From Birth of a Nation to Common: comedian snookered by president hits Fox instead.
Just how smart is Jon Stewart?
His reaction to the Common affair and his startling attack on Fox News is… is… well… first the basics.
Let’s start with some relevant political history to put Mr. Stewart’s recent attack on Fox News, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and other Fox stars in context. Historical context, in this case.
We begin with the famously progressive President of the United States settling in for an evening in the White House to showcase the work of an American artist.
The artist has strong, controversial views on race, using his art to express those views. He also uses his work to express outrage about interracial relationships. And, oh yes, he celebrated those who killed based on race.
No, this was not President Barack Obama using the White House to honor the work of rapper Common in May of 2011.
This was President Woodrow Wilson on the evening of March 21, 1915, using the White House to celebrate filmmaker D.W. Griffith and his hot film of the day, The Birth of a Nation. The film version of novelist Thomas Dixon’s novel and play The Clansman, a celebration of the Ku Klux Klan and racism. As Common campaigned for Obama, novelist Dixon was a longtime supporter and friend of Wilson’s.
For those who came in late, The Birth of a Nation was a silent film, 1915 being the pre-talk movie days. It became the highest grossing movie of the day. The story concerned the post-Civil War Reconstruction period, and depicted blacks dominating Southern whites, rapaciously forcing themselves on white women and — well — you get the idea. The founding of the Ku Klux Klan was dramatized, with the Klan celebrated as a group of heroic saviors fighting off tyranny. (Here’s a poster for the film, a “heroic” Klansman in flowing robes and astride a white horse.)
Blacks in the film, portrayed by white actors in black-face, were depicted as racial monsters. Wilson’s friend Dixon, it should be mentioned, is said to have developed his antipathy to interracial relations because his father was said to have had an affair with a black woman resulting in a child who was Dixon’s half-brother, with Dixon refusing to associate with the sibling he scornfully referred to as “that darky.”
In short, the Griffith film — and the Dixon novel and play on which it was based — was as rancid and racist as it was possible to get. Here’s a scene from the film in which a white damsel is being forced into a marriage with a mulatto — as the heroes of the Klan ride to her rescue.
Woodrow Wilson, like Obama today, was promoted by his supporters as a superstar progressive, the all-knowing, all-wise academic (before entering politics as Governor of New Jersey in 1910 and the White House in 1912 Wilson had been both college professor and president of Princeton).
Wilson was also something else.
As with progressives then and now, he was a master at tying together issues of race with issues of big government. It was Wilson’s legislative program, ironically called the “New Freedom,” that created among other things the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Trade Commission, enacted the Clayton Anti-Trust Act, passed child labor laws and more items on the progressive agenda of the day.
But there was, as always, the usual progressive catch when it came to selling big government. Wilson was in fact an old fashioned Southern racist, born in Staunton, Virginia, and raised in the segregationist — and progressive run — South. The devil’s bargain with his progressive program, (as it was, in fairness, with Democrats and progressives long before Wilson) was his reliance on appeals to race to both win his election to the presidency and his use of it to push through his progressive legislation that expanded the size and scope of the government. There were no passionate appeals for civil rights from Wilson, not in a party in which racism and the Klan itself had and would continue to play such a key role in everything from platforms to policies. Newly elected it was Wilson who segregated the federal government, and it was Wilson who appointed prominent progressive journalist and staunch racist Josephus Daniels as Secretary of the Navy, Daniels promptly segregating the Navy under Wilson’s approving eye. There was more, but you get the point.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
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