Monday, June 28, 2010


I suppose I should join in Mark Kleiman's outrage at right-wing commenters' reactions to the death of Senator Robert Byrd:

... The comments on The Hill or Pajamas Media are about 80% nasty. Big Government is the worst, by a nose. Not a little bit nasty: "too bad he didn’t die earlier" nasty and "he's going to Hell" nasty and "the rest of the Democrats should die, too" nasty. About a third mention Byrd’s membership in the Klan, more than sixty years ago, leading to the usual "all-Democrats-are-racist" rant....

Really, it's not good for the country.

I'm holding my tongue because, if we'd lost Dick Cheney this weekend, I don't exactly think our side's peanut gallery would have been a model of decorum. Mark does acknowledge that commenters at are often unable to show respect fort the dead, but I think it's unlikely that, in the event of Cheney's passing, this kind of talk would have been contained to an isolated outpost or two.

In any case, I don't think Mark should award Big Government the prize without venturing over to Free Republic ("He always wore clean sheets"), Fox Nation ("Don't ever feel bad about a communist dying. GOOD RIDDANCE!"), and ("This is a rare Dem dinosaur death I mildly regret. No more will we be able to point out to dems that they have a former klansman among their ranks and not ours").

In the hours and days to come, there'll be liberals offering honest assessments of Byrd, including his racial attitudes -- and yet the "respectable" right is going to use this death to insist that there's a media double standard because obituaries of Strom Thurmond focused on his segregationist views, and those of Byrd in the mainstrwm press don't. This is going to be yet another grievance that inflames and rallies the grievance collectors of the right. Never mind the fact that segregationism was central to Thurmond's career as a national politician -- it was the raison d'etre of his presidential run; it motivated his record-breaking filibuster of civil rights legislation in 1957; a Thurmond aide, Harry Dent, was the architect of Nixon's "Southern strategy" -- while Byrd, though a vote for racism during part of his political career, was never the racial driving force that Thurmond was (Byrd's own appalling 1964 filibuster of civil rights legislation notwithstanding). None of the whiners we'll hear from in the next few weeks will note that the New York Times obituary devotes five paragraphs to Byrd's membership in the Klan as a young man, stating flatly that "Mr. Byrd's political life could be traced to his early involvement with the Ku Klux Klan." We'll be told this part of his life was ignored. It's not true.


UPDATE: As predicted.

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