Category Archives: Kathleen Parker

Racial interpretations

Kathleen Parker–yes, the one of blut und boden–wonders:

Can we critique the issues—and the man—without resorting to racial interpretations and recriminations? If McCain wins, can his victory simply be a loss for Democrats—and not a loss specifically for African-Americans?

The answers to those questions will be the measure of whether we have really progressed to the point we claim.

This is not directed at herself of course.  For the other day she wondered whether Obama had enough generational equity to be truly American.  His family had not poured enough into the soil.  She wrote:

It's about blood equity, heritage and commitment to hard-won American values. And roots.

Some run deeper than others and therein lies the truth of Fry's political sense. In a country that is rapidly changing demographically—and where new neighbors may have arrived last year, not last century—there is a very real sense that once-upon-a-time America is getting lost in the dash to diversity.

We love to boast that we are a nation of immigrants. But there's a different sense of America among those who trace their bloodlines back through generations of sacrifice.

Contributing to the growing unease among yesterday's Americans is the failure of the federal government to deal with illegal Immigration. It isn't necessarily racist or nativist to worry about what these new demographics mean to the larger American story

I can't really see the "issue" in that.

This is because this remark is directed at Democrats.  Can, in other words, Kathleen Parker and her friends say racist things without fear of being called racists. 

This, she thinks, is progress. 

Full blooded, check it and see

The other day we talked about the New York Times public editor's discussion of the factually challenged work of Edward Luttwak.  Courtesy of Eric Alterman's column on Media Matters, we were alerted to the Chicago Tribune public editor's response to the Kathleen Parker column of a couple of weeks ago (which we discussed here).  In brief, the column argued that Obama was not a "full-blooded American."  Many, according to McNulty, wondered why such a column could be published in a major newspaper–rather than say, the Klanly Times.  This is McNulty's response:

Responding first to Nielsen, I wrote that as ridiculous and repugnant as that full-blooded sentiment is to many, if not most, Americans, I would rather see it on the op-ed page so that people can hold it to the light and repudiate the notion rather than deal with it as a whispering campaign.

Remember McCain was the target of whispering in his 2000 primary race against George W. Bush in South Carolina. While McCain traveled with the daughter he and his wife had adopted from Bangladesh, an anonymous telephone smear campaign asked voters whether they would vote for McCain if they knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child.

Anyone who believes that the race issue will be dormant in the general election—presuming that Obama is the Democratic candidate—is hiding from reality. It remains a divisive issue and, as Parker noted, some fear that "their heritage is being swept under the carpet while multiculturalism becomes the new national narrative."

I think it is the news media's responsibility to highlight not just the political stratagems but the attitudes that help create them.

The aim of the Tribune's Commentary page is to display a wide range of subjective opinions, even those some may consider offensive. Printing a column is not the same as sanctioning it.

The same need to speak plainly but objectively is true in the news pages. An article Tuesday by Tribune reporter Rex W. Huppke examined how residents in the rural Kentucky town of Munfordville felt about Obama versus Clinton.

"They won't vote for a black man," Huppke quoted one white Obama supporter talking about his neighbors, "That's all there is to it. They just can't bring themselves to do it."

Another resident explained bluntly why he wouldn't support Obama: "It's his color."

Those statements reflect racist views, but does that mean the news media shouldn't report them?

McNulty draws an analogy between the "news" part of the paper and the "opinion" part–that somehow they have the same goal of "reporting."  He also makes the accompanying claim that the opinions are "subjective" and may be "offensive."  Fair enough.  But the analogy, I think, does not hold. 

The reporting part of the newspaper ought to inform readers of claims of fact–verifiable, one would hope, by the newspaper's fact checkers.  There will of course be editorial decisions to be made–which news stories to report?  What questions will our reporters ask of politicians?  Do we run the R. Kelly story on the front page every day for the next several months?  And so forth. 

There are editorial considerations to be made on the op-ed page as well.  Which opinions form part of the "wide range" of public opinion?  Shall bin Laden be allowed to write a "his turn" column about the Great Satan?  Shall we allow obvious factual distortions and groundless hyperbole just because it falls into a "wide range" of public "opinion"?  Which opinions in the wide spectrum deserve a column of their own?  Many don't.  The editorial judgment, one would presume, determines which opinions fall within the spectrum of reasonable civil discourse.  

Besides, it's obvious that some opinions are better informed than others.   Some opinions are more well grounded in fact and in reason than others.  Parker's was one of those that wasn't.  And it's up to the Tribune editors to know the difference.

