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MSNBC Sounding A Little FOXesque

I noticed something strange (and subtle) on MSNBC last week. Something reminiscent of FOX News. I may be jumping the gun in being an alarmist, but I believe these things are important to point out and watch closely.

I heard both Maddow and Olbermann refer to Eric Cantor as the speaker of the house last week. This was odd since his taking over as leader of republicans in the house is far from a foregone conclusion. He did announce his intention to run for the position but as far as I know, Boehner isn’t voluntarily stepping down. Cantor just announced his intention to go after the position of speaker last Wednesday, so there’s no chance of having inside information on how the vote is going to come out this early in the game.

This may seem innocuous at first glance, but two commentators on the same network making the same statement is not a coincidence. Are they both just making an assumption? Or are they attempting to create a well crafted narrative a la Fox?

There has been a back and forth lately between MSNBC (and the “professional left”) and Jon Stewart over the Rally To Restore Sanity that Stewart and Stephen Colbert held in DC two weeks ago. Left leaning pundits are upset that Stewart seemed to imply an equivocation between the angry left and the loony right. Olbermann (among others) took exception to that equivocation by asserting that Fox just flat out makes shit up while MSNBC “enthusiastically” comments on reality based issues. Bill Maher threw his two cents in on Friday. You can watch it here.

I mostly agree with Olbermann and Maher. There is a big difference between expressing outrage over something that is happening and making shit up in order to manufacture outrage. When Countdown is on, the only thing that Olbermann makes up is his opinion of the topic he’s discussing. When anyone at Fox News is on, they make up insane bullshit like…oh, let me see if I can come up with something…oh, got it…The president is going to India and he’s taking one tenth of our navy and 200 million dollars (a day) with him. There is a very clear difference between the two sides.

I wandered off into bringing all of that up because I don’t believe that Fox started off with “death panel” and “34 navy ship” whoppers. I believe they started small by creating seemingly innocuous narratives. When those stuck, they began to snowball until they managed to create an alternate reality for their viewers.

This “Speaker Cantor” thing on MSNBC isn’t nothing. It feels like the start of something. At the very least, it’s worth watching MSNBC with a slightly more critical eye.

I would hate for MSNBC to turn into Fox’s counterpart. And I would hate to watch the creation of a “loony left”, worked up by false narratives fed to them by people that were once trustworthy.

Your credibility is on the line here, MSNBC. Please don’t go down this bad road.


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The Apple Did Not Fall Far From The Tree

I’m referring to Rand Paul. It’s barely been thirty six hours since he won the republican primary for the open senate seat in Kentucky. Since his victory, he’s said some things that make him seem a little bit racist.

Before I can share my opinions on Rand, I must first begin with Ron Paul. I do have to preface all of this by telling you that I do not believe in blaming the son for the sins of the father. I believe that doing so is unfair, and generally unfounded. When I bring up Ron Paul, I do so because I believe that it’s important to understand the ideology under which Rand Paul was raised.

Ron Paul first registered on my radar during the first debate for the republican primary in 2008. It became very clear in the first ten minutes of that debate, that Ron Paul was not your typical republican. He said a lot of things that made sense. I felt as if he was the republican counterpart to Dennis Kucinich in that, he was a conservative truth teller, impervious to party talking points and corporate interests. There were many points in which I vehemently disagreed with Ron Paul, but I definitely felt that he merited a closer look.

So I started to do some research. A few hours into my research, I came across the newsletters that Ron Paul published monthly from 1978 to 1999. I found this article about the newsletters from a January 2008 story in the New Republic. Let me short hand the article for you with some quotes from the newsletters;


“opinion polls consistently show only about 5% of blacks have sensible political opinions,”

“if you have ever been robbed by a black teen-aged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they can be,”

He claimed that black representative Barbara Jordan is “the archetypical half-educated victimologist” whose “race and sex protect her from criticism.”

“Boy, it sure burns me to have a national holiday for that pro-communist philanderer, Martin Luther King. I voted against this outrage time and time again as a Congressman. What an infamy that Ronald Reagan approved it! We can thank him for our annual Hate Whitey Day”

One newsletter ridiculed black activists who wanted to rename New York City after King, suggesting that “Welfaria,” “Zooville,” “Rapetown,” “Dirtburg,” and “Lazyopolis” were better alternatives.

