Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
October 31, 2006

WB: Politically Incorrect ++


III. How I'm Feeling at the Moment

II. Out of the Closet

But I have to ask: Which is the greater failing -- ignoring the racism that goes on every second of every minute of every hour in this country, or telling a minstrel joke? And if it's the former, how many of my critics are really in a position to pass judgment on me?

I. Politically Incorrect

Posted by b on October 31, 2006 at 5:38 UTC | Permalink


RE: Out of the closet

"Mostly what that makes me, I suppose, is politically irrelevant and -- in today's environment -- something of a borderline nihilist."

Meh. A couple of commentators here (including myself) have tried and abandoned this political labelling... it's just a shorthand for "I know better than everyone else" most of the time at best, and an invitation for a sucker punch at worst. Ive even had it held against me for using an OBVIOUS one-liner like "I don't believe in nihilism".

I can't pigeonhole your political philosophy, Billmon, (or mine either, for that matter) but one thing you most definitely are not is politically irrelevant. Hang in there.

Posted by: Monolycus | Oct 31 2006 5:51 utc | 1

Billmon has realized that the line from WarGames applies to politics- The only way to win is not to play.

Louisiana Democrats (for that is where I presently live) approve of outlawing abortion and shuttering most of the Charity Hospital System that is all that keeps the state's health care in the upper tier of the third world. Who can possibly support these people with a clear, or even functioning, conscience? Even compared to their nominal opponents?

Posted by: Brian J. | Oct 31 2006 5:54 utc | 2

ok, it's late and i am drunk. nonetheless, i have always trusted my basic instincts while inebriated, i am reposting my comment at wampum..

people who put on black face did not ever become real black people. they always played a white mans image of the 'servant' black man. underdog is too gracious a term. in this way, blitzer becomes the surrogate 'yes man', not representing at all the 'real ' american, the 'real' challenge to ms cheney. any left person would have been much harder on her to begin with. instead blitz's light questions led him to feel the need to qualify himself, too essentially ask permission, to excuse himself, or justify his statements. in this sense he was not demonstrating independence. he was a 'fake', a surrogate, an imposture, he demonstrated his servitude to the system

the obvious comparison to blackface is that he is not a true liberal, not a true challenge to her bs, he doesn't outright ask permission, approval, but the implication of him justifying what any sound journalist would question reasonably, he degrades himself, and us. there is no difference between playing a blackman as a blackman isn't, and playing a leftist as a leftist isn't. no need to qualify, make excuse. blitz showed his colors. he showed who his master is. that speaks for itself. billmon saw it , i do too.

ps, it's not about being a true liberal, it is more about being a true journalist, seeking the truth, asking the questions. why did he come back and qualify himself? he had every right to ask the obvious.

why, why did he not nail her to the wall? to justify himself later? why? where are his loyalties? to truth? he wears makeup. i cannot believe you can't see the obvious.

da. go billmon go.

Posted by: annie | Oct 31 2006 6:41 utc | 3

The dogs bark, the caravan goes on. Go on, Bill. They're idiots.

Posted by: Lupin | Oct 31 2006 6:59 utc | 4

I must take exception with Lupin above. I think that just as we can agree that not everyone who makes a reference to someone in blackface is a bigot, we should recognize that not everyone who is offended by a blackface graphic is an idiot. Some people's sensibilites (mine included) were offended, and Billmon will have to address that. Or not, it's his call, and I'll keep reading regardless. My perspective is, we all make mistakes, and it's not like Billmon put a deer head in someone's mailbox or something!

Posted by: Major Woody | Oct 31 2006 7:14 utc | 5

As often, I agree with annie.

Posted by: citizen | Oct 31 2006 7:18 utc | 6


I can't even pretend to be as insightful and articulate as you or the majority of the contributors here at the bar; however, I think you may have articulated a bit too much in rebuttal. For brevity's sake I summarized your reply here for the outraged left or right. I admit it may seem redundant at first but...

Seriously, I mean seriously, its funny because it's true, that is how Wolf came off in the end. Sure, there may have been an alternative, but when a creativity insight strikes sometimes you just have to jump.

