threat like "We will lynch you at sundown." Point them to a Limbaugh assertion like black people have been in a 30-year-plot to train their children as militants, and they will tell you that there's nothing racist about that statement. It's just Limbaugh's opinion, they say, and "liberals" should stop pushing political correctness.

But how is such a statement that implies African-Americans are training their children to destroy or hate America any different than the early speech fires preceding what became Nazi Germany? This is not to say conservatives are Nazis. I'm using pre-Nazi Germany as an example to remind us how this rhetoric builds to something more savage.
German nationalism, as it arose in the time of Napoleon, set the stage for Hitler. Ordinary Germans became fascinated with the idea of political unity and national greatness, largely because they had neither.

A pastor named Fredrick Ludwig Jahn (1778-1852) put together a youth movement in which young men carried out physical exercise for the Fatherland. He led them on long hikes in the countryside and staged rallies in which they screamed denunciations of German-speaking, pro-French aristocrats. In fact, he taught them to be suspicious of foreigners, Jews, and others who would supposedly corrupt the purity of the German Volk (folk). (Complete Idiot's Guide to Nazi Germany)
To paraphrase Santayana, people who don't remember history are condemned to repeat it, and so, this is why concerned people keep an eye out for racist rhetoric or hate speech directed at ethnic groups and religious groups, etc, BOLO for "screamed denunciations" like the kind that erupt on Limbaugh's show or from Glenn Beck's mouth or on an Anne Coulter type's page. We look for and decry the rhetoric that fertilized the earth for genocide. We don't make excuses for it.

I see avoiding accountability for hate speech by hiding behind free speech or the letter of law is similar to the tactic our mayor in New Orleans, Ray Nagin, used when he wanted to say public disclosure laws didn't apply to him as mayor. He hid behind the city charter. Yes, it's possible to go very wrong being right, but once you see that's the road a person travels you've learned a lot about that person's character.

So, while I used to respond directly to such people who use despicable measures to claim nothing said was racist and write genuine responses to them with cogent points, I've stopped doing that. Considering that one definition of insanity is to do the same thing repeatedly and expect different results, and preferring to be sane, I've decided to chill and not really engage such folk anymore with anything requiring more energy than a quote and a picture. That's a quick way to say, I read, I saw, I disagree, and I realize this conversation is hopeless.

Mata H., who writes religion and spirituality at BlogHer.com, is probably not as cynical as I am and so she has hope that she can change a mind or a heart. It's possible certain types of people will listen. It's happened before. However, I think once a person has charted a course to make a name for herself or himself in the media spotlight as a pundit and is using despicable divisive tactics that require ignoring evidence and fact in favor of dramatic effect and ratings or hits, you can safely cross that person off your reasonable discourse engagement list.

Also, I'm a firm believer that the misinformation people prefer sells better than well-reasoned sociological or political examinations. For instance, the conservative pundit's free speech and double standards post was posted Friday and at the time of this post already had 8,120 hits. That's more hits than another BlogHer CE, say Prof. Kim, who is a journalism professor who carefully fact checks her posts will get in a month of posts. True, that's anecdotal evidence but just look around you these days and you'll see that craziness frequently trumps sanity in this age of the blog and propaganda as news. And if not around you, look at history.

So, this is the message I had for dear Mata.

Mata, we've been down this road before on this very website with Dana back when she used to respond to people in the comment section. Please see the comment section of her post, "Dear World: Rush Limbaugh is NOT Head of the GOP or Conservatism."
I emphatically don't condone such speech. HOWEVER, I am not going to vilify a person until such proof exists that they even said it. There is no proof. Erin threw a bunch of quotes here that not a single person has been able to prove were said. There are no audio bites. There are no transcripts. People throw up Youtube videos to things that have nothing to do with the quotes that were given. (Loesch in comments on older post, 03/05/2009)
Back then readers threw lots of data at her about Limbaugh. Dana ignored the provable quotes and links to unedited sound bites. Instead she harped on the two that had not been proven as though no one had mentioned others that could be proven. It was clear from her responses several times on that post that she was frustrated by the number of people who not only did not accept what she was saying, but who had evidence that her information was faulty. Since then she has responded less and less to people on her posts at BlogHer, especially those who disagree with her. And if she would respond and admit that Limbaugh did indeed say some of the quotes listed at either Media Matters or Fair.org, I suspect she would cherry pick from those, select one, and say it's not a racist statement. If not that, then perhaps the argument would be that Media Matters and Fair.org are tools of the liberal media and so any information from the sources is shaky.

