Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Gaslighting and Button Pushing, Spotting BS a mile away...

In my penultimate post I wrote about the kerfuffle over the ultra-right's latest bogyman, the teaching of "Critical Race Theory" (CRT) in our schools. Just as Donald Trump in 2016 used immigration (an issue older than this nation), as a lightning rod to instill fear and loathing among the potential voters who would become his base, today's Trumplicans have come up with another "new" threat which has also been around for quite some time. Much like the immigration "crisis" of 2016, they portray CRT as having the potential to destroy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as we know it. 

In other words as many have suggested, if you can't find a real issue to debate, make one up.

Once again, CRT is a school of thought based upon the principle that racism is endemic in our society. Here's a good explanation from this article in the site "Education Week":

The core idea is that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.

One doesn't have to be in perfect lock-step with every idea coming out of the mouths of CRT proponents, I certainly am not. But unless you are ignorant of or in complete denial of our racist past including slavery, Jim Crow, forced segregation, as well as ongoing events such as racial profiling, the epidemic of police shooting unarmed black people, and states' disenfranchisement of minority voters under the deceitful pretext of eliminating virtually non-existent voter fraud,  (just to name a handful of injustices all of which at one time or other were deemed perfectly "legal"), it's hard to argue with that basic tenet of Critical Race Theory.

Yet the idea of teaching our children that this country's history and present are not entirely rosy is unacceptable for many, and yet another made-up crisis is hoisted upon us by the opinion shapers of the ultra-right.

I just came across an article written by David Limbaugh, yes indeedy the little brother of the late bombastic darling of the Trumplicans, Rush Limbaugh.

The Little Limbaugh's commentary is yet another diatribe from the ultra-right. It's filled with themes, images and words of doom, all designed to push the buttons and gaslight vulnerable white Americans into believing that everything they hold near and dear to their hearts is under attack from those disgraceful, godless, lefty, progressive Democrats.

I'm going to reproduce the Limbuagh piece in its entirety with my comments interspersed in red. 

The title of the article is: "Who Are the Real Bullies on Race?" 

PUSHED BUTTON NUMBER ONE: Race is a button for all Americans regardless of their ideology, and "racist" is still considered one of the most damning accusations of our day. A constant theme in the battle against CRT for example is that it is nothing more than reverse racism, and that white people are actually the victims of it. Obviously the "real bullies on race" according to Limbaugh, are the not the people for whom this article was intended.

At the top of the piece as published in the ultra-right webiste, GOPUSA, is this image of the American flag, along with the text that surrounds it. 

PUSHED BUTTON NUMBER TWO: Nothing arouses the sentiments (and other parts) of the ultra-right than the image of Old Glory flapping in the breeze. What it actually stands for is another thing.

PUSHED BUTTON NUMBER THREE: The mere mention of Black Lives Matter, a loose collection of folks dedicated to promoting the idea that black lives are just as important as other people's lives, sends shivers up and down the spines of the ultra--right-white, who see them unjustifiably as a terrorist organization bent on the destruction of truth, justice and the American way.

Put these two buttons together and you have for some, the image of black terrorists destroying everything god-fearing white Americans value by golly.

Wow, three buttons already pushed and the article hasn't even started yet! 

OK here's Limbaugh's piece. Remember, he's in black, I'm in red (until otherwise noted):

As absurd, extreme and reckless as the American left has been on race, and despite growing public disapproval of their antics, they are doubling down rather than pulling back.

GASLIGHTING EXAMPLE NUMBER ONE: Where exactly is the evidence that there is "growing public disapproval" of the American left's "antics" on the issue of race? I'll get to that in a minute.

On the Fourth of July, Utah’s Black Lives Matter chapter described the American flag as “a symbol of hatred.”

“When we Black Americans see this flag we know the person flying it is not safe to be around,” it declared. “When we see this flag we know the person flying it is a racist. When we see this flag we know that the person flying it lives in a different America than we do. When we see this flag, we question your intelligence. We know to avoid you. It is a symbol of hatred.”

OK here I have to push back on the comment that everyone who flies the American flag is a racist. That is an extreme opinion which I do not hold. Of course my opinion on this subject is understandable, I'm white not black.