I wish people would jump at the slightest "percieved" hint of fascism the same way that they jump the slightest "percieved" hint of racism.
I don't have an accurrate death toll from throughout the ages but I am pretty sure fascism has got quite a lead over the harm caused by racism in terms of life lost. And it would seem that fascism has often empowered racism to reach its fullest and ugliest potential.
Currently between a grand reemergence of one or the other, I am definitely more concerned more with who may or may not be displaying hints of fascism. I mean your either with me or against me right?
I realize we have to work at eradicating both at the same time...I just wish the same amount of zeal was applied to ferreting out and descrying the slightest "perceived" hint of both. I just want some equality of moral outrage, thats all. I mean shit, I haven't seen the left and right blogosphere agree on a single important issue in awhile.

Way to be a uniter bill.

Posted by: Fiat Lux | Oct 31 2006 7:33 utc | 7

Apologies for the lack of editing, its late, I am tired and i learned my lesson.

Posted by: Fiat Lux | Oct 31 2006 7:35 utc | 8

As often, I agree with annie.

you made my night citizen. btw/ rad post/link

Posted by: annie | Oct 31 2006 7:45 utc | 9

Is'nt Billmons use of blackface (here) ment to be ironic? Is'nt blackface an exclusively white culture phenomena, ment to charicature black culture according to white culture notions of superiority vs subordinatation? And is'nt the point of the satire itself to illustrate metaphorically Wolfie's willful subordination to the Lynn Cheney -- a white culture charicature of himself on right wing national television. Billmon simply illustrated the equation in black and white, the language anyone, especially white people, should'nt miss. The joke is'nt that Wolf is made to look black, its that he's a white man being made to look black. If anything, Billmons picture is reverse race baiting. The proof is in baiting the wingnuts into talking back using liberal arguments. Most amusing.

Posted by: anna missed | Oct 31 2006 8:19 utc | 10

And there's also the whole jelousy factor within the blackface/minstrel show. Where the white actors are able to syphon off elements of black culture, they are obviously inspired by, and would like to internalize -- but at the same time are compelled to maintain the race differential. Which is of course, all the more insidious -- and latent.

Posted by: anna missed | Oct 31 2006 8:35 utc | 11

Thanks anna missed

I was waiting for someone to spell it out for the benefit of any irony-deficient or just plain ignorant readers out there, whom may or may not know who they (themselves)

Geez, it must have a bit of truth to it, that Americans really don't do Irony.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Oct 31 2006 8:36 utc | 12

I haven't laid on the livingroom floor parsing the rock album lyrics for close to thirty years, but Neil Young on the recent Greendale album has a line where he sings "we're all dirty now." There is a lot going on in the Greendale alegorical album that has me listening to it a lot this week. I recommend it for all.

Live music is better, bumper stickers should be issued, and if the bumper sticker covers a Bush/Cheney sticker then that would be great.

Posted by: christofay | Oct 31 2006 9:38 utc | 13

Politically incorrect:

You are right to see that capitalism works best, but not always. The problem with Modern capitalism is that of an imbalanced playing field.

Its not really capitalism, any way, that works so well, its free contract system that works well. But only when the bargaining is done on a level playing field.

From 1776-1862 the bargaining field was level in the United States, except for where slavery occured of course. During those years the bargaining field between contracting parties was largely level. Antibellum northern U.S. had the broadest distribution of wealth in history. That gave rise to a large middle class that eventually reached a critical mass. At that point morality became important in politics and slavery became doomed. Morality is a middle class characteristic - when morality declines the middle class feals threatened, and the first reaction, is to legislate morality to stem the loss.

But that's an aside.

The point is capitalism only works where there is a level playing field between bargaining units. Prior to the civil war, the bargaining field was level, perhaps even with a slight edge to wage earners as they could always opt to head for the fronteer and become a self employed farmer for almost no money down.

In 1862 came the invention of the modern, limited liability corporation. That changed everything, and gave birth to the gilded age, the age of the robber barons, the large corporations, and massive inequalities in the distribution of wealth. Socialism, Communism, and Unionism is one of many attempts to try to deal with this problem. The real solution lies in the Japanese model of worker primacy as a proxy for shareholder primacy. Japanese frims chased corporate America into a post industrial society - using 'company' unions augmented by widespread employee tennure.

Nothing wrong with capitalism, or free contract - provided that there's a level playing field.

Posted by: Tim Kane | Oct 31 2006 10:06 utc | 14

Don't let this "controversy" get you down or intimidate you. It just means that the authoritarians realise you're growing influential enough that they have to devote time to developing canards against you. So just use the incident as information about them and blog on your merry way.

Posted by: heatkernel | Oct 31 2006 10:36 utc | 15

I thought it was very funny and the caption too.

