It has been said that civility is an excellent conversation stopper. And it can be, because demanding civility has been a way to control or limit the voice of alterity or the unprivileged. When it comes to Joe Wilson’s now-infamous shouted remark at the joint session, the question arises as to whether the tone or style of this act was the important issue, or whether the meaning or content of what he said … the truth of his “You lie!” … is what should be focused on. In my view, the answer is: Both, neither, and you are missing the point.

I offer the following:

1) His incivility at this time was uncalled for and inappropriate. Those who wish to defend incivility (myself included) must do so intelligently, not blindly. Uncalled for and inappropriate incivility should be identified as such, and those who carry it out should be chastised. His incivility was a distraction, quite possibly calculated, offensive, and he should be willing to take the heat for it. This may seem like a contradiction. I will elaborate below. Yes, this will be hard.

2) There is no doubt that Joe Wilson has it wrong, and his wrongness is part of the wider Republican disrespect for the truth. It is easy in many instances to separate veracity from presentation, but worrying about that in this debate is our own self-imposed distraction. The right wing is systematically and strategically smearing the distinction between form and content for the purpose of keeping their argument afloat. They are not distinguishing between bald-faced lies designed to engender fear and loud-mouthed screaming also designed to engender fear. The liberal intelligentsia can speak for eternity on the validity of the argument vs. the style, the ad hominem vs. the rhetorical statement, and thus, do little more than play into this strategic distraction. Get over it. Everything they are doing is wrong. There is no right-wing/left-wing symmetry.

3) The argument between form and content ignores the ugly underlying reality: Joe Wilson’s outburst was principally an act of racism.

Civility

The assumption that civility is always bad is, of course, absurd, and I find it funny (not ha ha funny) that some of the least civil voices on the internet are often rather privileged individuals who seem mostly to use incivility for self-empowerment. Loud, screaming, (usually) white privileged (usually) males should really be more civil, n’est pas? But it is in the interest of those who uncritically use and promote incivility to paint all similar behaviors with the same color. It is a good crutch, it requires little thought, and if someone comes along and offers an alternative perspective, you just yell at them and call them an asshat.

(I hope I’m not being uncivil when I say that.)

In any event, it has been suggested that the civil vs. un-civil debate can be explored in reference to Joe Wilson’s outburst in congress. Maybe, but probably not. There are several reasons why this is not an example that one might want to pick to better understand modulating civility level in general discourse. Joe Wilson is a highly privileged individual who does not need to scream or taunt the speaker to get his voice heard. In the hands of the powerful, incivility is not a tool to alleviate repression. Rather, it is a bludgeon to keep down the repressed. In this debate, we are talking about adequate health care for people who do not have that now, and we are probably talking about very wealthy individuals and corporations being forced to profit less, or less easily, from that disparity. Those who argue that Wilson’s incivility should be ignored, and only the content of the message explored, probably have a reasonable, paid-for health care plan and should be just a little ashamed of themselves.

Wilson’s incivility was institutionally inappropriate in several ways. In other words, his outburst was against the rules. Well, incivility in the name of lifting the burden of repression on the huddled masses usually breaks the rules, and that is the whole point. But this is not what happened in the joint session.

Joe Wilson is a member of two institutions that officially rule against his incivility. He is a certified member of the South Carolina National Guard. Screaming, “You lie,” to President Obama is the same exact thing as screaming something similar to his commanding officer in the Guard during a speech by said commanding officer, a court-martial-able offense. Joe Wilson is also an elected member of the House of Representatives. When he screamed out his missive during the president’s talk, he certainly broke one, probably two, maybe three of the agreed-upon rules of the chambers. Not obscure rules no one knows about, but rules that are reviewed and re-initiated annually, and that the members of the House adhere to daily as part of their jobs. Again, this is a system he voluntarily participates in, and in particular (unlike the military system), a system that has rules specifically designed to eliminate privilege within the chamber. Or at least formalize privilege to previously agreed-upon categories, such as “chair” and “speaker” and so on. Joe Wilson was not expressing or representing a subaltern voice that would otherwise ever be repressed. Rather, he was acting against rules he signed on to, and making an utter ass of himself in the process.

His position in these institutions gives him power, the appearance of credibility (which he may or may not earn up to), and he would be the first to defend this power base and to tell others to respect it. The problem is, he broke several rules in systems of which he is part and is clearly not prepared to admit that conflict or take the consequences of his action. He wants to wear the cloak of institutional power, but he is not willing to suffer his own offense.

Truth

I’m not going to say much about the truth of his statement here. Clearly, he was wrong. Beyond that, the issue is more complex than he has suggested subsequently. Most Americans do want a public option, but if asked, most Americans do not want this bill to hand out free health care to non-citizens. In truth, health care is provided to non-citizens already, but in the most expensive way possible. I think most people would agree that the issue is not one of how to reform health insurance, but rather how to reform immigration policy. But screaming that statement about that issue during the joint session was not about the consideration of the laws that may apply. It was about generating fear. The message and the modality were one. Again, we can debate forever the validity of the slap in the face during a discussion, but as we do so, the empowered right wing operatives will continue with this very effective mix of strategies.

Racism

Anyone who is even vaguely aware of the situation … of Wilson’s background, of the nature of politics in South Carolina, of the recent demeanor of the right wing, and so on, knows that in no small way, this outburst was a traditional white racist telling the black man to shut up.

(No, I will not be addressing comments on how I’m playing the “race card” with these remarks. If that is your main response to this, then you have surely been left in the dust of the fast-moving events of recent days. Buy yourself a couple of current newspapers, find a coffee shop, sit down, and educate yourself.)

This would be less of an argument if Joe Wilson were not a member of the SCV, and if he did not involve himself in keeping the racist Dixie Flag flying in South Carolina, and so on. But he is and he did.

Indeed, South Carolina has a history that is ironic in its connection to the present case. Charles Sumner was a leading abolitionist (that is a person against slavery) from Massachusetts. In 1852, Sumner brought the issue of slavery to the Senate floor in a speech that reflected his prior published writings. South Carolina Senator Preston Brooks, a pro-slavery racist, confronted Sumner at a time when the chamber was mostly empty (Preston had a couple of friends with him) and beat Sumner severely with a metal-clad cane. The beating was so severe that Sumner’s chamber desk under which he was trapped came unbolted from the floor. Sumner, bleeding, fell unconscious, but Brooks kept up the beating until his cane was too broken to continue. Meanwhile, as help arrived, one of Preston’s buddies kept those who might intervene away while brandishing a pistol.

i-c8f76a38110f4c6e0692f4477319bf84-Why_b_civil_when_u_have_a_stick.jpg
The beating of Charles Sumner by Preston Brooks over the issue of Slavery is not funny.

It took Sumner three years to recover from this attack, owing to serious head trauma and other problems. Preston was lauded as having been properly and appropriately uncivil by his racist southern colleagues. Famously, he was mailed dozens of canes as gifts after the incident.

