Conservative ‘Race War’ Meme

The people who gave us the "war on Christmas" are now touting an upsurge on black-on-white crime.

The people who gave us the “war on Christmas” are now touting an upsurge on black-on-white crime.

BuzzFeed (“In Conservative Media, A ‘Race War’ Rages“):

If you’ve spent much time consuming conservative media lately, you’ve probably learned about a slow-burning “race war” going on in America today. Sewing together disparate data points and compelling anecdotes like the attack in Norfolk, conservative bloggers and opinion-makers are driving the narrative with increasing frequency. Their message: Black-on-white violence is spiking — and the mainstream media is trying to cover it up.

This notion isn’t necessarily new to the right, which has long complained about stifling political correctness in the media and the rising tide of “reverse racism.” But the race war narrative has gained renewed traction during the Obama years, as various factors — from liberals’ efforts to paint the Tea Party as racist, to the widely-covered Trayvon Martin shooting — have left conservatives feeling unfairly maligned, and combative.

“I wouldn’t call it political correctness, I would call it lying,” said Tucker Carlson, editor-in-chief of The Daily Caller, describing what he considers to be the media’s racial double-standard. “To the press, the only hate crimes are straight white men somehow committing acts of violence against people who are not straight white men. When in fact, the real world is a lot more complicated than that.”

 

As I’ve noted many times over the years, I don’t spend much time consuming conservative media. Aside from the occasional breaking news story where visuals are important, I essentially never watch television news. This was originally an outgrowth of blogging, which also led to the end of my days of reading dead tree newspapers; if I can’t link and excerpt, it’s much less useful to me.

More recently, Twitter and various news aggregators have changed my news consumption habits further, such that I now read specific pieces of news and analytic content rather than entire websites. That is, aside from certain breaking stories or a desire to compare how different outlets are treating a story, I no longer go to the front pages of NYT, WaPo, Slate, and various other sites that I used to scour regularly.

Additionally, I’ve over time intentionally ignored highly partisan news sources like Drudge, Breitbart, and The Daily Caller. I’ll read columnists from pretty much any source–columnists are supposed to be biased, after all–but sites that have a reputation for sensationalism and skewed reporting are generally worth ignoring. I’ll occasionally dive in when a meme sprouts up from one of these sources, making avoiding the story difficult. But I don’t go to those places to look for stories.

Still, while I don’t immerse myself in the sites that push the meme, it is, as the story notes, note really new. Arguments of the sort made by Carlson in the last paragraph of the above excerpt have been commonplace for as long as I can remember. I’ve made them myself.

I had somehow missed the Matthew Owens “justice for Trayvon” case, although Steven Taylor covered it admirably here, here, and here. I get why it sparked the reaction it did, given the initial reports that it was a random revenge killing, even though it turned out to instead be a personal beef. There’s a deep, reflexive, and understandable cultural explanation and the BuzzFeed piece frames it reasonably well:

Conservatives have been fighting allegations of racism for years, regularly crying foul when liberals demonize them for opposing policies like affirmative action. But the catalyst for the latest pushback on the right was Democrats’ attempts to brand the Tea Party “racist,” said Abigail Thernstrom, a conservative scholar of race and George W. Bush appointee U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

“I think the ‘R-word’ is the worst, most damning word in our vocabulary now,” she said. “So of course Morgan Freeman comes out and calls the whole Tea Party racist, and the media treats it like it’s OK. This had been a source of annoyance for some time” — but the absurdity of the racist-Tea-Party narrative was enough to spark vocal dissent, she said.

“I think it’s only recently that there have been outspoken voices, particularly on blogs, saying, ‘Shut up Jesse Jackson, we’re tired of you,'” she said. “There’s been increasing impatience with the media’s indulgence of people who have no moral legitimacy.”

The conservative media’s in-your-face reporting of black-on-white crime is a sort of demonstration project — a rebellious response to decades of fielding charges of racism from the cultural elites who run the mainstream press. And to many on the right, the Norfolk story is emblematic of the bias Carlson described.

Outraged that the national media didn’t give this story the same extensive coverage as the Martin shooting, O’Reilly launched into a campaign that has stretched over several nights of Fox’s top-rated show. Along the way, his team has uncovered an early police report that described the assault as a hate crime (authorities said it was a clerical error), and found neighborhood kids who speculated on camera that the assailants were exacting racial revenge for the death of Trayvon. O’Reilly has also publicly shamed the local newspaper for ignoring the story, and even called on Va. Gov. Bob McDonnell and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to intervene in the investigation.

Now, I happen to think the Trayvon Martin case a particularly bad one for conservatives to glom onto. A young boy is dead. And, while we may never fully know the circumstances that led to that death, the fact that police chalked it up to self-defense and considered the case closed until a national firestorm forced them to re-open it makes it highly unusual. All of the black-on-white cases that came under conservative media scrutiny in the aftermath, on the other hand, immediately spawned police investigations and arrests.

But many conservative journalists and commentators, reflexively trained to fight back against any story charging racism, desperately wanted to reject the media framing of the Trayvon case. Why, Zimmerman couldn’t be racist–he’s Hispanic! And there are reports that he has some black blood, too! And, hey, it’s possible that Trayvon jumped him and he was just defending himself! And did you hear that Trayvon had some marijuana in his system?

My armchair assessment of Zimmerman is that he’s a cowardly cop wannabe who assumed that any black male walking around late at night is probably up to no good. I don’t think he’s some hard core racist who hates blacks and wants to kill them; I think he’s weak and afraid. That’s just my hunch gleaned from listening to the 9-1-1 tape, learning that he made a ridiculous number of 9-1-1 calls over the years, and the fact that he liked to patrol his neighborhood carrying a gun. And it could be way off base.