And if its offensive, presumably Blalk folks would be the most offended. So now its right-wingers shedding tears for offended Black folks. Thats enough to get Black folks very nervous & suspicious.

I think its more than a little condescending to assume that Blacks cannot on their own absorb this cartoon in its context, laugh it off & move on.

Right-wingers are probably also pissed becaause they know they would not be allowed to get away with stuff like this.

Its all in the context.

Posted by: jony_b_cool | Oct 31 2006 10:39 utc | 16

Major Woody:

I disagree.

Yes, a blackface is an offensive symbol, but only if it's used in a racist context. Context is everything.

For example, Jesus General photoshopped a black slave in irons into a photo of Allen dressed in a Confederate garb.

Individually the images may have been offensive to some, but the context clearly indicated the opposite intent.

So I say it again: these folks were idiots to be offended by Billmon's use of that image in that context.

Posted by: Lupin | Oct 31 2006 13:12 utc | 17

See this is what happens when those demopublicans come into the bar. They bring their hackneyed rhetoric with them.

I used to wonder if the blanket denuciation of all race oriented or gender specific language by those liberals slightly to the left of the neo-cons (eg the amerikan democratic party) wasn't a deliberate attempt to drown out the noise of sensible, well targetted, deconstructions of communication by making the process a laughing stock to all reasonable people. Which is what has happened.

Then maybe the slightly left of neo-con liberals will be free to tell a 'good' joke over a beer once more. Which is starting to happen.

But that is giving unimaginative people too much credit for imagination.
It is more likely that what we are witnessing is rather less conspiratorial and more pathetic than any grand plan.

The people who complained about Billmon's imagery can't really understand the way language oppresses people but they have been told it does. This means that whether they actually believe in it or not, they must seem to.

Therefore they decry all metaphors which feature race or gender specificity.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Oct 31 2006 13:24 utc | 18

Billmon's piece reminded me of the story "Daniel White for the Greater Good".

There is one review on the web that appears over and over. It sanitises the story that a white man told. The review is politically correct, but completely wrong. This is not the story.

Mainstream story of a Georgia town that bursts into racial hatred as a black man is accused of raping a sixteen year old white girl. The calm, savvy man from the NAACP comes to town to advise the black leaders in the community, but his suggestion goes beyond anything they could have imagined. This story was written during the civil rights movement.

Even to produces a synopsis of the story is too much.

This is the story:

It might have been simpler, had he been a good man. At least underneath; but be wasn't. He was, very simply, a dirty nigger. When he could not cadge a free meal by intimidation, he stole. He smelled bad, he had the morals of a swamp pig, and as if that were not enough to exclude him from practically every strata of society, he had bad teeth, worse breath, and a foul mouth. Fittingly, his name was Daniel White.

A few paragraphs further on:

The local papers tagged him—and they were conservative at best—a conscienceless beast. He was that. At least.

It was not unexpected, then, to find a growing wave of mass hatred in the town. A hatred that continually emerged in the words. "Lynch the bastard."

At first, the word black was not even inserted between the and bastard.

At the conclusion of the story - well it is on line and if you want to see how it goes, it is not that long.

Daniel White for the Greater Good

A white man is creating a stereotyped character – a character that exactly fits the stereotype held by racists. Fortunately, Dorothy Parker was there to review the story.

Gentleman Junkie as the only paperback publication for which she ever wrote a review. She singled out the story "Daniel White for the Greater Good" as being: "without exception the best presentation I have ever seen of present racial conditions in the South and of those who try to alleviate them. I cannot recommend it too vehemently... Incidentally, the other stories in Mr. Ellison's book are not so dusty, either."

Posted by: edwin | Oct 31 2006 13:42 utc | 19

its funny because it's true

What is true?

That Wolf Blitzer is a fawning sychophant? Well, yes, that much is true.

But what about the other half? The stereotype of the "dumb slave"? Is that true? Were slaves really dumb, ignorant, lazy make-up wearing (all adjectives which neatly fit Blitzer) bowing, scrapping sychophants?

Because if you believe that "stereotype" (I'm being nice here) then you are on a slippery slope to being the kind of person who will say that European Jews "deserved" to be murdered because they were so "passive" (which is a lie--Jews in Europe were NOT passive).

Posted by: Sunrunner | Oct 31 2006 14:08 utc | 20

don't call me a liberal. (Billmon)

Has Billmon posted a definition somewhere of what he means by liberal? I guess he means some particular, capital L kind of liberal.

