Wednesday, April 23, 2008

There You Go Again - Red-Baiting, Race-Baiting

Photo: Billboard
Used vs King
Across the South


By Steve Weissman
Truthout Perspective

April 21, 2008 -Bill Ayers is one of the more interesting people I've known, and I would love to discuss how, in the heat of the Vietnam War, he went from running a Summerhill school in Anna Arbor to bombing government buildings as a leader of the Weather Underground. I could even explain why I thought then - and still think - that Bill was wrong to do so.

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright is a provocative theologian, whose heated rhetoric bears a striking similarity to some of the later speeches of another black preacher, the Rev. Martin Luther King. We could all learn from studying King's words, and those of the Reverend Wright, and decide for ourselves where we agree and disagree.

White workers in the rust belt, whether bitter or offended, could similarly teach us a great deal, especially when political scoundrels such as Dick Cheney sing the praises of "Guns, Guts and Glory" as they send a disproportionate number of those hard-pressed workers, their sons and their daughters to fight and die for the freedom of Big Oil in Iraq.

But using "bittergate," Wright and Ayers to drag down Barack Obama has nothing to do with fair-minded debate and discussion. Nor is all this a needed vetting of Obama, as Hillary persists in saying. The current noise is nothing less than the predictable rebirth of an American political tradition. Call it redbaiting, witch-hunting or McCarthyism, the old slime is back and the reasons go far beyond the demands of Gotcha journalism and electoral combat.

As anyone addicted to surfing the web knows, right wing Internet web sites, Fox News, and right wing talk radio have for some time been smearing Obama as a secret Marxist, Leninist elitist, secret Muslim and hater of Israel. Many of the attacks have specifically raised the specter of Bill Ayers and the Reverend Wright. The poison reached The New York Times on April 14, when the neo-conservative columnist William Kristol led a stinging attack on Obama with six paragraphs on Karl Marx and his description of religion as "the opium of the people." The ever-smiling Kristol headlined his attack "The Mask Slips."

Within hours, Fox News put the issue to Sen. Joe Lieberman: Is Obama "a Marxist as Bill Kristol says might be the case?"

"I must say that's a good question," said Lieberman. Quickly gathering his frayed liberal cloak about him, Lieberman added that he would "hesitate to say" Obama is a Marxist. "But he's got some positions that are far to the left of me and I think mainstream America."

None of this was a secret to the Clinton campaign, which kept saying Obama had not been vetted and would prove an easy target for those nasty old Republicans. Hillary directed this argument to the super delegates, but I suspect she was also trying to encourage mainstream journalists to go after Obama with the same smears the right wing had been using. Then came ABC's prime time debate and - no surprise - Hillary teamed up with Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, Bill Clinton's former press secretary, to red-bait Obama as if he were a reluctant witness called before HUAC, the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Those of us of a certain age have seen this movie before, and I could not help hoping Obama would reply to his self-appointed inquisitors as Woody Allen did in the 1976 film, "The Front." "Fellas, I don't recognize the right of this committee to ask me these kinds of questions. And furthermore, you can go fuck yourselves." But no. Far cooler, Obama did his best to pivot and turn back to the real concerns of those Joe Lieberman calls "mainstream Americans," which is exactly the way to go. In time, Obama might also rise above the fray with his huge smile and that great quip from Ronald Reagan, "There you go again."

Obama will certainly get plenty of practice. redbaiting is how America's right wingers and their conservatized liberal allies have long fought to kill progressive social and economic change. Accuse the change-makers of being godless Commie pinkos. Berate them for associating with godless Commie pinkos. Damn them for not doing enough to root out all the godless Commie pinkos and their sympathizers, whether from the State Department, Hollywood, the unions, the media, charitable foundations, under their beds or wherever else the beasts of the night might lurk.

Don't laugh, it works. In the late 1940s, President Harry Truman proposed universal health care. Right wingers branded it "Communistic" and smothered it at birth. We still don't have decent health care for everyone, and even John Edwards feared to suggest anything as "Socialistic" as a single-payer system. Better to find "a pragmatic compromise" existing insurance companies and HMOs might accept, as Hillary did so successfully in the 1990s.
Desegregate the races? Heaven forbid! Billboards and leaflets all over the South showed photographs of Martin Luther King attending "a Communist training school," and many white liberals shied away.

Organize workers into unions? Not on your life! Employers and their paid-for politicians branded the organizers as "Reds" and used flag-waving American Legionnaires to beat early unionists to a pulp or ride them out of town on a rail.

In a similar, if less violent, vein, Hillary now sounds like a card-carrying member of what she used to call "the vast right wing conspiracy." McCain has wasted no time trying to link Obama to Hamas. And, should Obama become president, he will run into wall-to-wall redbaiting as he tries to bring about such terribly Marxistical reforms as universal health care, well-paying jobs, more progressive taxation, serious regulation of Wall Street speculators and an end to our military occupation of Iraq.