Really, though, it doesn’t matter. It’s a tragedy that Martin is dead, regardless of what really happened that night. But I’d never have heard of or cared about the incident if there hadn’t been an interesting angle to that caught national attention. Ultimately, the case winds up being one that creates a news hook for discussing broader issues–race, crime, policing, guns, media ethics, etc.–that are on our minds and brought to the forefront.

While my views on the nature of racism, sexism, homophobia, and the like have evolved over the years, I nonetheless share the reflexive resistance to the constant leveling of those charges–particularly when they’re leveled against entire political movements and parties. The difference now is that I’m more likely to recognize that those elements are nonetheless present. The Tea Party is not a racist movement and most of its supporters aren’t racists; but, yes, racist resentment of a black president with a foreign sounding name adds fuel to the fire for some.

Indeed, the irony of the race war narrative’s latest flare-up is that it comes at a time when national crime rates have reached historic lows — including reported hate crimes against whites. According to a report released by the FBI, there were 575 anti-white bias crimes reported in 2010 — up slightly from the 545 reported in 2009, but distinctly lower than the 716 reported in 2008. Overall, the past decade has seen a downward trend in anti-white bias crime. What’s more, hate crimes against blacks have continued to outstrip those against whites by about four-to-one: In 2010 alone, there were 2,201 reported. Violent crimes across the spectrum reached a four-decade low in 2010.

But to conservatives, the argument is less about a spike in the actual statistics — or in the eternal, low-profile neighborhood tensions that have been part of the American story since Irish and Italian kids were clashing in the New York City slums of Five Points — than it is about changing the politics of race and the right.

My own prejudice on this matters is that statistics on bias crimes are worthless. It’s a relatively new concept, so reporting hasn’t been around very long in comparison with more standard crimes like murder, robbery, and kidnapping. It’s also a subjective category and one subject to the whims of a reporting cycle.  Management priorities can affect reporting as well, creating a point of emphasis  in making sure to be on the lookout for hate crimes some years and a pendulum swing in following years if leaders are concerned about over-reporting.

Regardless, I agree with the last point in the excerpt: It’s more about political perception than reality.

We’ve known for years that public perception of the state of violent crime is a reflection of the media they consume, not FBI crime statistics. Actual rates of murder and other violent crime are actually down on a per capita basis and have been trending that way for years. But perception of crime is way up because all the 24/7 cable channels and competing local news stations are constantly on the lookout for new crimes to sensationalize and personalize. If it bleeds, it leads–because that’s the way to good ratings.

The Fox News model, since followed by MSNBC, has added to that problem because, in addition to pressure to sensationalize, there’s incentive to politicize. If I had to guess, Bill O’Reilly is genuinely tired of being labeled racist because he’s conservative. He’s almost surely not actually a racist, at least in any sense worthy of that label, so it’s a natural resentment. Moreover, he knows that his audience resents being accused of racism all the time. So, these stories “proving” that blacks commit hate crimes, too are just what the doctor ordered.

In response to this perceived bias, some in the conservative media have opted to tackle racial taboos head on, gleefully upending traditional journalistic practices and taunting the PC police. Nowhere was this defiant attitude more apparent than at The Daily Caller earlier this year as the drama of the Trayvon case unfolded.

“I was struck by the immediate, uncloaked assumption by the media that Trayvon Martin was innocent,” said Carlson. “As a journalist, I would never assume that — black, white, with Skittles, without Skittles. The coverage of that was so dishonest it was unbelievable.”

Carlson pushed back aggressively in his own newsroom: “My instructions were really clear: find out all the information you can and let’s print it.”

As a result, the Caller was the first outlet to find and publish the contents of a Twitter feed belonging to Martin. Many of the Tweets were crass and sexual, studded with teenage bravado, demeaning language about women, and drug references. Carlson seemed to take delight in fighting the accepted mainstream media narrative that Martin was nothing but an angelic victim.

Again, I get this. While I think a teenager who was killed senselessly* is a poor choice to make a stand on and find looking for evidence that he was less than a model citizen and therefore–what, deserved to be killed?–distasteful, I understand why Carlson and others reflexively don’t want Zimmerman to be a racist and Martin’s death to be about him being black.

Stories like these have plenty of detractors, who say they appeal to the worst instincts of their white audience. Curtis Lawrence, diversity chairman for the Society of Professional Journalists, said best practices generally dictate that news outlets should only identify a criminal suspect’s race when there’s evidence suggesting it was a factor in the crime — otherwise, he said, they run the risk of recklessly affirming negative racial stereotypes.

I think that’s the right standard. But, since it’s more likely to be “a factor in the crime” in the case of white-on-black violence, that standard is naturally going to fuel a different stereotype. So, I understand why those who are fighting that stereotype are desperate to find counter-examples.

And Cheryl Contee, founder of the left-leaning black blog Jack and Jill Politics, blasted this type of coverage as fear-mongering propaganda.

“Pushing the notion of a ‘race war’ or raising the specter of black on white crime serves to frighten those who might be considering voting for Obama in November,” she said, adding, “It’s perhaps the most naked attempt to date to use fear of The Other to bring back those who may be increasingly alienated from conservative policies.”

For the most part, that’s not the motivation. It’s mostly, as already argued at length, about fighting back against years of stereotypes about conservatives and Republicans–especially those of us who are Southern white males.  Where I think Contee is right, though, is in hyping such things as the New Black Panthers, Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, and Obama’s Kenyan roots. Some of it’s pure racism and xenophobia.

