I attended the Memorial service for Dr. and Mrs. John Hope Franklin yesterday, Thursday, June 11th, 2009. I am so glad I did. His work has informed my career from before my first year in college. I was mentored by professors who were mentored by Dr. Franklin. Academic work aside, Dr. Franklin was an amazing human being, and I will talk more about his influence in my life, in the field of American history, and as an activist in a later post.
Today, in the spirit of Dr. Franklin’s work to eliminate racism, I want to share with you this article from Media Matters about the media’s role in legitimizing racist, sexist, and homophobic attitudes–everything Dr. Franklin and his wife Aurelia fought against. Let me know what you think.
“What would Pat Buchanan have to say to get himself fired from MSNBC?”
In the weeks since President Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, one question has consumed the news media, particularly conservatives in the media: Imagine what would happen if a white man had said the reverse of Sotomayor’s famous (and famously distorted) “wise Latina” comment. Media commentators have insisted that such a white man would be denounced as a racist and run out of town on a rail.
That’s nonsense. First of all, Sotomayor’s actual comments were far more innocuous than the media’s portrayal of them would suggest; she was merely noting the importance of judicial diversity in cases involving discrimination, a sentiment that is consistent with statements by numerous prominent conservatives. Second, as Reason magazine’s Julian Sanchez has noted, “[I]t would be weird for a white man to say it because it’s probably not true that the experience of growing up as a white male in the United States specifically enhances one’s understanding of what it means to be a disfavored minority.”
Finally, the media debate over Sotomayor has provided a depressing reminder of what does happen to prominent white men who make racist, sexist, and homophobic comments: MSNBC, among others, puts them on payroll and trots them out to opine on matters of race and gender.
MSNBC’s history in this regard is well-known. The cable channel gave Michael Savage his own television show, and then had to fire him when he told a caller to “get AIDS and die.” It gave Don Imus a television show, and then had to fire him when he called members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos.” It gave Chris Matthews a television show on which he had to issue a bizarre apology after making one sexist comment too many. (No such apology has been forthcoming for his habit of suggesting minorities are not “regular” people.)
But through it all, MSNBC has continued to employ Pat Buchanan, despite a long record — which he builds on frequently — of bigoted speech. Throughout his time in public life, Buchanan has engaged in speech characteristic of an era in which open prejudice was the norm. And yet no one in the mainstream media bats an eye over the fact that he continues to enjoy a position of influence and prestige on what is increasingly — though not convincingly — described as a “liberal” cable channel.
Buchanan has used his position at MSNBC to lead the charge against Sotomayor with dishonest and often unhinged diatribes against the nominee. He even offered an ugly and misleading attack on her for doing exactly what he has always claimed to want non-native English speakers in America to do: practice their English language skills.
That MSNBC grants Buchanan such a platform is remarkable in light of the long history of bipartisan denunciation of him. In 1991, conservative icon William F. Buckley wrote in National Review that it was “impossible to defend Pat Buchanan against the charge that what he did and said during the period under examination, the military build-up for the Gulf War, amounted to anti-Semitism.” During Buchanan’s 1996 presidential campaign, he faced considerable media scrutiny of his views and statements, including an extremely contentious appearance on ABC that featured a grilling by conservative George Will and fellow Beltway insider Cokie Roberts. That same year, then-RNC chairman Rich Bond said Buchanan was “heading toward a low-road message of anger, hate and race-baiting.” During Buchanan’s 1999-2000 presidential campaign, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer said, “There’s no doubt he makes subliminal appeals to prejudice.”
For the rest go here.