Just in the holiday spirit …

… I’m defending Glenn Reynolds. He links to an Easter poem by one blogger on a site that also has a racist rant by a different blogger, and Glenn Greenwald attacks Reynolds for it.

… let me, just this once, defend Glenn Reynolds.

I don’t know the people at the Instapunk.com blog, though their retrospective embrace of vigilantism and robbery doesn’t recommend them to me. Apparently Glenn has said some nice things about their blog.

But when Reynolds sends an item link to a posting of the Easter poem “Dulce lignem dulce clavo” by InstaPunk contributor “Chain Gang,” I don’t see where Glenn Greenwald is justified in tying Reynolds to the racist rant posted on the same site by a different contributor, “Old Punk.”

Glenn Reynolds sometimes says, and links to, silly and offensive stuff (for example this swipe at Oprah, which Greenwald points to in an update) and I haven’t been backward in criticizing him. But he didn’t endorse “Old Punk’s” diatribe, even by implication, and I thought our side tried to be above guilt-by-association. Has that changed?

Somehow I keep missing these crucial memos.

Updates Glenn Greenwald defends himself.

Glenn Reynolds, having read the “Old Punk” rant, finds it (with his usual understatement) “pretty bad.” (He’d previously said “kind of ugly,”)

In fact, the Old Punk’s ravings are much more disgusting than anything Wright said. So is this earlier post by the Instapunk himself (not to be confused with the Old Punk or Chain Gang), to which Reynolds linked without hostile comment. (Because Obama is half-white and half-black, while most Americans aren’t half-white and half-black, “he is none of us” and shouldn’t be President. Or something.)

Glenn Reynolds continues to think that Obama’s relationship to the Trinity United Church of Christ constitutes a “scandal.” Sorry, I don’t see it.

As a young man, Barack Obama went and got himself saved in a particular church by a particular pastor, whose sermons are mostly pretty sensible (the YouTube clips are badly cherry-picked) but who sometimes does a little bit of ranting.

The notion that America is damned for one reason or another is pretty standard-issue stuff outside the polite mainstream churches; if the preachers aren’t not complaining about grinding the poor, they’re complaining about abortion or tolerating gays. And it’s hard to say that they aren’t accurately chanelling the Hebrew prophets, who were pretty free with their denunciations and threats of divine vengeance.

As to the “chickens coming home to roost” sermon after 9/11, watch the whole thing. Wright quotes a Reagan-era ambassador about the unjust violence the United States government has done, or participated in, abroad. And he preaches a very potent sermon, the best I’ve ever heard, on the 137th Psalm (“By the waters of Babylon ..”) with its horrible final verses.

[Wright also gets in a subtle but extremely crack about Louis Farrakhan. When Elijah Mohammed “silenced” Malcom X, it was done with a bullet. And Farrakhan is widely known to have been complicit in the murder.]

At other times,Wright has also said some truly ugly things about drugs and AIDS, which no one should have said because they were false and hateful and harmful to the public health. What Wright did not do was utter one syllable that was anti-white or anti-Jewish. So the notion that Obama has listened to, and subjected his children to, years of “hate sermons” is patent nonsense.

Having decided to make a political career outside the Southside, Obama decided not to walk away from that church and that pastor even when they became politically embarrassing, though he was careful to keep the pastor away from the campaign. (McCain, of course, has done the opposite: begged for and accepted political support from religious figures he has no spiritual connection to but who preach outright hatred of the Catholic church, gays, and Muslims and whose political activity is directed in part toward bringing about the Apocalypse.)

It’s not unethical, though it may be wrong or foolish or impolitic in some particular instance, for a Christian preacher to be unpatriotic; he or she intends to serve a master whose kingdom is not of this world. It is of course incumbent on politicians, whose first commitment is properly to the nation, to distance themselves from unpatriotic remarks, no matter who made them. And that’s what Obama did. It seems to me the whole series of events does Obama credit. And of course his speech was superb, despite all the nit-picking done to it.

That doesn’t mean that the whole deal won’t cost Obama votes. But “scandal”? I don’t think so.

Second update Tom Maguire, intending to defend Reynolds and attack Greenwald, instead succeeds in illustating Greenwald’s point: that hate speech isn’t offensive to some people on the “respectable” right. The good news is that, hypocrisy being the tribute vice pays to virtue, Maguire has to pretend that the hate speech he’s defending isn’t actually hateful. Instead of arguing for the value of what the Old Punk had to say, Maguire pretends he said something else and then argues for the value of that imaginary contribution instead, accusing Greenwald and other “lefties” of intolerance for wanting not to hear it.

First, Maguire:

“Old Punk” of the InstaPunk crowd posted his thoughts on why specific behaviors of a specific subset of the black community annoys him. Frankly, there is very little in his post I would be inclined to defend, but I would be very curious to learn how widely held his viewpoints might be. As an example, I would guess his aversion to the hip-hop gangsta sub-culture is widely shared.

Well. Rather than trying to look for the message in his message, the Usual Suspects, led by Glenn Greenwald, seized on the offensive sections as an opportunity to brand Glenn Reynolds and the entire conservative movement as racists.

So let me summarize the exchange:

Obama: We should have a national conversation about race.

Old Punk: OK, here is what annoys me about some black people.

Lefties: The Old Punk is a racist, as are all righties.

One might well argue that this does discourage anything like a candid conversation.

Remember that: “specific behaviors of a specific subset of the black community.”

Now (if your stomach is strong enough) the Old Punk in his full glory (well, almost; I’m leaving out the n-word passage).

I am sick to death of black people as a group. The truth. That is part of the conversation Obama is asking for, isn’t it?

That’s some “subset.” But wait! it gets better:

African-Americans are on the verge of the greatest setback they’ve experienced since the election of Rutherford B. Hayes. You see, you’ve just given life to the suspicion that black people in America are, and have long been, a fifth column &#8212 unanimously hating the very country that has afforded the highest standard of living ever achieved by black people in human history. We’re teetering at the edge of believing that you’re a secret society, a massive collection of sleeper cells just waiting for your chance to do serious harm to the rest of us.

That’s right. The Old Punk says that “we” (Who? White folks generally? Old Punks?) are “teetering on the edge of believing” about black folks as a group exactly what the Nazis believed about Jews as a group.

Maguine titles his post “Pardon My Paranoia.” Sorry. No, I won’t pardon it. And it’s damned hard to treat.

Greenwald is angry at me for defending Reynolds because he thinks that by doing so I’m enabling the Old Punk’s racism and the politicians it helps elect. Maguire is surprised and pleased that I’m defending Reynolds, I guess for the same reason. Both are wrong, and Ann Althouse is right: had Reynolds noticed what the Old Punk said, he should have refused to link even to an innocuous post on the same blog. This is the kind of stuff that makes you want to take a shower after you’ve read it.

I’m astonished that Tom Maguire sees it differently. But then the Irish-Americans were always a potential a fifth column: slaves to the Pope, friends to slavery and traitors to the Union, dirty, lazy, drunken, and dishonest.

Let’s have a conversation about it.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

One thought on “Just in the holiday spirit …”

  1. Obsession 101

    I've said it in a number of posts, and I hate to be a broken record, but once again, it is illogical and unfair to hold A responsible for something said by B. In yet another classic example, Glenn Greenwald…

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