Ta-Nehisi Coates' much-praised essay, "The Case for Reparations," that recently appeared in The Atlantic has given right-wing media a fresh opportunity to argue that the best way to address racially discriminatory laws or policies -- such as housing segregation -- is to never speak of them, let alone litigate them under civil rights law.
In Coates' essay, which ultimately calls for a congressional study on the long-term effects of the treatment of African-Americans in the United States, he explores the country's history of racism and oppression, from slavery to the Jim Crow laws to the present. Although right-wing media have been known to erroneously claim that racism is no longer a problem, the systemic effect of state and federal laws that favored whites and oppressed people of color is still felt today. As Coates explains, institutionalized oppression of black people was often sanctioned by the federal government, either through legislation that inadequately addressed racial discrimination or by agencies that propagated biased policies rooted in federal law. For example, agencies like the Fair Housing Administration often refused to insure mortgages in neighborhoods that they deemed unsuitable, perpetuating systematic housing segregation that in turn fueled other disparate racial impacts that continue today, such as separate and unequal schools. Despite the fact that redlining was outlawed in 1968 with the passage of the Fair Housing Act, the housing market is still hostile to black buyers and renters, even in neighborhoods that have taken steps to improve residential housing segregation.
Ultimately, Coates argues that the best way to even begin to evaluate how whether the government owes a debt for the generations of stolen wealth and opportunity it sanctioned would be to allow Rep. John Conyers' (D-MI) bill, HR 40, also known as the Commission to Study Reparations Proposals for African Americans Act, to proceed. The bill calls "for a congressional study of slavery and its lingering effects as well as recommendations for 'appropriate remedies.'" Conyers has introduced this bill -- which does not actually authorize the disbursement of any funds -- every year for the last 25 years, but it has never proceeded to the House floor. For Coates, HR 40 represents an opportunity to finally study the impact state-sanctioned discrimination has had and continues to have on black communities, and provide a vehicle for a "a serious discussion and debate ... we stand to discover much about ourselves in such a discussion."
But yet again, members of right-wing media have no interest in such a discussion.
Gun researcher John Lott is dishonestly accusing Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America of spreading "false information" over the gun violence prevention group's claim that the vast majority of female firearm homicides among high-income nations occur in the United States.
But the claim is true; a 2002 study (download) published in the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Women's Association found that among 25 high-income nations, the United States accounted for 84 percent of female firearm homicides but just 32 percent of the female population.
In a May 29 column for National Review Online, Lott offered false attacks to support his conclusion that "[t]he notion that gun violence disproportionately harms women does not hold up." According to Lott, "anti-gun group Moms Demand Action couldn't let the tragedy in Santa Barbara pass without interjecting more false information into the gun-control debate" by sharing the statistic "84% of female firearm homicides in 25 countries are in US."
Lott challenged the credibility of the statistic cited by Moms Demand Action, writing, "It is hard to see how Moms Demand Action could even make this comparison across all countries. Data from the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) allows you to break down murders either by the sex of the victim or by whether firearms are used, but it doesn't allow users to identify both these categories simultaneously."
However, the study didn't use UNODC data, but instead used data gathered by the World Health Organization.
Some in the media reacted to the killing spree in Isla Vista, California that claimed the lives of six victims with offensive or bizarre commentary.
On May 23, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger killed three people in his house with blunt or sharp objects before driving to a sorority house near the University of California, Santa Barbara. Outside that house he shot three women, killing two. He then shot to death a young man at a nearby convenience store. Rodger reportedly committed suicide with one of his guns, but not before killing six people and wounding 13 others.
Much attention has focused on a video uploaded by Rodger on YouTube where he describes his desire to kill women in a "day of retribution" against those who has refused his sexual advances and a 140-page manifesto that described his hatred towards the world and in particular women.
Media reactions to the killings included: A Fox News guest suggested the shooting was the result of "homosexual tendencies"; a Fox News contributor who blamed a "war on masculinity" for the killing spree; conservative commentators who lashed out at a victim's father who castigated the National Rifle Association during an emotional press conference; and a CNN reporter described Rodger's manifesto as "really well written" and compared it to a Dickens novel.