The reality of the black experience in America is much different from the white experience. Not willing to accept that as Limbaugh clearly does not, is as good an argument for the teaching of CRT in our schools as any I can think of.

Here is what Jackie Robinson, today universally revered and referenced by both black and white Americans, quite unlike during his lifetime, had to say about the flag shortly before he died:

There I was, the black grandson of a slave, the son of a black sharecropper, part of a historic occasion, a symbolic hero to my people. The air was sparkling. The sunlight was warm. The band struck up the national anthem. The flag billowed in the wind. It should have been a glorious moment for me as the stirring words of the national anthem poured from the stands. Perhaps, it was, but then again, perhaps, the anthem could be called the theme song for a drama called The Noble Experiment. Today, as I look back on that opening game of my first World Series, I must tell you that it was Mr. Rickey’s drama and that I was only a principal actor. As I write this twenty years later, I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world.

Lex Scott, the chapter’s founder, was hardly sorry when called out on the statement. “Ever since we put up the post, our page has been flooded with hatred from people who fly the flag,” said Scott. “And we want to thank those people for proving our point.” It seems that all flag-waving patriots are to be lumped in with the Ku Klux Klan, because according to Scott, the Klan “proudly” waves the flag at their rallies. I’m sure it would never occur to Scott that her categorical smear smacks of the same type of shameful mindset that drives racism.

GASLIGHTING EXAMPLE NUMBER TWO:  The KKK is the ultimate symbol of white supremacy and abject evil in the United States and the image of its hooded members waving the American flag certainly is a powerful symbol to all Americans, especially black Americans. Again as he does so often in this piece, Limbaugh demonstrates his refusal to show even the slightest bit of empathy for his fellow Americans who happen to be black. Rather he turns the tables and again claims white victimhood as here he compares BLM to the KKK.

Scott’s statements are not representative of the left, you say? Well, how often have you heard a progressive condemn or even mildly criticize Black Lives Matter? Have you ever heard one criticize its Marxist roots? Aren’t you more likely to see leftists defending the organization and imploring us to understand its genuine grievances?

PUSHED BUTTON NUMBER FOUR: Ah that old bugaboo, Marxism!!! I'm guessing from the way this paragraph was written, Limbaugh is saying the "genuine grievances" of the group he labels as "Black Lives Matter" are dishonest, suspect and devious, i.e.: they're not really interested in civil rights and justice for black people as they say but rather only in turning this country into a totalitarian Marxist/Communist state.

GASLIGHTING EXAMPLE NUMBER THREE: As for the left (or anyone for that matter) criticizing BLM, once again there is no one target group to criticize called Black Lives Matter, rather an amorphous collection of groups and individuals with different goals and agendas, all unified by the slogan, Black Lives Matter.  That slogan by the way is a favorite target of the ultra-right as they like to read into it as if it means the only lives that matter are black ones. 

That reading is willful ignorance, pure and simple as it has been stated time and again from people who embrace the slogan, that for centuries, and some would say even today, black lives quite literally have not mattered in this country. Refusal to accept this simple fact is yet another example for the need of an honest account of race to be a regular part of the curriculum in schools all over this country.

And yes, there is plenty to question and criticize members of the various BLM movements for such as the blanket statement that all people who fly the American flag are racists. I just did it above. 

It’s not just Black Lives Matter — not by a long shot. Pretty much the entire leftist freight train is steamrolling its way through our cultural, educational and media institutions — even our bar associations (Heavens to Betsy NO, NOT OUR BAR ASSOCIATIONS!!!) — not to stamp out actual racism but to ensure that it thrives, to force people to obsess on it as much as they do and to divide us as a people along racial lines.
GASLIGHTING EXAMPLE NUMBER FOUR: No it's not the Trumplicans actively fighting to preserve monuments to the Confederacy, bending over backwards to deny minorities the right to vote, and fighting tooth and nail to deny that racism has been part and parcel of life in this country for centuries who are dividing the country along racial lines. It is the people who seek to give our children an honest reckoning of this nation's difficult history and "obsess" about issues like justice for all who are doing the dividing. 