But there’s also a bizarre notion–and one I constantly see on both sides of the American political landscape–that those stories would be getting much more attention if they involved someone of the other party. Too many conservatives think the major media are engaged in a liberal conspiracy, while too many liberals think the media bends over backwards to show both sides and avoid charges of bias, to the point of distorting the news. The proliferation of outlets and voices–from talk radio to 24/7 cable news to blogs and Twitter–means that there’s now a constant fight to get out The Truth that the media is ignoring. Even when we only know about said truth because the media is reporting it.

________________
*This isn’t a judgment on George Zimmerman’s guilt, but on Trayvon Martin’s death. Even in the most pro-Zimmerman scenario, Martin was just a kid walking home from a convenience store until confronted.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Best of OTB, Media, Race and Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Jenos Idanian says:

    This isn’t a judgment on George Zimmerman’s guilt, but on Trayvon Martin’s death. Even in the most pro-Zimmerman scenario, Martin was just a kid walking home from a convenience store until confronted.

    Um… I know you have your own interpretation going where Zimmerman chased down Martin with gun drawn, but it’s still unproven who “confronted’ whom.

  2. James Joyner says:

    @Jenos Idanian: We’re not going to make this a Trayvon Martin thread. But there’s simply no doubt who the confronter was here. Martin was minding his own business. Zimmerman was suspicious and followed him. Zimmerman was in a vehicle and armed. Martin was on foot and unarmed. Zimmerman got out of his vehicle. Unknown events happened next. Zimmerman shot Martin.

    In the best case scenario for Zimmerman, Martin attacked him and Zimmerman had no choice but to shoot him to save his own life. But that doesn’t mean that Zimmerman didn’t initiate the confrontation.

    And that closes the Zimmerman-Martin case discussion for this thread, unless it’s directly related to the topic of the “race war meme” that the post is about. All other comments will be deleted as off-topic trolling.

  3. Phillip says:

    *This isn’t a judgment on George Zimmerman’s guilt, but on Trayvon Martin’s death. Even in the most pro-Zimmerman scenario, Martin was just a kid walking home from a convenience store until confronted.

    And yet the conservative media sites have been looking for any reason to lay the blame on a black teen who “looked” suspicious. Forgive me for questioning their “smear the victim” pitch, they teach it in all their minor league blogs now.

    EDITOR’S NOTE: This is what an on-topic comment looks like.

  4. Jenos Idanian says:

    @James Joyner: Fair enough. I disagree with your statements, but respect your right to control the forum. Your blog, your thread, your rules.

    On topic, then… there have been numerous cases of racially-inspired black-on-white crimes, as well as white-on-black crimes. There are elements in both races that are “waging war” on the others. However, the white-on-black crimes get a lot more attention.

    Further, a lot of white-on-black crimes are immediately described as racially motivated, often with little to support it.

  5. Phillip says:

    As a white man, I have been a victim of more “black-on-white” crime, whereas I have never committed a crime against anyone of any race. I was fortunately rescued by a known illegal alien of Hispanic origin, which still makes me laugh to this day. But calling it a “black-on-white” crime is a lazy attempt to level blame (and therefore seek justice) from an entire segment of society, while completely ignoring the devastating effects of poverty and poor education on that society.

    COMMENTER’S NOTE: I am not lucid enough to claim this is even on topic.

  6. Just Me says:

    Further, a lot of white-on-black crimes are immediately described as racially motivated, often with little to support it.

    And this is part of the problem I think. When a white person commits a crime on a black person the presumption is often that it is racially motivated and the media reports it that way before they have all the facts. I don’t think the media rushes to such presumptions when the crime is black on white.

    I think this all ignores the fact that the vast majority of crimes are intraracial and those that are interracial are rarely motivated by actual racism or hate and are just as likely to involve the usual things like money, drugs or some other dispute.

  7. Herb says:

    It seems to me that the “Scary Black Man” is a fairly recent post-Civil Rights creation. Prior to that, I don’t think very many white people were scared of black crime, if only because most black people were scared of committing crimes against whites. (No fair trial, get beat up by the cops….yeah, better to just leave the white folks alone.)

    The first black gangs in Los Angeles were formed to protect their neighborhoods from white gangs who cruised black neighborhoods looking for victims. This was back when Compton was white and black Angelenos could only live in certain, undesirable neighborhoods.

    Fast forward some 40-50 years, past all the race riots, past the Black Panthers (the real ones!), past the Crips and the Bloods, the crack epidemic, hip-hop, ghetto basketball, the whole thing and now it’s just fear and propaganda.

  8. Jeremy R says:

    The Tea Party is not a racist movement and most of its supporters aren’t racists; but, yes, racist resentment of a black president with a foreign sounding name adds fuel to the fire for some.

    The most comprehensive active Tea Party participant/supporter polling was done a couple of years ago (I think it was by ABC / NYT). As far as I recall, basically it showed, Tea Party supporters were very similar to other republicans, but with their responses to the racial resentment questions elevated.

  9. gVOR08 says:

    You know, I’ve met a fair number of people who were racist to one degree or another. I can’t think that I’ve ever met anyone who thought he was a racist. And conservatives are not known for a lot of self reflection. So it’s a waste of time to say to conservatives that if they don’t wish to be accused of being racist, maybe some of them should not leave so much evidence.

    Attitudes toward race are not a binary 1 or 0, racist of not racist. Maybe we need a new term. I have no proof that Rush Limbaugh, as an example, believes people of other races to be inferior. I do know he talks about race constantly and seems to view many things through a prism of race. Perhaps I could call him “race focused” without offending too many people.

