A “Political Lynching”?

Myrlie Evers-Williams, a leader in the NAACP, the wife of Medgar Evers who was gunned down by white supremacists, said yesterday that Barack and Michelle Obama are the target of a “political lynching” in the media. She told a NAACP luncheon that the news media is portraying the Obamas as unpatriotic radicals. She cited in particular The New Yorker cover spoofing attacks on the Obamas as an example (see below). Sadly, Evers-Williams could not miss the point more widely.

“Fistbump: The Politics of Fear,” by Barry Blitt.

First, the establishment news is running Obama’s campaign. It is hardly lynching the Senator. This has been the most biased coverage in favor of a candidate I have ever seen. The media can hardly bring themselves to criticize him. The idea that Obama is the victim of a racially-motivated attack by the corporate media is—sorry, but there’s no other word to use—delusional. 

All you need to do is read the press accounts in the immediate moments of the release of The New Yorker cover. The establishment media collectively acted as Obama’s campaign spokespersons. They were so worried that it would hurt his chances to be president that they opened fire with both barrels on the magazine. To be sure, they’re trying to make it appear that they jumped the gun a little bit. The reality remains: they frenzied. We all saw it. They will write the moment out of history, but they can’t take it back for those of us who are paying attention. 

This was the same over-the-top reaction we saw when Jesse Jackson said Obama was talking down to black people. They panicked over that one, too, thinking that the black masses might start wondering if Obama was in fact talking down to them. Jesse, the white establishment was thinking, still has some clout. So they had to shout him down—even if he only whispered it near a mic he thought was off. This story is still running on strong legs.

Second, speaking of Obama’s condescension towards black Americans, the candidate is harming the black community with his white conservative personal responsibility rhetoric targeting the black family. He blames the victims of racism—and lynching has been a big part of black victimization—for the consequences of racism. Only blacks obsessed with sucking up to the establishment—Ward Connerly, Walter Williams, Bill Cosby—push that racist angle. Blacks are highly critical of the “Uncle Toms” who push this line. So why, instead of advancing a self-evidently paranoid line, isn’t Evers-Williams criticizing Obama for his racially-motivated attacks on the black family?

I am disappointed by the progressive leadership of the black community. To be sure, much of this stems from uncritical loyalty to the Democratic Party. But there’s more to it than that. It’s the worst type of identity politics when persons of an oppressed group support a perceived member of that group because they share a characteristic such as skin color. Blacks are overwhelmingly supporting Obama because he is perceived as a black man who is not a Republican. But, then again, is it partisanship? Would identity politics cause blacks to support a black Republican?

* * *

If you’re having trouble grasping the point of the New Yorker cover, imagine that its target is the 9-11 Truth movement. Its followers believe Bush and Cheney ran a false flag operation on 9-11 in order to seize control of the government. The towers were brought down by controlled demolition. The planes were remote controlled. So forth. Imagine a cartoon cover on a conservative magazine—let’s make it a cover of the National Review—with Dick Cheney as the carnival barker behind the controls of something like a giant Oz machine, his hands on the dials and levers steering robot-controlled planes into towers. Bush is depicted just leaving the towers with wires and a cable splitter sticking out of his pocket. He’s fresh from having just planted the explosives that will bring down the towers in a controlled demolition. Let’s put a book about a goat in his hand. You could have a split scene with Rumsfeld directing a cruise missile into the side of the Pentagon. Barbara Olsen is being whisked away into another dimension by Men in Black. 

Anybody who sees this cover who believes the premise, well, then, the joke’s on them. Those who believe it’s not true will see it as satire—if they are prepared to play along. People are too sensitive about Obama. They aren’t prepared to play along.

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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