Can someone explain this to me?

Dinesh D’Souza, who more or less agrees with Osama bin Laden about American sinfulness, and who is now running a Christofascist madrassa called The King’s College, unleashed a frankly racist rant at the President, attacking him for being the son of “a Luo tribesman.” Newt Gingrich agrees. It’s a bridge too far, even for some conservatives. And yet Newt Gingrich is still treated as a serious figure, and National Review Online published his interview without any critical comment whatever.

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:

23 thoughts on “Can someone explain this to me?”

  1. Mark:

    While I agree with your general assessments of both D'Souza and Gingrich, having read D'Souza's absurd argument that President Obama is driven by an anti-colonial ideology, it is clear that D'Souza was referring to Obama's father, not the President, as a "son of a Luo tribesman."


  2. Ok, I'm assuming you were simply expecting that nobody would bother following the link to read the essay. Other than stark insanity, I can't come up with any explanation for why you'd so dramatically misrepresent it's content, and then provide a link to it.

  3. Professor Kleiman: It's a bad article littered with cheap psychobiography. However, Mr. Bellmore is right to say that your characterization makes the typical liberal's error in thinking that any argument can be thrown out simply by saying the magic word "racism." To the extent that "anti-dark skin" racism still exists in America, I suspect that Mr. D'Souza has encountered more if it than you, Professor Kleiman.

    Given a genuinely poor article, you managed to make a comment that's even worse.

  4. Ah yes, the left's favorite label for someone they don't agree with…"racist". I agree Brett, it's almost like it was assumed that we wouldn't click on the link and actually read this piece. Just a few posts ago Mark made an honest outreach to Christians to understand their position on the death penalty, and now we find him throwing out phrases like "Christofascist" to refer to a Christian college that he probably knows little about other than reading this piece by President D'Souza. What do you know, for example, about King's College Provost and editor-in-chief of World Magazine Marvin Olasky? Olasky is a remarkably genuine individual who has dedicated his life to championing causes that spread love, peace, and aid around the world and here at home. King's College is a serious institution of higher learning and should not be denigrated. But of course to the outsider non-Christian no distinction is made between King's College and Bob Jones University for example. But this is to be expected when we Christians rock the boat in the liberal bastian called academia. It wasn't always this way. I heard an interesting quote from my pastor in church this morning; the founding mission statement of Harvard University in 1643 (quoted here in the original old english): "Let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed, to consider well [that] the maine end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternall life, Jn. 17:3, and therefore to lay in Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning." I guess Harvard is just a Christofascist madrassa.

  5. Dan Cole: D'Souza's exact words are: "So who was Barack Obama Sr.? He was a Luo tribesman who grew up in Kenya and studied at Harvard."

    He is therefore characterizing Barack Obama Jr as the son of "a Luo tribesman". The use of "tribesman" is insult by innuendo; as would describing Nelson Mandela as a "Xhosa tribesman".

    What was your point again?

  6. D'Souza says:

    "No explanation other than anticolonialism makes sense of Obama's curious mandate to convert a space agency into a Muslim and international outreach."

    Um, what? Deciding to abandon a launch vehicle program is a mandate to go Muslim? This may or may not be racist, but it's certainly barking mad.

  7. Brett,

    Did you read the essay? It's sheer idiocy. WTF is D'Souza talking about? A loan to Petrobras is some deep scheme to deprive Americans of oil? A continued push for stimulus is some sort of anti-colonial plot? Even Mark Zandi McCain's economic advisor, thinks the stimulus was helpful, and of course plenty of other people who acually know economics say more is needed.

    Then there's this gem:

    Obama's foreign policy is no less strange. He supports a $100 million mosque scheduled to be built near the site where terrorists in the name of Islam brought down the World Trade Center. Obama's rationale, that "our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable," seems utterly irrelevant to the issue of why the proposed Cordoba House should be constructed at Ground Zero.

    This is Obama's foreign policy? And religious freedom has nothing to do with Cordoba House? It has everything to do with it. Muslims, no less than anyone else, have the right to build community centers wherever they want to, subject to zoning issues and the like.

    And of course all the supidity about Obama's motivations is, as ugh says, uninformed and cheap psychobiography.

    In other words, D'Souza's essay is incoherent, dishonest, nonsense.

  8. I read the essay. I urge everyone else to do the same, rather than taking Brett and Bux at their word. You may need a stiff drink, either before or after.

    Yes, it was "Luo tribesman" that stood out to me. What other sort of Luo is there? Why use the primitive-sounding "tribesman" except to emphasize how Neeeeeeeegro the President's father was? It's hard for a piece by D'Souza to be below standard – the standard is so low, from someone who attributed the torture at Abu Ghraib to liberal sexual immodesty – but this one manages.

    The notion that D'Souza's Indian background makes him immune to racism is laughable. Reflect on his name, and examine the history of Goa, and you might get a sense why he's a trifle sensitive about anti-colonialism.