One final point.  The alternative to publishing Parker's column is not "a whispering campaign" somehow abetted by the media's silence.  The alternative rather is that Parker's argument is not claimed to represent part of range of reasonable civil discourse.

Blut und Boden

Others' jaws have already dropped at the reading of this from Kathleen Parker.  Here's a sample:

It's about blood equity, heritage and commitment to hard-won American values. And roots.

Some run deeper than others and therein lies the truth of Fry's political sense. In a country that is rapidly changing demographically—and where new neighbors may have arrived last year, not last century—there is a very real sense that once-upon-a-time America is getting lost in the dash to diversity.

We love to boast that we are a nation of immigrants. But there's a different sense of America among those who trace their bloodlines back through generations of sacrifice.

Contributing to the growing unease among yesterday's Americans is the failure of the federal government to deal with illegal Immigration. It isn't necessarily racist or nativist to worry about what these new demographics mean to the larger American story.

Read the whole thing.  These, apparently, are reasons to vote for McCain over Obama.  But just out of curiosity, which of those two candidates was born in America?  The answer may surprise you.  

In light of all of this ein Volk, ein Blut, ein Boden business, you might also contemplate the "true" origins of fascism.  

h/t Blogosphere and Ed Burmila.

I fought the law

Kathleen Parker, a deeply empathetic person, puts herself in the shoes of the typical illegal immigrant:

>As long as we offer jobs, medical treatment, driver’s licenses and in-state tuition to those who come here illegally, why would any right-thinking, would-be immigrant take a number and wait his or her turn? Why not just throw in the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders and free tequila while we’re at it?

Indeed, the life of the typical illegal immigrant is full of all sorts of freebies; indeed, the only thing missing is the fulfillment of some kind of alcohol-fueled male adolescent sexual fantasy.

It gets worse:

>Arguments favoring services and privileges for illegal immigrants always point to the broader benefits to society.

God forbid.

>Healthy immigrants mean a healthier America; an educated populace means fewer jobless dependents; legal drivers are more responsible because, allegedly, they’ll also buy insurance and stick around when they have an accident.

>The latter seems unconvincing given that illegal immigrants, by definition, tend not to think legally.

A bachelor, by definition, is an unmarried man. An illegal immigrant, by definition, is someone who does not have legal status; but this actually doesn’t mean that this illegal immigrant has broken the law. The law might have been broken–as it is in numerous cases–when they were children. Besides, it’s not the case that anyone who breaks the law, in any regard, “tends to think illegally.” I’d be interested to find out what the thinking illegally tendency is.

She continues:

>In any case, by the same logic, we might also say that amnesty is good for the country because then everyone would be legal. Rather than fix something, we simply accommodate circumstances. As in: Kids are having sex anyway, so we’ll just give them condoms.

Parker suggests that the response to every problem is the same: stop it. While that might be desirable, as any sociologist could tell you, it’s not going to happen. Denying the reality and complexity of illegal immigration will not achieve much, however much you assert that illegal is as illegal does.


**Revised 10:03 AM

People often confuse a kind of knee-jerk skepticism for “critical thinking.” But it’s one thing to be cautious about facts incongruent with other well known facts, it’s another just to disbelieve all facts of a certain type (those that come out of the mouths, of, I don’t know, the liberal media). It’s yet another thing to reject those “questionable” facts a priori–that is, on purely logical grounds.

So when the New Republic ran a series of blog posts by a certain “Scott Thomas” from Iraq, many–mostly right wing bloggers and such–disbelieved them, a priori. These blog posts told of American soldiers defacing corpses, killing animals, (and treating Iraqis in a generally shameful manner). Scott Thomas (whose real name is, get this, Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp), writes (courtesy of Hullabaloo):

>I saw her nearly every time I went to dinner in the chow hall at my base in Iraq. She wore an unrecognizable tan uniform, so I couldn’t really tell whether she was a soldier or a civilian contractor. The thing that stood out about her, though, wasn’t her strange uniform but the fact that nearly half her face was severely scarred. Or, rather, it had more or less melted, along with all the hair on that side of her head. She was always alone, and I never saw her talk to anyone. Members of my platoon had seen her before but had never really acknowledged her. Then, on one especially crowded day in the chow hall, she sat down next to us.