But don’t worry blacks, you’re not alone in Ron Paul’s world of the unworthy;

In 1990, one newsletter mentioned a reporter from a gay magazine “who certainly had an axe to grind, and that’s not easy with a limp wrist.”

In an item titled, “The Pink House?” the author of a newsletter–again, presumably Paul–complained about President George H.W. Bush’s decision to sign a hate crimes bill and invite “the heads of homosexual lobbying groups to the White House for the ceremony,” adding, “I miss the closet.” “Homosexuals,” it said, “not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities.”

“Homosexuals, if admitted, should be put in a special category and not allowed in close physical contact with heterosexuals.”

Feeling left out, Jews? Don’t worry;

A 1987 issue of Paul’s Investment Letter called Israel “an aggressive, national socialist state,”

Of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, a newsletter said, “Whether it was a setup by the Israeli Mossad, as a Jewish friend of mine suspects, or was truly a retaliation by the Islamic fundamentalists, matters little.”

I could go on and on, but you get the point. Being the skeptic that I am, I had to assume that the reporter on the New Republic story might have had an axe to grind with Ron Paul so I kept looking until I found actual copies of the newsletters. You can look at them here, here, and you can download one here.

I don’t want to keep going on and on about Ron because this post is about Rand, but if you want to know more about how Ron reacted to these revelations, just Google “Ron Paul” + newsletters.

Back to Rand. Here’s an interview that he did with Rachel Maddow last night;

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_FDPZJlaOc[/youtube]

And here’s part 2;

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IS_qya7w0hs[/youtube]

A few things struck me about Rand after having watched this interview.

The first thing is Paul’s cowardice. He lacks the courage of his convictions. If you truly believe something, it’s presumably because you think that your belief is the right thing. If that’s the case, there should be no need to evade directly answering questions about what you believe. The way he evaded answering the question tells me that he KNOWS that his views should be suppressed. If you know that you’re right or righteous, there’s no reason to obfuscate. You should believe that your correctness has the power to persuade others.

The next thing that struck me is his intellectual dishonesty in the gun example he brought up. A gun is something that you CARRY. You have the option of leaving it at home, and doing so won’t prevent you from going to a lunch counter.  You can’t leave your “blackness” home. It’s WHAT you are, not what you do. That equivocation was absurd.

There was also a comment on Wednesday. A reporter asked Rand if he was concerned that holding his victory party at a private country club would “send mixed messages”. Rand responded by saying, ““I think at one time people used to think of golf and golf courses and golf clubs as being exclusive. But I think in recent years now you see a lot of people playing golf. I think Tiger Woods has helped to broaden that in the sense that he’s brought golf to a lot of the cities and to city youth, and so no, I don’t think it’s nearly as exclusive as people once considered it to be.”

I thought that it was a little bit unusual that he interpreted the question to be about race. My interpretation would have been that the question was about populism, since he ran as an allegedly populist tea party candidate. The mixed message lies in having your victory party in a venue that appears to be elitist.

I am not a person that feels comfortable labeling people as racists. I have lived in the most liberal parts of this country so racism is not a natural concept for me to wrap my mind around. So when Rand made the Tiger Woods comment, I didn’t jump to a racist conclusion even though I knew how he was raised. I was not willing to combine a seemingly innocuous comment with the sins of the father to conclude that Rand Paul has racist views. When I look at the Maddow interview and silo it apart from everything else, my inclination is to view his comments as staunchly libertarian rather than inherently bigoted. His platform is after all, one of libertarianism.

But when I put the totality of the information about Rand Paul together, I can’t avoid the conclusion that he is a racist.

Here’s the problem with racism today; it’s subtle because it isn’t tolerated in mainstream society anymore. Overt racism isn’t socially acceptable anymore so racists have to go undercover. They have to be subtle. A great example of this is the birthers. Clinging onto the belief that our black president wasn’t born in America, despite all of the evidence to the contrary, is just a subtle way of saying that he’s not one of us.

I really resisted concluding that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to Rand Paul, but I can’t avoid it any longer.

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