    As to a place called The King's College that brags about its "biblical worldview" and was bailed out of its financial jam by the Campus Crusade for Christ, I'll let my readers judge whether "Christofascist madrassa" is accurate or not. TKC offers a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politcs, and Economics with a Concentration in Theology. According the school's website, "In the PPE Theology Concentration, students study the Christian scripture and tradition with the goal of being conformed to the mind of Christ." When a curriculum aims at conformity rather than understanding, that isn't education, that's indoctrination. Can you say "Bible College"? (Yes, Harvard College was founded as a Puritan seminary. It's changed somewhat in the almost four centuries since.)

    Note that the notion that the Kingship of Christ properly over-rules any sort of democratic norm is a potent one within the fever-swamps of the Christian right; presumably the name of the institution was not selected thoughtlessly.

    As to Olasky, an ex-Communist-turned-Christian-dominionist who edits The World and regards conformity to the Bible as the truly objective form of reporting (while conventional journalistic objectivity is merely "the balance of subjectivities") is exactly the sort of person I'd expect to find as provost.

    It's no surprise that ex-Communists make such superb liberal-haters; Communists have always hated liberals like poison, and the habits of intellectual and moral dishonesty learned in the Party – the willingness to excuse any crime and tell any lie as long as it's for the Cause – make excellent preparation for life on the contemporary extreme right. Olasky, as a Bush supporter in 2000, accused McCain supporters of being pagans for preferring classical to theological virtues. (No, really.)

  9. It may (or may not) have been D'Souza's intent to insult Obama, or highlight his blackness, by referring to his father as a "Luo tribesman." I'm not convinced, however, that references to tribes are invariably racist. It is quite common for me and fellow Jews to refer to one another as "MOT" ("members of the tribe"), and I am willing to be that members of various tribes (Indian, African or whatever) are rather proud of their tribal affiliations.

    Having said that, I hasten to add that I think D'Souza's argument is ridiculous. The idea that Barack Obama is somehow infused by anti-colonialist leanings inherited from a father he barely knew is insane – not to mention contradicted by the Obama Administration's position on trade (among other things).

  10. D'Sousa's "stunning insight" (Gingrich's term) isn't even original. These themes have been pursued by various Murdoch employees (above all Glenn Beck), & before that, by more marginal race men like Steve Sailer. Even the specious precision of the reference to the Luo — I doubt D'Sousa could tell a Luo from an Akamba if his paycheck depended on it — is borrowed.

  11. "Ah yes, the left’s favorite label for someone they don’t agree with…”racist”."

    Unfortunately the right generally can't tell the difference anyway, never having understood what racism is – or cared to find out. To the right, if one says they don't like minorities, they are a racist. If they say they don't care, they are not. Problem solved.

    The fact that hatred has always been rooted in the unconscious escapes them. Yet never having done the difficult work of critically evaluating the history of hatred (oh, how they squirmed during those liberal studies classes!), the social structures it employs and the ways in which it is transmitted culturally, they are at a loss to correctly analyze the liberal critique. This likely explains how comfortable they are with the racist fringe that generally follows them about like stray animals, lapping up the scraps of conservatism's dark meat that sustains their fantasies.

    This is Glenn Beck holding his rally with no sense of irony. This is white men describing themselves as oppressed. This is denying the role of government in intervening in the legacy of discrimination that plagues ghettos by supporting value-added institutions like public schools, daycare, drug prevention and compassionate sentencing. This is viewing illegal immigration as an "invasion" of criminals. This is seeing no connection between environmental regulation and disadvantaged communities without the social capital to respond politically or legally to exploitation. Etc.

    Civil rights is the liberal project. Conservatives know this at a gut level. They just don't understand it and feel demonized by the narrative of race. And rightly so. If I were them I wouldn't know how to square it either.

    On the one hand, we all know that being "racist" is wrong. But if one doesn't understand what that really means, then when one's beliefs are called racist, then what other reaction can there be but incredulity?

  12. Wasn’t every patriot and Son of Liberty at the original Boston Tea Party an anti-colonialist?

    More to the point, during & after WW2, the US was the nemesis of the British Empire. Of course, by "anti-colonialist" D'Sousa basically a species of Leninist. So no, no decent (or "normal," in GIngrich's terms) political entity could've been anti-colonialist.

  13. "Did you read the essay? It’s sheer idiocy."

    Did I disagree? I don't find Dinesh a particularly impressive a writer, but it IS possible to misrepresent a bad essay, after all. It's even possible, dare I say it, to criticize a bad essay while addressing what it actually says, rather than resorting to the liberal's casual accusations of racism.

    In fact, at this point I'd advise liberals to do so even where real racism is present, unless you're prepared to exhaustively document the charge. As some genius phrased it, the race card is overdrawn. Liberals' ritual screams of racism don't even make conservatives twitch anymore, and people in the middle of the spectrum are starting to be desensitized to the accusation. It's reaching the point where, if you confront a real racist, you'll have nothing to say anybody would bother listening to.