>We were already halfway through our meals when she arrived. After a minute or two of eating in silence, one of my friends stabbed his spoon violently into his pile of mashed potatoes and left it there.
“Man, I can’t eat like this,” he said.
“Like what?” I said. “Chow hall food getting to you?”
“No–with that fucking freak behind us!” he exclaimed, loud enough for not only her to hear us, but everyone at the surrounding tables. I looked over at the woman, and she was intently staring into each forkful of food before it entered her half-melted mouth.
“Are you kidding? I think she’s fucking hot!” I blurted out.
“What?” said my friend, half-smiling.
“Yeah man,” I continued. “I love chicks that have been intimate–with IEDs. It really turns me on–melted skin, missing limbs, plastic noses … .”
“You’re crazy, man!” my friend said, doubling over with laughter. I took it as my cue to continue.
“In fact, I was thinking of getting some girls together and doing a photo shoot. Maybe for a calendar? IED Babes.’ We could have them pose in thongs and bikinis on top of the hoods of their blown-up vehicles.”
My friend was practically falling out of his chair laughing. The disfigured woman slammed her cup down and ran out of the chow hall, her half-finished tray of food nearly falling to the ground.

And so on. It gets far worse. Kathleen Parker, conservative pundit, thinks these stories are dubious:

>The conservative Weekly Standard began questioning the reports last week. Bloggers have joined in challenging the anecdotes, as have military personnel who have served in Iraq and, in some cases, have eaten in the same chow hall mentioned.

>Thomas’ version of events in Iraq is looking less and less credible and smacks of the “occult hand.” The occult hand was an inside joke several years ago among a group of journalists who conspired to see how often they could slip the phrase — “It was as if an occult hand had …” — into their copy. This went on for years to the great merriment of a few in the know.

>Looking back, it’s hard to imagine how a phrase as purple as an occult hand could have enjoyed such long play within the tribe of professional skeptics known as journalists. Similarly, one wonders how Thomas’ reports have appeared in the magazine without his editors saying, “Hey, wait just a minute.”

>The New Republic editors say they’re investigating the reports, but refuse to reveal the author’s identity. There’s always a chance, of course, that these stories have some truth to them.

There’s a chance they’re completely true, she ought to say. Parker’s skepticism is based on the authority of conservative bloggers and the Weekly Standard–two sources about which one would have justifiable skepticism. The more basic problem regards the nature of Scott Thomas’s claims.

They are pretty straightforward factual claims. That is to say, they are claims that events x took place at time y. They’re true if they happened, false if they didn’t. So questions regarding their veracity ought to regard whether the author is (a) a real person; (b) really in Iraq in the Army; and (c) really witnessed those events. The New Republic can vouch for all three. And it did. Why not take their word for it–they supported the invasion of Iraq.

Wondering about the types of claims being made, in isolation from the basic conditions of their truth (without waiting for confirmation from the New Republic), is a pretty silly kind of skepticism. It’s silly not only because it turned out to be wrong, but because it was wrong for the most obvious of reasons–the stories turned out to be true. Of course even Parker ought to know this. She continues:

>Stranger, and far worse, things have happened in war. But people who have served in Iraq have raised enough questions about these particular anecdotes that one is justified in questioning whether they are true.

>As just one example, it is unlikely that a Bradley would be driven through concrete barriers just for fun, according an e-mail from a member of the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, made up of officers who are lawyers providing legal services to soldiers. He explained that people aren’t alone out there. Other vehicles, non-commissioned officers and officers would be around and Iraqis would have made a claim for repairs, resulting in an investigation.

>In other words, either plenty of people would know about it — or it didn’t happen.

Again, Parker’s skepticism is of the very general variety–she considers emails from people who weren’t there as sufficient countervailing evidence. Effective general skepticism might include such claims as the Bradley vehicle cannot do the actions described or there were no soldiers at the place described. In the absence of such evidence (and in light of the fact that soldiers–US soldiers even–have been known to do some pretty awful things in war (and get away with it), there is every reason to suspect that such tales could be true (unless they’re impossible). Remember Abu Ghraib anyone? This doesn’t mean one shouldn’t be skeptical. One should. But one ought to be skeptical regarding pseudonymous claims because they’re pseudonymous, not because they don’t “seem plausible” (even though, of course, they are).

The context of all of this, of course, is Parker’s insistence that people who believe things other than she does are insufficiently skeptical:

>It may be that The New Republic editors and others who believed Thomas’ journal entries without skepticism are infected with “Nifong Syndrome” — the mind virus that causes otherwise intelligent people to embrace likely falsehoods because they validate a preconceived belief.

