America's race-obsessed media
by Jeff Jacoby
BARACK OBAMA will face a sobering array of problems when he takes office as the nation's 44th president next week, but the color of the reporters who will be covering him is not one of them. Nor is the pigmentation of Washington journalists one of the genuinely unnerving problems with which the news industry is grappling these days.
With so many other things to worry about, and with the whole world able to see that racial identity is no longer a barrier to even the most powerful position in American life, you might think the press would finally be ready to abandon its unhealthy preoccupation with the color of skin -- especially the skin within its own ranks. Alas, no. "Obama, Like His Predecessors, Will Face a Press Corps Lacking in Minorities," laments the Washington Post on the front page of Monday's Style section. Media reporter Howard Kurtz describes "the relative paucity of black journalists at the White House" as a "cause for concern," and he isn't the only one who thinks so. Even President Bush is quoted as saying that "there need to be more minorities in the press corps."
But why should it matter to anyone but a racist whether a White House reporter is black or white? Well, says Michael Fletcher, a colleague of Kurtz's, "you would want to have black journalists there to bring a different racial sensibility." By the same token, more evangelical journalists would presumably bring a different religious sensibility to the White House, more journalists from the Deep South would bring a different regional sensibility, and more Republican journalists would bring a different political sensibility. Do you know of any news organizations that are fretting over the "relative paucity" of evangelicals, Southerners, or Republicans on their payrolls? Me neither.
Meanwhile, Politico reports that Obama's accession to the White House "is prompting major changes in the nation's black press, ushering in a series of firsts that editors say will reshape print, internet, radio, and television coverage aimed at African-American audiences." Among those changes: Essence and Ebony, two top magazines among black readers, are going to assign reporters to the White House. Jet magazine is adding a two-page Washington report to each issue. On Jan. 20, Black Entertainment Television will replace its "booty-shaking music videos" with a live, four-hour broadcast of Obama's swearing-in. TV One, another black-oriented cable network, is going even further, with 21 hours of inaugural coverage. All of which, Politico observes, marks something of a return "to a time when the black press -- particularly magazines -- were newsier." It was Jet, for example, that first printed the shocking pictures of lynching victim Emmet Till in 1955.
But hold on. If it's been decades since the black press paid close attention to presidential politics, why should anyone be surprised that black reporters haven't been thronging the White House press room? If bringing that "different racial sensibility" to Washington journalism hasn't been a priority for Essence or Jet, why should it have been one for the Washington Post or NBC?
The plain if unfashionable truth is that the White House press corps, and journalism generally, don't need more black reporters. They don't need more white reporters, either. Journalism needs good reporters, and good reporting isn't a function of race. If the color of Obama's skin is immaterial to his fitness to occupy the White House, surely the color of any other man's skin is immaterial to his fitness to cover the White House. Washington journalism will not be improved by seeking out "journalists of color," but by seeking out journalists of integrity, talent, and thoughtfulness.
Americans are often astonished to learn about the Japanese obsession with blood type. To us it is the sheerest nonsense to believe that blood type determines character, personality, or matrimonial suitability, but millions of Japanese are convinced of it. Four books on the importance of blood type were among Japan's bestsellers in 2008, selling more than 5 million copies. We wonder that intelligent people can put stock in such nonsense; we can't imagine that anyone would let an irrelevant physical characteristic like blood type affect a hiring decision or a romantic choice. Shouldn't we find equally preposterous the irrational belief that skin color is related to professional skill, intellectual outlook, or journalistic "sensibility?" It is time to lay aside such superstitions, even as we have laid aside the shibboleth that a black man cannot be president of the United States.
Another Kristallnacht around the corner in Europe?
By Frank Furedi (Frank is a retired Marxist)
I have always criticised the tendency of some Zionist commentators to dismiss all criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic. Such a defensive knee-jerk reaction simply avoids confronting the issues and undermines the possibility of dialogue. However, in recent years, especially since the eruption of the latest conflict in Gaza last month, anti-Israeli sentiments often mutate into anti-Jewish ones. Recent events indicate that in Europe the traditional distinction between anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish feelings has become confusing and blurred.