Writing at RedState.com, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson claimed that Rodger "lived the very lifestyle the cultural left thinks men should live" and that his actions were a consequence of a "war on masculinity." One of the features of this "war," according to Erickson, is that "[i]nstead of men and women complimenting each other, they're supposed to be perfectly equal even if they are not."
Best we can tell, Elliot Rodger lived the very lifestyle the cultural left thinks men should live and that is regularly glorified on the silver screen. For all the talk of a "War on Women," there has actually been a war on masculinity for a few decades. And more and more twenty-something young men are getting lost and acting out while society tries to find something new to replace the tried and true.
Society used to expect men to open doors, protect their families, and be champions of modesty and virtue. But chivalry is dead. Instead of men and women complimenting each other, they're supposed to be perfectly equal even if they are not. The hook up culture, instant gratification, and selfishness pervade our culture.
The Supreme Court will soon decide Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, a case that could let owners of for-profit, secular corporations ignore the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and provide health insurance that does not cover preventive benefits like contraception. Right-wing media continue to advance multiple myths to support the owners of Hobby Lobby, despite the fact that these arguments have been repeatedly debunked by legal experts, religious scholars, and medical professionals.
After a week of victim-blaming and dismissing campus sexual assault statistics, the National Review Online has doubled down on dismissing sexual violence on college campuses.
In a May 19 piece, National Review Online contributor A.J. Delgado claimed that women are being "brainwash[ed] into believing they were raped." Delgado cited a personal anecdote to make her point, arguing that, for a friend, "convincing herself she had been raped was a way of saving her dignity and avoiding the hurtful reality" of "regrettable sex." Delgado concluded by stating that "for every legitimate, actual rape claim there may be another that was not: a girl who cried rape."
From National Review Online (emphasis added):
Prominent scholars and activists now even define rape as including any sexual activity in which the woman is not sober, claiming that consent is never truly given if one has had a few drinks.
Admittedly, I am no scientist, but I am fairly certain that a statistically significant amount of sex -- including very enjoyable sex -- happens under the influence of alcohol. But by the liberal definition of my generation, I have been raped. Multiple times.
Are women themselves being taught to believe they were raped (the aforementioned "only sober consent is true consent!" notion)? Yes. And that, ironically enough, makes these women victims of liberal culture, too.
Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, and Amy ultimately decided against filing a report. (In case you're wondering, a week later she was still hunting down Steve -- the "rape" a far cry from her mind.) But how many Amys go through with it? And how many Steves have their reputations ruined, perhaps even their lives, with a false accusation? While it's easy to imagine Steve as a smirking, smug jerk, he was actually a hard-working guy from a poor family, at the university on a scholarship. Amy's accusation would have easily ruined his life.
For good reason, it is hard to forget Amy -- a reminder that, to the extent some in our society remain skeptical of rape claims, women themselves bear a share of the blame. After all, for every legitimate, actual rape claimm there may be another that was not: a girl who cried rape.
Right-wing media falsely claimed that newly released documents from Judicial Watch showed that Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) pressured the IRS to target conservative groups for additional scrutiny. Levin's letters simply show that he asked the IRS to hold both Democratic and Republican groups accountable to valid tax-exempt regulations, and he made his correspondence public record more than a year ago.
This week marks the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court's unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education, holding that state-mandated racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, and right-wing media have jumped at the chance to mislead about the case and its legacy.
On May 13, The Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed by former National Review Online contributor Abigail Thernstrom and her husband, Stephan Thernstrom, who misrepresented both the importance and legacy of Brown by declaring it "an American success story" and its promise "fulfilled," while pushing the myth that the U.S. Constitution is "colorblind." Because apartheid schools are now technically prohibited, the Thernstroms also dismissed statistics that show schools have been rapidly resegregating in recent years, called integration efforts "racist," and ignored the well-documented link between housing segregation and the growing separation of schools based on class and race. Instead, the Thernstroms blame "the differential fertility rates of immigrants and natives" for our separate and unequal schools.
This most recent attack is part of a larger right-wing pattern of denying the continuation of systemic racial discrimination and advocating for the rollback of half a century of civil rights precedent and legislation.