When I say liberal, all I mean is someone whose politics are based more on pity than pride, and therefore sympathizes with the weak or unfortunate more than the powerful or fortunate.

Posted by: Gary Sugar | Oct 31 2006 14:20 utc | 21

Just out of curiosity. Has everyone who has been critical of billmon about his Howlin Wolf photoshop been over to ESPN to express outrage over Brian Kinchen's remarks about caressing the football being "kinda gay?"

Which media outlet has the wider audience?

And remind me, do gays still get bashed in this country?

Anyway. Links to your posts on Kinchen would be nice.

Posted by: Porco Rosso | Oct 31 2006 14:22 utc | 22

more crap?

Posted by: DM | Oct 31 2006 14:29 utc | 23

When I say liberal, all I mean is someone whose politics are based more on pity than pride, and therefore sympathizes with the weak or unfortunate more than the powerful or fortunate.

I think that might fit the classic radical definition of what a liberal is. That is one who is identified more with their social place of privelege (which is why you have to chose between pity or pride) rather than identifying the problems of the "workers" (slaves!!!) as your own.

A Liberal bestows alms but does nothing to change the balance of power (conservatives happen to be right about this characterization). A radical or a progressive is more conscerned with upsetting/changing/reforming the balance of power that maintains the status quo which benefits liberals and conservatives alike.

But that is only my take: I would love to learn more of Billmon's ideas on this.

Posted by: Sunrunner | Oct 31 2006 14:32 utc | 24

Is this A liberal manifesto (Balkinization) what is a liberal? Note the sycopantic support for the state of Israel.

Posted by: edwin | Oct 31 2006 15:14 utc | 25

"When I say liberal, all I mean is someone whose politics are based more on pity than pride, and therefore sympathizes with the weak or unfortunate more than the powerful or fortunate."

Does that explain why conservatism is animated solely by contempt? Conservatism is based on pride and therefore sympathizes with the powerful and fortunate?

I guess it explains Limbaugh's place in the firmament.

If you can afford the oxycontin baby, flaunt it.

Posted by: Porco Rosso | Oct 31 2006 15:18 utc | 26

Look out it's an Improvised Explosive Metaphor!

This seems a lot like John Lennon singing "Woman is the Nigger of the World": i.e., "Wolfie is the Minstrel of the Plutocracy." I fail to see the big deal. I can understand that frustration at the inability to put away real racism leads to hypersensitivity over symbols, but jeez this is just really silly.

Posted by: YouFascinateMe | Oct 31 2006 15:22 utc | 27

You are simply repeating your case without responding to the way people here are actually reading Billmon's post. I will make a provisional translation of your message:

"Shut up. White supremacist. Shutup. Shut up!"

Hard to engage with that sort of thing, because it's not at all clear that you mean to speak to anyone here with respect. Worse, you seem to think that Blitzer is being called out for being ignorant and lazy, when instead he is being accused of being servile and treacherous to the rest of his class - the middle one.

In short, you seem to think that
• none of this is political
• that racism and all its evils arise from bad opinions and not bad politics,
• and that strong images should all be surrendered unilaterally to bad politics.

Should we surrender a tool clearly handed to us by the discredited past, a tool that identifies how falsely TV imagines us?

And that's what blackface minstrel imagery and words are, a mask that now shows what it once tried to cover - that the so-called bad behavior of the underclass is a stage creation, a propaganda show bought and paid for by those who would be our masters.

The question is whether we will be slaves or free, whether we will accept Blitzer's servile burlesque of a wage slave. Whether Blitzer has bought himself any safety with his burlesque. As you seem to be aware in other contexts, the blackface white minstrel was always a political hammer. So, why do you object to turning those tools to the purpose of freedom? Or is freedom just something for museums and history? Not something to win with the tools history provides?

How would you portray Blitzer's complicated dance of slavishness?

To me what you seem to reject is the acknowledgment that we still have to worry about becoming slaves, about betraying those we might otherwise love in order to avoid being tortured ourselves. This is today's battle, and a hard one to face.

I sympathize. But don't tell us to shut up. It doesn't help.

Posted by: citizen | Oct 31 2006 15:26 utc | 28

hmmm. Sunrunner @24 has begun to respond. please moderate my critique accordingly.

