Things You Hear on NPR: Conservatism Is Racist
January 23, 2013
Last fall, partly as a show of good faith, I promised to listen to NPR every other day (on odd-numbered days). (Of course I think you should make sure to get a balanced diet including at least some conservative media as well, lest you unwittingly allow yourself to sit in a self-reinforcing bubble of liberal prejudices.)
I have done so. I don’t have much time to listen to NPR (any more than I do to listen to conservative and Christian talk radio), but I now get a significant part of my news from NPR (and the BBC, and Public Radio International, and American Public Media, and whatever else comes across the local NPR station), as I did in high school.
NPR is pretty liberal, which of course is why I promised to listen to them in the first place. But the liberal news media do some pretty awful things sometimes.
Accordingly, today I introduce a new feature: Things You Hear on NPR. I’ll occasionally pass along something I’ve heard that struck me, usually as being over-the-top (or rather, below-the-belt) liberal, but perhaps occasionally also something surprisingly conservative (as in “Even NPR admits…”).
Today’s item comes from last November. Liberals have a habit of trying to delegitimize dissent from liberalism, to shut down the debate before it begins, by redefining various alternative points of view as “hateful” or otherwise beyond the pale. (I discuss this dynamic a little more here and here.) Demonstrating that it’s never too early, too late, or in too bad taste to call conservatives racist, NPR celebrated President Obama’s re-election the next day by wondering out loud whether it isn’t pretty racist to be concerned about government dependency or the size of the entitlement state.
Sam Fulwood, a fellow at the Center for American Progress, says what he calls subterranean racial referencing popped up a lot in this campaign.
SAM FULWOOD: We saw that a great deal with the attacks on welfare and other issues like that by people like Newt Gingrich who made a really overt effort at interjecting coded racial messages and language into the appeal but then backing away from it when called on it.
BATES: Things perceived as racist — from a congressman calling the president a liar during the joint session of Congress address, to candidate Romney chiding him to wait his turn during the second debate — are certainly insulting but not necessarily racist, says Tulane professor and MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY: Those sorts of things could happen. But when they happen and the president is black, it carries a different meaning.
When Newt Gingrich says he thinks something is wrong with one sixth of America being on Food Stamps, and suggests that the sitting president’s policies might have something to do with that, is that simply racist, or “not necessarily racist” but actually still racist anyway because the president is black? Is this racism “overt” or “coded”? NPR covers both sides, fair and balanced!
If you think NPR isn’t saying or doing anything wrong, but is only giving voice to some people with interesting opinions (not necessarily those of NPR), then tell me how you would feel if NPR were giving voice to other “interesting opinions”. Imagine this, for example:
BAITS: It was a sweet end to a campaign that many voters of pallor, especially white Americans, found bitterly divisive and tinged with race-baited code words. Several cited former New Hampshire Governor John Ioweyou, who called a white candidate lazy when talking to MSNBC’s Michelle Anders.
MICHELLE ANDERS: Governor, I want to give you a chance to maybe take it back. Did you really mean to call that Republican, an elected office holder and serious contender for the presidency, lazy?
JOHN IOWEYOU: Yes.
BAITS: Ioweyou was referring to the candidate’s lackluster performance in the first debate. But he seemed unaware that lazy is part of a hated negative stereotype, evoking painful memories of being lectured by condescending liberals about “jobs Americans won’t do”.
Sam Fullovit, a fellow at the Center for American Democracy, says what he calls subterranean racial referencing popped up a lot in this campaign.
SAM FULLOVIT: We saw that a great deal with the attacks on the rich and other groups by people like Barack Obama. When he says things like Romney has a “Swiss bank account”, it’s clear that what he really means is that Romney is evil because he’s white. It’s clear, but also subtle, but also overt, but also coded, red light, green light, here I’m just going to sing “Raindrops keep falling on my head” for a while to see whether you’re still paying attention—
BAITS: Things perceived as racist — from calling Romney “not one of us” to inserting Donald Trump’s jet into an anti-Romney ad ostensibly about education — are certainly insulting but not necessarily racist, says Tulane professor and MSNBC host Melissa Harry-Caray.
MELISSA HARRY-CARAY: Those might be legitimate criticisms if Romney were black. But when they happen and the candidate is white, it carries a different meaning.