When conservative media discuss Brown at all, it is usually to misrepresent the case's condemnation of a racial caste system designed to maintain white supremacy in order to champion education policies like voucher programs and school choice, or take offensive shots at civil rights leaders. For example, when Louisiana's voucher program was scrutinized for violating several long-standing desegregation orders, outlets like National Review Online compared Attorney General Eric Holder to segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace, famous for blocking the University of Alabama's doors to black students in the wake of the Brown decision.
Similarly, this purportedly colorblind right-wing media have criticized race-conscious educational initiatives designed to eliminate racial biases that perpetuate the stigma of inferiority that Brown condemned. When the Department of Justice announced new disciplinary guidelines intended to prevent racially discriminatory punishments in public schools, Fox News characterized the new rules as "bringing race into it," a promotion of race-based punishments, and were tantamount to "playing the race card." NRO agreed with Fox's assessment of the new guidelines, and went even further, claiming that black students have "weak impulse control" that "means more disruptive behavior in school." Of course, these outlets glossed over the fact that black students are disproportionately more likely to be punished, and even arrested, for minor and nonviolent infractions at school, whereas their white counterparts are often never disciplined for the same behavior.
But what this vitriol chooses to ignore is just how resegregated public schools have become, leading to racial and socio-economic isolation and heightened racial tensions in higher education. This problem is only compounded as federal courts have lifted long-standing desegregation orders or failed to actively enforce those still in existence. As reported by ProPublica's Nikole Hannah-Jones, there are still hundreds of districts under a federal desegregation order. Many of those schools, however, have no idea that they're under orders or what the order says, and the courts are "releasing districts from court oversight even where segregation prevails, at times taking the lack of action in cases as evidence that the problems have been resolved."
As the Obama administration prioritizes efforts to curb sexual violence on college campuses, National Review Online responded by spending the week victim-blaming and dismissing the epidemic of sexual assault.
Right-wing media have criticized the Obama administration's participation in the #BringBackOurGirls Twitter campaign to raise awareness about the recent kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls, claiming that "hashtag diplomacy" is not enough. But these allegations ignore the fact that the administration has offered Nigeria assistance from the start, and has sent a team of specialists to aid the search.
National Review Online pushed the baseless myth that gay men prey on youth, arguing that unlike relationships between much older men and younger women, "May-December creepiness" between gays gets a free pass.
In a May 8 post for NRO (subtitled, "In a culture where everybody's outraged about everything, old gay cradle robbers are A-OK."), Christine Sisto took note of the controversy surrounding an affectionate photo of 13-year-old Willow Smith and 20-year-old actor Moises Arias, which got her thinking about the gays:
However, reading about Willow and her eagerness to grow up, I cannot help but think, "Why are we surprised?" In a recent edition of "Civilities," the Washington Post's advice column "covering LGBT and straight etiquette," a concerned mother asked for advice about her 19-year-old son, who just came out to her about his homosexuality and his boyfriend, a man 20 years his senior.
The desperate mother asks for advice, pointing out that this man began dating her son when he was still in high school. She explicitly says, "I think he's a predator. . . . Please help!"
[Washington Post advice columnist Steven] Petrow basically advises the mother not to worry so much because these age gaps in homosexual relationships can be common. That may be true, but why is it okay? I'm sure if society didn't frown upon it, straight relationships between fifty-year-old men and 15-year-old girls would be common as well. As it stands now, a relationship between a female high-school senior and a male in his late 30s or early 40s would strike many people as, if not technically illegal, at least pretty creepy. It's certainly hard to imagine such a heterosexual relationship getting the "Who are we to judge?" treatment from a Post advice column.
The mother's letter to the Post stated that her 19-year-old son and his partner met "last year," meaning that her son would have reached the age of consent by the time the two men began a relationship. Nevertheless, Sisto saw fit to compare a consensual relationship between two adult men to what many consider inappropriate displays of affection between an adult male and adolescent female.
Sisto's post relies on the old, discredited trope that gay men are predatory child molesters. While there's no factual basis for the claim that gay men are disproportionately likely to prey on youth, the myth persists in right-wing media and among anti-gay hate groups.