Posted by: citizen | Oct 31 2006 15:29 utc | 29

First off, I am not telling any one to shut up, nor am I calling Billmon a white supremicist. Please don't do an O'Reilly or a Coulter and attribute words and thoughts to me which I do not own.

I would like to draw your attention to this.

I have an unpleasant confession to make. I am a Southerner. Born in the south of southern parents, with Confederate veterans and slaveowners on both sides of the family tree. For all I know, there may even be a few Klansman hanging in the lower branches as well -- by their necks, I hope.

I'm also, in some deep subterranean sense, a racist -- for one cannot grow up in the world of my childhood and not be marked by its imprint. Believe me, I know: I've spent my entire life trying to get away from it.

Intellectually, I believe in racial justice as feverently as I believe in anything. I would rather have my tongue cut out than utter a racist thought, much less a slur or insult. I support just about every item on the traditional civil rights agenda -- affirmative action, the Voting Rights Act, you name it -- even though I'm not entirely comfortable with race-based solutions. As a privileged white American, I don't think I have the right to tell black Americans the playing field is level enough, especially when I know that it isn't.


But that's just politics. On a personal level, I know there is still a deep divide between me and anyone who happens to have a dark skin.


And I ended up a very different person than the one my Dixie Daddy had hoped to raise.

But maybe not that different, after all. True, I've lived in racially diverse neighborhoods most of my adult life. I've had black neighbors, black co-workers, black nurses -- even, for a time, a black doctor. No worries. But I can't honestly say I've ever had any black friends. And I can't honestly say I've ever really tried. At some basic psychological level, black people are still the Other for me, and probably always will be.

Written by Billmon on August 28th 2003, on the 40th anniversary of MLK's I Have a Dream speech.

I believe it is impossible to grow up in this country and not be personally, deeply impacted by racial politics. Unfortunately too many of us are completely unaware of the ways in which our inner nature has been distorted by those politics.

One of the things which differentiates a Liberal from a radical or progressive is the capacity to search out and acknowlege the ways in which one has become complicit in the thought-structures of the dominant culture. How we have integrated and embodied the "master's" systems of thought.

My point is that since the blackface minstrel was concieved by whites to "put down" black men, to portray black people as dumb, sniveling, and groveling, it does not and cannot work when applied to a priveleged white man like Wolf Blitzer. Because the face is "blackened," it still is still a racist portrayal of what it is to be black.

Think Shylock.

Posted by: Sunrunner | Oct 31 2006 16:03 utc | 30

Written by Billmon on August 28th 2003, on the 40th anniversary of MLK's I Have a Dream speech

Sunrunner, I've seen you post this here, wampum, and elsewhere. I find your observation bizarre. Billmon has honestly admitted his awareness of his early programming (a bit of introspection I've not seen you demonstrate). That makes me MORE likely to give Billmon the benefit of the doubt, not LESS.

You and Kai both use the word "racism" as if it were Avogadro's Number - a fixed physical constant of the universe. It is not. As noted above, context is everything. The intent of the publisher must come into play - you cannot take an isolated image and make the definitive judgement of racism you and Kai are pushing here. Kai agreed with that in another post, saying, in effect, "it's OK if Malcolm does it". Intent must be a consideration.

Posted by: LittlePig | Oct 31 2006 16:21 utc | 31

Written by Billmon on August 28th 2003, on the 40th anniversary of MLK's I Have a Dream speech

Sunrunner, I've seen you post this here, wampum, and elsewhere. I find your observation bizarre. Billmon has honestly admitted his awareness of his early programming (a bit of introspection I've not seen you demonstrate). That makes me MORE likely to give Billmon the benefit of the doubt, not LESS.

You and Kai both use the word "racism" as if it were Avogadro's Number - a fixed physical constant of the universe. It is not. As noted above, context is everything. The intent of the publisher must come into play - you cannot take an isolated image and make the definitive judgement of racism you and Kai are pushing here. Kai agreed with that in another post, saying, in effect, "it's OK if Malcolm does it". Intent must be a consideration.