Joe Wilson is a racist, anti-American, anti-health pig and should be voted out of office. His outburst should not be proffered as a starting point for a discussion of subaltern empowerment. He should, and probably will, be censured. He was wrong in his content and his style, is message and his medium, his details and his demeanor. Except maybe in Bizarro Land where everything is opposite.

Indeed, any conversation about Wilson’s outburst that ignores the racialized side of this is playing into the hands of the “race-card-card” players. If that is the way you want to have this conversation, you may want to rethink. Or just think. And I say this with all due respect.

And now, for a little more history lesson that you may be ready for:

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Comments

  1. #1 Veritas
    September 14, 2009

    So, let’s see.. Your evidence that Wilson’s statement was about racism is based on this evidence:

    1. He’s from South Carolina (way to generalize an entire state based on the actions of their forefathers.. Where I come from, that’s called prejudice)

    2. He enjoys Southern heritage. God forbid that someone actually values the culture that they came from. We should all just forget about the past and assimilate into a culture that has never done anything wrong… Just as soon as we can find one of those.

    3. Uh.. well.. No, that actually just about sums up your “evidence” that he is a racist.

    It’s easy for someone who disagrees with Joe Wilson to play the race card (yeah, I said it) and dismiss his comments so they don’t have to deal with the reality that a huge number of Americans agree with Joe Wilson and believe that the President is lying about the health care plan, and that many aspects of it are not good for our country. Whether you like it or not, conservatives exist, people who don’t like the health care system exist, people who think a public option is a bad idea exist, and they exist in HUGE numbers. Just because someone disagrees with your particular beliefs doesn’t make them stupid, or uneducated, or racist.

    If you have an issue with how Joe Wilson expressed his disagreement, that’s fine, I think that most people on both sides agree that his outburst came at the wrong place and time. However, accusing someone of being racist based solely on the state he comes from is not only biased and completely discriminatory to the 4.4 million residents of SC, it’s also immature and shows your lack of ability to create a logical argument. I think you’re the one who needs to get your facts straight.

    By the way, the hilarious irony of you criticizing Wilson for an ad hominem attack by calling him a racist is not lost on me.

  2. #2 Roxanne
    September 14, 2009

    I don’t think this accusation of racism is based solely on the state he came from. Then again, I actually read all the words in this post.

  3. #3 NJ
    September 14, 2009

    Shane on you Roxanne for having the temerity to become informed before having an opinion!

  4. #4 Sondra
    September 14, 2009
  5. #5 General B's Horse
    September 14, 2009

    “He enjoys Southern heritage.”

    Excuse me? Ladies and gentlemen, we have just witnessed a SPECTACULAR case of Racist Denialism! Wow. Southern heritage indeed.

  6. #6 Lisa A
    September 14, 2009

    Exactly perfect dead on analysis. And I love the video.

  7. #7 Roxanne
    September 14, 2009

    It’ll happen every time!

  8. #8 The Science Pundit
    September 14, 2009

    Let’s not forget that the issue over which Wilson shouted his heckle is that of illegal immigrants–the pet issue of racists in this country. It’s a legitimate issue behind which racists can hide and pretent that they’re not being racist and/or stoking racial hatred.

    “No, I don’t have anything against Mexicans. In fact, I’m all for legal immigration. It’s these illegal aliens who are here breaking the law that are responsible for lost jobs and everything else that ails us TRUE AMERICANS.”

    Since at least the 2004 election, I’ve noted that just about every candidate who’s made “Protect Our Borders!” a centerpiece of their campaign has been nothing but a bigot trying to get votes by using fear of Mexicans to stoke the fires of racism and xenophobia.

    Joe Wilson is a racist and his outburst was most certainly racially motivated! The shout was aimed at his bigotted based, and landed on the bullseye.

  9. #9 Hank
    September 14, 2009

    His so called outburst was no different than the booing or cheering that everyone else was already doing. His timing was simply off so his blurt came out alone. The boy has no rhythm is the problem.

  10. #10 Bob
    September 14, 2009

    #1:

    It’s easy for someone who disagrees with Joe Wilson to play the race card (yeah, I said it) and dismiss his comments so they don’t have to deal with the reality that a huge number of Americans agree with Joe Wilson and believe that the President is lying about the health care plan

    YOU LIE!!!!!

  11. #11 Ted
    September 14, 2009

    General B, I think we met on another forum.

    Greg L, I agree with your main points. I would add that the whole thing is overblown.

  12. #12 Alice
    September 14, 2009

    He will be admonished, today apparently, according to news I just heard, unless he apologizes on the floor.

  13. #13 Fiona
    September 14, 2009

    I don’t know why it has taken so long for people to understand that this IS all about race. That delay itself is worrisome. But at least now the mainstream press is talking about this more openly.

  14. #14 MikeMa
    September 14, 2009

    Joe Wilson a racist? By my measurements absolutely. But I have a friend who dotes on his southern heritage. He actually once informed me that the slaves were happier as slaves than free. And believed it. And if I called him racist, he’d deny it it as fervently as he parrots Rush and his other historically inaccurate drivel. He thinks he truly is recalling history the way it was. When I bring up counter arguments, he gets quiet but he is not reconsidering, he is tuned out, thinking of another Rush ditto-point. He truly does not connect believing blacks were happy as slaves (and still should be) with the concept of racism. Jaw-dropping fail. My friend acts and sounds like good ol’ Joe Wilson.

  15. #15 D. C. Sessions
    September 14, 2009

    My touchstone is really very simple:

    Is the “call for civility” being used to promote reasoned discussion (e.g. letting everyone have a chance to speak by preventing disruption) or to impede it (e.g. by excluding stakeholders)?

    Rules of order — civility, in the present instance — are tools. Those who focus on the tools rather than the purpose they’re serving are missing the point.

  16. #16 Stephanie Z
    September 14, 2009

    Hee. D. C., from an email I sent this morning:

    Incivility is a tool. Like most tools, it can be used by anyone–with varying degrees of success (see my old post on taking offense). The problem in this case is the use to which the tool is being put, namely, the de-legitimization of our democratic structures because Wilson doesn’t like who’s in charge of them. And yes, his reasons for that are entirely relevant.

    There’s more, but that’s the part that made me laugh when I read your comment.

  17. #17 Lilo
    September 14, 2009

    For some reason I don’t get the video. Could someone list the URL for it, please?

  18. #18 bobh
    September 14, 2009

    Veritas: Joe Wilson is probably a racist (that is not an ad hominem attack – it simply boosts the support from his base). What he is most guilty of is being wrong, knowing he is wrong but saying it anyway. I accuse him of being stupid.

  19. #20 MrMarkAZ
    September 14, 2009

    Racist or not, I suspect another motive, given the amount of cash that odious piece of filth has been able to raise in defense of his being (gag cough gag) “muzzled.” He’s playing the wingnuts for every cent they’ll give him.