    When I see Barack Obama, my first associations are ‘president’, ‘bright guy’, ‘charming’, and somewhere along the way, ‘black’. I suspect that when many of the Tea Party see Obama, their first association is ‘black’. Not necessarily pejorative, but up front.

  10. jpmeyer says:

    “I think it’s only recently that there have been outspoken voices, particularly on blogs, saying, ‘Shut up Jesse Jackson, we’re tired of you,’” she said.

    Man, I love the constant assumed relevance of Jesse Jackson.

    For purposes of this exercise, let’s make the completely incorrect assumption that Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow have the same level of clout on the left as say, somone like Limbaugh or Hannity. A 30 second google search on my part shows that Jesse Jackson has not been on The Daily Show since 2004, and his July 2011 appearance is the only instance that I can find of him ever being on the Rachel Maddow show.

  11. Part of the problem is that, for all of their complaining about creeping socialism, the right has become decidedly more collectivist over the last five years, and this race war meme is an example of that. Thus crimes aren’t just stories of the failings of particular individuals, they’re about the failings of an entire group, and thus a beating in St. Louis becomes proof of the innocence of an entirely unrelated shooter in Florida.

  12. @Herb:

    It seems to me that the “Scary Black Man” is a fairly recent post-Civil Rights creation.

    That particular phenomenon began almost immediately after emancipation and long predated the civil rights movement.

  13. Moderate Mom says:

    I had read about the Norfolk incident before Bill O’Reilly started covering it. An editorial appeared in the local paper, reporting the beating, that the victims were employees of the paper, and why the paper waited two weeks to report the incident. As I recall, one reason the paper gave for not reporting it was that the police report described the incident as simple assault and the paper doesn’t make a habit of reporting simple assaults. The editorial acknowledged that the paper was wrong to sit on the incident and should have reported on it earlier.

    It strikes me as a little strange that an incident, where a very large group of one race would beat the crap out of two people of another race, would be labeled a simple assault. If the situation was a large group of white teens beating up a black couple on their way home from the theater, I’d hazard a guess that the beating would be considered something a little more serious than a simple assault. It might also include some type of hate crime charge. In my mind, the first questions should be directed at the Norfolk police department, asking them to explain why they are classifying the beating as a simple assault.

    I’d also guess that the local newspaper would have reported this hypothetical white on black crime immediately, even if the police were calling it a simple assault. That they didn’t report this beating of their employees is valid reasons for questioning their editorial decisions. I’d say that anytime a very large group subjects two random victims to a beating, it’s news.

  14. Franklin says:

    As BuzzFeed notes, statistically both black-on-white and white-on-black hate crimes have been dropping. Crime has been going down for decades in general. But still you’ve got these people fear-mongering about race wars and stuff. I just don’t see it, and there’s no statistical evidence to back it up. So case closed.

  15. James Joyner says:

    @Franklin: News reporting, even outside the partisan press, is not about statistical context but rather about titillating incidents. The late night local news is the worst offender. There are a lot of scary looking black men doing scary things. It gets way over-reported. Then again, so do car crashes. And plane crashes. And school shootings. We don’t report that cars and planes that get there safely and the schools that don’t get shot up.

    Naturally, the partisan press exacerbates the problem. And that’s doubly true for bloggers and others without much training an analysis.

  16. Jeremy R says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Thus crimes aren’t just stories of the failings of particular individuals, they’re about the failings of an entire group, and thus a beating in St. Louis becomes proof of the innocence of an entirely unrelated shooter in Florida.

    Yeah, I don’t think this gets credit it deserves for being as slimy as it really is. Derbyshire-style “race realism” BS has become the norm across the Right, where comment sections of these types of “Race War” stores are filled with swapping anecdotes meant to prove/paint entire races as subhuman animals, unable to function in traditional american (read: “white”) society. It’s truly a blight on our politics.

  17. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian:
    Zimmerman was stalking Martin, Zimmerman created the confrontation, Zimmerman won, and Zimmerman will win in the court.

    Florida’s laws created a win/win situation for Zimmerman.

  18. al-Ameda says:

    @James Joyner:
    Sorry, i couldn’t resist a reply to Jenos.

  19. Jeremy R says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/trayvon-martin-girlfriend-teen-sounded-scared-moments-shooting-article-1.1081073

    Trayvon Martin’s girlfriend told a prosecutor that minutes before the Florida teen was shot, he sounded “scared” on the phone and told someone to “get off, get off.”

    The girl, whose name has not been released, said the 17-year-old had told her he was being tailed by a “white man” — presumably neighborhood watchman George Zimmmerman.

    “He was breathing hard. [His] voice kinda changed. I know he was scared. [His] voice was getting low,” the girl said in the taped April 2 interview about the Feb. 26 shooting.

    She said she heard Martin say, “Why you following me for?” and a man respond, “What you doing around here?”

    There was silence and then she heard Martin say, “Get off” at least twice before the call ended.

    In his 911 call Zimmerman seemed frustrated that “they” always get away and that Martin was fleeing from him. Sounds like he persued him nearly to where he was staying, and tried to restrain him.

    You can listen to the recording of the police interview with the girlfriend, it’s hosted in a number of places. She didn’t hear the actual fight or the gunshot, just the initial running/persuit and confrontation.

  20. Jeremy R says:

    @James Joyner:

    And that closes the Zimmerman-Martin case discussion for this thread … All other comments will be deleted as off-topic trolling.

    Oops, sorry, I came back to this thread and your admonition had slipped my mind. Feel free to delete my previous post.