Following the kidnapping of Nigerian school girls by terrorist group Boko Haram, right-wing media are rushing to smear former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for not designating the group a foreign terrorist organization (FTO), insinuating that the kidnappings might have been prevented had the State Department issued the designation earlier. The baseless attack ignores the facts around FTO designations and foreign affairs.
Washington Post columnist and National Review Online contributor George Will has found yet another legally dubious lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to champion.
At issue in this new lawsuit, which will be heard by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on May 8, is whether the ACA was passed in violation of the "Origination Clause" of the U.S. Constitution. Article I, Section 7 says that "All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other bills."
Will, who apparently never met a far-fetched anti-ACA lawsuit he didn't like, dedicated his NRO column on "Obamacare's Doom" to this latest right-wing challenge. Because the Supreme Court ultimately held that the individual mandate of the ACA -- a bill drafted in the Senate -- was a tax, Will is convinced that "this surely makes the ACA a revenue measure" and therefore runs afoul of the Origination Clause. Will continued:
In June 2012, a Supreme Court majority accepted a, shall we say, creative reading of the ACA by Chief Justice John Roberts. The court held that the penalty, which the ACA repeatedly calls a penalty, is really just a tax on the activity -- actually, the nonactivity -- of not purchasing insurance. The individual mandate is not, the court held, a command but merely the definition of a condition that can be taxed. The tax is mild enough to be semi-voluntary; individuals are free to choose whether or not to commit the inactivity that triggers the tax.
The "exaction" -- Roberts's word -- "looks," he laconically said, "like a tax in many respects." It is collected by the IRS, and the proceeds go to the Treasury for the general operations of the federal government, not to fund a particular program. This surely makes the ACA a revenue measure.
Did it, however, originate in the House? Of course not.
Two years ago, the Supreme Court saved the ACA by declaring its penalty to be a tax. It thereby doomed the ACA as an unconstitutional violation of the origination clause.
But Will ignores some key facts about the legislative process -- not to mention one-hundred-year-old Supreme Court precedent. Will's Obamacare doomsday device is actually a routine and bipartisan Congressional practice: the use of a "shell bill."
In response to the Department of Justice's decision to collect demographic data on police stops, arrests, and convictions to address potential racial biases, National Review Online contributors Heather Mac Donald and Roger Clegg baselessly accused the Department of Justice of attempting to "racialize criminal justice."
On April 28, the DOJ announced a new initiative that will allow local law enforcement agencies to compete for federal grant money to implement a data collection program that could help reduce racially discriminatory and unconstitutional police procedures. According to Reuters, the program hopes to specifically address the fact that "black men were six times more likely, and Latino men were 2.5 times more likely, to be imprisoned than white men in 2012."
Mac Donald, who is not shy about her incredibly offensive views on race, has previously argued that young black males possess a "lack of impulse control that results in ... mindless violence on the streets." In a recent column for NRO, Mac Donald argued that the DOJ's initiative "fingered as bigots not just the police, but the entire criminal-justice system" by attempting to address already documented racial discrimination.
Mac Donald also claimed that the DOJ's decision to collect demographic data on police stops and arrests was "part of the Obama administration's war on phantom racism, a colossal waste of taxpayer resources and a depressing diversion from the real problems affecting black and Hispanic populations." Mac Donald went on to ignore the constitutional violations associated with race-based policing, arguing that law enforcement's attention should remain focused on people of color because black teenagers "commit homicide at ten times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined." Ultimately, argued Mac Donald, the DOJ's initiative "will have no effect on crime," but it will "inhibit sound policing."
In response to Mac Donald, fellow NRO contributor and anti-civil rights activist Roger Clegg declared in an April 30 post that "of course Heather is right." Clegg went on to suggest that people of color who have been unconstitutionally targeted by the police should simply stop breaking the law:
Now, I'm not persuaded that there is widespread discrimination in drug-law enforcement either, but let's assume that there is. What should be done about it?
Step 1: Do not use, buy, or sell illegal drugs.
Step 2: If you belong to a racial or ethnic group that you think is targeted by the police, then especially do not use, buy, or sell illegal drugs.
Now, it may be objected that it is unfair if the police let white kids buy, use, and sell illegal drugs more than black and Latino kids. True, but when you think about it, it's really not a good idea to buy, use, or sell illegal drugs anyway.
