David Frum on D’Souza’s racism

“An insult to every conservative.”

Various commenters accused me of being unfair to Dinesh D’Souza in accusing him of racism for his attempt to reduce his policy disagreements with Barack Obama’s to the President’s “anti-colonialism” as the son of a “Luo tribesman.” (That seems to be an especially dark-skinned variety of Luo.)  I hadn’t mentioned the frankly racist items in the Darthmouth Review that jump-started D’Souza’s wingnut career, but no doubt that material, along with my hostility to D’Souza’s politics, influenced my interpretation.

So let’s listen to David Frum, who can’t reasonably be accused of liberal bias:

When last was there such a brazen outburst of race-baiting in the service of partisan politics at the national level? George Wallace took more care to sound race-neutral. … Nothing more offends conservatives than liberal accusations of racial animus. Yet here is racial animus, unconcealed and unapologetic, and it is seized by savvy editors and an ambitious politician as just the material to please a conservative audience. That’s an insult to every conservative in America.

If an insult is an untruth told with intent to offend, Frum is wrong when he says “every conservative,” unless he wants to define “conservative” in a way that excludes racism. Newt Gingrich has sound judgment about what appeals to right-wing Republican voters, activists, and donors; his delighted embrace of D’Souza’s frank bigotry seems to me to justify my belief that racism appeals to at least a large chunk of the remaining Republican base.

The question is when, if ever, the adult supervision will start to make itself felt in the GOP.  I’m glad Frum is trying. And Byron York, who seems to have no principled objection to race-baiting, thinks this particular instance is tactically unsound. Andy Card finds Gingrich’s comments “unhelpful.” Talk about harsh!

But it will take much more than David Frum to clean the horsesh*t out of the Republican stable. It will take  small navigable river, and a hero. Neither is in view from where I sit.

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

12 thoughts on “David Frum on D’Souza’s racism”

  1. Yes. We didn't need Frum or D'Souza to confirm this. Conservatives get outraged about charges of racism the same way that a sloppy teenager insists that his room "really is" tidy, for Pete's sake! If the demographic information of party affiliation were not enough, one would need only meditate on the obvious fact that white resentment politics is a good business to be in!

    The fact of the matter is, conservatives spend far more time pointing out instances of supposed "reverse racism" than they ever do combatting institutional racism, which at least the Democrats are committed to doing. That in itself speaks volumes.

    The Republicans' real trouble is that they know they're on the wrong side of history, and there's no graceful way to stop being on the wrong side of history. So they commit misdemeanors by the bushelful, and in thirty years they'll deny that they were ever on the wrong side of anything. And meanwhile we'll just move the ball forward.

  2. I agree with an old comment from Brett Bellmore, the "racist" label is simply played out. The average American, regardless of political affiliation or ideology, just doesn't care anymore. Way to go liberals, pat yourselves on the back for that one. In reality, I think most of America is waking up to see that most of the true racism in this country is coming from the left. It's the paternalistic attitude pervasive among the left, that seeks to ride to political victories on the backs of poor and minority communites, all in the name of "feeling their pain" (as Slick Willy Clinton use to say). It's the old "token black friend" syndrome, or the "I voted for Barack Obama so I'm covered from racism" syndrome. It's the "you can't help yourselves black people, you need us to help you" syndrome. Here's the perfect example. Check out this old post on this site from Jonathan Zasloff: http://www.samefacts.com/2010/06/sports/ghana-2-u… . In this post, Jonathan quips about feeling sorry for those poor Ghanaians and talks about feeling like he should cheer them on for a World Cup victory because, after all, it would mean so much more to those poor poor Africans who have nothing else. Do you detect the paternalism in the writing voice? Maybe we should be having a debate about whether liberals like Jonathan Zasloff are racist. Or maybe we should just simply stop over-using the term.

  3. Eh. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. That's not bigotry, that's reality. Or maybe it is bigotry. It's still reality.

  4. Bux, it's called rooting for the underdog. In baseball, it's found in Royals fans, Seattle fans, and basically everybody who is not the Yankees.

    But you are probably right about the label being worn out. I'll predict that D'Souzas' racist phraseology will not matter a whit in regards to his employability. Similar for Barbour's re-imaging of the (R) party as the party of civil rights. It's truthiness all the way down.

  5. Note Bux's retreat into relativism. He doesn't bother to argue with the overwhelming evidence that D'Souza is a stone bigot, both recreationally and professionally. He merely points out that he hand his friends have managed shoot enough squid ink into the water to deprive the charge of some of its force. That's true enough. But there's no valid inference from "This accusation no longer has much political effect" to "This accusation is not true." Here's a hint: When you have all the white supremacists with you and the vast majority of African-Americans against you, it's probable that you're in the wrong camp.

  6. "David Frum, who can’t reasonably be accused of liberal bias"

    You know he sells RINO t-shirts on his site.

    The bit about the "Alinsky tradition" is hilarious, since that sort of smooth deceptiveness for popularity and access to the inner corridors of power is about as far from Alinsky as you can get. Perhaps Gingrich could learn something from Ronald Radosh.

