President Obama spent an hour in Marc Maron’s garage to record a podcast with the popular comedian (full audio below). They discussed numerous subjects including politics, climate change, family, and media. And given that the tragic massacre in South Carolina was just a few days earlier, it would have been surprising if they had not also talked about race and racism in America. But leave it to Fox News to inflate a trivial segment of an hour-long interview in order to insult the President and distract from the other important issues that were being discussed.
During the portion of the interview that dealt with race (@46:25), Obama spoke movingly about his personal experiences and the broader context of race relations in America. At one point he said…
“The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives, you know, that casts a long shadow, and that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on. We’re not cured of it. And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say ‘nigger’ in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don’t overnight completely erase everything that happened 2-300 years prior.”
Oh lordy me. Pass the smellin’ salts Martha. The President uttered the unmentionable, and the inevitable demise of Western civilization will surely follow. Everyone knows that in adult conversations you have to spell naughty words rather than communicate with other grown-ups in a manner that reflects intellectual maturity. Because if you say the “F” word, or the “N” word, or the “X” word (don’t ask), no one will know that you really mean a word with more letters that will cause your ears to seal up. Responsible adults know to always speak as if you’re addressing children or others with stunted emotional development (or, as it turns out, Fox News viewers).
It’s notable that conservatives suddenly find this word so objectionable as an expression of hatred and division, yet they don’t have any problem with the official banner of hateful dividers, the Confederate flag.
The reaction by conservative media to POTUS dropping the “N” Bomb was swift and stupid. Taking the lead, of course, was Fox News, where their early morning gabfest, Fox & Friends, accused Obama’s language of being beneath the dignity of the office of the presidency. Saying “‘N’ word” is so much more dignified. And besides, Fox News has declared that racism is over so there is no need to even bring the subject up anymore, much less use controversial language.
The Curvy Couch Potatoes, Steve Doocy and Elisabeth Hasselbeck, both speculated that Obama might also use the word in a State of the Union address because, in their cartoon brains, whenever someone uses a word in one venue, it will then be used everywhere else: State of the Union, United Nations, The Tonight Show, PTA meetings, etc.
Throughout the morning (and afternoon and evening) the editorial mandate on Fox News was to keep repeating this non-story that involved a five-second blip from an hour long interview. Perhaps the most strikingly obtuse opinion was rendered by Fox contributor Deneen Borelli, who called Obama the “Rapper-in-Chief,” and said that “He has really dragged in the gutter speak of rap music. So now he is the first president of rap, of street?”
Really? Borelli’s attempt to equate a substantive discussion of race, wherein the President made thoughtful remarks about lingering problems, with the provocative creative license exercised by rappers, is beyond ludicrous. Apparently she would also blanch and\or giggle at the words breast or penis if a doctor used them in a medical context, because in her mind it’s the same as if they were used in a dirty limerick.
On Fox News and elsewhere, Obama was accused of using the word as a “grand distraction.” The absurd hilarity of that charge rests in the fact that it is only the right-wing media that is using this to distract. They plucked the sentence fragment out of a long, in-depth interview and ignored everything else that was discussed. As an indication of just how fixated they were on Obama’s use of this word, they completely missed what he said about Fox News:
Obama: There’s this big gap between who we are as a people and how our politics expresses itself. And part of that has to do with gerrymandering and SuperPACs and lobbyists, and a media that is so splintered now that we’re not in a common conversation. And the fact that if you watch Fox News you inhabit a completely different world with different facts than if you read the New York Times. And that becomes self-reinforcing. And there’s a profit both for politicians and for news outlets simplifying and polarizing.
Ordinarily, when Obama invokes Fox News, the network takes immediate and prolonged offense, even if it isn’t due, as is the case here where Obama also cited the New York Times. Regardless, Fox generally strikes back viciously and condemns Obama for trying to belittle or intimidate the alleged “news” channel that spends most of its time demonizing him. So for Fox to give this allusion a pass shows how seriously they were overwhelmed by the power of the “N” word’s utterance. Or at least it shows how seriously they are committed to using this to bash the President.
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[Update:] This afternoon the governor of South Carolina announced that she would back a plan to remove the flag from the grounds of the state capitol. She said that it was time to show that state property belongs to all South Carolinians. That’s funny, because all the South Carolinians who have been offended by the Confederate flag for decades never bothered these southerners until a white, racist brandishing the flag murdered nine African-Americans in a church. Let’s see how the other states that feature or allow the Confederate flag respond to this.