Fair and Balanced

"Not all criticism of Barack Obama is racist."
Toby Harnden, the Washington DC based US editor of the Daily Telegraph, has got a point:
"Calling critics of Obama racist...can all too easily be a way of trying to make all criticism of Obama a kind of hate speech."
The Torygraph is right, you know, "that’s no way of conducting a free and open debate."

It is important to try and remain fair and balanced and proceed in those things with caution.

Take the Jolly Nigger, for instance:

These old cast iron black theme banks date back to around the turn of the century, c.1900.

At specialized auctions you can pay for such bank in the range of £75-150 in the UK. They are more popular in the US.

Were they racist back then? Are they racist today?

And what of this picture of Obama?

Racist or not?

Hmm...what do you think? Hard to tell. It would depend, I suppose, on the context and on the motives of the people who use it, wouldn't it?

Of the two pictures below, while the one on the left could possibly be construed as racist in its intent, the one on the right might not:

As neither might this one:

Or that one:

It all depends on the subtext captions, you see.

A proper knowledge of the facts might clue one in as to what constitute or does not constitute racism.

Like the Rorschach test, or the TAT (Thematic Apperception Test), the interpretation of what some of those pictures mean can be unduly influenced by what people project onto ambiguous images.

Avoid hasty conclusions.

The following picture is a good example:

Just a bunch of college kids having fun on Halloween, the caption says.


It's all a matter of perspective...

Context is everything...

Let us all sing along with Rush Limbaugh now---all in good spirit, of course:


  1. Well, the problem is Obama is black.

    If he weren't black then there wouldn't be all these allusions to his being black.

    That's just the way it is. Nobody can help that. Now slice up that watermelon and has my sheet returned yet from the laundry? Think I'll go out and burn us a cross tonight.

  2. I hated Bush and I don't like to hate. That's the difference I think. They like being hateful and are in their element more or less.

  3. Last year, Austria’s far right gained massive political influence in an election that saw Austria’s Freedom Party (FPO) along with another far right party – Alliance For The Future (BZO) – gain 29 per cent of the vote. The election stirred up terrifying memories of the rise of the Nazi Party in the Thirties.

    Just as the Nazis gained power on the back of extreme nationalism and virulent antisemitism, last year's unprecedented gains in Austria were made on a platform of fear about immigration and the perceived threat of Islam.

    The protesters who march in Austria's political rally and hand out leaflets in support of the FPO deny being neo-Nazi but are prompt to relay their fiercely nationalist views:

    "The anti-fascists are the new fascists,"

    "We are not allowed to tell the truth about how foreigners are a threat."

    (actual quote)

    They'll tell you that the truth is that Muslims, immigrants and the New World Order are destroying their way of life.

    "We are German-Austrians. We want a community here based on German nationalism, they say. "We must fight to save our heritage and culture."

    (actual quotes)

    Sounds familiar?

    More here about this from the Daily Mail.

    The author of the article's concern is with the Puppet Masters.

    "There were no ‘sieg heils’ and no swastikas for the cameras," the author says, but, in his opinion, "it’s clear that Fascism is back":

    "These are not thugs merely intent on racial violence, who are easily locked up. These are intellectuals and politicians whose move to the forefront of society is far more insidious.

    The ideas and racial hatred that I have heard over my two weeks in Austria are just as threatening and just as sickening as any I have ever heard. And they are a lot more sinister because they are spoken with the veneer of respectability."

    The author warns that: "The open defiance of these men and the support they are gaining in these troubled economic times, should be setting off alarm bells in Europe and the rest of the world."

    I wonder what the author would make of what is going on in the USA right now.

  4. Meanwhile in the U.K. a cabinet minister said the Government must act to prevent far-right groups from dragging the country back to 30s fascism.

    Communities Secretary John Denham spoke after neo-Nazi demonstrations, including a riot at Harrow mosque, North London, on Friday - the anniversary of 9/11.

    The minister's comments came as he announced a drive to prevent white working class people being "exploited" by extremists.

    "I think that the English Defence League and other organizations are not actually large numbers of people," Mr Denham told the Guardian newspaper. "They clearly, though, have among them people who know what exactly they're doing."

  5. Mr Denham said there was a need for a broader strategy from government to "undercut issues that racists try to exploit".