  20. #21 HopelessElf
    September 14, 2009

    The racism argument here is weak compared to the inflammatory conclusion.

    It’s obviously a judgment call on the motives, because the comment itself isn’t racist (politicans of all stripes have been accused of lying). It’s entirely plausible, especially considering his background, that he’s a racist – and that those feelings provided the impetus to blurt out his little comment.

    But it’s also entirely possible that he’s just a rude, rash person, and would’ve blurted out such a comment to a white Democratic president in a similar speech.

    That’s the boring truth of the matter. Obviously you get more blog views if you jump to an incendiary conclusion based on “he comes from a racist state”, and, “duh, it’s racist – if you don’t see that, think harder”. But to demonstrate racism, there’s got to be a difference in behavior that’s due to skin color (for true racism, this isn’t hard to demonstrate). It’d have been more convincing if you had some evidence towards a pattern of respecting white Democratic authority, and resisting black Democratic authority – or any similar type of behavior.

    Jumping to conclusions that aren’t directly supported by facts is something Limbaugh is good at – rise above, don’t stoop. I could never see Obama making an argument like this, he knows these sort of arguments are pointless.

  21. #22 D. C. Sessions
    September 14, 2009

    There’s more, but that’s the part that made me laugh when I read your comment.

    This is very disturbing. I’m already sharing too much mental capacity with another woman named Stephanie.

    How do we arrange a separation?

  22. #23 Art
    September 14, 2009

    You miss the point.

    The point of Wilson’s outburst was to take an elected representative in a safe district, Wilson cannot and will not be touched, and to put on a performance that would make him a caricature, a hero/villain if you will, to act as extreme that normalizes the radicals this administration has to deal with. It also legitimizes and further crystallizes the attempts to demonize Obama and liberals in general. It also, and this may be the main function of the performance, serves to shift the news cycle away from reasoned exploration of how bad our present system is, what our options are, what we can do about it.

    The enemies of Obama and progressives know that they can’t win on facts with reality calmly explored, options calmly considered. and considered action resolutely taken for the good of the nation. The longer they can keep the argument about Wilson and his outburst, the fear of ghosts of communism, manufactured controversies, and the definition and role of civility, the better off they are.

    So this thread represents another opportunity lost. Another day of news focused on secondary issues like Wilson’s racial hangups, and the definition of civility. Another day where what had to be done didn’t get done.

    That sound your hearing in the distance is the sound of a very rich man, a man who profits off the tortured heath care system we have now and the suffering it inflicts, laughing so hard he wets his pants.

  23. #24 KJHaxton
    September 14, 2009

    This whole incident does seem rather overblown from the UK perspective, but there is no way of gauging the depth of feeling towards health care reform when not in the US. I like this post for its rationality, and dose of common sense.
    The issue of civility, well, I think Stephanie hits it square on – it is just a tool and like most tools is a function of the use to which it is put. I’m sick of people claiming that incivility is a right, no, a necessity, in arguements. It isn’t, nor was it necessary in this instance. There may well be a time and place for incivility, but to set it as a standard to aspire to as some people do? That behaviour just degrades the quality of any conversation.

  24. #25 Stephanie Z
    September 14, 2009

    You’ve got it backwards, Elf. We already knew Wilson is racist (SCV, considering it defamation to mention Thurman’s recognized biracial daughter). This post isn’t about proving that. It’s about the importance of recognizing his racism when talking about this event–as part of the context of the entire widespread, ongoing xenophobic reaction to Obama.

    And Art, talking about this is important too. We can and must handle more than one issue at a time.

  25. #26 Rob Runkle
    September 14, 2009

    The White House does not think racism.
    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/09/13/white-house-dismisses-dowd-claim-wilson-outburst-race-based/

    It is an insult to those that have actually experienced racism to promote this BS.

  26. #27 Greg Laden
    September 14, 2009

    [21]But to demonstrate racism, there’s got to be a difference in behavior that’s due to skin color (for true racism, this isn’t hard to demonstrate).

    The problem with your argument is that you have chosen, arbitrarily, a place to set the bar in order to make it hard to demonstrate. No one is jumping to conclusions here. Rather, we are just looking at what is happening. One out of ten signs at the average town hall is an explicitly racist statement. One out of ten things shouted at a teabaggers rally is an explicit racist statement. The congressman in question is a member of a known racist organization and has been involved on the racist side of political debates in his home state (i.e. regarding the flag). You (Hopeless Elf) can move the standard back as long as you want and remain in denial of what is utterly obvious to most, but that’s kind of unfair.

    Also, it may help my other readers get a better bead on you if you would pick one pseudonym and stick with it.

  27. #28 Greg Laden
    September 14, 2009

    Art [23]: I’m putting forward the argument that a) Wilson is a racist slob and acts that way and b) people yammering in the blogosphere and on cable TV about the difference between message and modality are wasting their time when they should be focusing on the real meaning of it all. You and I may have a difference of opinion of what the real meaning of it all is, but how do you know that your version of it is not a distraction from my version of it?

    Rob: A fox news report interpreting Obama’s attempts to say above the fray is not helpful. But thaks anyway.

  28. #29 Art
    September 14, 2009

    Stephanie Z – “And Art, talking about this is important too. We can and must handle more than one issue at a time.”

    Its relative importance depends on your priorities. The right gets things done because they understand the difference between offense and defense. On offense you have to stick to one issue and one message to nail each day. On offense you have to get things done and you have to have discipline while executing. Nailing the talking points using the same language repeatedly. Every utterance needs to serve the plan.

    On defense you want to sow distraction. Make the side on the offensive spread itself out and waste resources and time on unimportant issues. You want them to get caught up in personal and social explorations and, if you play your cards right, infighting.

    I really don’t care if Wilson is a racist. He can goosestep around his living room in jack boots and a feather boa while exploring his homosexual approach-avoidance issues with muscular black men all he wants and it doesn’t mean a thing. All I care about is his vote and how he effects the advancement of progressive goals.

    Progressives will never keep a majority if we can’t discipline ourselves and resist our natural tendency to dissipate our energy through navel gazing, exploring feelings long enough to push through legislation and execute. It is a fine thing to contemplate and meditate and negotiate. But once you know what your wan tot do you have to pick up the tools, like message control and party discipline, and get the job done. Because, in the end, the people will always prefer self-serving greedy bastards who can get things done over well meaning and conscientious but feckless leaders who can’t organize a two-car parade.

    The Democrats are in power, about as ‘in’ as we will ever get, and both time and events are rushing by. This is not the time to explore the nature and bounds of American racism. It is time to produce and force through legislation by whatever means are necessary. Once we have curbed the insurance companies and created a robust public option, reformed accounting and financial standards, rejiggered the stimulus package allocation to produce jobs, reworked the energy and CO2 situation, and figured out what we want to do in Afghanistan we can take some time off and explore how we feel about the size and form of American racism and what we are going to do about it.