As for my old friend Bill Ayers, I haven't seen him in nearly 20 years, but I doubt he has his neighbor Obama's ear. When asked about Ayers in the ABC debate, Obama identified him as an English professor. William Ayers is a widely respected and very outspoken education maven, and if Obama has spent any serious time with him, the senator would surely have known Bill's life-long passion has been to find more effective ways to teach our children

[A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France. ]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When the Rev. Wright bashers get over themselves and start to listen rather than run their mouths just for the ratings I think a lot of the race baiting would end and the primaries can proceed. However I have noticed that I am constantly hearing that Obama should get in touch with old white people and blue color workers but do anyone think Hillary has done well with the Black votes. Yea I know all the Blacks voted for Obama on racial lines but all the whites voted for Hillary because of her popularity.It also a sad commentary when a Black so call preacher gets on tv and bashes Rev. Wright and wants to give advice to him about his tactics of speaking.Now this brother quotes the bible on one hand and make judgement on the other. Frankly I sense jealousy on his part and I believe if that preacher had half the smarts of Rev. Wright he might be able to see the light.This preacher on msnbc and a republican activist has all the traits of a Tom that is affraid to speak the truth and to stand up to what he knows has been the truth about this country. rather than do that he would much rather bash Rev., Wright and hoping he would look good in the eyes of his white counterparts on the lets demonize Rev. and try to make him look foolish. It is sickening to sit and watch and hear the prejudices and hatred coming from the experts on Rev. Wright and his vast knowledge on human behaviour and religion. Everything he talked about is exactly what we have been hearing on msnbc and the experts on Rev. Wright.When a man of the cloth comes out on TV and makes comments concerning a legend and scholar like Rev. Wright tells me that the devil is working his magic thru this black preacher on msnbc.He has all the answers and is willing to demonize Rev. Wright.What is he to gain when all that comes from hs mouth is negativity and hateful judgement? Obviously he must not have the following in his church as Rev. Wright has in his church.A man with that much following in his church speaks volumnes about his preaching and has been for many years. Maybe everyone who attends church on Sundays should get up and leave when the preacher touches the subject of fornicators,homosexuals,and other sinners the bible speaks of. Those subjects surely should be too sensitive for the sinners to sit thropugh and take that kind of insult on Sundays.Of course as usual we raect to what ever upsets white folks and the Blacks that want to get in to fit will most often sell their souls to the devil.I do have to ask the experts do they think if Hillary was to carry the states she have won, can she win the numbers Obama has won and also can she get the Black vote if by chance the Black vote counts in this nomination process?Too much emphasis are placed on the white vote as t make whites the only vote that counts in this election.There goes the old myth of whites being superior and more important that others who also vote.It is a sorry state of affairs to hear the news pundits make a case of Obama getting in touch with white people. I would suggest that these sop call news cvasters get their heads out of their rear ends and maybe they can see the light. They are too rapped up in trying not to play the race card andplacing the whole blame on Obama and Rev. Wright.There are far too much talk about what kind of effect Rev. Wright will have on Obama when all the attention is drawn towards him by the experts.Now everyone in the world knows how squeaky clean Americans have been from past,present and today.But to be told about some of the short comings just touches the wrong nerve.I heard Tucker Calson state that he didn`t know what Rev. Wright meant in his speech but I guess Rev. Wright didn`t give any thought that he was speaking above his head.But he shouldn1t feel alone cause there were many more with that puzzled look on their face...duh!I know it is hard to comprehend the intelligence of such a smart,articulate man like the honorable Rev. Wright.Instead of trying to beat up on Obama and Rev, I would suggest the experts should spend some time with Hillary and bring her back to reality and also go thru some math problems with her cause she falls short of adding and subtraction.A change is gonna come and no matter what a few fools think there is not a thing they can do about it. I think now that the news pundits have analyzed prety much what Obama says and the Rev.also.I suggest for a good headline story they can report on what kind of toilet paper the uses and which hand do they wipe with.This would make a sensational story and everybody can participate cause it will be right in line with all the other s..t they have tried to stir up..he he.There are more exciting subjects a determined reporter can get hold of and make a name for his or herself.I see they all are competing for the best story line even if they have to add to it and make up things no one has heard the Rev. or Obama says.This is utterly amazong how somene can sit and hear someone else speak and take eberything they say out of context.This must be the way they are teaching journalism in college.Had I had know that I would hasve gone in a different field also cause making up stuff seems to work for the up and coming journalist(s)Now when the awards ceremony comes around and they get to recognize the best buthole of the year I hope not to miss it necause I have my own choices for nomination and I`d be curious to see just how close I can get to picking one out.Of course it will be quiet a task cause they all are feeding from the same hog trough.

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