During a demonstration earlier this month, the Dutch Socialist Party MP Harry van Bommel called for a new intifada against Israel. Of course he has every right to express this political standpoint. However, he became an accomplice of the anti-Semites by choosing to do nothing when he heard chants of "Hamas, Hamas, all Jews to the gas" and similar anti-Jewish slogans. Many people who should know better prefer to keep quiet when they hear slogans such as "Kill the Jews" or "Jews to the oven" at protest demonstrations.
At a demonstration in London, such chants provoked little reaction from protesters who otherwise regard themselves as progressive anti-racists. Nor did they appear to be embarrassed by the sight of a man dressed up as a racist Jewish caricature - wearing a mask with a long, crooked nose - pretending to eat babies.
Increasingly, protesters are targeting Jews for being Jews. The demand to boycott Israeli goods in practice often means a call to boycott Jewish shops. That's what George Galloway, British MP for the Respect Party, meant when he called on people to "shut down Israel's shops". In his language, that's another way of saying Jewish-owned businesses. Galloway's Italian mates don't share his linguistic subtlety. In Italy, the trade union FLAICA-CUB's spokesman Giancarlo Desiderati has called for a boycott of Jewish businesses in Rome. A leaflet issued by this outfit informed Romans that goods they purchase in Jewish-owned shops "are tainted by blood".
European anti-Semitism is not simply a rhetorical act confined to a minority of Islamists or pro-Palestinian protesters. In Britain, Jewish schoolchildren have been castigated for belonging to a people with "blood on their hands". Their elders sometimes encounter intimidation and regularly report having to face verbal abuse.
What's truly disturbing about this development is the reluctance of European society to acknowledge and confront acts of anti-Semitism. Take the riots that broke out in Paris on the evening of January 3. If you relied on the European media, you would not have realised that groups of youngsters were shouting "Death to the Jews" while throwing stones at the police.
Probably the saddest example of this accommodation with anti-Semitism comes from Denmark. Historically, Denmark is one of the most enlightened societies in Europe. During World War II, it stood out as the one country were Nazis could find virtually no one who would collaborate with their anti-Jewish policies. That is why it is so sad to discover that a number of Danish school administrators have recommended that Jewish children should not enrol in their schools. Olav Nielsen, headmaster of Humlehave School in Odense, last week publicly said he will "refuse to accept the wishes of Jewish parents" to place their children at his school because it would create tension with Muslim children. Other headmasters echoed this sentiment, claiming that they were putting children's safety first. Whatever their intention, these pedagogues were signalling that in the interest of "health and safety" the ghettoisation of Jewish children was a sensible idea.
Outwardly, European societies are hostile to anti-Semitism, particularly in its traditional form. Many European nations have passed laws against Holocaust denial and proudly boast about their numerous Holocaust museums. However, at the same time, Europe is confused about how to deal with the recent outburst of anti-Jewish prejudice. The official explanation is that the fault lies with Israel's aggression against Palestinian people. It is frequently suggested that, understandably, anger directed at Israeli aggression sometimes loses its focus and becomes directed at Jews. I have lately been advised that raising concerns about instances of anti-Semitism plays into the hands of Israel and diverts attention from the plight of the people of Gaza.
There is no doubt that the conflict has intensified the frustration and anger of supporters of the Palestinian cause. But it is important to note that the rise of European anti-Semitism is not a direct outcome of the fighting between Israel and Palestinians. There is considerable evidence that anti-Jewish sentiment in Europe has been on the rise for some time and that it is fuelled by cultural influences that have little to do with events in Gaza. During the past two decades, and particularly since 2001, anti-Western feelings among European Muslims are often expressed through the language of anti-Semitism. Denunciations of the US are frequently accompanied by the targeting of the Jewish lobby's alleged influence. Such attitudes have gained momentum throughout this century.
For example, one survey carried out in 2002 indicated that 25 per cent of German respondents took the view that "Jewish influence" on American politics was one important reason why the Bush administration invaded Iraq. The association of Jews with business, finance and the media has encouraged current anti-consumerist and anti-modernist sentiments to regard the influence of "these people" with concern. Is it any surprise that last year there was an explosion of conspiracy theories on the internet which blamed Jewish bankers for the financial crisis?
