Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pearson Education Pushes Tea Party Politics on Twitter? Someone's Since Removed the Political Tweet

UPDATE, April 21: Pearson Media Group removed the tweet mentioned in this post. Props to them for that. I hope they choose what to tweet more carefully in the future.

I never thought about Pearson, an education publishing corporation, taking a political stand that a high percentage of black people probably find insulting, but I guess it may. Per its Twitter profile, Pearson, which is located in New Jersey, is part of the a media group which includes the Financial Times Group and Penguin.

Today I saw this tweet from the company promoting an article at NewsBusters, a conservative site that supposedly is fighting "liberal bias" in the media.
White NBC Reporter Confronts Black Man at Tea Party Rally: 'Have You Ever Felt Uncomfortable?' http://bit.ly/dCZ3ay

The tweet takes you to a post that implies, as many right-wing posts do, that the Tea Party has no racist aspects and to say otherwise is to parrot the "liberal media." To suggest or promote in reporting that the shadow of racist appeals does not haunt the Tea Party movement is to be fair, according to many conservatives with blogs as well as traditional media outlets. It's like nobody is allowed to look at America's political history, rhetoric, facts and stats. We're supposed to accept Tea Party members giving lipservice to being nonracist as God's honest truth.

What I find so offensive about posts like the one at Newsbusters that Pearson tweeted is they tell African-Americans to not believe your ears and eyes as though many of us can't read what the Tea Party crowd says in blogs or can't hear its sympathizers in a drugstore or restaurant.

These kinds of pro-conservative posts usually promote an idea straight from the white privilege toolkit that tells people of color, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. If you think you see racism, it's in your head.

These articles that seek to separate the Tea Party from a racist legacy by denying that much of its rhetoric smacks of Southern Strategy politics and draws a crowd that falls for that ploy every time imply that black people are being led by a white liberal media or somebody like Al Sharpton and can't think for themselves. And, yes, they suggest that a lone black man wandering around a Tea Party rally somehow is more perceptive about the Tea Party and race matters than all the other black people who say, "We smell a racist rat."

It's the same tactic people use to say Rush Limbaugh's never said anything racist: "OMG! How can you say Limbaugh's racist? He's got a black person on his staff. OMG!"

These kinds of people think window dressing should be enough to appease us black people, that's how dumb we are to them. When it suits them African-Americans are monolithic, a bunch of welfare mamas, pushers, gangsta members and crackheads with angry college-educated women who can't find husbands and who don't love America enough. Yet, when it suits them, one or two black people will be used to dismiss the opinions of the majority that they've already painted as too angry and dysfunctional to see straight anyway. This is the power of whiteness in America, to set agendas, build propaganda, and tell us we don't have a right to feel what we feel and what we feel is not valid unless it supports white privilege.

So, I'm disappointed by Pearson's tweet. I was unaware that this New Jersey-based company was using funds to push a conservative mindset that suggests there's no racist connection to Tea Party rhetoric. But I'm not surprised. Perhaps Pearson wants to ensure it gets a hefty piece of the pie being served from Texas, which is rewriting history textbooks so American school children believe conservatives are unfairly maligned, especially on matters of race.

These kinds of NewsBuster reports, and at least one point in a Tea Party myths post at BlogHer.com, are written in answer to not only posts like Joan Walsh's Salon.com piece, "The Tea Partiers' racial paranoia," but also the perception of many people of color, including me, that Tea Party folks, by and large, don't give a damn about black people or understanding race in America.

Grassroots or not, the Tea Party is an extension of Republican Party tentacles and we know its history on race matters well. What the Tea Party crowd fails to see is that it doesn't exist in a vacuum. We hear its members and sympathizers making the same kinds of arguments their predecessors made and have been making for more than a century. Many of their political ancestors were proud racists who've produced a generation of people who think it's all about overcoming the perception that they are racists rather than racism itself.

Until Tea Party leadership addresses this part of its legacy head on, the Tea Party movement will make no headway with people like me. But they won't address it because they don't want to offend core members. We know this.

As for Pearson's tweet, I'm changing what had previously been a positive opinion of that company. Its management really should not let its employees post tweets that push any political agenda, liberal, conservative or otherwise, because as long as Pearson's name and logo are on that Twitter page, that's Pearson tweeting not some unseen Republican operative. If an employee wants to push a political agenda, he or she should get a personal blog and leave Pearson's name out of it.

Yes, Pearson under Penguin publishes black authors, but perhaps Pearson has some kind of race issue of its own. I wonder how many black people it has on staff because last year the Penguin side totally left out its black struggling authors when it launched a site designed to promote underserved book authors. Now that I recall that, I'm less surprised it has people working in another part of the company, Pearson, who would be insensitive enough to push the "none of us are racists and the liberal media's unfair" talking point of the Tea Party crowd.

Undoubtedly, somebody at Pearson and Penguin will think they should be let off the hook for this kind of nonsense because they do good works sometimes like donating money to literacy programs, but I would say a big "Nah uh!" to that line of thinking.


Can-Can said...

I'm glad Pearson removed the tweet. Thanks, as always, for speaking out!

RiPPa said...

Well, I think the Tea Party is doing themselves a big favor by attempting to denounce those bully's in the "liberal media". However, I think it's a little bit too late for that because, well, even Stevie Wonder can see their movement, or segments of it to be overtly racist.

You hit on an excellent point, and that would be of exercising white privilege. You see these Yahoos had the chance to denounce much of what was reported a year ago but they didn't. As a matter of fact, they ratcheted up the nut-jobs last year!

But I guess I'm supposed to believe that this is a "new breed" of "activists", right?

Superb post!

Carleen Brice said...

I wonder what they were thinking??! Glad they removed it.

Suzanne said...

I'm really glad that you called this out and that they took down the Tweet. It's great that Pearson acknowledged that it was a mistake to put it up by taking it down. I wish they would apologize as well, but I suppose one step at a time. I hope they are more thoughtful in the future.

DeBerry and Grant said...

It's clear they weren't thinking--or maybe they assumed (as is so often the case) that we wouldn't be thinking. Glad they re-thought and removed the tweet.

Villager said...

I appreciate you sharing this information with your blog readers ... and I'm glad to see that Pearson removed the tweet in question.

The Tea Party will eventually die of its own poison.

peace, Villager

msladydeborah said...

The presence of PCs does not mean that there is no racism withn the Tea Party movement. That's a crock of crap!

I suspect that there is this assumption that PCs wouldn't be reading the tweet.

You go Nordette for calling them out on it! I'm glad they remove the post.

Gina said...

Honestly, I find it helpful to know how people/companies really feel-- what they are supporting, where their allegiances are and the viewpoints they espouse. I am glad Pearson took the Tweet down. But I now know how they really feel.

Thanks for calling attention to Pearson's flub. That's what we'll call it--a flub!

brownstocking said...

Pearson really fell down on that one, glad to know they pay for NewsBusters. Also glad they can see negative publicity coming and try to head it off, unlike other corporations, LOL.

I read the "myths" about the Tea Party and I found her arguments straw or fallacious. As I said before, and I will continue to say, the Tea Party will be our British National Party; why can't we form a Liberal Democrat Party, too?

Chick Lit Gurrl said...

Very disappointed that they felt the need to tweet that. Glad they removed it, but even that doesn't really admit to any wrongdoing. That's like, oh, I don't know, a governor recognizing Confederate History Month yet failing to recognize slavery...but then wanting to apologize for the oversight. You can't tell me that the governor didn't know what he was doing just as you can't tell me that Pearson didn't know what it was doing with that post. And as an educational publisher, whose books reach and teach a diverse group of students, they should know better.

Tami said...

Good to see that Tweet come down and I hope Pearson guards against this sort of thing in the future. I must say that this display of partisan behavior and racial cluelessness will make me wary of Pearson and its imprints in the future.

Gena said...

I wish Pearson made cans of soup. I could avoid buying the soup. This is more troublesome.

Pearson has the power to inject their opinions and philosophies into school books.

Texas and 10 other states must look mighty juicy to Pearson's right about now. To hell with facts and ethics, there are sales to confirm.

It is not just the books that school districts purchase; Pearson is also seeding some of the open education sites with free text books or educator access.

So yeah, it helps to know which American corporations believe in the rebel yell of Socialism and wanting their country back.

Good to know. Hurtful to know as well. Lawd, this American life...tsk, tsk, tsk.

MrsGrapevine said...

I just wonder if people will be as outraged if they tweeted something with a liberal bias? It probably would have been ignored...

The commentary isn't really about the tweet, it's about the tea party. Although I can't stand the tea party, it's how many people feel, and it's momentum is growing. Yes, that's very scary. In my opinion, they are the true communists and socialists, and their platform reads like a manifesto. However, many of them don't even know what the terms mean, and thus they are employing the very tactics that they claim they hate. This so called "Revolution against the elite" it very Marxist at it's heart, and it makes me laugh, when they say "take the government back from the elite (bourgeois) and put back in the hands of the people (proletariat). Really you can't get any more communist that that statement.

Anyway, I'm actually glad Pearson made the tweet because now I know where they stand, and as a consumer I learn where not to spend my money. What's the point of taking it down and apologizing when we know they are tea party sympathizers. I don't like the tap dances, and I don't believe the apology.

I do believe in the freedom of speech, and I don't want Pearson to have to censor how their leaders really feel. That way I know where they stand...

Vérité Parlant is Nordette Adams said...

Thank you! I enjoyed reading the comments on this post. I wrote is as a warning to Pearson to watch out and keep their tweets in check. It could be some intern for all we know who has not been trained in what to tweet and what not to tweet and so they twittered personal opinion rather than the company line.

It could even be someone with progressive sensibilities who tweeted the link to Newsbusters because he or she thinks Newsbusters is stupid, but with no comment to indicated why they twittered that, the conclusion would be they wanted to promote the sentiments at Newsbusters.

The point is, how can the public know and does Pearson want to risk building a negative, controversial company image by sending out foolish tweets?

I think it's risky for any company that's not in the business of political commentary to tweet anything that indicates a political leaning. If it wants to tweet something socially conscious, then it would be better off sticking to how it's making the company green for a financial payoff or bringing the world together or doing more to encourage understanding by promoting multicultural books. Or how about tweeting links to book bloggers they've noticed or articles about innovators in education?

Anything that smacks of pushing a political agenda that touches race, however, they should back away, back far far away.

So, yeah, MrsGrapevine, I think it probably would have bothered me less if it had been a tweet sending me to a post at a progressive site, but it would have bothered their conservative customers most likely. Therefore, I'd still tell Pearson, "Step away from the political tweets. They don't pay." And also, train your people better about how to use social media.