    In the coming weeks ministers will unveil a program targeted at mainly white, working-class communities, he said.

    "You need to be prepared to let people's real underlying fears and concerns come out, but to be able to address them frankly and openly," he said...

    We saw how that played out over here during some of the Town hall meetings called to discuss proposed health care legislations.

  6. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs has defended the value of the town halls, saying Obama believes they contributed to the debate by allowing people to get the facts.

    The problem with rumors is that they resist facts.

    Rumors spring from fear and prejudice, and prejudice does not mean simply a difference of opinion or an unreceptive attitude, but in addition it connotes an active hostility in varying degrees. A person prejudiced against Negroes, against "Communist" Democrats, against freedom of religion, is one who in varying degrees and in various ways is ready to attack certain people or principles. Generally, such persons see a threat in the object of their prejudice and are not content to sit idly by, but instead seize or seek very opportunity to liquidate the threat.

    Experimental efforts to alter attitudes solely by intellectual argumentation or by the massing of information have generally failed.

    Even direct contact with events or people that contradict a strongly held attitude frequently fails to alter the attitude.

    Prejudices, although they may be developed in part out of inadequate data, are not dissipated by appeal to reason or by making evident the latent logical inconsistencies in one's position or attitude. Indeed, such an approach may merely reinforce and buttress the attitude by forcing the individual to rationalize and protect his or her position.

  7. I watched a rerun of the recent giant “Tea Party” rally in Washington on SPAN for a couple of hours last night. The crowd there appeared to be overwhelmingly white, small town, rural, very workingclass, a few Republicans from the better parts of town: these being the kind of well off folks you might see at a Republican National Convention. The camera caught almost no blacks with the exception of one small teenage girl who looked out of place. Not because she was black but because there was a sensitivity and aspect of intelligent well being about her which didn’t fit with this crowd. Like most rallies, they cheered whatever was offered them. Rather thoughtless. But they weren’t there to think: they wanted to make their point.

    The speakers mostly harped on economics. The specter of tax and spend was heavily present and in their eyes the opposite of laissez faire capitalism is Socialism. They appear to have whipped themselves up into a fervor of free-enterprise anti-government budget saving. On the healthcare issue they misrepresented what is being offered by harping on how “Obamacare” will include illegal aliens and funding for abortion. Congressman Joe Wilson had his admirers there. The head of the Ayn Rand society said that if anyone wants healthcare insurance he should get a job and pay for it himself. In their world any sense of the commons is simply “Communism.”

    Naomi Klein is right in that this far right view of the world includes a great deal of fear and hatred of the “other.” That can be illegal aliens, the French, American blacks, so-called “elites,” Hollywood, Hugo Chavez, Arabs, gays, anyone who rubs wrong with them. Were Obama white they would find some aspect about him which they could link to in order to bring him down. His blackness just happens to be one of the instinctive handles they have: Jeremiah Wright was his mentor and soul brother: the Chicago ghetto is a scary place: Harvard educating a black who lived in Islamic Indonesia is un-American. And he is apparently not serious about “right to life” issues or, in his elitist way, Second Amendment issues. All that is there in a giant boiling stew pot.

    Though this may not be a resurgence of the Klan this is definitely a rising of the right, which sees its world slipping away. The Christian right had many complaints about Bush since they believed he didn’t offer them enough. He offered them plenty. But with Obama..... and his tax and spend deficit policies. Many of them truly do believe he is leading the way toward Socialism.

    As someone said about Nixon, it is the dark reaching out to the dark.

  8. C=SPAN didn't get down into the trenches when I watched. (The speakers for about two hours.) Thanks for this.

  9. What was interesting in that video is that the reporter, holding out the mike, managed to get these people to feel comfortable with him, and to even change their minds when presented with some facts. These people looked extremely rural, working class. None really looked college educated or all that well off economically. I wonder if a few truths and a bit of logic would change any of their minds? Are they all living in a self supporting community or rightwing ideas? Is their world insulated in that manner?

  10. This was a well written piece, however I am so unfortunate as to live [albeit most recently] in the Deep South. I call it the Heart of Darkness. I have yet to meet anyone here who doesn't hate President Obama. Many of these red necks come right out and say why and it has nothing to do with his education or his policies. I am convinced that racism is the dark horse in this race, no pun intended.