That is one hundred percent unadulterated bullshit.  

A friend’s son was given an assignment in a university writing class requiring him, essentially, to explain why white people are privileged and bad. You can nitpick over my words, but you’ve surely heard similar stories. "You can nitpick over my words"??? In other words what he just said was at best an exaggeration, or at worst, made up. But be careful that you don’t confirm that you’ve heard of such experiences lest you be accused of “white fragility,” you know, the unwillingness to condemn yourself as a racist for what others may or may not have done, and your audacity in disputing the narrative. Just imagine being wrongly accused of one of the most egregious sins imaginable and lifting one of your pinkies in self-defense. How dare you!

This is the only honest part of the whole piece. Yes, any person who has issues with learning the truth about the past, especially if it paints one's ancestors in a bad light, suffers from fragility, regardless of their race, creed or color.  Funny, and I thought it was the Trumplicans who love to criticize the other side for being "snowflakes". 

The truth is, we all have much to learn. Confronting, challenging and correcting centuries' worth of mistakes and shortcomings including one's own racism (yes I'm as guilty as much as anyone), is part of being human and hopefully making oneself a better person. Who would have a problem with that? Well obviously David Limbaugh does. 

Consider a less anecdotal example. American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten asserted that many GOP legislators “are bullying teachers (on the subject of race) and trying to stop us from teaching students accurate history.” She shared her views during a livestreamed conference billed as “How to Be an Antiracist.” This teacher’s union has some 1.7 million members, incidentally.

Illustrating her formidable skill at projection, she allowed that these Republicans might just be trying to “raise the temperature on race relations because of the next election.” Even more delusionally, she claimed that “culture warriors are labeling any discussion of race, racism or discrimination as (critical race theory) to try to make it toxic” — as if conservatives launched the so-called culture wars, and as if we are the ones toxifying society through endless, fraudulent stereotypical racial smears.

GASLIGHTING EXAMPLE NUMBER FIVE: Interesting that the subject of projection comes up. If the Trumplicans are masters of anything, it's projection. Remember in one of the 2016 presidential debates when Hillary Clinton accused Donald Trump of being a puppet of Vladimir Putin? Trump might as well have said "I'm rubber and you're glue, what bounces off me sticks to you." What he actually said was "I'm not a puppet, you're a puppet." In fact virtually every charge he has ever leveled against someone during his public life was something he was clearly guilty of himself.  Here the Little Limbaugh as projector, is projecting projection. What do you call that. projection squared or cubed?

Apparently, Weingarten is outraged that 26 states — so far — have introduced bills or taken other action to limit or ban the teaching of critical race theory in public schools. She’s not alone. The National Education Association just passed a resolution to “fight back against anti-CRT rhetoric.” The stated intent of the broader resolution — New Business Item 39 — is to share and publicize research that “critiques empire, white supremacy, anti-Blackness, anti-Indigeneity, racism, patriarchy, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, anthropocentrism, and other forms of power and oppression at the intersections of our society.” Orwell was obviously a piker.

DISINGENUOUS LITERARY REFERENCE: Here Limbaugh is obviously referring to George Orwell's distopian novel Nineteen Eighty Four

Nineteen Eighty Four is famous in part for the terms the author coined for the novel, many of which have found their way into popular English lexicon. Terms such as "Unperson", "Thoughtpol" (short for Thought Police), "Newspeak", "Doublethink", "Memory Hole", and the most well known, "Big Brother", are all euphemisms describing chilling aspects of the totalitarian regime featured in the novel.

The impressive list of  "isms" and "archies" cited above by the NEA resolution does indeed contain a few doozies, (I had to look up cisheteropatriarchy), but they're all universally accepted terms describing various forms of power and discrimination, not words made up for effect or irony.

In a deeper sense, like comparisons to Hitler, claiming one's political adversary has totalitarian tendencies has become quite commonplace, sometimes to the point of irrelevance. To ultra-right pundits like the brothers Limbaugh, policies like universal healthcare, mask mandates during a pandemic, and specifically here, the idea that history be taught honestly from several points of view, not just the Eurocentric one, are all examples of progressive totalitarianism. 