    No rush on the racism thing. It will still be there. Failure to show we can wield power and produce effective legislation will mean progressives lose congress and racists will be running things. If Wilson and his political posturing and propaganda machinations worries you, think what he could do in a leadership position.

    You can either look and feel good while protecting your moral high ground or you can get the job done. Your choice.

  29. #30 D. C. Sessions
    September 14, 2009

    Art@29 FTW

    Shorter: eyes on the prize.

  30. #31 Stephanie Z
    September 14, 2009

    And your choice, Art, is to spend your time arguing with me?

  31. #32 D. C. Sessions
    September 14, 2009

    Compare and Contrast: Lyndon B. Johnson vs. Barack H. Obama

    Obama wins, hands down, as smarter. He is, by all accounts, a Really Nice Guy and a great husband and father. If it came down to in-depth understanding of the issues, it would be no contest.

    Lyndon Johnson was a right bastard, he screwed up by the numbers in Vietnam trying to play tin soldiers with real troops and micromanage the war remote from the Oval Office. He died a lonely, bitter old man.

    But … DAMN could LBJ ramrod legislation through Congress. If Obama leaves us a tenth of the domestic legacy that LBJ did, he’ll be doing well. I wouldn’t bet on it.

  32. #33 Stephanie Z
    September 14, 2009

    D. C., I respectfully disagree that this is in any way not also aimed at nullifying the objections to getting a progressive agenda through Congress. Racism and racists are being used as tools in this fight just as much as anything else.

  33. #34 pop
    September 14, 2009

    Here we go again, the race card!

    The problem ain’t his colour…. It’s his socialist agendas most patriots don’t like.

  34. #35 lars
    September 14, 2009

    Patriots, Pop? Are we talking CSA or USA here?

  35. #36 Stephanie Z
    September 14, 2009

    Calling Poe on “colour.”

  36. #37 Paul Murray
    September 14, 2009

    “Civility” is a dog-whistle. It’s code for niggers (and anyone in the lower strata of society) knowing their place, aka “Now you keep a civil tongue in your head there, boy.” Civility is about southern gentlemen genteely sipping their civil iced tea or mint julep while the overseers in the fields whip the slaves.

  37. #38 Jason Thibeault
    September 14, 2009

    @34: His agenda ain’t socialist. Take it from someone who lives in a “socialist country”. (According to you, at least.)

    The race “card” is being “played” (how I hate that phrase!), because if it were a white man, he would not be treated the way he’s being treated now. He wouldn’t have people screaming about his middle name or claiming he was born in Kenya. He wouldn’t have people threatening to kill him because he wants to allow a $2.5 trillion tax cut to sunset per the provisions in Bush’s original law. He wouldn’t have people carrying toy monkeys around with indication that the monkey is intended to represent Obama himself.

  38. #39 The Science Pundit
    September 14, 2009

    @Jason (#39),

    Please read Stephanie’s comment (#36)

  39. #40 Greg Laden
    September 14, 2009

    art [29] Progressives will never keep a majority if we can’t discipline ourselves and resist our natural tendency to dissipate our energy through navel gazing, exploring feelings long enough to push through legislation and execute.

    It took me 30 minutes to write this post. I sent a draft to Stephanie and go her take on it, that added ten minutes (most of my posts don’t get this attention). It addresses issues that are part of a larger ongoing conversation that has nothing to do with Wilson or his vote: the blogospheric discussion on civility and rule/making, and racism. That latter topic is an academic interest of mine and a primary area of my political activism. I made a couple of people mad at me, hopefully made a larger number of people realize that race is indeed an issue at this time and in this discussion. Score!

    This is not navel gazing. And, no, I’m not going to be told to stifle it on the race-issue. There’s a reason they call it “lock step” in the Republican party, and you may have noticed I’m not one.

    I do totally get what you are saying and I essentially agree with the larger point. You are making a pretty solid strategic argument and it is a good one. And I’m all about the strategic part, believe me. I’m usually the one telling other people what you are telling me. It just happens that my fight is over race and gender, and my resources are focused like a laser beam on that particular navel. I mean issue.

  40. #41 Greg Laden
    September 14, 2009

    I have no reason to believe that pop is a poe. Or not. Assume he is a genuine asshole until proven otherwise. “Colour” could just be a random misspelling….

  41. #42 Stephanie Z
    September 14, 2009

    Could be real, Greg, but I didn’t figure it was worth bothering with. If he’s real, he’ll be back with more than a drive-by. Then there might be some substance worth bothering with.

  42. #43 Jason Thibeault
    September 14, 2009

    In fairness, those of us north of the border or east of the Atlantic have a tendency to spell it “colour”. That’s not exactly a Poe “tell”.

  43. #44 Stephanie Z
    September 14, 2009

    Y’all also don’t hyperventilate at the word, “socialism.” :)

  44. #45 PseudonymElf
    September 14, 2009

    It addresses issues that are part of a larger ongoing conversation that has nothing to do with Wilson or his vote: the blogospheric discussion on civility and rule/making, and racism. That latter topic is an academic interest of mine and a primary area of my political activism.

    You know how you sometimes have those fights with your significant other, where they’re upset about you not taking out the trash… and then 30 minutes later, as issue after issue is brought up, you start to realize it’s not really about the trash after all?

    I walked into one of those moments. And I’ll concede that most of your other issues are legitimate (the signs at conservative protests, the groups this guy is involved with). But the prick in me still says that those things aren’t necessarily proof of racism *in this case*. I can easily see this guy giving the same douchebaggy response to Clinton.

    So the question is whether it’s possible/likely for a racist Wilson to be a public jerk to Obama, for reasons *other* than racism. Personally, I can buy that a political combativeness could’ve driven him to it – and you obviously think there’s no way in hell it’s anything but his racism seeping out. Not a big leap of faith to make I guess – although it makes you look biased (which we all are, but don’t we at least aim to keep a facade of being open minded?).

    And who gives a rip about pseudonyms? Don’t tell me you guys take this stuff seriously?

  45. #46 Stephanie Z
    September 14, 2009

    Elf, since you concede that the guy has a history of racism, why on Earth would you think he’d set that aside when faced with the fact that his country is being run by a biracial man? In what world does that make any sense?

  46. #47 Sherry
    September 14, 2009

    As a military veteran, I’m especially ashamed that Wilson is an officer in the South Carolina Army Guard.

    As such, he has committed a crime that far transcends uncivility. Despite being off-duty, he is still responsible as an officer to show respect the POTUS. He should be court-martialed but it won’t happen because this Army is full of people just like him.

    Seriously, what is this country coming to? Is it because we don’t have really good rock and roll anymore?

  47. #48 The Science Pundit
    September 15, 2009

    @Sherry

    He should be court-martialed but it won’t happen because this Army is full of people just like him.

    That may be so, but I suspect that the reason that he’ll never get court martialed over this is because after graciously accepting Wilson’s non-apology, Obama made sure that leaders of the army and SCNG knew to “let this one go.” (IMO)

  48. #49 Doug Alder
    September 15, 2009

    Greg – as much as I believe that Wilson is an out and out racist who can not stand the thought of a biracial president I suspect that most of that liar outburst was intended to promote the old GOP anti immigrant fears. It’s all they have left – make the public afraid of mysterious strangers sucking up their hard earned tax dollars via welfare and medical assistance.

  49. #50 Greg Laden
    September 15, 2009

    Doug… so, he’s not being a racist … he’s just expressing his disdain for the little brown people swarming over the border.

    That too, I’m sure. But really, even a simple man like Wilson can have more than one thing going on at a time. The first time ever a member of congress expresses himself this way in congress, he’s known to be a racist and the president is known to be a black guy … yes, it could be a coincidence, but I think not. The issue is not necessarily relevant to the fact that his disdain for the man is so intense. On top of that, it is over a racial issue that he makes the outcry.

    No, you’re not convincing me of much here, Doug!

    In any event, it may well be that there was not a whiff of racism in the act (ha ha) or that it’s can’t be proven (wink wink) it is still such an overwhelming involved issue the the essential point stands: If you THOUGHT about it you would not want to use Joe Wilson’s outburst as a starting point for a discussion on civility any more than you’d like to use old Nazi data on hypothermia in designing a new North Face winter coat.

    Image the ad copy on that one. No, I don’t think so.

    Am I being too subtle here people?

  50. #51 Greg Laden
    September 15, 2009

    elf[45]: You know how you sometimes have those fights with your significant other, where they’re upset about you not taking out the trash… and then 30 minutes later, as issue after issue is brought up, you start to realize it’s not really about the trash after all?

    No, not really. First, in the five years we’ve been together, I’ve probably taken the trash out six times. Second, we don’t fight over stuff.

    But the prick in me still says that those things aren’t necessarily proof of racism *in this case*.

    That is how racism works. Insidious, ain’t it?

    And who gives a rip about pseudonyms? Don’t tell me you guys take this stuff seriously?

    Pseudonyms are cool, having more than one is cool. Using a different name that is unconnected to any other name in order to do the sock puppet thing is uncool. So far you are not doing that but the fact that you have numerous totally unconnected psuedos sends up a flag.

    It is not even that sock puppetry is a problem. There is only one criterion for getting banned from my site, and at the moment there is only one person who has met that criterion. It is hard to meet, but it is possible. (And he didn’t meet the criterion with sock puppetry.)

  51. #52 nails
    September 15, 2009

    He was yelling at a person of color when it is most likely to his own detriment and belongs to a racist club, I don’t know what other conclusion to draw.

    There seems to be this idea that racism is always intentional, like someone sets out to be racist (or sexist for that matter) ahead of time. People aren’t thinking that hard about it, they are reacting within the worldview they have. If it is a racist worldview then racist behavior takes place, even if it was unintentional. You can’t factor that kind of thing OUT of an interaction with a person of color.

    I really don’t give a shit about the intention so much as the effect. The effect is a bunch of racist crackers cheering and thinking that hey, there are still people from ‘their america’ in politics. It is giving support to people who think that yelling an insult an appropriate response to the president.

    As far as profiling the south-there are still a shit ton of people in the south who think interracial relationships are wrong. Much much more than any other region of the US, and he is the product of that kind of union. It is a big deal.

  52. #53 Deen
    September 15, 2009

    Veritas said:

    It’s easy for someone who disagrees with Joe Wilson to play the race card (yeah, I said it) and dismiss his comments so they don’t have to deal with the reality that a huge number of Americans agree with Joe Wilson and believe that the President is lying about the health care plan

    Actually, we are dealing with this reality – the reality that there exists a huge number of Americans who are just as ignorant and bigoted as Joe Wilson.

  53. #54 Nathan
    September 15, 2009

    I think it is inappropriate for each criticism of Obama to be labeled racist automatically. Joe Wilson is an a-hole, whether he’s also a racist I can’t say I know. He broke the rules of decorum and acted out, and should be punished. I don’t know that I would say the Republicans are doing simply everything wrong, but I’ll agree there’s a lot wrong with them. That said, in the Democratic party, there’s a whole lot of what Penn and Teller describe as “I’m not taking pie from you, I’m giving pie to me!” and I can’t get behind involuntary charity under any circumstances.

  54. #55 Greg Laden
    September 15, 2009

    Jason [43]: I was assuming Stephanie was interpreting it as a tell because there is a positive correlation between British spelling and literacy. At least from the perspective of the US. I’m well aware of the fact that Canadia and England, for instance have more diversity than we see. And Australia.

  55. #56 Greg Laden
    September 15, 2009

    Wilson is an a-hole, whether he’s also a racist I can’t say I know.

    That is why you read my blog, to become edumicated . Now you know that he is.

    The question here is not that a specific criticism of Obama is racist. It wasn’t, in fact. The point of “you lie” at that moment was not anti-African American racist (well, it was anti-Mexican racist, let’s not forget that). The point is that JW, the guy we already knew was a racists, from South Carolina, the state steeped in tradition of using violence to get its racist way (beatings on the floor of congress, lynchings of blacks in the state, the civil war, and so on) is the one and only and first person to get up and scream “You lie, boy!!!”” to our “black” president. Well, OK, we couldn’t hear the word “boy” but … well, we heard it, didn’t we!

    Republicans are doing simply everything wrong, but I’ll agree there’s a lot wrong with them.

    You know, there are republicans that would actually agree with many of the bailout and other Obama policies. I personally know, quite well, Republicans in the financial industry and when I ask them “well, what do you think now …. well, what do you think now?” every couple of weeks they do not start screaming about the Kenyan al Quaida socialist. Rather, they swallo hard, get a worried look in their eye, start to sweat, and say “I don’t know. Nobody knows. Let’s just hope this works.”

    And increasingly, the are saying it is working.

    But, the official Republican line in congress and at the tea-bagging orgies, and so on, is EVERYTHING OBAMA IS DOING IN RONG!!!!

    So yes, officially, they are doing everything wrong because everything they are doing is to oppose whatever Obama says or does. That is not intelligent, that is not good leadership, that is not good representation, that is not good governance. It IS, however, doing everything wrong.

    I’m giving pie to me!” and I can’t get behind involuntary charity under any circumstances.

    That is because at the moment you are indenial of the “involuntary charity” you partake of every day. Like that big gray long thin piece of pie you drive to work on every day fer instance… The FDA insurance that covers your ass every day if you have money in a bank. and who knows what else.

  56. #57 azportsider
    September 15, 2009

    I’m not sure that someone who doesn’t even go by his own name (‘Joe’ Wilson, indeed!) is in any position to accuse anyone else of lying.

  57. #58 Deen
    September 15, 2009

    … said the person who isn’t going by his own name.

    (And before you respond: I don’t go by my own name either, but I’m not the one implying there’s any problem with using a pseudonym).

  58. #59 Paul S.
    September 15, 2009

    The caning of Charles Sumner by Brooks is an interesting historical parallel, but using it to imply that South Carolina 150 years later is still a state of violent racists is pretty dubious, not to mention insulting.

    I generally agree with most of the rest of the post, although the actual motives for Wilson’s outburst are pretty much unproveable at this point. I also don’t think that Republican vilification of Obama is really much different from earlier Republican vilification of Carter and Clinton, or Democratic vilification of Reagan and George W. Bush. Of all the presidents who have served in my lifetime, George Bush Sr. is oddly the only one who didn’t seem to arouse genuine and intense hostility from the other side.

  59. #60 Greg Laden
    September 15, 2009

    The caning of Charles Sumner by Brooks is an interesting historical parallel, but using it to imply that South Carolina 150 years later is still a state of violent racists is pretty dubious, not to mention insulting.

    That wasn’t my point. But I admit my point is obscure to most readers. Which is a good thing. (This post has a multiple complex set of audiences and sub audiences.)

    I generally agree with most of the rest of the post, although the actual motives for Wilson’s outburst are pretty much unproveable at this point.

    His specific motives in this case are not relevant. His disdain for Obama comes from a mixture of sources, but Obama’s blackness is, I assert, one of them. That let him step across a line no one in this emotionally charged setting has stepped across in over 200 years.

    I also don’t think that Republican vilification of Obama is really much different from earlier Republican vilification of Carter and Clinton,

    I don’t agree. Similar, yes, but very different in many ways. You have to remember that the vilification of Carter was significantly enhanced by the migration of conservative Dems to the Republican Party, and in the north, this was enhanced further by anti-Southern jingoism (which still exists today). That was a very different situation. Also, Clinton was black. -ish.

    or Democratic vilification of Reagan and George W. Bush.

    No. There is not a symmetry. I think we are beyond the symmetry idea. See my post on the latest gallup poll, when it comes up later today.

    (Keep checking back.)

    George Bush Sr. is oddly the only one who didn’t seem to arouse genuine and intense hostility from the other side.

    You must have been stoned. Maybe you are thinking of Gerry Ford.

  60. #61 amphiox
    September 15, 2009

    Obama a socialist?? Obama is a centrist.

    Only through the perception of a lunatic, or someone with no idea what the term “socialist” actually means, can Obama be considered to be a socialist.

  61. #62 D. C. Sessions
    September 15, 2009

    Only through the perception of a lunatic, or someone with no idea what the term “socialist” actually means, can Obama be considered to be a socialist.

    Or, paraphrasing the lovely reply: “I know socialists. Socialists are friends of mine. And BH Obama is no socialist.”

  62. #63 D. C. Sessions
    September 15, 2009

    Greg, I’ll stipulate that JW’s outburst was bigoted, racist, disrespectful of Congress, the President, and the American people. I’ll even give you a blank check for several other indictments without much worry that you’ll abuse them.

    Which still leaves the questions:

    1. Was his outburst effective in advancing the Republican Party’s objectives?
    2. Was the response (focusing on him to the exclusion of the President’s speech) wise?
    3. If the answer to (1) is “yes,” is the Republican Party likely to repeat the tactic?
    4. If the answer to (3) is “yes,” what are the likely outcomes?
    5. If the answer to (2) is “no” and (5) is “yes,” are the responses likely to change?
    6. If the answer to (5) is “no,” what can we say about “doing the same thing repeatedly expecting different results?”
  63. #64 Ron Hager
    September 15, 2009

    Wilson and all of the other rioting conservatives have one thing correct. That is; this is an all out war. The republicans and their allies know one thing, believe one thing and care about only one thing. And that is defeating Democrats and liberals FOREVER! They do not want to accommodate us, debate us or compromise with us, they want us DEAD and gone from the earth forever! When Democrats and liberals finally recognize this it will be when a sword has been thrust into us and it is far too late to respond. Mr. Obama has never recognized that and probably never will.

  64. #65 Geds
    September 15, 2009

    or Democratic vilification of Reagan and George W. Bush.

    Funny. I don’t recall Gee Dubs getting vilified until he’d actually done things that were, y’know, villainous. The left-wing protests against the Iraq War were far more civilized than the Town Hall meetings have been and I don’t recall Gee Dubs catching as much flak from the left at the six-month mark of his second term as Obama got in the first six months of his term.

    But, y’know, poh-tay-toh, poh-tah-toh. We’re only allowed to go after one side if we search and search for equivalences on the other. And the falser, the better, since it distracts us from the real issue.

    Honestly, the worst thing about the tu quoque argument is that all it does is derail the conversation. Even if it’s correct (which is rarely is), the implication that [this] wrong thing is okay because you did [that] similar wrong thing is asinine and stupid. And it’s not like we can solve the problems in the here-and-now by traveling back in time to fix the past.

    Then again, I think the wielders of the tu quoque usually know those things. They simply don’t care about the issue, only about making sure that they don’t have to admit to wrongdoing.

  65. #66 Stephanie Z
    September 15, 2009

    D. C., a couple of things. Whose response are you asking Greg to take responsibility for? The media’s? The blogosphere’s? His? Mine? They were all very different and compare differently to pre-speech behavior.

    And how is it a bad thing for Democrats and the administration if people appropriately associate with the outrageous responses they’re seeing? You looked at the Gallup poll, yes? That is not a good thing for the Republicans.

  66. #67 Greg Laden
    September 15, 2009

    DC: Those are all questions many people are asking themselves and each other right now.

    I think: 1: yes. Those objectives are dumb-ass objectives, but here is no doubt of what they are (look at what the party and it’s suporters spend their money on) and this was an advancement of those objectives.

    2: Yes. Remember that a big part of the news story is Obama’s down-regulation of the response.

    3: Not this exact tactic, you can only do that once, and it has nothing to do with the answers to 1 & 2

    4: If it was yes, it would just get boring.

    5: Now I’m bored with your questions.

    6: Too meta for me. Hopefully Stephanie will handle this.

  67. #68 Greg Laden
    September 15, 2009

    [66] Stephanie: Right, what she said.

  68. #69 Stephanie Z
    September 15, 2009

    Well, except for the part where it was supposed to be “appropriately associate racism with…”.

  69. #70 Paul S.
    September 15, 2009

    Regarding the equivalency argument, I see lots of assertions that “there is no equivalency” between current attacks on Obama and earlier attacks on other presidents by their political opponents – but I don’t see any real evidence. The fact of the matter is that pretty much anyone who has a strong view on a certain issue is going to give people who agree with them a lot more leeway when it comes to being rude, disruptive, or in some cases violent. This applies across the whole political spectrum.

    For the record, I am NOT defending Wilson’s conduct, which I think was inappropriate and deserves to be condemned. I am also not saying that “two wrongs make a right”. I am simply saying that I think that the partisan hostility toward Obama is nothing new, and nothing unique to Republicans or the political right.

  70. #71 Greg Laden
    September 15, 2009

    Paul: Let’s take it one item at a time. Enumerate the showing up at Republican rallies and presidential talks etc. by Democrats touting their loaded weapons.

