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Posts Tagged ‘Lee Atwater’

During her honeymoon speech at the Republican National Convention in 2008, Sarah Palin echoed a jab at Barack Obama that had been lurking around in Republican circles for most of that year. Earlier at the convention, Rudy Giuliani famously brought it up through his gigantically-toothy grin and childish giggling. But it was Sarah Palin who would get most of the credit for it.

I’m referring here to the emphasis on President Obama’s service as an urban community organizer. Clearly, this was a Southern Strategy-style racial dog whistle — a way of underscoring the president’s ethnicity, his race and his association with scary inner-city black people.

It’s worth mentioning again the Lee Atwater quote regarding the functional language of the Southern Strategy. Suffice to say, Atwater made it perfectly clear that Republican political tactics included (and still do) exploiting race — winning white votes by demonizing blacks. And the way to play this game in the modern age was to use code language. Dog whistles, because overt racial language would too easily “back fire.”

At the time, Atwater suggested the exploitation of issues like tax cuts or states rights with the implication that the Republican Party supported the preservation of white dominance. (Not surprisingly, tax cuts and states rights dominate the 2010 political discourse.) And the demagoguing of issues like welfare, affirmative action or Medicaid would underscore, to predisposed white voters, the fallacious notion of lazy black freeloaders horking white jobs and white tax dollars and not contributing anything to society other than crime.

And there was Sarah Palin in her prime time debut mocking the president’s early career as a community organizer — the implication being that the president was a product of black culture and not “real Americans.” Combine this with the ongoing emphasis on the president’s “spread the wealth around” remark to Joe the Plummer — the Republicans very obviously playing the “welfare queen” dog whistle here. And we all remember how Sarah Palin went “rogue” and fueled the Obama-is-a-secret-Muslim-terrorist myth (part of early Birther lore) by repeatedly telling her rabid white audiences that the president “palled around with terrorists.”

Sarah Palin is and was a Southern Strategist.

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“This is Orson Welles, ladies and gentlemen, out of character to assure you that The War of The Worlds has no further significance than as the holiday offering it was intended to be. The Mercury Theatre’s own radio version of dressing up in a sheet and jumping out of a bush and saying Boo! …So goodbye everybody, and remember please, for the next day or so, the terrible lesson you learned tonight. That grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and nobody’s there, that was no Martian… it’s Halloween.”

Orson Welles, one of Glenn Beck’s broadcasting heroes. In fact, the name of Beck’s production company, Mercury Radio Arts (officially known as Glenn Beck, Inc.), is based on Welles’ CBS radio show — the radio show that famously aired one of broadcasting’s most legendary hoaxes: The War of the Worlds.

Unlike the various Glenn Beck shows and publications, the Mercury performance of the H.G. Welles classic featured a disclaimer at the end (quoted above), formally noting the fictitious nature of the broadcast. Imagine if, unlike Beck, Welles had never broadcast a monologue postscript revealing that what had unfolded on the radio was purely theater. It’s not a stretch to suggest that the ensuing hysteria during and after the show would’ve been far greater.

Every day, for four hours a day, Glenn Beck is playing out a Welles fantasy — leaping out from behind an array of Carrot Top-meets-Gallagher props and gizmos while shouting BOO! at his audience without taking the slightest responsibility for the ensuing hysteria. In Beck’s case, the “boo!” comes in the form of Joe McCarthy style red-baiting and Lee Atwater style race-baiting — insisting with wildly incomprehensible chalkboard scribblings that Marxists and communists are lurking under our beds waiting to steal our money. Money that’s better served feeding Glenn Beck’s empire of fraud. I mean, just look! Those random words on the chalkboard spelled out the acronym “OLIGARHY!” Run for your lives, and all that. It’s an OLIGARHY!

No disclaimers letting the audience off the hook like Beck’s hero, the vastly more responsible performer Welles did. Beck, like several other Fox News Channel actors in Roger Ailes’ ratings-at-all-costs strategy, presents his show as an honest assessment of the truth without any sort of in-show sign that it’s almost entirely farcical.

One of the most common e-mail responses I’ve received from Beck supporters so far has been, simply: “Prove it.” Suffice to say, I never would have started down this road without some sort of confirmation that my theory about Beck was on the right track. So prior to typing a single word, I spoke with some sources close to and within Fox News Channel and they confirmed exactly what I suspected: Glenn Beck is “a bullshit artist.” A faker. A phony.

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Last week, I wrote a piece about the tea party movement and the obvious through-line of race, race-baiting, racism and the use of the Southern Strategy within the movement. The responses were mostly positive and supportive, while the responses from the far-right and tea party people were predictably obnoxious, contradictory and fact-free.

The dominant theme throughout the most outraged responses was, essentially: We’re not racists, but here’s why we’re pissed about blacks and immigrants. For example, here’s a particularly illustrative e-mail, reprinted as it was received:

The Tea Party is NOT about race, it is about me paying taxes to support every non contributing individual that has the ability to pro create. It is not my/our fault that the majority of NON contributors are minority. It is not my/our fault some refuse to learn English, thereby limiting their employment opportunities. Hell, the whole race thing is nothing but bullshit for losers such as Garafolo and yourself to capitalize on. Rest assured Booby Boy we no longer give a damn about what you think do or say The main reason the Tea Party exists is Obama’s Marxist/Socialistic COMMUNISTIC leanings that will ultimately cost me, part of the 50% that pays taxes, as opposed to the 50% that DON’T PAY!! An ideology that will transform this Country into a third world nation. Try having some honest debate Booby and you might gain cred. Until then you’re shining Garafolo’s shoes. Sounds to me like you may be an immigrant yourself with an axe to grind. Is that the case Booby? If so you can always go home! Careful moron that light you’re looking at is a train not the end of the tunnel……

Smart. I have dozens more just like it. Several of them tell me I’m an idiot for suggesting there’s a racial component, followed closely with a line about how I should “go back to Cuba or Africa.” Nope. No racism there. Nevertheless, no matter how unhinged the above message might be, it proves an important point — my point.

Each topic abstractly hinges on race.

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If the Republicans ever manage to retake Congress, they will absolutely try to impeach President Obama. And it’ll be based upon a supremely ridiculous charge such as, say, the president refusing to nourish our crops with a sports drink instead of water.

Okay, so maybe the Idiocracy example is over-the-top, but if we follow the current trajectory of far-right attacks to their logical yet insane conclusion, it makes sense in a very eerie way. Have you seen the television commercials solemnly defending our right to poison our kids with “juice drinks and soda?” There you go.

I’ve been following the Republican descent into the realms of the bizarre for some time now, and it wasn’t until the “czars” thing broke that I became convinced that if they retook Congress the Republicans might try to impeach the president. The grounds for both the impeachment and the language used to sell it will likely be fabricated by either Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh.

I mean, 100 Republican members of Congress have signed onto Rep. Jack Kingston’s cartoonish czar bill. 100 House Republicans out of 177 have attached their names to a bill that was essentially invented as a television bit by Glenn Beck without any regard for the fact that “czar” is a nickname invented by the press, and that every president — all of them! — has employed policy and political advisers within their administrations. But it functions as an effective Beck attack because he knows his audience isn’t bright enough to distinguish “czars” from “communists.” By the way, not to be out-crazied by his House colleagues, Senator Ensign introduced an amendment to the Finance Committee health care reform bill called “Transparency in Czars.” This might as well be “Transparency in Hobbits” because it’s just that ludicrous.

Nevertheless, there’s a growing conventional wisdom in the press alleging that both sides of the political spectrum are equally guilty of wackaloon attacks and conspiracy theories.

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