Posted by: LittlePig | Oct 31 2006 16:21 utc | 32

You can't please everyone all the time, and the "Howling Wolf" blackface picture was obviously not intended to - it clearly is derisive, although the target of the derision is subject to interpretation. I want to say something about how I see the issue.

a few words about where I'm coming from, in the literal and metaphorical senses. I'm a white male with a New England ancestral background, who grew up in several places in the U.S. and elsewhere, but with a substantial chunk of time in a couple of towns in the Old Dominion, where I was indoctrinated with the 1950s version of "Virginia History" for ten year olds, portions of which, even then, seemed to me to represent a partisan viewpoint. During the 1960s I lived in a Southern Virginia town, where restaurants posted "we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone" signs, and my next-door neighbor, a widow who grew up in a state even further south, said in my presence, "Our negroes were happy - it was the outside agitators that made trouble." She said it with enough emotion that it seemed that on some level she knew it wasn't true. Even later, my brother married a mulatto Puerto Rican, and I have quadroon nieces, one of whom is blond and blue eyed and "white" for all practical purposes, unless you see her relatives, and the other of whom is just as brown as her mother - but half as brown as her mother's mother, who was also at the 25th anniversary celebration I attended last week. So I know something about the social consequences of skin pigmentation from personal experience.

I haven't read everything said on the internets about Blackface Blitzer, but I did use technorati to see if anyone else has mentioned the following - apparently not.
In 1981, during the Ronald Reagan inaugural festivities, Ben Vereen appeared in blackface and performed a tribute to Bert Williams, the pre-eminent African-American performer of his time, who also performed in blackface (active about 1890-1922). Fellow vaudevillian W.C. Fields described Williams as "the funniest man I ever saw—and the saddest man I ever knew." As I recall, many were offended by Vereen's homage to this man - I imagine because they wanted to forget the role that race has had, and continues to have, in U.S. history, both socio-economic and cultural. Wikiepedia has an illuminating article about Bert Williams.

I'm sure that Bert Williams, and Ben Vereen, and Billmon, were not putting on blackface (or drawing it on Blitzer, in Billmon's case) to "diss" black people, or keep them down - even though others obviously have done so. LittlePig is right - intent must be a consideration.

Posted by: mistah charley | Oct 31 2006 17:03 utc | 33

I dunno, I laughed.

Of course Wolfie in blackface was "offensive". The severely codependent relationship that people like Wolf hold with the current Republican regime is pretty damn offensive.

One could write a sensitive 4000+ words on the poisoned nature of American corporate media, or one could just cut the bullshit and point out CNN's function as America's Most Trusted Name in GOP Minstrelsy. I prefer the latter.

Posted by: queridobobo | Oct 31 2006 17:12 utc | 34

First if all it's funny. Secondly, it's funny. it still racism when Spike Leee makes essentially the same point?

Posted by: Cleveland Bob | Oct 31 2006 17:26 utc | 35

The fundamental problem is one of theological misconception. Monotheism is based on the assumption that the absolute is the apex, from which we have fallen and seek to return. The reality is that the absolute is basis, out of which we rise and to which we fall. It was politically convenient at the time communities became too large to manage by charisma, to ascribe the soul of the group to some higher order, of which the leader was the representative. Divine right of kings and all that. Currently asserted by the munchkin.
The reality is that intelligence and awareness are not synonymous, as in an "all-knowing God". Knowledge is the process by which awareness incorporates complexity, but the source of this awarenss is elemental and life rises fitfully out of it.
One, as in mono(theism) isn't the absolute, zero is. The tendency is to confuse this elemental state of unity with the unit and so we have all these absolutist sects battling to the death. Bottom up processes create these top down structures, but no structure is absolute. We need something along the lines of pantheism as a universal religion.

Posted by: brodix | Oct 31 2006 17:50 utc | 36


Put the shovel down.



Posted by: vachon | Oct 31 2006 18:01 utc | 37

But Billmon - it was only a "slapdown"


Here's the transcript and video of the Cavuto interview.

Cheney was asked about his wife's pugnacious appearance on CNN last week.

"I thought it was great. We refer to it around the house as the 'slapdown,'" he said.

Posted by: b | Oct 31 2006 19:30 utc | 38

Mainstream reporters all over the West are very well paid, get huge perks from knowing leaders, ‘in’ people, etc. (In the EU that stretches to getting subsidized housing when they have no right to it, and not for a grotty 3-room flat either ...)

They can retain self-esteem and a ‘special’ position because reporters had prestige in the past, and their fakey artistry and sensitivity as ‘outsiders’, upped with muted symbols of independence can pass, as in Gvmt. and corporate circles it is judged wise to admire them and applaud their ‘originality’. !!