Nevertheless, she may pop up later with one of those blanket thank yous where she names everyone here who agrees with her, while ignoring anyone who doesn't. (Or maybe she'll acknowledge everyone this time. Making a comment on a person's history is sort of like interfering with the future. Their behavior may change simply because someone commented.) I suppose no response or only addressing those who agree with her is her new form of engagement here as she climbs the pundit ladder.

I say let her go her way with her own style as she crafts her pundit career. Life is too short. Besides, Dana says she is a Christian, and so, if she has not been influenced by the Bible's lessons on the power of the tongue and salted speech enough to make someone like a Limbaugh unpalatable to her, then nothing you or I say will influence her. She either likes Limbaugh's way of doing things or like Esau is very hungry.

Anyway, she's been ringing this free speech/double standard bell since before she became a CE back when she used to be a commenter. Then it was Don Imus in 2007 not Rush Limbaugh who she thought was being persecuted. I've gathered she thinks that there is no difference between insulting people by ethnic group versus insults in general. While I believe that insults are probably not the best way to go, I think some insults and misinformation do more damage than others. I feel Dana believes all insults, all types of misinformation, are equal, and therefore her definitions of racist speech and hate speech are very narrow. Perhaps nonexistent. Consequently she plays tit for tat in her evaluations, and it appears she isn't seeing something that people who disagree with her on this topic see.

Nevertheless, I agree with you, Mata, that this is not about Limbaugh or Dana being conservative. Conservatives come in many stripes. Some, however, get attention because they want to and so wave a lot of red near the fringe; thus, they become the topic rather than conservative ideology. It seems to work for some people, and I give them and their publicists gold stars for understanding one way to play the spotlight game but an "F" for tactics. Whatever the case, it's good for BlogHer that Dana is here.

New subject: Since we're on the topic of misinformation in political blogger posts, have you seen this article on the search for Obama's nonexistent thesis, reactions and retractions with self-congratulation? It will let you know that sometimes in rebuttal, applying evidence or the lack of evidence and logic gets you nowhere. If that doesn't do it, perhaps this study here will help you accept that sometimes attempts to engage are like banging our heads against brick walls.

I hope you're having a beautiful autumn up there.

4 comments:

msladydeborah said...

There are going to be some people who will never see or acknowledge a version of the truth that is different than the one that they believe is right. I don't feel that it is our responsibility to try and convert them to a different viewpoint. It usually turns out to be a waste of time and energy.

I posted on the Obama Thesis Hoax.
I found this to be one of those moments when the universe delivered a stunning back around to three wingnuts and The Faux Nation! We couldn't of set that up and had the same success. I hope that this is just the opening volley in a series of events that will continue to expose those who are really not about anything except dissention and chaos.

underOvr (aka The U) said...

Hi Nordette,

I simply don't have the time or energy to debate the practice of racism in America. The simple truth is that a racist does not acknowledge a belief in racial equality. They trivialize their statements by telling those who oppose them that "you're being too sensitive".

I'm happy for those men and women who challenge the racist rhetoric masking as commentary or entertainment in our country. I will always stand in opposition to racism but I will not engage in fruitless discussions with those who do not have an open and honest mind to talk.

U

Mata H said...

hey Nordette -- the weather is gloriously beautiful up here. C'mon visit me!

I commented again -- I just can't always let an inaccurate bad word be the last word.

Hugs to ya - Mata

Vérité Parlant is Nordette Adams said...

Hi, MsD. I will drop by and take a look at that thesis post later. Reading the Village Voice piece gave me a headache, not the VV writer, but the craziness surrounding the nonexistent thesis.

U, me too. I applaud people who pull the sheet off hate speech, but as for addressing the offenders directly, I'm kind of over that.

Mata H., I saw your second response to Dana's claim that she is being unjustly maligned. I'm sad to say she appears to have that in common with Mr. Limbaugh. Somebody's always picking on them for no reason at all, in their opinion. It never has anything to do with how they go about their business or what exactly it is that they said.

I'm starting to think that this why they accuse minorities of "playing the victim card" or "playing the race card." They're projectionist.

Limbaugh's crazy like a fox or maybe just crazy. Have you seen the video from the young Republican event this summer?

Maybe Dana's simply misguided, whatever, I'm done.

Thanks, Mata.