  21. Herb says:

    @Stormy Dragon: “That particular phenomenon began almost immediately after emancipation”

    To a certain extent, sure. But how scary is someone you can shove off to the side and club with impunity? Not very. That’s a more muted Fear of the Other. I’m talking about Fear of Being Victimized in a Crime, a more specific –and in most cases, irrational– fear that’s been built up over the years based on some of the incidents and occurrences I mentioned before.

  22. mattb says:

    @James Joyner:

    News reporting, even outside the partisan press, is not about statistical context but rather about titillating incidents. The late night local news is the worst offender.

    Actually, it’s a little more complex that “if it bleeds, it leads…” The over-reporting of local crime is as much an outgrowth of economic changes within broadcast journalism.

    Generally speaking, the size of the reporting pool at local stations has been decreasing for years. And parallel to that, the amount of Police Blotter reporting has increased as it’s the most cost effective form of reporting. With crime reporting most of the work is already done ahead of time and it’s a constant source of news. I also know that most local journalists absolutely hate the amount of it that they have to do, but its really difficult to avoid it at this point.

    The one exception tends to be local NPR stations, which typically have the largest newsrooms outside of the local daily paper. They also tend to run the least amount of local crime stories.

  23. JKB says:

    @Moderate Mom: It strikes me as a little strange that an incident, where a very large group of one race would beat the crap out of two people of another race, would be labeled a simple assault.

    This seems to be a common theme across cities and police chiefs. Norfolk, Baltimore, both with the same standard PR line, “No racial motivation”. Perhaps there was a seminar at the last Association of Police Chief’s conference.

    The standard line is that the incident wasn’t racially motivated just crime. But the implication is that is was just black people being black people. Which I find a disturbing presumption about a group as a whole. I’d be far more comfortable with some fools incited by Sharpton, the black panthers or even Obama than implying that random violent crime is what happens when black people congregate. This is far more pernicious than Derbyshire’s supposed racist post.

  24. Franklin says:

    @James Joyner: Thanks for the reply. I guess we’re talking about two different aspects here. The opening paragraph in your Buzzfeed excerpt says, “Their message: Black-on-white violence is spiking — and the mainstream media is trying to cover it up.” I believe statistics disagree with the first part of this message, the second part is not so clear. As you point out, the media tends to do what will get the most attention. If they’re covering black-on-white violence less than white-on-black, perhaps they consciously or unconsciously think the latter will draw more viewers. But a couple of anecdotes don’t prove any difference in coverage, so I think it’s jumping the gun to assign blame for a problem I’m not sure exists.

  25. Nikki says:

    @Moderate Mom:

    The editorial acknowledged that the paper was wrong to sit on the incident and should have reported on it earlier.

    I’m wondering why you felt the need to tell this lie when a simple search would have shown that the editor said no such thing?

  26. Nikki says:

    @JKB:

    The standard line is that the incident wasn’t racially motivated just crime. But the implication is that is was just black people being black people.

    So, when it’s black on white assault, no racial motivation automatically means it’s “just black people being black people”? Yeah, black people just naturally open up a can a whoop-ass on everyone around them, is that it?

    You give yourself away.

  27. Bennett says:

    Some of the policies these so called “free-thinking” and “statistics based” conservatives bandy about are just circular reasoning. Let’s look at the stop and frisk procedures used by the NYPD. They tend to stop, by a huge majority, blacks and Latinos. Thus, more blacks and Latinos will have drugs on them. Thus those demographics will be represented higher in crime stats, thus justifying the continued targeting of minorities. When I lived in Brooklyn, if you had started to stop and frisk all the white kids I knew, a hefty number of them would have had weed, coke, pills, etc on them as well. They were just never stopped. Hell, the marijuana delivery services (and they are aplenty and well run) use the most white-bread looking guys ever as couriers since they know their chances of being searched are basically zero. I’d like to see a raid on some bars in Williamsburg on a Friday night and see what sort of numbers the boys in blue would get.

  28. Nikki says:

    @Bennett Exactly so. When the NYPD is frisking more black males than actually live in the city, we all know what time it is.

    Drudge planted the “race war” meme; now his seedlings are sprouting, getting ready to bear its fruit…and just in time for the election! Always gotta have that taste of fear there to get the rubes out to vote…

  29. Scott says:

    A very good post and probably difficult to balance. The questions I think you struggled with are: Is the Tea Party racist? And does conservatives resentment of being called racist result in the “racial war” meme? In my mind, I think the answer is no and no. The Tea Party is primarily a protest movement against change: change in society, change in economics, and change that they may not even understand. The protest takes the form of all kinds of resentments and ultimately reflects a culture of resentment and victimization. Angry people say angry things and most would regret their expressing themselves that way. But they still view themselves as victims.

    All that being said, I think your wrong on the push for a “racial war” meme. That is not a natural result of the resentment; I think it is a deliberate attempt on the part of conservative politicians and media to fuel that resentment. It has occurred regularly for the last 50-60 years by such politicians such as George Wallace and Strom Thurmond and continued to this day by the Limbaughs of the country. I mean, why else would a Rev Wright be such a factor that Obama had to make a major speech on race or that non-entities like New Black Panthers would be a news items.

    I am an idealist and would like to see our national discourse revolve on raising all boats so that the resentments and victimization language would recede; however, I don’t see that happening when division and strife seems much more successful in the short term.

  30. Gustopher says:

    While my views on the nature of racism, sexism, homophobia, and the like have evolved over the years, I nonetheless share the reflexive resistance to the constant leveling of those charges

    America is a pretty racist and bigoted place. The reason there is a constant leveling of charges of racism in a lot of cases is because it is true far more often than you would like to think it is.

