Backing Away From Blackface

Posted: Aug 03, 2006 4:17 PM
Yesterday, Jane Hamsher, a blogger closely affiliated with the Democratic primary campaign of Lieberman-challenger Ned Lamont, posted a Photoshopped illustration of Lieberman in blackface on Huffington Post.

The image has since been removed from the HuffPo without comment (apparently upon the Lamont campaign's request), but Michelle Malkin has a screen shot. Hamsher has offered a flippant apology for the picture, but it leans hard toward laying blame for the damage it did Lamont on-- gasp!-- the rightwing nuts who drew attention to her juvenile and offensive stunt.

To the extent that rightwing Republicans like Michelle Malkin are trying to harm Ned Lamont with this ginned up controversy by "defending" his opponent with these absurd charges of racism — I regret it and I invite them to take it up with the person who did it, namely me. I answer to nobody and I operate entirely on my own volition. If you have a problem with something I’ve written, you know where to find me.

But perhaps it’s also time people started asking why the Republicans suddenly feel they have a dog in this fight in the first place. First David Horowitz, then the College Republicans and now the rightwing blogosphere are all championing a particular Democrat in a Democratic primary. Perhaps they have come to admire what seem to be ever increasing Rovian tactics, such as that flyer accusing Lamont of being a racist (which inspired the satirical graphic in the first place.) Whatever it is, it certainly should give Connecticut voters pause as they consider whether they are really voting for a Democrat in the Democratic primary on August 8th.

One liberal blogger and Lamont supporter, Sundog at TPM Cafe, dismantles the unapology pretty handily.

One of Hamsher's commenters calls right-wing bloggers "bottom-of-the-barrell scumbags. White trash." Is the pot allowed to call the kettle white trash? We're not the ones celebrating an age-old, offensive minstrel-show graphic as legitimate political communication. Everyone knows that employing blackface-- joke or not-- is trashy.

Hamsher herself surely thought blackface inappropriate when Laura Bush merely made mention of a comedian famous for performing in blackface:

Ironically, liberal blogs such as Eschaton and TalkLeft have criticized the use of blackface in other settings. And even more ironically, Hamsher herself went ballistic last fall when first lady Laura Bush made a reference to comedian Eddie Cantor, who gained a following with his blackface routine.

"Does the first lady not know who Eddie Cantor was?" Hamsher wrote. "Or does she actually think it's appropriate to invoke a comedian famous for appearing in blackface when talking about minority students, and then crack wise about their erstwhile future as criminals?"

Hugh notes that Lamont tried to disown the blogs today, in an attempt to rid himself of the bad pub blackface jokes are wont to bring about (who knew?). But Lamont had Kos starring in his campaign commercials-- his real, TV ads. He knows the blogs he was getting coverage and support from and he knows exactly what they're about.

Hamsher is claiming she never worked for Lamont, but Michelle tracks the silliness of both parties' backtracking in the blackface diaries-- a comprehensive record of the netroots' and Lamont's close relationship.

Hamsher drove him around, shot his video blog, relocated to Connecticut to cover the race, so if she wasn't actually being paid, the relationship was, at the very least, cozy.

Hugh's new co-blogger Dean Barnett wonders, "if you lie down with blogs, do you get fleas?"

And Jane Hamsher isn’t just an anonymous member of the blogging hordes who supports Lamont. A producer of the Oliver Stone vehicle “Natural Born Killers,” Hamsher is apparently something of a fixture of the Lamont campaign apparatus. According to the Hartford Courant, “She was part of the entourage accompanying Lamont to New York on Monday for the taping of ‘The Colbert Report’ on Comedy Central.”...

THEN AGAIN, PERHAPS THERE’S MORE SINCERITY in Lamont’s claim that he doesn’t “know anything about the blogs” than there appears to be at first blush. Anyone with even a vague familiarity with the left wing blogs knows that they are capable of showing spectacularly poor judgment. Some of Moulitsas’ intemperate comments are legendary, and it’s not like he’s an outlier. The nature of the commentary in the progressive blogosphere is of a sort that any prudent politician would decline to identify himself with it. And yet the closeness between the Lamont campaign and the bloggers (suggested by Hamsher’s presence in his entourage and Moulitsas’ starring role in his campaign ad) indicates that Lamont had no such qualms.