    After we’ve established equivalence there, we can move on to the next bit of asshatery the Republicans are doing.

  71. #72 Stephanie Z
    September 15, 2009

    Paul, that’s not how evidence works. It’s not “no evidence there’s no equivalence.” People have pointed out unprecedented events. If you want to claim equivalence, you find equivalent events. Otherwise, you’re just telling us you’re relying on your feelings about people and not looking for anything to back them up.

  72. #73 Geds
    September 15, 2009

    Greg @#71: Enumerate the showing up at Republican rallies and presidential talks etc. by Democrats touting their loaded weapons.

    Oooh, oooh, I know! There was the one couple who showed up at the Bush rally carrying guns and got themselves arrested for their trouble.

    Oh, wait, no. They weren’t carrying guns. They were wearing anti-Bush t-shirts. If there were actual equivalences on that particular issue we’d be seeing a lot more gun owners suddenly deprived of their Second Amendment rights…

  73. #74 Deen
    September 15, 2009

    Paul S.: did you forget about this? The man who wants to give health care to everyone gets five times more death threats than the man who plunged the US into two wars (and still no WMD’s) and who’s administration endorsed torture – and you still don’t think there isn’t any evidence for asymmetry?

  74. #75 pzdummy
    September 15, 2009

    pz, i like to defecate all over your ugly blaspheming face…

    you will burn in hell, you deluded fool

    http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?topic=10050&uid=73673967160

  75. #76 Greg Laden
    September 15, 2009

    I do hope people will note this comment:
    http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2009/09/a_word_about_civility_joe_wils.php#c1936293

    and note the link to a facebook page. Which one could justifiably navigate to and hit the “report” button. If you want.

  76. #77 Paul S.
    September 15, 2009

    Paul, that’s not how evidence works. It’s not “no evidence there’s no equivalence.” People have pointed out unprecedented events. If you want to claim equivalence, you find equivalent events. Otherwise, you’re just telling us you’re relying on your feelings about people and not looking for anything to back them up.

    I would have thought that the burden of proof is on the people asserting that the Republicans are doing something uniquely terrible and unprecedented. When people start flinging around accusations of racism and accusing their opponents of being motivated by racism on the flimsiest of evidence, I can’t help but interpret it as an attempt to use fear and shame to shut down the debate.

  77. #78 Stephanie Z
    September 15, 2009

    Paul, calling the evidence flimsy doesn’t make it so. Nor does refusing to put up any counter-evidence look like taking the high road.

  78. #79 Greg Laden
    September 15, 2009

    Paul, you are not paying attention. Where do you get your news? Seriously?

  79. #80 Mike H
    September 15, 2009

    Paul, tred lightly, this realty based community takes its carefully crated mythology very seriously. You’re likely to lose a finger.

  80. #81 Paul S.
    September 15, 2009

    Paul, calling the evidence flimsy doesn’t make it so. Nor does refusing to put up any counter-evidence look like taking the high road.

    “Flimsy” is the polite way of putting it – “nonexistent” would probably be closer to the truth. A white Republican is rude to a black Democratic President. Therefore, he MUST be racist, goes the argument. Uh, no, maybe he’s just a jerk who has insufficient control of his temper – hardly a credit to his party, but not exactly the incarnation of evil either.

    Also, what is the point of dwelling on this one man’s behavior when (as a later post on this blog points out) most people on BOTH sides of the political spectrum agree that he acted like a jerk? The most logical reason for Democrats to bring up the racism charge and hammer it home again and again is that they are attempting a guilt-by-association tactic – Joe Wilson insulted Obama, Joe Wilson is a racist, Joe Wilson is opposed to universal healthcare, therefore anyone who is opposed to universal healthcare is a racist. It’s just a disgusting attempt to crush disagreement under a blanket charge of racism. That kind of thing really, really bothers me – and I think that universal healthcare would probably be a GOOD idea in the long run, although expensive as hell to the taxpayer.

  81. #82 Doug Alder
    September 15, 2009

    Greg – perhaps I was a tad unclear in how I phrased things. Wilson is a racist, and no doubt that provided some of the motivation for his “outburst”. I put that in quotes because something tells me this whole damned thing was planned by the RNC to continue to raise the specter of illegal immigrants feeding off of the overly high taxes of the poor middle class – in other words to promote their own lie. It’s really all they have left and we all know that what the GOP feeds on is fear. The loonies are in charge of the GOP now – the fringe extreme right wing is now the mainstream of the party and any Republican congress critter that does not go along will face nomination challenges with his/her opponent being supported by the party.

    I can easily see this whole thing being cooked up as a way to keep stoking the fires of anti-immigrant racism and who better to do it than a hardly known backbencher with a known history of racism.

    Just my two cents worth – I was not disagreeing with you , merely opining that Wilson’s racism was not the only reason and may not have been the primary reason.

  82. #83 Michael Ralston
    September 15, 2009

    A white republican with a history of associating with racist organizations and espousing racist positions is rude to a black democratic president, by accusing him of lying when he is not lying, and on a topic wherein the right wing stance is primarily racist.

    I mean, if it were during any part of the speech other than the one about immigrants, you’d have some room to talk.

    But you don’t.

  83. #84 Greg Laden
    September 15, 2009

    A white Republican is rude to a black Democratic President. Therefore, he MUST be racist, goes the argument

    Paul, that is not the argument. I do hope you took your allergy medicine today because that straw man could cause a lot of sneezing.

  84. #85 Geds
    September 16, 2009

    and note the link to a facebook page. Which one could justifiably navigate to and hit the “report” button. If you want.

    Done and done.

    Paul @ 81: It’s just a disgusting attempt to crush disagreement under a blanket charge of racism.

    And you make an extraordinary claim, which requires extraordinary proof. To wit: that anyone is claiming that there’s no such thing as legitimate opposition to Obama’s health care policies and that it is instead entirely racially motivated.

    There are legitimate reasons to be against Obama’s health care policies. However, there is also more than a little bit of racist undertone to the knee-jerk anti-Obama outrage coming from the right. The fact that the current poster child is a known racist with ties to a racist organization underscores the specific point: that there is an element to Obama’s opposition that is not at all concerned with rational discussion of the points but is, in fact, pissed that a black man is in office.

    The simple fact is that many people come in and say, “Well, this would still be happening if John Kerry or some other white guy were the one in office.” This is, as far as I can tell, not true. There’s been a measure of hatred directed at Obama since he tossed his hat in to the ring that I simply did not see directed against John Edwards or Kerry back in 2004. For that matter the right seems to hate Obama on a level that even Hillary Clinton hasn’t received. And the right has been hating her since 1992, so they’ve got lots of practice.