    I’m bisexual. If I’m dating a woman and am out in public, any signs of affection or couplehood are completely unnoticed, unremarked upon, and generally accepted as the norm. Not so if I am dating a man.

    I’m socially reserved (if “socially conservative” didn’t have an entirely different meaning, I’d go with that) and tend to date similar folks — there’s no ass-less chaps, there’s no parade of rainbows, and I’ve never mastered the gay accent — just a couple of innocuous people you might not otherwise look at twice doing couple things. The amount of shit I get from strangers when I’m dating a man, even in this little liberal enclave where I live, is surprising. And it all goes away when I’m dating a woman.

    Unless I’m dating a black woman. The little liberal enclave is very white, and while no one is going to come out and say “n*gger” very often because that just would not do, there’s lots of little things like shopkeepers carefully watching to make sure she wasn’t stealing anything, people talking slowly because skin color clearly indicates she’s too dumb to follow what they’re saying otherwise.

    If you don’t think that race and bigotry are the motivations for a lot of the uglier things that happen in this country, you just live a sheltered life. I don’t know whether it is Americans that are screwed up, or humans in general, but tribalism trumps everything.

    Blacks and other minorities have the same tribal instincts (that sounded much better with white folks…), they can be as racist and bigoted as the most racist and bigoted white folks out there, but they don’t really have the power to act on their prejudices as much.

    The Tea Party is not a racist movement and most of its supporters aren’t racists; but, yes, racist resentment of a black president with a foreign sounding name adds fuel to the fire for some.

    The vast majority of Tea Parties are not hard-core racists. They are fellow travelers with hard-core racists, and give cover to the hard-core racists. And far too many of them are comfortable with hard-core racists.

  31. anjin-san says:

    now his seedlings are sprouting, getting ready to bear its fruit…and just in time for the election!

    And there you have it. Scary black people are victimizing honest, hard working white Americans. Say, did you notice? That Obama fellow is black…

    Good post James. You remarks about the Treyvon Martin shooting are very thoughtful and balanced.

  32. Scott F. says:

    Tucker Carlson says –

    “As a journalist, I would never assume that — black, white, with Skittles, without Skittles. The coverage of that was so dishonest it was unbelievable.”

    He’s being glib about the Skittles? Seriously?

    I don’t know if Carlson is a racist, but I do know he is an a**hole. That this poster-child for privilege and nepotism can be so crassly dismissive of a young person’s death in service of painting his ideological brethren as the victims in the broader media narrative is enough to boil my blood.

  33. James Joyner says:

    @Gustopher:

    America is a pretty racist and bigoted place. The reason there is a constant leveling of charges of racism in a lot of cases is because it is true far more often than you would like to think it is.

    I’m quite sure that there’s a lot of racism and other bias of the sort you describe in your comment. It’s not what it was 30 or 40 years ago — or in the case of gay issues, 10 years ago — but it’s a background noise to a lot of our culture. What I reject is the notion that Republicans are by and large racist or even that most of the hostility to Barack Obama is racially motivated. One only has to look at the nonsense directed against Bill Clinton to see that conspiracy theories can be motivated by partisanship and personal antipathy.

    The vast majority of Tea Parties are not hard-core racists. They are fellow travelers with hard-core racists, and give cover to the hard-core racists. And far too many of them are comfortable with hard-core racists.

    It’s precisely this sort of thing that I reject. Again, I have no doubt that there’s racism in the Tea Party. Probably even more racism than exists in conservative politics generally. But the movement is mostly the tribalism that you talk about and a sense that a way of life is being taken away. It would be there in almost the same way if Hillary Clinton or John Kerry were president.

  34. Bennett says:

    @James Joyner:

    One only has to look at the nonsense directed against Bill Clinton to see that conspiracy theories can be motivated by partisanship and personal antipathy.

    You miss an important point though James. Yes, there was some crazy stuff leveled at Clinton (the Vince Foster deal, drug running) but the types of conspiracy leveled at Obama are based on who he IS, not what he has DONE. You will hear the “he’s not one of us”, or “he’s not a real American”, not to mention the birther stuff. It’s on a different level.

  35. mattb says:

    @James Joyner:

    What I reject is the notion that Republicans are by and large racist or even that most of the hostility to Barack Obama is racially motivated. One only has to look at the nonsense directed against Bill Clinton to see that conspiracy theories can be motivated by partisanship and personal antipathy.

    I have mixed feelings about the “motivation.” But setting that aside for the moment, I think it’s more than fair to look at the expression of that hostility.

    And when we start looking beyond policy critiques of the president towards attacks on the man himself, I think there is a pretty strong argument that an uncomfortable amount of the hostility towards the president is framed using racial charged themes. Leaving aside the outwardly racist stuff, there’s an uncomfortable level of casual bigotry that is really problematic.

    And perhaps the worst part, to your point James, is a lot of the people who are ok with it would not outwardly consider themselves racists.

  36. al-Ameda says:

    @James Joyner:

    But the movement is mostly the tribalism that you talk about and a sense that a way of life is being taken away. It would be there in almost the same way if Hillary Clinton or John Kerry were president.

    Not really – neither Hillary Clinton nor John Kerry are Black. A special more intense vitriol is reserved for Obama because he is Black.

    “A way of life being taken away”? That is certainly consonant with the conservative talking point that Obama is (somehow going to suspend the Second Amendment and) take away guns.

    Basically, most racists have learned to use a different language to express racist sentiments – Birtherism is an excellent example of that.

