Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Barack Obama doesn't care about black people

If Matt Walsh isn't going to write new material, he could at least do us the favor of doing something differently. The very first sentence - "Enough of this, already."  - and the deja vu is already kicking in. Plus, in terms of writing style, this is one of Matt's worst. More angry thesaurus soup.

Once again, I wouldn't even respond to this post, given that he didn't write anything new and he was barely coherent. However, there was something so particularly odious about this post that I can't help but respond. A few weeks ago I wondered whether Matt was taking some of the criticism to heart; now I seriously doubt it.

(Sorry about my tone, by the way. Reading stuff like that makes me a bit cranky. I'll try to keep myself in line.)

To start, everything that I said previously about the echo chamber was demonstrated very well in this post. Matt relies on the same network of conservative media sources that he always does. In fact, when I tried to get more information about a couple of his claims I could pretty much only find references that came from these sources. To take one example: the Nebraska parade float. When I google searched information related to the DOJ investigating this incident, I was bombarded with results from sources like The New American**, the Washington Times and Breitbart. The only sources from outside the echo chamber that I found came, interestingly, from RT.com (a Russian television network) and this (which actually seems to be more helpful than the information Matt provides).

Matt also repeats the same disinformation related to the current refugee crisis (he doesn't learn!). He says that impoverished people in the U.S. are "living in the same squalid conditions" - which, given the fact that, for example, there is more violence currently in El Salvador than there was in Iraq at the height of the war - is demonstrably false. Matt says, "Wealthy, upper class, Ivy League politicians can welcome these illegals with open arms because they are insulated from the economic and cultural destruction that is wrought." Actually, many of the Salvadorans have been migrating to Washington D.C., which happens to be one of the most highly educated, wealthy, and politician-dense areas in the country. Furthermore, I must say, I live in an area that is a target destination for Central American migrants - I interact with them on a regular basis - and I have not seen any economic or cultural destruction. I see/hear things in Spanish, and yet, somehow I have managed to survive, dear me.

Now, Matt reveals something very interesting when he says "cultural destruction." Back when certain biological and social scientists demolished the scientific basis for racism, and when various constitutional and legal provisions prohibited some overt forms of racism, people with well-known white supremacist goals began using the term "culture" in place of "race." In debates about immigration, people who had, in other circumstances, spoken about demographic changes and the racial composition of America started talking about "cultural destruction." Now, the ironic thing is, Matt is a Catholic who often writes about how America is a Christian nation and how secularism is destroying society and culture, and many people from Central America are devout Catholics. That definitely leads one to question how much Matt is really concerned about culture when he speaks of "cultural destruction." It also leads one to wonder how much he really believes in the "inherent value of life" when he is so willing to send masses of children back to their imminent deaths (pro-life, indeed)....

Matt repeats the very false claim that Obama "refuses to protect our border" - when, in fact, the border is more secure than it has ever been, the number of undocumented immigrants is still below its peak in 2007, and Obama wants to expedite the deportation of refugee children. Finally, Matt once again says that undocumented immigrants form a voting block, although there is no evidence to support that claim.

As I mentioned before, this is one area where Matt could do a lot to educate himself. He could read about the history of U.S. conquests and military interventions in the very parts of the world where the migrations are coming from (and he could read about this same dynamic of conquered/occupied regions and migrations throughout all of human history). He could learn about how poverty and violence has stemmed from U.S. financial and military support of brutal dictatorships in this region (often to protect the interests of U.S. multinational corporations like United Fruit). He could become a little more acquainted with the School of the Americas (who recently tried to rebrand itself with a new, ungodly long name). He could read about the failed domestic policies, combined with the actions of U.S.-supported Nicaraguan drug-dealing contras, that played a role in the rise of crack and gangs in L.A. Then he could read about how deportations themselves helped to internationalize the L.A. gangs - to bring them to Central America where they are causing the unprecedented violence, which is responsible for the flood of refugees, not just at U.S. borders, but in other countries as well.

But really, in this post, Matt is just using the refugee crisis to make an ill-conceived attempt at race-baiting. He makes a spurious argument that we cannot address the needs of refugee children and African Americans at the same time, thus continuing a long American tradition of pitting marginalized groups against each other (the good 'ol Divide and Conquer). This claim is even harder to swallow given the fact that he opposes virtually every practical step that could make life better for many African Americans. He thinks businesses should be free to discriminate and, somehow believing that there aren't enough intelligent, hardworking African Americans to create demographically representative college populations, and also by necessity assuming that competitive admissions processes don't turn away many, many qualified applicants, he accuses affirmative action programs of setting African Americans back by allowing "unworthy" applicants into college. The one accurate statement that Matt makes in his entire post is, "Yes, racism is still alive in this country." Well, if racism is still alive, then one would expect prominent figures, such as the president of the United States, to talk about a major social problem that extends into so many areas of American life. Unless, I suppose, one thinks racism is a trivial, unimportant matter. Since any mention of race, no matter how delayed, modest, or impotent, by Obama sends Matt into fits of rage, it must be the latter.

In fact, the whole story that inspired this post - some remarks about race by Eric Holder - is a product of the distortion mill that operates inside the echo chamber. The interview covered a wide range of topics and, at the moment Holder made the comment in question, was being asked about calls for impeachment directed at both him and the president, and the Tea Party had also been mentioned. That is when he said: "There's a certain racial component to this for some people. I don’t think this is the thing that is a main driver, but for some there's a racial animus" (emphasis mine). If you have admitted that racism is still alive, then how you can deny that this is true? Yes, surely much of the hatred that is directed at Obama is a product of the extreme partisanship that has been plaguing our politics. I remember most of these same people expressing similar amounts of rage and saying pretty much exactly the same things about Bill Clinton. But, it is also clear that, as Holder said, for some people racism is a component of this rage. The Tea Party had been mentioned. So... Exhibit A.