At no extra charge, I will also provide another suggestion, for members of all racial and ethnic groups:
Step 3: Instead of using, buying, and selling illegal drugs, spend that time doing homework or something else that will improve your mind and character rather than destroy them.
National Review Online contributor Jonathan Adler came to the defense of South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen after the Republican Governors Association ran advertisements attacking Sheheen's past as a criminal defense attorney. But NRO supported the successful efforts to smear Debo Adegbile, President Obama's choice to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, for supervising the appeal of a death row inmate's unconstitutional sentence.
Earlier this month, the Republican Governors Association released a pair of ads that attacked Sheheen, a Democrat, because he "made money off criminals," and "represented others charged with violent acts." Although other right-wing outlets began referring to Sheheen as "the molester's lawyer," Adler quickly condemned both ads. Adler, who also contributes to The Washington Post's libertarian legal blog the Volokh Conspiracy, called the ad "contemptible." He went on to explain that it was "shameful" to "attack [Sheheen] for defending those who, however horrific their crimes, needed a legal defense. A lawyer is responsible for his or her own conduct, and is not responsible for the sins of the client." Adler repeated his condemnation of the ad in a blog post at NRO, writing that "the adversary legal system relies upon the willingness of lawyers to represent even the most unpopular or unpalatable clients." He continued:
Unfortunately it seems that the attack ad specialists at the Republican Governors Association never learned these lessons, as they have produced two ads assailing South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen for having represented criminals when he worked as a criminal defense attorney. I have no doubt these ads are effective, but they are also wrong. Attorneys should not be vilified because they were willing to represent those who needed a defense, and we should fear a system in which such representation can come at the cost of one's political career.
The American Bar Association, the South Carolina Bar Association, and the former South Carolina Attorney General and former chair of the Republican Attorneys General all agreed with this condemnation of the RGA's attack on a "fundamental tenet" of American justice. In fact, the ABA has been consistent on this basic principle, having recently seen no difference in the respective attacks against Sheheen and Adegbile.
Adegbile, like Sheheen, faced serious opposition from conservatives who attacked his previous work as the head of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF). But right-wing media went even further in his case, personally subjecting Adegbile to racialized attacks and largely misrepresenting his legal record in advance of the vote on his nomination.
Unlike Sheheen, Adegbile did not have a notable defender like Adler during his confirmation process. Adegbile was attacked by Fox News and other right-wing media figures for being a "cop-killer's coddler," and a "cop-killer advocate," because a group of attorneys at LDF represented death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal on appeal. Although LDF lawyers were successful in overturning Abu-Jamal's death sentence due to a constitutional violation in his sentencing, they were not litigating his guilt, and he remains in prison for life. Nevertheless, conservative media were quick to portray Adegbile's criminal defense work as "political" because of his client's past crimes and the statements and actions of an entirely different civil rights attorney.
Right-wing media are seizing on the story of a lesbian "throuple" to falsely suggest that legalizing same-sex marriage inevitably leads to the acceptance and legalization of polygamy.
On April 23, the New York Post reported that Doll, Kitten, and Brynn Young, three Massachusetts women in a polyamorous relationship, were expecting their first child after uniting in an August 2013 commitment ceremony. Conservatives pounced on the story as evidence that once the institution of marriage is made available to gay couples, polygamy is a logical consequence.
Fox News' Todd Starnes set the tone for the right-wing reaction to the story with an April 23 Facebook post declaring that "[w]hen you redefine marriage - it's anything goes":
Erick Erickson's RedState.com offered a similar take, with contributor streiff calling polygamy "the logical and foreseeable consequence" of the push for marriage equality, which the post argued made marriage "a means for satisfying the libido." Likewise, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) predicted a rash of similar stories "in the wake of same-sex 'marriage.'"
Writing for First Things, NOM co-founder Robert George asserted that seeing marriage as a "sexual-romantic companionship" rather than a "conjugal bond" formed to produce children left no good reason to oppose "polyamorous sexual ensembles of three or more persons." Similarly, right-wing website LifeSiteNews wondered whether the throuple's story portended "the next marriage redefinition."