  37. Console says:

    It was really the Shirley Sherrod thing that sickened me the most in the rise of all this.

  38. anjin-san says:

    Not really – neither Hillary Clinton nor John Kerry are Black. A special more intense vitriol is reserved for Obama because he is Black.

    I have to agree. If Obama was white, he would basically be a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. Bright, hardworking, devoted to his family, self-made, ambitious, concerned about less fortunate members of society. I hear people saying things like “Obama has never shown he embraces American values” and think just think WTF??

    James, I think you are in denial about the reality of GOP politics.

  39. anjin-san says:

    I don’t know if Carlson is a racist, but I do know he is an a**hole

    Roger that. I still smile when I think about Jon Stewart scraping Carlson off the bottom of his shoe…

  40. mattb says:

    @anjin-san:

    If Obama was white, he would basically be a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. Bright, hardworking, devoted to his family, self-made, ambitious, concerned about less fortunate members of society.

    Perhaps… but that wouldn’t stop the GOP from attacking him. And to that degree James is right. Obama is in part attacked because he’s playing for the other team. And if you could imagine a Republican version of him, chances are he’d be attacked by Democrats for exactly the same general reason.

    That’s why I agree with James that trying to reduce motivation to “race” is problematic (though I think I definitely see that as a higher contributor to attacks than he does).

    That why I think it’s more important to look at the construction of the attacks versus the motivation. And once we get outside of attacks on policy, I think its hard to deny that there is a casual racism that underlies many of the attacks.

    And what really gets me about that is — if you buy into the idea that most republicans are not racist — is that what does it say about someone that they think its ok to say racist* things because you don’t agree with the person.

    * – admittedly there are a lot of people engaging in mental gymnastics to claim that things like Birtherism or discussion of Thug Parties at the Whitehouse or calling him “The Foodstamp President” are not racist. I’d cynically suggest that the fact that those gymnastics are going on demonstrates that most folks realize the racist content of those comments and are doing everything they can to explain it away.

  41. JKB says:

    @Nikki:

    Your reading comprehension needs work. It is the implication of the police chiefs that reveal them.

    Police spokesman Chris Amos said officers often respond to reports of crowds fighting; sirens are usually enough to disperse the group. On that night, he said, a report of gunfire in a nearby neighborhood prompted the officer to decide getting Forster and Rostami off the street quickly made more sense than remaining at the intersection. The officer gave them his card and told them to call later to file a report. (Source)
    ==============

    “At no time in our investigation or in statements taken from the victims did it appear this assault was racially motivated,” the chief said.

    “This is a situation where you had a whole bunch of events let out all at once, you had a lot of people on the street, you had an assault occur and that was isolated with a small number of people,” (Interim Police Chief) Chamberlin said. (source)

  42. anjin-san says:

    That’s why I agree with James that trying to reduce motivation to “race” is problematic

    Oh, it’s certainly not just racially motivated. I agree that it is also based in despising the other team. What we have is the same crazed hatred we saw directed at Clinton, with the added element of race pushing the vitriol into true mushroom cloud territory.

    And there are reasonable people who are simply opposed to Obama on policy and direction. But they are not who we are discussing here.

  43. Nikki says:

    @JKB: Nowhere did the police say anything about an assaulting crowd being black people just being themselves. He said people; no mention of race, no mention of ethnicity. You glommed on that he meant “black people.” Or were there really just black people and 2 white people out that night?

  44. Nikki says:

    @anjin-san:

    And there are reasonable people who are simply opposed to Obama on policy and direction. But they are not who we are discussing here.

    And they no longer have the megaphone.

  45. @Nikki:

    And they no longer have the megaphone.

    We’ve been condemned to 40 years wandering in the political wilderness to atone for the sin of allying oursevles with theocrats, imperialists, and crony capitalists.

  46. Jeremy R says:

    @James Joyner:

    One only has to look at the nonsense directed against Bill Clinton to see that conspiracy theories can be motivated by partisanship and personal antipathy.

    The Right almost casually uses race in their attacks on the President, because they know playing on racial animus and white resentment will often find fertile ground in both their general audience and in the electorate at large.

    See Fox’s Eric Bolling with his, “”Obama’s chugging 40’s in Ireland while tornadoes ravage Missouri” or his repeatedly saying “Obama Hosting ‘Hoods’ At The ‘Hizzouse'” after a meeting the with the Gabonese President. Instead of any sort of discipline, following that kind of behavior Bolling has had a number of promotions at the network. See Fox Nations’ headline for the President’s 50th Birthday party which featured an unremarkable cross-section of music and guests of all races: “Obama’s Hip-Hop BBQ Didn’t Create Jobs.” From the Buzzfeed article you posted witness Drudge and Limbaugh at their daily work:

    And on September 15, 2009, Drudge led with the headline, “WHITE STUDENT BEATEN ON BUS; CROWD CHEERS.” The story ? which showed video of a black teenager in Illinois beating up a white classmate ? went viral in the right-wing blogosphere, prompting Rush Limbaugh to weigh in.

    “In Obama’s America, the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering,” Limbaugh declared.

  47. Scott says:

    At the intersection of this entry and the Trayvon Martin case is a new poll by Rasmussen on whether the death was self-defense or intentional killing. This poll is disturbing to me in several ways. Why was this poll taken? What was the purpose in it but to stir up emotions? Rasmussen is a profit-making firm. Did someone commission the poll? If so, who? If they performed it on their own, what is their agenda? PR? Attention? I’m not articulating this very well but something tells me this type of polling is wrong and pointless.

  48. @Scott:

    There’s also the problem that the only two options offered are “self defense” or “murder”. Those aren’t the only two possibilities.