>Mike Nifong, the North Carolina prosecutor in the alleged Duke University lacrosse team rape case, was able to convince a credulous community of residents, academics and especially journalists that the three falsely accused white men had raped a black stripper despite compelling evidence to the contrary.

>Why? Because the lies supported their own truths. In the case of Duke, that “truth” was that privileged white athletes are racist pigs who of course would rape a black woman given half a chance and a bottle o’ beer.

>In the case of Scott Thomas, the “truth” that American soldiers are woman-hating, dog-killing, grave-robbing monsters confirms what many among the anti-war left believe about the military, despite their protestations that they “support the troops.”

>We tend to believe what we want to believe, in other words.

I think she means “you” (she obviously doesn’t believe such pleasing tales). But then again, maybe she does.

Hate crime

One argument against hate crimes legislation involves denying that one can ever know about someone’s intent. Kathleen Parker writes:

>WASHINGTON — The fallacy of hate crime laws — the prosecution of which requires a degree of mind-reading not yet available to most Earthlings — has been cast into stark relief the last few weeks after an interracial rape-murder that has bestirred white supremacists and led to death threats against an African-American columnist.

Many crimes involve judgments of intent. Intent is a state of mind. Determining intent therefore involves mind reading. To deny this smacks of some pretty silly lawyering: your honor, how can you really know that my client meant to kill anyone? Can you see inside of his mind? Homework assignment: think of all of the crimes that involve judgments of intent.

Another argument often advanced against the hate crimes legislation is the relative rarity of hate crime:

>In 2005, among about 7,000 hate crimes — mostly characterized by intimidation (48.9 percent) and simple assault (30.2 percent) — just six murders and three forcible rapes were reported as fitting the hate crime definition, according to the FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics report. Though we may hate “hate crimes,” those numbers hardly seem sufficient to justify extra laws designating a special category for certain crime victims.

The frequency with which an act occurs has nothing to do–I think–with whether it ought to be a crime or not. High treason is a crime, but almost no one does it (I think). Besides, while designating something a crime necessarily implies designating someone a victim, the crime is defined by the act, not the victim. A crime remains a crime, in fact, whether the victim feels himself a victim or not.

Blame the victims

Thanks to all the crooks and liars for visiting yesterday.

In other matters, in a rare moment of accountability, the prosecutor of the Duke rape case, Mike Nifong, both lost his job and was disbarred for exaggerating evidence in a rape case. Kathleen Parker, however, is not satisfied–and she has found the real culprit:

>It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving fellow, but the case doesn’t end here. Nifong’s legacy, which ultimately may hurt women more than it does the falsely accused men, will be long-lived. And the politically correct culture that allowed his charade to persist remains securely in place, while those who enabled Nifong walk scot-free.

>Which is to say, before we applaud the tragedy’s finale, we might ask Lady Macbeth if she can recommend a good soap.

>It is tempting to convince oneself that Nifong’s banishment means that all is right in Dukedom. Doubtless, many among Duke’s faculty and administration, as well as random race-baiters, campus feminists, various reporters, commentators and assorted armchair prosecutors would prefer that no one remember their roles in advancing the Nifong farce. (KC Johnson, Brooklyn College history professor, has it all on his Durham-in-Wonderland blog,

>But they shouldn’t get off so easily. All were participants in the scurrilous witch hunt that unfolded during the last year. All were congregants in the PC Church that sanctifies certain groups as unassailable victims (all minorities and females) and others as condemnable perps (all males, but especially descendants of history’s white oppressors).

>From the beginning, when an African-American stripper — alternately known as a “working mother” and “college student” — claimed that three lacrosse players had raped her, few questioned whether she might be lying or that the men might be telling the truth. A spirit of retributive justice prevailed while feminist law professor Wendy Murphy summarized the zeitgeist on CNN’s “The Situation”: “I never, ever met a false rape claim, by the way. My own statistics speak to the truth.”

Someone is justly punished for perpetrating a fraud (topic of disucssion: can anyone think of some other recent frauds, perhaps broader in scope and with more victims?), by playing on their plainly legitimate racial and class sensitivities, and Parker concludes that their racial sensitivities are to blame. The real upshot of the case is this:

>Thanks to these activists and Nifong — and the dancer who cried wolf — real rape victims may be reluctant to come forward. Others may not get their day in court as intimidated prosecutors anticipate defeat with jurors jaded by the Duke spectacle.

In other words, because of the skepticism Parker advocates about the honesty and motivations of rape victims, their supporters, and legal advocates, real rape victims might not come forward–because Parker might not believe them. And Parker thinks that’s the real crime.