So they were their badge of longer hair, or one gold earring, or an Ayrab wife (EU - how sweet .. ), imprisoned children (EU - drugs, how sad) can get drunk sometimes if they wish, be just a tad flamboyant on the teevee, present boring and obfuscating counter arguments to distract from real issues, roll up the cuffs of their white shirts, and swear that they bought the small yacht with money they earned, check it out. Farm in Brittany? Ecological! Inherited from granny!

Playing that role locks them in. They are bought and paid for, so cannot even use the internet or look things up, don’t consult the wires, threw out their grammar books and dictionaries long ago, don’t read books or papers (best not to know) and never speak genuinely to anyone, not even their illegal au pair, their mistress, or their green grocer, wine merchant. (OK, that is a bit frenchie culture..)

Posted by: Noirette | Oct 31 2006 19:54 utc | 39

@Cleveland Bob - 35
First if all it's funny. Secondly, it's funny. it still racism when Spike Leee makes essentially the same point?

nice read.

First it tells me Blacks attempting satire with race-related images can be just as awkward as Whites trying the same.

On satire, Richard Pryor was a product of his time. The art, comedy and music of today reflects today. Both Blacks & Whites today generally get their aspirations pre-packaged for them. Not the best wetland for incubating art.

In general, people may have some clue of their actual abilities/talents but they do not have even the slightest foresight as to where it could conceivably take them until they are sufficiently challenged by life. This applies more especially to artists.

Posted by: jony_b_cool | Oct 31 2006 22:05 utc | 40

is it the liberal label you despise or is it that you are being labeled a liberal because you are listed as one of dkos's alums? I think the later would burn me up as well

liberal by association

Posted by: jg | Oct 31 2006 23:34 utc | 41

Everybody calm down, cause Billmon aint no Rock & Roll Nigger!

And You Aint No Picasso ...

Rock N Roll Nigger

Baby was a black sheep. Baby was a whore.
Baby got big and baby get bigger.
Baby get something. Baby get more.
Baby, baby, baby was a rock-and-roll nigger.
Oh, look around you, all around you,
riding on a copper wave.
Do you like the world around you?
Are you ready to behave?

Outside of society, they're waitin' for me.
Outside of society, that's where I want to be.


Baby was a black sheep. Baby was a whore.
You know she got big. Well, she's gonna get bigger.
Baby got a hand; got a finger on the trigger.
Baby, baby, baby is a rock-and-roll nigger.

Outside of society, that's where I want to be.
Outside of society, they're waitin' for me.

(those who have suffered, understand suffering,
and thereby extend their hand
the storm that brings harm
also makes fertile
blessed is the grass
and herb and the true thorn and light)

I was lost in a valley of pleasure.
I was lost in the infinite sea.
I was lost, and measure for measure,
love spewed from the heart of me.
I was lost, and the cost,
and the cost didn't matter to me.
I was lost, and the cost
was to be outside society.

Jimi Hendrix was a nigger.
Jesus Christ and Grandma, too.
Jackson Pollock was a nigger.
Nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger,
nigger, nigger, nigger.

Outside of society, they're waitin' for me.
Outside of society, if you're looking,
that's where you'll find me.
Outside of society, they're waitin' for me.
Outside of society. (Repeat)

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Oct 31 2006 23:39 utc | 42

Here's a better version of Rock N Roll Nigger by the Patty Smith Group

In the above post, the lyrics including "lenny" were refering to Lenny Bruce.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Nov 1 2006 0:00 utc | 43

context is indeed everything . . . and there is very little that Bill says that cannot be understood and/or indeed be forgiven by the reader who identifies with a truth larger than the soundbite. He speak for an intelligence that refuses to be cowed.

Me, I think politics is a crock when measured against the truly infinite questions confronting this planet,not to mention my hopefully incipient soul.

Still, borderline nihilist, that's a pretty good one for a political philospher.

Posted by: DonS | Nov 1 2006 2:40 utc | 44

It was a mistake for Billmon to use the blackface image, but it doesn't make him a racist. Does anyone seriously think Billmon believes that 19th century house slaves were genuinely subservient, shuffling morons? That's what makes this "controversy" so tiresome and so similar to the kind of superficial nonsense that we find in the mainstream press.. People could have told Billmon "Don't use that blackface thing--it is just too offensive and you could make your point some other way". But no, instead we have people speculating on how this shows that deep down, Billmon is really a racist and using his honest confession from a few years ago against him. That's certainly the way to get people to listen to you.

The reason Billmon shouldn't have used the image is simple--it was bound to offend people in the wrong way. He should have found some other way of expressing his contempt for Blitzer. By using this image he practically invited this "controversy". But I can say all this without pretending to possess any sort of moral superiority. He just made a mistake. (Cue someone asking "Yes, but what led him to make that mistake?" At which point I leave.)

Posted by: Anonymous | Nov 1 2006 3:16 utc | 45

isn't this horse dead yet?

Posted by: annie | Nov 1 2006 3:20 utc | 46

re out of the closet:
I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about where I am ideologically. Billmon's comments regarding his ideology feel all too familiar.

yesterday when doing some research on Venezuela I read>this article by a communist/anarchist (a very long article!!!) about Venezuela and his ideological perspective. While of course I didn't agree with everything he said, I found it extremely interesting.

I would really really like to hear what Billmon would say about it, though I realize he doesn't have time to respond to commentators or read everything people suggest.
Nevertheless I post this here, because I don't have his email, I feel others might want to read it to learn a little more of Venezuela and its 'revolution' and maybe somehow this will get back to him.

Disillusioned ex-revolutionary, ex-socialist believing resistance is I hear that. If he reads this or anyone else does (and the article) I would be extremely interested in hearing any reaction (via my email or here) ... Not that I expect any replies - as I say it's a pretty long article.

Posted by: brian | Nov 1 2006 3:21 utc | 47

btw: my email:

Posted by: brian | Nov 1 2006 3:23 utc | 48

well, you know, the sign is the site of all class conflict. and it is the cynicism of the ruling class that has made everthing bathotic which was once sublime: the human body, nature, gods and goddesses alike. everything which is beautiful becaussev it is momentously epiphanal and unique is destroyed by rightwing control of meanings. and the war for meaning must include exposures of sanctimonious rightwing control of the sign always and everywhere a control intended to demolish the beautiful uniqueness of experience and thought. the hypocrisy is plain as day: the mask wolf blitzer wears is the blackface. assigning racism to this revelation of fact is to concede what the right desperately wishes: the blackface, as sign of the crassest racism, is finally surmounted by its complex concealment of impartial news reporting. wolf in fact was very direct about this: "I'm not a slavish power anus licker. I'm not partisan." fuck if you aren't, wolf.

it's simply not chauvanistic to deconstruct the metonymic creeping of signs intended by the right to conceal necessarily elemental chauvinism serving rightwing ideology. the sycophancy of "blitzer" is blackface servitude, "andrew sullivan" is a daddy-fucking fag, "ann coulter" is a domesticated splittail, "immigrant" mexicans are anchor-baby making welfare cheats, "kofi annan" is an uppity negro, "arabs" are terrorists. the list is endless. and the deconstructions are tricky.

Posted by: slothrop | Nov 1 2006 4:33 utc | 49

Does anyone seriously think Billmon believes that 19th century house slaves were genuinely subservient, shuffling morons?

"Uncle Tom" ?

Is it politically correct to use this rather than blackface ?

Posted by: jony_b_cool | Nov 1 2006 7:17 utc | 50

If you really want to try to make sense of this -er- discussion, click here!

Posted by: | Nov 2 2006 13:57 utc | 51

You know, I swear to god. It's the weirdest thing: you really CANNOT get very far into one of these discussions without some broken-down, Dennis Hopper wannabe singing and dancing Rock N Roll Nigger around you in a fake raindance circle, their arms and legs wiggling like overcooked noodles. It actually never, ever fails.

(If you want another angle on that song, you can try a movie called Afro-Punk about black and latino punk kids...)

I also just want to thank all the evolved, irony and nuance appreciating white folks out there who took the time to tell Uncle Scam that, while Patti's song is a great and complex document, it might not have been the most useful thing to post in its entirety right smack in the middle of this thread.

(Just to be clear for those with letter problems, I didn't say "racist," but "might not have been the most useful," which you can shorthand as "un-helpful," "ill-advised" and so on.)

But really, Billmon: you want a completely practical and editorial reason why using blackface on your blog is a bad idea? Because within a coupla days, someone in your comments will invariably be typing "N-word, n-word, n-word, n-word, n-word, n-word, n-word!" with one hand (just for the purposes of nuance and illustration, of course!) while beating off with the other. How responsible or un-responsible you feel for that is your call, but don't please act like that inevitable downward spiral is somehow victimizing you or that there's no relationship between your rhetorical choices and the environment they help foster or create.

Posted by: ebogjonson | Nov 2 2006 15:51 utc | 52

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