So perhaps Lamont really “doesn’t know anything about the blogs.” That would provide one explanation for why he has so warmly embraced them. The other explanation is that Lamont in fact knows a lot about the blogs, but chose to lay with them anyway.

Neither explanation puts the candidate in a very positive light.

Lamont has been opening up a lead on Lieberman. One wonders if this will change that. It reminds me of Busby's late-game slip-up on immigration in California earlier this year (in that the Dems always seem to find a way to shoot themselves in the foot), but it isn't getting much attention at all outside of the blogosphere. The Post story linked above doesn't mention the incident. You think they might find room in the copy for that if it were a conservative blogger posting minstrel illustrations?

While Hamsher was painting Joe's face black, Lamont was on the road, campaigning in African-American churches with none other than Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. That's the same Jackson and Sharpton who have longer-ranging radar than the U.S. Navy, as long as they're looking for racial slights perpetrated by conservatives. Strangely, even though they were on the Lamont campaign when Hamsher's HuffPo post became an issue, they managed to miss the story.

Newsbusters has a whole list of other racial slurs folks like Jackson and Sharpton tend to ignore.

This kind of transparent hypocrisy on race issues is what turned me off about the Left at a very young age. It was long before bloggers came into the picture, of course, but the sentiment and the stunts were there. It was very obvious to me that the likes of Jackson and Sharpton only came to the racial rescue when the right people were offended, and they were happy to ignore race matters when the right people were in the wrong (the right people being the Left, of course).

Such behavior, though sometimes politically beneficial, does absolutely nothing to help race relations, and often exacerbates divisions.

See, for reference, Rush Limbaugh vs. Dusty Baker, in this old column I wrote on the Limbaugh/McNabb incident:
Make no mistake about it, the problem is not what was said, but who said it.

Limbaugh is a conservative, white man who, in the eyes of the overwhelmingly liberal media, has no right to talk about race. As soon as the word "black" comes out of his mouth, he's a racist.

On the other hand, if you're a minority or a liberal, you can say pretty much whatever you want and the press, ever the rooter-out of racism, has nothing to say about it.

Take Dusty Baker, who is black. The Chicago Cubs manager made some gross ethnic generalizations in July when he said:

"Personally, I like to play in the heat," he said. "It's easier for me. It's easier for most Latin guys and easier for most minority people.

"Your skin color is more conducive to the heat than it is to the light-skinned people, right? You don't see brothers running around burnt and stuff, running around with white stuff on their ears and nose and stuff."

And what did the press do? It didn't demand an apology; it didn't call Dusty a bigot.

In fact, very little was written about the incident. Conservative critics roared that white men would have lost their jobs for comments like that.

In fact, two white men already had.

In the late 80s, sports commentator Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder and Dodger executive Al Campanis were both fired for making racial statements very similar to Baker's.

And it's not just sports where racist remarks from minorities are treated with kid gloves.

New York City Councilman Charles Barron attended a reparations rally in Washington, D.C., in August 2002. The black councilman addressed a crowd of several thousand, including many reporters, saying: "I want to go up to the closest white person and say 'You can't understand this, it's a black thing' and then slap him, just for my mental health."

Hamsher and her co-bloggers at FiredogLake, Jackson, Sharpton, and the media would all go ballistic, and rightly so, if some righty blogger had blackfaced a politician. Hamsher calls this dust-up "manufactured," but these folks show the false nature of their own outrage when blackface is apparently socially acceptable political commentary for one side of the aisle. I mean, blackface? Seriously? And she defends it? Probably right before she bemoans the loss of civility in political discourse in these times.

No wonder more reasonable folks like Sundog are mad at her.

If I ever did a blackface post, I would hope the rest of the blogosphere would whoop my butt. And, if I tried to defend and excuse my use of blackface, I would hope the blogosphere would whoop my butt even harder. I think I can count on the right blogosphere to do that, and I know I can count on the liberal blogosphere to do it-- to me, but only because I'm conservative. Otherwise, minstrel away my friends.