The most worrying development in Europe is not the visible signs of radical Muslim and far-Right vitriol directed at Jews but the new culture of accommodation. What has emerged is a slightly embarrassed "see nothing, hear nothing" attitude that shows far too much understanding towards manifestations of anti-Semitism. Typically the response to such acts is to claim that it is not anti-Semitic, just anti-Israeli. Sometimes even politically correct adherents of diversity and anti-racism manage to switch off when confronted with an anti-Jewish comment.
As a sociologist, I am a member of the online European-Sociologist discussion group. Last week, one of my Muslim colleagues warned us against reading "clever Jewish authors" and advised one of his co-religionists that "true believers should not trust these snakes". To her credit, one American anti-Zionist sociologist objected to the depiction of Jewish authors as snakes. But European sociologists were far too busy poring over their latest training manual on diversity to express any objection. That kind of sums up Europe's cultural accommodation with such loathsome sentiments.
Another attack on business from emptyheaded do-gooders
In the tale of "The Velveteen Rabbit," a child's stuffed toy can only become "real" once all its fur has been loved off, and it's missing a button or two. If only. Under a new law set to go into effect February 10, unsold toys, along with bikes, books and even children's clothing are destined for the scrap heap due to an overzealous law to increase toy safety.
The damage comes from new rules governing lead in children's products. After last year's scare over contaminated toys made in China, Congress leapt in to require all products aimed at children under 12 years old to be certified as safe and virtually lead-free by independent testing. The burden may be manageable for big manufacturers and retailers that can absorb the costs of discarded inventory and afford to hire more lawyers. Less likely to survive are hundreds of small businesses and craftspeople getting hit with new costs in a down economy.
Because the new rules apply retroactively, toys and clothes already on the shelf will have to be thrown out if they aren't certified as safe. When Congress passed the legislation in August, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi boasted that "With this legislation, we will not only be recalling, we will be removing those products from the shelves." Yeehaw. While large retailers may ask manufacturers to take back uncertified products, independent stores may be stuck with inventory that is suddenly illegal to sell. One Web site, NationalBankruptcyDay.com, is cataloging the costs faced by small businesses.
Small batch toymakers, many of whom make old-fashioned wood and sustainable products, say the testing requirements -- which can cost thousands of dollars -- are unaffordable. At Etsy.com, a Web site where entrepreneurs can sell their handmade items, many expect the new law to put them out of business. Also ensnared are companies that make products like bikes or childrens books. Because they aren't toy companies, many were caught by surprise when it became clear the law would apply to them. The only lead that can be found on childrens bikes is on the tire, where it poses no risk to a child not in the daily habit of licking the wheels. And while childrens books may contain no more noxious materials than paper and ink, under the new rules they would still need a test to prove it.
Responding to the uproar, CPSC has issued a rule-making notice that would exempt natural materials from having to be certified as lead-free -- but it will need to go further to avoid an economic trainwreck in February. The real responsibility lies with Congress, which rushed through "kid-friendly" crowd-pleaser legislation without considering the consequences. Despite warnings from small businesses, Illinois Representative Bobby Rush and California's Henry Waxman pushed provisions that now require pulling products from the shelf. Mr. Waxman demanded lead standards without allowing compliance to phase in.
Now even their allies are skittering away from strict enforcement, fearing the looming fiasco could force Congress to amend the bill. Last week, consumer groups that once flogged the law, including Public Citizen, Kids in Danger, and the Naderite U.S. Public Interest Research Group, wrote a letter urging the CPSC to "take the initiative . . . by providing prompt, common-sense, and explicit interpretations regarding exemptions to CPSIA." Now they tell us.
Congress has beaten down the CPSC for allegedly not doing enough about toy safety, but last year's toy law was an election-year overreaction by Congress. The Commission needs to implement the rules without putting more companies out of business in an already tenuous economy.
The media and Obama
By the "banned" Ann Coulter
After NBC canceled me "for life" on Monday -- until seven or eight hours later when the ban was splashed across the top of The Drudge Report, forcing a red-faced NBC to withdraw the ban -- an NBC insider told The Drudge Report: "We are just not interested in anyone so highly critical of President-elect Obama, right now," explaining that "it's such a downer. It's just not the time, and it's not what our audience wants, either."