What Holder said was factually correct.

However, other than suggesting it is a terrible atrocity whenever Obama or Holder makes a comment about race, the main point of Matt's post was that black people do not know what is best for them. Have no fear, black people, Matt is here to tell you exactly how you are wrong and what sorts of policies you should support. You don't have to thank him, but if you want to, he is soliciting handouts on his website. It is hard work plagiarizing yourself two times a week, so he deserves it. .... What's that? Oh, don't worry, when white people get handouts somehow it doesn't cause dependency, drug addiction, teen pregnancy, and the degradation of their race. Funny how things work, huh.

Other than the obvious, there is something very troubling here that I have addressed before and I would like to expand on a bit. Namely, directing all of one's rage at a particular individual does not make much sense and it is not helpful. To sustain this attitude, one must ignore all of the institutional structures and channels of funding that act as influential forces in policy-making and enforcement. There is a lot of continuity between presidencies, as a matter of fact. There are plenty of things I am not happy about that the Obama administration has presided over; however, many of these things were put into place under the Bush administration and had their roots in the Clinton years and beyond. (I should also mention that my list of grievances is based more on empirical evidence and facts than Matt's at times baffling list. Stoking race riots in Florida? Really?) Blaming individual presidents is futile. It obscures too much and aggravates political polarization.

Matt repeats his peculiar claim that there is some sort of covert fraternity between progressives and elites (he often suggests they are one and the same). Based on previous posts, it seems this elite includes owners of large corporations and the political establishment (like Obama). One can only sustain such a narrative by making a complete break with reality (which Matt, inside his echo chamber, obviously has done). How does Matt explain the fact that many self-identified progressives are not so happy with Obama? (The fact that there is a LOT of diversity among the group of people who might be labeled "progressive" is another matter.) To take an example of someone who has recently gotten a lot of attention:  Glenn Greenwald. Glenn Greenwald is a progressive journalist (associated with Snowden leaks) who is a harsh critic of president Obama. Matt says that progressives polices "always benefit the elitist class." How does Matt explain progressive calls to raise the minimum wage and opposition to these calls by corporate elites like Walmart (as well as Matt Walsh himself, who finds himself supporting corporations in these instances)? How does Matt explain many progressives' desire to raise taxes on higher income brackets, frustration with the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, and support of regulations of banks and corporations? Does Matt actually believe that no elites support Republican politicians or conservative causes? How does he honestly sustain this narrative?

The reality is pretty complex. See, elites are not a homogenous group. They have different, and often competing, interests. (Frequently, what is profitable for one person comes at the direct expense of another person.) They have different ideas about what is best for themselves and for society.  Consequently, elites support different ideologies and different causes. Sometimes this is done in a straightforward manner, and other times elites use the resources of a certain organization or network of organizations to opportunistically further their own agenda. The last few decades have seen a huge rise in networks of think-tanks and allied foundations and media outlets. Having grown within the structure of the U.S. two-party system, these networks have tended to amplify, and are in many ways responsible for, the concomitant intensification of political polarization. However, even among these networks, there is more diversity than a simple partisan binary. Nearly every political ideology that exists in this country has some source of elite funding and support.

Furthermore, this is a large part of the context in which policy-making and enforcement occurs. Often the results of these processes are a product of the competition among the various channels of moneyed interests. To say it is a "compromise" is not even quite accurate - because there is constant re-negotiation and contestation. However, this does shed quite a bit of light on the amount of continuity between different presidencies. The same channels of influence remain in place.

Barack Obama is one person. He will come and go, and the system will live on.

There really is no logical, rational reason for Matt to hate Obama to the extent that he does. It just makes him sound not very thoughtful, and quite a bit rabid. Here is my message to Matt:

Matt, the signature characteristic of propaganda-driven worldviews is their simplicity. The time to worry about your grasp of reality is when everything is seen as simple and dichotomous, black-and-white, good-and-evil. Elite secular progressives vs. Wholesome conservative Christian regular Joes. When you can divide people into two camps and associate everything bad in society with the opposing camp. When your most extreme hatreds are directed at individuals and groups of people (conceived as homogenous entities) rather than broader systems or structures.

Maybe black people aren't the ones being "duped" and drinking the Kool-Aid, Matt.

**P.S. I was going to mention something about The New American being the publication of the John Birch Society, a group who, in the 1960s, said that the Civil Rights Movement was a communist conspiracy.


  1. I hate it when I spend time typing a comment on a cell phone and hit "publish" just to have my comment disappear. Maybe this has been happening to all the other people trying to comment on your blog post... 'cause I'm the only one... And yours was such a long, well written rebuttal... painstakingly edited... with no comments... yikes. Sorry friend. Keep at it. Or not.

    1. @blake: I noticed on mobile blogger sometimes doesn't display the captcha that you have to fill out when commenting. It just gobbles it up. :-(

  2. I just wanted to let you know I throughly enjoy reading your rebuttals to Matt's quite horrible blog posts that get shared like hotcakes. Your writeups are always quite logical and convey exactly what goes through my mind whenever someone shares his mindless drivel.

    Please keep it up!