    Obama could also respond that his father was a protege of Mboya, whose faction was supported by America against pro-British & Soviet figures. To be pro-British in that situation would have been anti-American!

  7. Bux betrays a shockingly low opinion of the moral character of the American people. There'll always be those who view indifference to injustice as something to be hoped for, & take evidence of it as an occasion for gloating, but they are a degenerate minority. Most of us retain our capacity for shame.

  8. The reaction by Bux above is far and away the most interesting aspect of this thread. He doesn't defend D'Souza from the charge of racism. Instead, he gleefully suggests that the charge of racism has lost its rhetorical value through overuse, at least against conservatives. He then goes on to accuse a bunch of unnamed (aside from J. Zasloff) "liberals" of racism.

    From this, we can see that Bux is very focused on the use of "charges of racism" as a rhetorical weapon. He is pleased by the idea that conservatives are becoming immunized against this weapon (due to past "overuse"). He likewise is pleased by the idea of turning this weapon on his political adversaries.

    To Bux, "racism" now falls in the same general category as "the filibuster" and "deficit spending" — that is to say, things that not inherently objectionable except insofar as "liberals" or "Democrats" can be criticized for engaging in them.

  9. I don't know about Bux, but I will be very pleased when (Ok, "if") liberals stop reflexively accusing conservatives of racism. Not because I think racism ok, or even neutral. Because I think most liberal accusations of racism are BS. Often conscious BS, sometimes projection, occasionally valid. But mostly BS.

  10. Mark and J apparently wanted me to defend D'Souza against the charge of racism. When outlandish charges are made based on (at best) a speculation of motives, it doesn't dignify a response or defense. This is the tool of the left though. Like a drive-by shooting, they spit out the charge of racism like a full clip of bullets, hoping that their victims will waste time trying to clear their names of this charge. It once was a clever diversion tactic, it's now just annoying. Again, it doesn't dignify a response. The truth is that there is no "overwhelming evidence" that folks like D'Souza are racists, unless using the term "Luo tribesman" to refer to an actual Luo tribesman is overwhelming evidence of racism. Or maybe we are to believe that if enough people from a diversity of backgrounds (e.g., David Frum) lodge the charge then it somehow becomes true.

    But since the charge of racism must be defended and not ignored, please tell me why Harry Reid, Joe Biden, and Robert 'KKK' Byrd are not racists. Harry Reid thinks Obama is successful because he is light-skinned and has shed his "negro dialect". Biden thinks Obama is "the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy". And Robert Byrd….well, we won't even go there.

    But here's a deeper point. What makes racism wrong? J refers to racism as "inherently objectionable". I agree. But you can't tell me that at one in the same time there are no moral absolutes because there is no god, while also claiming that we should believe that something like racism is "inherently objectionable". That would be living on borrowed capital. Many of the same folks that I hear running around saying that racism is inherently objectionable are also the ones that will try to tell me that there is no god and there are no moral absolutes. If something is INHERENTLY objectionable, then it is a moral absolute. Where then do moral absolutes come from? Where is the guidebook for laying out what does and does not qualify as inherently (or objectively) morally objectionable? And if something is not objectively morally objectionable then why should I care, because it is only the subjective opinion of a somebody or a whole lot of somebodies who think they know better than I about what is right and wrong. Why is it that the left clings to "sins" like racism but ignores "sins" like pride, as if they hold the key to what does and does not qualify as inherently morally objectionable and to the pecking order of the objectionableness (is that a word??) of different immoralities? Like I seem to remember Mark pointing to in recent post on a passage from the book of John in the bible, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Let's be consistent if we're going to point out what we believe to be "sins" in others, and let's don't pretend like we can divorce absolute standards of what is right and wrong from the "standard bearer".

  11. Bux, whether there's a God, and whether there are moral absolutes, are two entirely separable issues. If there is no basis for determining what is good or evil apart from God, then the phrase, "God is good" is entirely meaningless. He's just another "Somebody". Maybe one with a lot of power, but if there's no objective basis for saying 'God" is good, aside from him being that guy with a lot of power, it's no different from any despot insisting you agree he's good. Hume nailed this one.

    So, if we can really say, meaningfully, that God is good, we can say, equally meaningfully, that other things are good or bad, without consulting God on the matter. Though we might want to, once we've established he's good, since he's presumably also better informed on the subject.

    For my part, I think there is no God, or at least, there is no reason to think there's one. (Motives to, yes, but not reasons.) As for good and evil, I believe in it, but reason has no power to compel conclusions on this topic, apart from premises outside the reach of reason to establish. Or, short form, "You can't get from is to ought."

    On racism, the problem is that Democrats view bad motives as what's wrong with racism. This is convenient for them, since they start from the premise that their own motives are good, and thus are logically precluded from being racists, even as they insist on racially discriminatory policies, and try to hand out rewards and punishments based on nothing more than skin color.

    But it doesn't really persuade anybody who's starting premise isn't, "Liberals are good!".

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