    Pointing out racism doesn’t detract from the argument. Find someone who’s making logical claims and they can be engaged. Nothing logical is coming out of the teabaggers and Joe Wilson chose to call Obama a liar on a point on which he was demonstrably not lying (a point, it must be noted, which is also rife with racism). There must, then, be something else behind the shouting and vitriol. Racism is an extremely logical conclusion to draw based on the character of those screaming the loudest.

    And racism is not something that can be allowed. We are not living in a post-racial nation and the election of Obama did not put all the issues to rest. If anything, it’s magnified the thing we’ve been trying so hard to ignore as a society.

  85. #86 Joolya
    September 16, 2009

    What I have learned from the comments thread of this remarkably astute post:

    People really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really don’t want to have to think about how racism is a factor that permeates almost every aspect of American culture and politics. Really.

    Why else would there be so much loophole-seeking for why Joe Wilson’s outburst might not really be racist this one particular time, even if maybe he, yeah, might sometimes be a little bit racist (or something) but surely this particular thing isn’t necessarily about race just because it sort of seems like it could maybe be racist …

    Is it because outing this [pretty obvious and clear-cut] case of racism puts people in the uncomfortable position of having to question a lot of things they’d rather not think about?

  86. #87 Stephanie Z
    September 16, 2009

    Joolya, yes.

  87. #88 Deen
    September 16, 2009

    Paul S: you’re really not helping your case by ignoring the evidence that has been pointed out to you. Do you really think that Republicans showing up armed at Democrat events is irrelevant? Or that the 400% increase of death threats between Bush and Obama doesn’t invalidate the idea that the hatred is symmetric? Seriously?

  88. #89 Deen
    September 16, 2009

    @Joolya: the other thing we learn is that according to many:
    1. Absence of racism should be the default assumption.
    2. Unless we have overwhelming proof of racism, we should always give the benefit of the doubt.
    Anything else would be irrational/uncivil.

    Unfortunately, the assumption of absence of racism is highly unlikely to be true for anyone. Nobody is completely free of bias, especially not unconscious bias. We all treat people who look “other” slightly differently – even though we might even treat them more nicely for it, rather than worse.

    But even if #1 was justified, clearly at some point you should stop giving people the benefit of the doubt. But when? When is a pattern clear enough to say that a particular person or group has the appearance against them? I’d say that the vilification of Obama by the right wing has passed that point quite a while ago.

    However, for some who posted here to complain about Greg’s post, it seems that unless a person or group explicitly says that they hate blacks, you should keep giving them the benefit of the doubt. And even then, I fully expect some to say, “well, yeah, THAT remark was racist, but that doesn’t mean THIS remark had anything to do with racism”…

  89. #90 John
    September 16, 2009

    A disrespect is still a disrespect I do not care wether it is racially or non racially pushed onto Joe Wilson he disrespected the Office and the President and all who were there for the Speech. This is another point you made your out burst among men of your peer and you can not Apologize in the same manner. If someone has to tell you to apologize then what you did you meant to do it and you did it to Hurt the President and the people of America there fore i say he is irrational and very barbaric his crass behaviour should have more than a slap on wrist. Senator you should be removed permanently old roman senator a disrespect to the Emperor marks for dire consequences.

    Finally, we have a black President and it is a change would you Joe Wilson make that out burst on President CLINTON, BUSH, CARTER or NIXON or RONALD REGAN.. I say putting the facts into its rightful place this out burst does play on the grounds of racism.

  90. #91 Paul S.
    September 16, 2009

    A couple of points:

    I generally think that you should give someone the benefit of the doubt before you assume that their actions are motivated by racism. If you are sure, it’s still better to say that the action itself is racist, not necessarily the person. Why? In this day and age, racism is one of the worst charges that can be leveled by one person against another in the “court of public opinion”. To call someone a racist puts them basically outside the boundaries of civilized discourse, and even of civilized society. It can destroy careers and reputations. It is a charge that is difficult to refute and that will probably stick with the person for the rest of their life if they are a public figure. Therefore, it should be made only with great care.

    The second major issue that bothers me is the “guilt by association” issue. Even if Wilson is a card-carrying bigot, the great prominence given to his otherwise insignificant outburst suggests a deliberate strategy of trying to smear all opposition to Obama and the Democrats with the brush of racism. The same thing applies to all of the emphasis being placed on the small numbers of openly racist people on the fringe.

    BOTH sides have upset me. I didn’t think that Obama’s election marked the “end of racism”, but I had hoped that it would mark the effective end of racism in national political discourse, and at the same time the end of the use of accusations of racism as a form of character assassination for political opponents. It is now abundantly clear that it has done neither.

  91. #92 octopod
    September 16, 2009

    Basically, the amount of civility demanded of a person should be directly proportional to the amount of privilege they have.

    Cool. I can get behind that. Hell, that’s how I try to operate already.

  92. #93 D. C. Sessions
    September 16, 2009

    Not really on topic, but consider this WRT the amount of racism on the table:

    Imagine a white dude who ran:

    1. Following the least popular administration in the 20th Century (and that includes Richard Nixon at the end)
    2. With the economy tanking into what looked like a replay of the Great Depression
    3. With a platform on health care supported by 70% of the US population;
    4. With a totally unprecedented amount of nickle-and-dime fundraising
    5. against a Republican candidate
      1. who, on election, would have been the oldest elected President ever;
      2. whose running mate was less prepared for high office than Paris Hilton (a heartbeat from the Presidency!);
      3. whose only claim to fame in a lifetime of employment by the United States Government was his time as a prisoner of war
      4. Who bungled the campaign, to the extent of showing “leadership” by doing nothing (including campaigning) while the economy collapsed.

    With all that going for him, BHO only drew a bit over 50% of the popular vote. Is there anyone who can say with a straight face that a white dude in the same circumstances wouldn’t have buried McSame like McGovern?

    PS: Greg, the ordered lists are nice but sometimes unordered ones are more appropriate. Just sayin’

  93. #94 Geds
    September 16, 2009

    With all that going for him, BHO only drew a bit over 50% of the popular vote. Is there anyone who can say with a straight face that a white dude in the same circumstances wouldn’t have buried McSame like McGovern?

    For the record, my very own grandmother, a lifelong Minnesota/Michigan/Illinoisan who, to the best of my knowledge had never before voted for a Republican candidate for so much as the office of County Toilet Licker, told me that she was going to vote for McCain. Why? Because the Mayor of Detroit, (y’know, the black dude who got all scandal-ed up) was a terrible mayor and therefore all black people were crooks. That was the entire argument.

    My grandmother isn’t necessarily flat-out racist in the stereotypical redneck sort of way. She can be uncomfortably racially insensitive, but I’ve never seen any indication that she thinks non-whites are inferior or should be treated like animals. She just told me that all black people are crooked administrators. Which is, most definitely, a form of prejudice and, since it’s based on race, a form of racism.

    Anecdote, of course, isn’t evidence, but I personally know one person who made that bizarre leap from the Democrat to the Republican side in 2008. And I know why she did it. And it wasn’t because she agreed with McCain’s policy proposals.

Current ye@r *