Taranto responds, calls me a racist

Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

I don't really understand James Taranto, and his response to my blog post on his claim that Democrats invent Republican racism to trick African-Americans into voting for them hasn't done much to ameliorate that situation.

To recap -- Taranto postulated the following theory on racial politics: "To keep blacks voting Democratic, it is necessary for the party and its supporters to keep alive the idea that racism is prevalent in America and to portray the Republican Party ... as racist." I argued that this theory is actually quite insulting to black voters, since it implies that they are not capable of recognizing real racism and presupposes that black voters are motivated primarily by racial sentiments. Here's what I wrote, word for word:

First and foremost, it's remarkably insulting. The implication of Taranto's theory is that African-Americans aren't sophisticated or observant or intelligent enough to know real racism when they see it, and are thus continuously duped en masse into voting for Democrats. It couldn't be the case that black voters actually care about issues and have real reasons for voting Democratic, they're just puppets who are motivated by racial sentiments that Democrats prey upon. Taranto and his pals at Fox & Friends might think they're attacking the Democrats, but they're actually demeaning black voters.

Taranto, in his response, seized on this paragraph -- actually, one sentence in this paragraph -- to call me a "racist":

MediaMutters' suggestion that black voters are "just puppets" is racist and repugnant. In this day and age, one hesitates to dignify such a foul idea by rebutting it, but since MediaMutters raised it, here goes: Black voters are just like other voters. They make their decisions based on a combination of reason and emotion--and on elevated emotions as well as base ones. (The item MediaMutters is attacking attributed black support for President Obama in part to "pride in the first black president," which we called "a normal and wholesome attitude.")

This doesn't so much reveal my "racism" as it does Taranto's willful obtuseness and staggering lack of reading comprehension. When I wrote that paragraph, I did a neat little trick that writers often employ -- I broke up a single thought into two sentences, using one to build upon the other. I know this is complicated, but stick with me here. Let's highlight those two sentences again, just so there's no confusion:

The implication of Taranto's theory is that African-Americans aren't sophisticated or observant or intelligent enough to know real racism when they see it, and are thus continuously duped en masse into voting for Democrats. It couldn't be the case that black voters actually care about issues and have real reasons for voting Democratic, they're just puppets who are motivated by racial sentiments that Democrats prey upon.

You see, in the first sentence I make clear that I'm discussing the implication of Taranto's theory, and in the second, I switch from simply stating said implication to characterizing it (characterization -- another fun writer's trick!) The overall effect of these two masterfully crafted sentences is to convey to the reader that Taranto is suggesting that black voters are puppets. As such, they fit nicely into the overall theme of the paragraph -- that Taranto's theory is "insulting" and "demeaning."

Or we can look at this a different way. In his response, Taranto accuses Media Matters of being "a formally independent group that produces propaganda for the Democratic Party." If that were true, why on earth would I assert that Democrats "prey upon" the "racial sentiments" of black voters? That pretty well violates propaganda rule #1 -- don't attack the people for whom you're supposed to be propagandizing. Come to think of it, that should have been the first red flag for Taranto that I was not calling black voters "puppets."

But, of course, it's easier for Taranto to simply call me a "racist" than to actually respond to my arguments. And since it appears he's incapable of reading beyond a fourth-grade level, perhaps it was his only option.

UPDATE: Taranto's argument is actually a little more nuanced than simply calling me a racist -- he's saying that I'm imputing my racist ideas to him, which, as he sees it, validates his theory in the first place. There's no way to prove that I really don't spend my free time dreaming up racist thoughts to attribute to conservatives, so I'll instead touch on the intellectual vacancy of Taranto's theory.

He's essentially crafted for himself and other Republicans a free pass on racial insensitivity. My interpretation of his theory was that it was insulting to black voters. Taranto responds to this by saying that I'm a racist because I'm accusing him of racism, when in fact he lauded African-American "pride in the first black president" as "a normal and wholesome attitude." See? Not racist!

It's a win-win for Taranto -- if I respond or keep schtum, I'm still the racist.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Race & Ethnicity
Person
James Taranto
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