  49. mattb says:

    @Scott:

    At the intersection of this entry and the Trayvon Martin case is a new poll by Rasmussen on whether the death was self-defense or intentional killing. […] Why was this poll taken? What was the purpose in it but to stir up emotions? Rasmussen is a profit-making firm. […] If they performed it on their own, what is their agenda? PR? Attention?

    Yes. Rasmussen (and other polling companies) maintain their “expert position by (a) constantly polling and (b) getting people to write about those polls. So a poll like this is most likely internally funded (or tacked onto another paying gig) for the expressed purpose of getting news outlets and pundits to report on it/use it in their screeds.

    In other words, Rasmussen knows it’s two audiences (news outlets and the audiences of news outlets) and delivers the goods that guarantee that they get more paying gigs.

  50. Graham says:

    This just in: Bloviating narcissist who advocates genocide believes in coming race war!

    How absolutely shocking.

  51. Scott says:

    @mattb: Oh my God, right at the top of this post is an ad from WND asking us to “Vote now” “Self defense or Murder” “Is Zimmerman being railroaded?” And this is just an expression of resentment? Vile hateful people.

  52. gVOR08 says:

    @James Joyner:

    Again, I have no doubt that there’s racism in the Tea Party. Probably even more racism than exists in conservative politics generally. But the movement is mostly the tribalism that you talk about and a sense that a way of life is being taken away.

    I’m not sure I understand the difference between tribalism and racism. And how do you describe the way of life they feel they are losing without “white” appearing somewhere?

  53. Scott O. says:

    David Frum has a very similar article today.

  54. the Q says:

    I will say this yet again, “there is more racism in the U.S. than most whites think and there is less racism in the U.S. than most blacks think…..”

    However, when i was mugged at gunpoint in Downtown LA many years ago, invariably one of the first questions just about everyone asked me:

    “Was it a black guy?”

    I estimate that about 90% of my white friends asked this question when I recounted the story.

    Today, in Dodger stadium, a guy was held down and kicked in his head in front of his pregnant wife and the immediate response was “damn mexican gang bangers”.

    The “minorities do all the crime” meme is truly alive and well and of course is exploited by the wingnuts on the right to yet all again scare whitey.

  55. Moderate Mom says:

    @Nikki:

    Pardon me, it was the original opinion column I was talking about.

    http://hamptonroads.com/2012/05/beating-church-and-brambleton

  56. Jenos Idanian says:

    @James Joyner: And that closes the Zimmerman-Martin case discussion for this thread, unless it’s directly related to the topic of the “race war meme” that the post is about or agrees with my positions.. All other comments will be deleted as off-topic trolling.

    No charge for the correction, sir.

  57. Doubter4444 says:

    @anjin-san:
    This:

    I have to agree. If Obama was white, he would basically be a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. Bright, hardworking, devoted to his family, self-made, ambitious, concerned about less fortunate members of society. I hear people saying things like “Obama has never shown he embraces American values” and think just think WTF??

    James, I think you are in denial about the reality of GOP politics.

    Is the crux of the matter, and it’s strange that it does not come up more… Obama the socialist, the marxist, the American hating guy… is a poster for what the conservative wing says it wants in minorities: A stable family man, devoted husband provider for his kids, hard working and successful…
    It’s weird and it can’t be ignored.

  58. Jenos Chinos says:

    Whimper… Snivel… Whine…

  59. ernieyeball says:

    Mr. Joyner writes: “News reporting, even outside the partisan press, is not about statistical context but rather about titillating incidents. The late night local news is the worst offender. “

    In a free society combined with a capitalist economy this is what we get. While it may be that “Eyewitness News at 11:00” panders to the sensational this is hardly a new phenomenon.
    Consider this prose by a journalist who spent a lifetime criticizing the US press.

    (How important the local angle is I learned years later when I read that a man named Bonfils, owner of a Denver newspaper, frequently said to his staff, “Remember that a dog fight on Champa Street is a bigger story for us than three thousand [or it may have been 3000,000] Chinese drowned in a typhoon”.)
    Witness to a Century (1987) George Seldes (Nov. 16, 1890-July 2, 1995)

  60. André Kenji de Sousa says:

    The United States is a racist country because everyone is defined by his/her race. That´s not just a problem because of the police, but because Black Women prefer to stay single than to marry a so called white man.

  61. Nikki says:
  62. pbrower2a says:

    @Phillip:

    1. You ignore the white-collar crime that damages the productivity and fairness of America to the detriment of everyone but the white-collar criminals. It’s hard to see, and it is rarely personal. But if you were snookered into buying stock in Enrob Corporation or Lehman Brothers at a certain time or held the stock after it started to go down due to massive corruption, then you may have been fleeced of a big chunk of your retirement savings. The real-estate fraud and shabby lending of recent year may have undone years of American economic progress. Unless a mugger causes you serious injury or death the economic damage that you endure from white-collar crime may cost you your job, your business, and your savings.

    2. Crime is a character fault. Most criminals could hardly be more distant from the ‘poor misguided fellow who has lost his way’, To the contrary most are simply predators upon other people. This is so whether they are muggers or embezzlers. Character is not a racial characteristic.

    3. Except for hate crimes and rapes based upon some racist fantasy, most crime has no connection to the ethnicity of the victim. Most crime involves a sociopath meeting an opportunity.

  63. B. Objective says:

    Have any of you reviewed crime statistics?

    I am not insinuating there is in fact a “race War” going on. However if one were to attempt to make the case for it, they simply need to review violent crime statistics in regards to race.

  64. B. Objective says: