The Spectacle Blog

We’re All Racists Now

By on 10.14.08 | 9:59AM

Conor Friedersdorf at Culture11:

When the McCain campaign vaguely notes that Barack Obama has "ties to unrepentant terrorists," it purposefully muddies the distinction between a leftist radical who bombed government buildings as a young man in the Vietnam era and a suicidal death cult that today threatens our very way of life.

This isn't to say that the long ago deeds of Bill Ayres aren't despicable, or that having failed to repent he should be accepted into polite society. Insofar as Barack Obama abetted Ayres' social standing, criticizing Obama is fair. But the McCain campaign has exploited the fact that Bill Ayres was a terrorist to imply that their opponent is sympathetic to our enemies in the War on Terror, a campaign tactic so irresponsible that even GOP partisans should forcefully denounce it, and for a reason that hasn't anything to do with fairness.

That's a strawman. This argument doesn't say Obama is sympathetic to terrorists. It says that Obama is either a bad judge of character and fairly naive about terrorism, or so politically ambitious that he doesn't care who he associates with in order to rise in his career.

Obama's campaign has hit John McCain for the lobbyists on his campaign staff, including Aquiles Suarez from Fannie Mae. They bring this up because they feel it makes McCain look unserious about reform. Barack Obama, however, says he's calling for a new sort of moderated politics. Yet Jeremiah Wright, his spiritual mentor, has been a radical the entire time Obama has known him. Obama says he wants to fight corruption, yet the organization he used to work with has been historically incapable of going through an election without engaging in voter fraud. And then, Obama says he's serious about fighting terror, and he pretends as though a relationship with an unrepentant homegrown terrorist doesn't smudge that promise.

Conor goes on:

The conventional case against the McCain campaign's tactics is that they stoke the most dangerous impulses of certain anti-Obama partisans. A black contender for the presidency cannot help but make us subconsciously fearful of an assassination attempt. The YouTube clips of McCain/Palin rallies, where mere mention of Obama's name provokes cries of "kill him," "terrorist," and "treason," make those fears conscious.

What?! This meme is popping up everywhere, that John McCain has inadvertantly opened the Pandora's box of racism, and Barack Obama is under threat of assassination on account of it. Or worse, we all become "subconsciously fearful of an assassination attempt." Whatever that means.

I'm subconsciously fearful of a lot of things, I guess, like pâté, or commitment. But John McCain is no more responsible for these fears than he is responsible for the "subconscious racism" Democrats love to fetishize. I'd like to go a single week without being reminded that many people still believe that Obama is a Muslim. They love this anecdote, because it's an opportunity to remind others that the only reason John McCain is popular because Republicans were told to support him at their latest Klan rally.

To support this point, he turns to George Packer:

"It's a big leap from hateful talking points and shouted epithets to vigilantism and the lone gunman," George Packer writes. "What's undeniably true is that Republican rallies and the incendiary language of party leaders are stirring up the darker, destructive mob passions that have a long history in American politics."

This doesn't pass a smell test from a congested squirrel. I've received plenty of emails demonstrating the "darker, destructive mob passions that have a long history in American politics." Strangely, they come from the side of "Hope" and "Change," which are as multicultural as a public school holiday pagaent.

This is what happens with rallies. People get stirred up. They say idiotic things. Look at any small-time blog. The Secret Service deals with this all the time: who's a real threat, versus who wants to simply sound like a threat. Both types get a knock on the door, but we're not swamped with press releases about The Growing Threat of Racist Racism.

It's just another way for Obama supporters to tell us they're really enlightened. Once their man is in office, though, we'll see about that.

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