    Crying wolf is a bad idea, if there's any prospect at all you'll be confronted with real wolves down the road.

  14. "On the one hand, we all know that being “racist” is wrong. But if one doesn’t understand what that really means, then when one’s beliefs are called racist, then what other reaction can there be but incredulity?"

    How true: Hence the reaction of liberals, when accused of being racists for demanding racially discriminatory policies. "But I can't be a racist, I'm a nice guy!" The incredulity comes from thinking that racism must be linked to hatred. When racism really is about treating people as interchangeable instances of a group, instead of as individuals in their own right. Hatred has nothing to do with it, paternalism or even benevolence will serve just as well.

    After all, the victim of racial discrimination doesn't care that you did it because you liked some other race, instead of hating his. He just cares that he's been discriminated against, and rightly so.

  15. Brett, I assume you're talking about affirmative action, etc. I think you can make a case that there is a form of racism going on there. I don't personally buy it. But I hope we can agree that it arises from a completely different place than historical bigotry, which is all about a feeling towards a particular class of individual. Affirmative action isn't a reflection of negative attitudes towards whites or men in general.

  16. When I was a landlord my tenant had the furnace stop working in the winter and had no heat. She called the furnace repair people – they wouldn't come. I called them – they came. The difference? The voice of a white man as opposed to the voice of a black woman on the other end of the phone. A co-worker had the police called on him when he went out in the evening to roll up the garden hose in his parents back yard. And we can then go to the discussion about "anchor babies" and the recurring 5-minute hates on Muslims if you'd like to broaden the mix beyond white/black.

    Conservatives like to pretend that we have no history; that we don't live in a society where income mobility is among the worst in the world, and where racial minorities are largely on the poor end of the class structure. Affirmative Action can have its issues, especially related to class. But to anyone with eyes to see, our system profoundly disadvantages those without well-to-do parents, and that has consequences which include racial injustice. Or you can think, as you apparently do, that white folks are the real victims.

  17. Brett,

    I take it you agree with me that the essay is, as I commented, sheer idiocy. Whether D'Souza is a good writer or a bad one doesn't come into it. Had he expressed his ideas with clarity and elegance they would be just as moronic.

    In fact, I don't really care about D'Souza at all. What I care about is the endorsement of his article by Gingrich, a possible Presidential candidate who is sometimes described as a Republican intellectual leader, and its uncritical promotion by NRO, an allegedly serious conservative publication. If this is not evidence of the sorry state of conservative thinking in the US, what is?

  18. It didn't sound like he was attacking him for being the son of a Luo tribesman (and if the primitive aspect of "tribe" sets you off, remember that Obama used to describe himself as a descendant of goat-herders). Judging from the same sentence, you could as easily say Dinesh was attacking him for being the son of a Harvard student (which is not entirely implausible, now that I think about it). The article is poorly thought out and focuses more on the obsessions of neoconservatives than the president himself, but its point is that Obama Sr. what we would consider a very left-wing ideology, not that he had a bone in his nose and worshipped animal spirits.

    I was also confused by the Brazil point. Do they not sell oil to America? Larry Summers should explain to Dinesh why we want polluting industries to locate in poorer countries.

  19. Bernard Yomtov is correct to worry more about Gingrich than D'Sousa, but I think he can relax about Gingrich becoming President. It might be fun if he did run, the more to mess up the race for the others. Pretty soon he is bound to say that Obama wants to give every Knee-Grow a brand new SUV and a free white woman. In any case, his record of chivalry is bound to alienate at least one half the electorate, even if his other remarks are not factored in.

    I would like to get him the hell off my TV, though.

  20. In a way it's true, calling it racism may give them too much credit. Racism is a particular theorization of enmity; & in practice, most plain bigots hardly give their hatreds any thought at all. They dislike others because of a whole series of ill-defined & overlapping differences: race, religion, language, class, culture, politics, clothing, diet, a thousand trivial things.

    D'Sousa & Gingrich obviously brought up Africa, Kenya, the Luo, & anti-colonialism w/ invidious intent. (In office, Gingrich famously compiled that long list of invidious terms he wanted applied to Democrats; for him, the best part of the life of the mind is looking up insults in the dictionary.) And they know their audience. Difficult as it may be to accept, the hard fact is that there are people who don't relish being governed by an African or an anti-colonialist, or a man whose mental world they say is ruled by one. (Until now I doubt many gave much thought to the Luo.)

    It's true that most Africans are black, & all the Luo are, & that anti-colonialism was in large part a movement against European domination of the non-white world, but in fairness, those aren't the only reasons these people hate the President. There's also the polygamy & the drinking. As Gingrich (surely a good judge of such things) says, Obama is not normal.

  21. This may (or may not) have been intended to insult Obama, or highlight his blackness. I mean, hey, it's common for Jews to refer to one another as "members of the tribe," and I'm sure other tribesman are rather proud of their tribal affiliations.

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