Thursday, April 04, 2013


Ta-Nehisi Coates has a good op-ed on Dr. Benjamin Carson in The New York Times today. Coates's column places Carson in a lengthening list of aspirants for the title "Conservative Black Hope"; previous contenders have included Alan Keyes, Michael Steele, Allen West, and Herman Cain.

A key aspect of this job is spreading the notion that other African-Americans are going about being African-American all wrong:
Last week, Carson came under attack for comparing advocates of same-sex marriage with advocates of bestiality and the North American Man/Boy Love Association. He then cast himself as a victim of political correctness, besieged by white liberals -- "the most racist people there are" -- who could not countenance his heterodoxy and wanted to keep him on the "plantation."

The plantation metaphor refers to a popular theory on the right. It holds that the 95 percent of African-Americans who voted for a Democratic president are not normal Americans voting their beliefs, but slaves. A corollary to the plantation theory is the legend of the Conservative Black Hope, a lonesome outsider, willing to stare down the party of Obamacare and stand up for the party of voter ID. Does it matter that this abolitionist truth-teller serves at the leisure of an audience that is overwhelmingly white? Not really. Blacks are brainwashed slaves; you can't expect them to know what's in their interest.
The argument that some people are incorrectly going about the process of being who they are is a big part of the right-wing message. According to this view, the real experts are non-members of a group, or right-wing members who disagree with the shared non-right-wing perspective of the group's majority.

See, for instance, the more-Jewish-than-thou Christians memorably discussed in the recent New York Times Magazine article "Oy Vey, Christian Soldiers." These Christians bar mitzah their kids, get married under chuppahs, and wear prayer shawls. Many of them are also defenders of the most militant pro-Israel policies -- more so than many Jews in America or Israel.

Or see converts to Catholicism such as Ross Douthat who act as self-appointed Catholic purity cops, while America's cradle Catholics reject many (or all) of the doctrinal items on offer in the Church cafeteria.

A variant on this is the notion that group members think they're left-leaning, but only because they're too ignorant to notice that they're really right-leaning. That was the message of a recent David Brooks column on gay marriage titled "Freedom Loses One," which argued (though not in so many words) that gay people who fight for marriage equality are too stupid to realize that they're fighting for restraints on their autonomy, rather than freedom.

As The New Yorker's Amy Davidson wrote in response to that column,
Perhaps one should be grateful to Brooks for showing conservatives a way to support same-sex marriage while holding on to their smugness....
"Smugness" is a word that would seem to apply to a lot of the messages right-wingers send to groups they disagree with: We're right about what you need. It's you people who are complete clueless about what's best for you.


Unknown said...

The conservative attitude toward black people is "If only those n!%%@rs weren't all so stupid and lazy they'd realize Democrats are the real racists."

Victor said...

Religion is the greatest grift of them all.
You can be a hard-core Atheist, and still get money from people telling them what they want to hear.
And then tell them what, and how, you want things done.

But other good grifts, are race, gender, place/country of origin, and sexual orientation.

The Republicans keep looking for the blacks, women, hispanics, and, in the future, gays, who can sucker "their" people into the Republican Party, and Conservatism, where they can be exploited for votes against the Liberal "thems."

Conservatives assume that "those" people can be made like "us," and will like "us," if they hear it from one of their own "those" people.

In other words, Conservatives want people to be suckers for the rich, like them.
And the white followers don't realize that they're being suckered too - by people who are grifting for the rich and powerful powers-that-be.
They are merely tools to be used as, and when, needed.

And they convince themselves that blacks, women, hispanics, and gays, can be convinced to be suckers, too.
If only they could find the right grifter.

Susanna said...

"The argument that some people are incorrectly going about the process of being who they are is a big part of the right-wing message."

I completely agree with you in this context. However, it's important to remember that they may have learned this tactic from the Democrats, who constantly complain about poor whites voting against their own self-interest.

"We know better than you what you want," sounds ugly coming from the GOP, so let's not repeat their mistakes. If we're straightforward and not condescending, people will come around. I think they're already beginning to.

Steve M. said...

Democrats ... constantly complain about poor whites voting against their own self-interest.

Yeah, but nobody (except fellow lefties) pays any attention when we say that. It flies completely under everyone else's radar.

Ten Bears said...

As ever, I encourage everyone to listen to your Great White Fathers, they know what's best. Really. It is afterall, their burden.

Yo, Victor, drop me a line on this whole "hardcore atheists making money" (no carbon copies please) thing 'cause I've gone stone broke telling the truth too many times.

No fear.

Victor said...

Ten Bears,
What I meant, was that being an Atheist wouldn't prevent somone from standing in the front of the church, BSing people about their Bible, which, being a non-believer of course they know is total BS, and telling people what they wanted to hear, and make a ton of money.

Sure, believing in you own religious BS helps, but it's not a requirement, or even a prerequisite.
All you need to do, is know the vernacular, and sound sincere when you talk about Heaven and Hell, and how your and their particular faith is the righteous one, and that all others will be doomed to Hell for not being part of their "tribe," and the rubes will provide you with a more than handsome living.

I think there are more than a few of the TV evangelists who started out BSing the rubes, not being great believers in religion, but instead, believers in the money and power being an evangelist brought in for them. And, I suspect, a lot of them started believing in their own BS.

I'm just saying that religious fools and their money are soon parted.

I was an actor, and I firmly believe that if I knew the Bible a little better, I could do fire and brimstone speeches with the best of the TV religious grifters.

But, just because I'm not a believer, doesn't mean that I don't have something that the religious might consider a "soul."

I always try to do the right things.
And taking advantage of fearful fools and simpletons isn't the right thing to do. No matter how lucrative it might turn out to be.

Kathy said...

This is one reason right-wingers have a visceral dislike for community organizers, who amplify the voices and power of marginalized communities instead of forcing their own "solutions". Gee, how could people with life experience know more about a community's struggles than privileged white people do?