To the other side, the exPOTUS's deference toward brutal dictators such as Erdogan, Putin and Kim Jung Un, his rejection of a free and by all accounts (except his) fair election which he lost decisively, and his executive order banning the teaching of Critical Race Theory in the schools, can be said to be examples of totalitarianism of a different sort.    

Perhaps the most significant comparison of the exPOTUS's regime to the one in Orwell's novel, is its insistence that the one and only arbiter of the truth is the leader himself. Anything that contradicted the exPOTUS was in his words "fake news", a term that might rival Orwell's were it not so artless and unoriginal.  

It was the exPOTUS's minion, Kellyanne Conway, who early in the administration came up with the most Orwellian of terms when she told an interviewer who confronted her about her boss's famous penchant for lying: "well there are facts, and then there are 'alternate facts.'"

The NEA also allocated $56,500 to “research organizations attacking educators doing anti-racist work.” And they want to talk to us about bullying?

These progressive educators don’t think it’s appropriate for parents to stand up against teaching ideas euphemistically dressed up as “accurate history” even though poll after poll shows that a strong majority of Americans have a negative view of critical race theory?

GASLIGHTING EXAMPLE NUMBER SIX: OK this brings us back to the issue brought up before that there is "growing public disapproval" of the teaching of Critical Race Theory in this country. It shouldn't come as any surprise that polls have more Americans not liking CRT, as the issue has been harped upon incessantly by the ultra-right media, which is the only source of news for the vast majority of Trumplicans. By contrast, reputable media outlets (1) have put the issue on the back burner at best which is why the subject is off the radar for most of those who are not part of the cult of Trump. 

On another matter, really the crux of the whole debate, is do parents have the right to question and criticize what is being taught to our children? OF COURSE WE DO!!! That is what school boards, local school councils, the PTA, parent/teacher conferences and a slew of other resources available to parents are for, certainly NOT the state or federal government. The most valuable resource of all is the dinner table where parents and children have the opportunity to share the events of the day, on a personal, a local, and a global level. There is no learning experience greater than that. Too many of us, ourselves included, take these opportunities for granted. But shame on us, government is certainly not the institution that should be responsible for determining what our children learn and do not learn at school. That my friends is about as conservative value there is, what ever happened to those values by the way?. 

And now for the piece de resistance:

I’m old enough — actually, my kids are old enough — to remember when our society overwhelmingly embraced Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream that all people be judged by the content of the character rather than the color of their skin. How far we’ve descended.

Don’t be bullied by those seeking to intimidate you with false charges of racism from standing up for your children, for accurate history and for promoting the laudatory goal of seeing and treating people of all races as individuals made in God’s image.





You can set your watch knowing that a Trumpilican writing about the issue of race will inevitably toss in the Martin Luther King Card. It's their way of saying "hey I'm not a racist, I think that (the long dead) Martin Luther King was a swell guy." 
I wrote about that very subject in this space a few years ago in a post called "Dead Icons." 

End of article, I'm back in black now.

The hard reality is that Dr. King and Jackie Robinson whom I mentioned above, were both despised during their lives, not only by lots of white people, but also by a number of their own people. Were they alive today, you can rest assured that would be no different. 

The only difference between MLK and BLM is that Dr. King was the more radical of the two.

Every year on the day we Americans celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King, we are subjected to a feel good soundbite from his most famous speech where he dreams of the day when
...little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers...
It's all very comforting and kumbaya, especially when we hear how things have changed since then and King's words are accompanied by images of little black and white boys and girls doing just that. Then we hear from folks who hated his guts when he was alive publicly extolling his virtues, a safe fifty three years after his death, bygones being bygones. 

But we seldom hear the meat and potatoes of that speech like when he said this:
One hundred years (after the Emancipation Proclamation), the colored American lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the colored American is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.
Or this:
When the architects of our great republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.

This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given its colored people a bad check, a check that has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

Today as we see hate speech and crimes against minorities on the increase, as we see the growing gap of prosperity between the poor and the rich, as we see the Supreme Court approving states chipping away bit by bit, pieces of the Voting Rights Act whose passage was in part inspired by that very speech, we realize 58 years later, that things have not changed as much as we thought they had in that time.