In point of fact, I'm not particularly critical of Obama in my new book. I'm critical of the media for behaving like a protection racket for Obama rather than the constitutionally protected guardians of our liberty that they claim to be. So I think what the NBC insider meant to say is that NBC is not interested in anyone so highly critical of NBC right now. It's such a downer, it's just not the time, and it's not what their audience wants right now, either.
In fact, I think my book is the downer America has been waiting for! So herewith, I present an excerpt from the smash new book out this week, Guilty: Liberal Victims and Their Assault on America:
When the Obama family materialized, the media was seized by a mass psychosis that hadn't been witnessed since Beatlemania. OK! magazine raved that the Obamas "are such an all-American family that they almost make the Brady Bunch look dysfunctional." Yes, who can forget the madcap episode when the Bradys' wacky preacher tells them the government created AIDS to kill blacks!
Still gushing, OK! magazine's crack journalists reported: "Mom goes to bake sales, dad balances the checkbook, and the girls love Harry Potter" -- and then the whole family goes to a racist huckster who shouts, "God damn America!"
Months before network anchors were interrogating vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on the intricacies of foreign policy, here is how NBC's Brian Williams mercilessly grilled presidential candidate Barack Obama: "What was it like for you last night, the part we couldn't see, the flight to St. Paul with your wife, knowing what was awaiting?"
Twisting the knife he had just plunged into Obama, Williams followed up with what has come to be known as a "gotcha" question: "And you had to be thinking of your mother and your father." Sarah Palin was memorizing the last six kings of Swaziland for her media interviews, but Obama only needed to say something nice about his parents to be considered presidential material.
The media's fawning over Obama knew no bounds, and yet, in the midst of the most incredible media conspiracy to turn this jug-eared clodhopper into some combination of Winston Churchill and a young Elvis, you were being a bore if you mentioned the liberal media. Oh surely we've exploded that old chestnut. ... Look! Look, Obama just lit up another Marlboro! Geez, does smoking make you look cool, or what! Yeah, Obama!.
The claim that there's no such thing as a left wing press is a patent lie said to enrage conservatives. Newspapers read like the press under Kim Jung Il, which, outside of a police state, looks foolish. The prose is straight out of The Daily Worker, full of triumphal rhetoric with implicit exclamation points. Still, their chanted slogans fill your brain, like one of those bad songs you can't stop humming.
There is no other explanation for the embarrassing paeans to Obama's "eloquence." His speeches were a run-on string of embarrassing, sophomoric Hallmark card bromides. It seemed only a matter of time before Obama would slip and tell a crowd what a special Dad it had always been to him.
The major theme of Obama's campaign was the audacity of his running for president. He titled his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, "The Audacity of Hope" -- named after a sermon given by his spiritual mentor Jeremiah Wright, whom we were not allowed to mention without being accused of playing dirty tricks. (Rejected speech titles from sermons by Rev. Wright included "God Damn America!," "The U.S. of K.K.A." and "The Racist United States of America.")
What is so audacious about announcing that you're running for president? Every U.S. Senator has run for president or is currently thinking about running for president. Dennis Kucinich ran for president. Lyndon LaRouche used to run for president constantly.
But the media were giddy over their latest crush. Even when Obama broke a pledge and rejected public financing for his campaign -- an issue more dear to The New York Times than even gay marriage -- the Times led the article on Obama's broken pledge with his excuse. "Citing the specter of attacks from independent groups on the right," the Times article began, "Sen. Barack Obama announced Thursday that he would opt out of the public financing system for the general election."
So he had to break his pledge because he was a victim of the Republican Attack Machine. When Obama broke his word and voted for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act bill (FISA), the Times' editorial began: We are shocked and dismayed by Sen. Obama's vote on ... oh, who are we kidding? We can't stay mad at this guy! Isn't he just adorable? Couldn't you just eat him up with a spoon? Is he looking at me? Ohmigod, I think he's looking at me!!!! Couldn't you just die? It has ever been thus.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
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