After the success of his "I Have a Dream Speech" culminating the "March for Jobs and Freedom" in Washington DC in August of 1963, then FBI Director J..Edgar Hoover dubbed King, the "Most Dangerous Negro in America." Hoover persuaded then Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to wire tap King in hopes of gathering evidence that the Civil Rights Leader had ties to the Communist Party. 

The government could not find any such evidence (they did find other stuff of a personal nature to use against him). and King himself had often unequivocally renounced Communism  as being anathema to Christianity, 

However  King repeatedly stated his goal was not only civil justice for his people but more importantly a ​“total, direct, and immediate abolition of poverty.” 

"In a sense..." he said in an interview with the New York Times in 1968, " could say we are engaged in the class struggle.” 

In 1966 he said the following to a meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Council: 
Something is wrong with capitalism, there must be a better distribution of wealth in the country. ​Maybe,... America must move toward a democratic socialism.
After all King would often say: "What good is being able to sit at a lunch counter if you can't afford a hamburger?" 

Commenting on the disparity between rich and poor in this country which has only widened since his death, King said this: 
We ​compress our abundance into the overfed mouths of the middle and upper classes until they gag with superfluity.
The phony people who today profess their love for Dr. King, like to point out that he always advocated non-violence and would never have approved of the tactics of groups such as BLM, ANTIFA, and the diverse set of folks who took part in the urban riots that followed the killing of George Floyd and the shooting of Jason Blake last summer. 

However, frustrated that his campaign to end poverty in America was falling upon deaf ears even amongst those who supported his civil rights efforts, shortly before his death Martin Luther King admitted in words that are shockingly relevant today given the events of the past year: 
Urban riots must now be recognized as durable social phenomena... They may be deplored, but they are there and should be understood. Urban riots are a special form of violence. They are not insurrections. The rioters are not seeking to seize territory or to attain control of institutions. They are mainly intended to shock the white community. They are a distorted form of social protest. The looting which is their principal feature serves many functions. It enables the most enraged and deprived Negro to take hold of consumer goods with the ease the white man does by using his purse. Often the Negro does not even want what he takes; he wants the experience of taking.
One would think that to the mind of a Trumplican, these sound more like the words of Che Guevara than their newly anointed hero Martin Luther King.
But there you have it. King was every bit as much of a radical/socialist as anyone in BLM. So please Trumplicans, stop invoking his name to support your cause because he certainly wouldn't support it were he alive today. 

The ignorance that paints MLK in the words of writer Michael Harriot, " a meek, milquetoast orator who fits (the) narrative of the sweet, submissive hero begging for a seat at the table", rather than the "revolutionary willing to bleed and die for what he believed in" that he was, is yet further evidence of the need to educate our children properly.
My guess is that ultra-right wing writers like David Limbaugh are not ignorant of history. If my hunch is correct, by willfully promoting such ignorance among his readers, he and his ilk are doing this country a grave disservice.

In his address to Congress in support of the Voting Rights Bill of 1965, President Lyndon Johnson said the following:
This great, rich, restless country can offer opportunity and education and hope to all: black and white, North and South, sharecropper and city dweller. These are the enemies: poverty, ignorance, disease. They are the enemies and not our fellow man, not our neighbor. And these enemies too, poverty, disease and ignorance, we shall overcome.  
With their opposition to raising the minimum wage to the level of a living wage, their fight against universal healthcare, their downplaying of a global pandemic and saving lives through vaccination, the Trumplicans have declared their undivided support of poverty and disease.

I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that they're now throwing all their weight behind ignorance as well. (2)
Maybe LBJ was wrong and at least some of our fellow men and women are indeed the enemy. 


(1) This comment begs the question, what is a reputable news source? In my opinion it has nothing to do with bias, there are reputable sources of all stripes, right, center and left. What separates reputable from disreputable journalism is the willingness, or not, to present both sides of a story, to get the facts right as best you can and most important, when you don't get them right, to correct it. Yes it's that simple.

(2) I'd like to thank my friend Stefan Kwiatkowski for helping me finish off this piece with the LBJ quote and those timely thoughts.

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