James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association, a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media, and a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University.

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Posts Tagged ‘Ku Klux Klan’

A simple question regarding race and fear

Posted by James McPherson on December 12, 2014

Cop & klan

My question, of course, is based on events in Cleveland (well, there and elsewhere in Ohio), South Carolina, Florida, Phoenix, Michigan, Las Vegas, Portland, New Orleans (again), Oakland, Southern California (again and again and again), New York City (again and again and again and again and again), and too many other places to mention. Not to mention the more common indignities suffered regularly by people of color.

I wrote all but this sentence about a week ago, and couldn’t decide whether to post it. But reading this and this and this and this and especially this and this made me decide to go ahead.

And here’s a historical reminder from someone who isn’t a cop, but who plays one on TV about what discontent with the legal system can lead to — the sort of thing that disturbed even those right-wing gunslingers  (and their allies) who often act as if almost everyone should be armed:

Addendum: An interesting article about the science that turns most of us into racists.

Posted in History, Politics, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

Electronic Klansmen trying to make me famous

Posted by James McPherson on December 7, 2009

As any regular here knows, I read a lot of stuff from throughout the political spectrum. I think all Americans should do so, for reasons I’ve expressed previously. As I’ve also mentioned before, I also occasionally try to point out an error and/or to engage in dialogue with a blogger with whom I disagree, even though most blogs are largely meaningless expressions of ego.

I always try to remain civil in those cases, and I’ve made some new electronic “friends” as a result. Some conservative bloggers now link to this site, and I link to theirs. Even in cases where I didn’t win over the blog host, I’ve had good “conversations” via comments sections, and have drawn some readers over here.

Of course I hear in various forms from an assortment of crazies; it goes with the territory. But one particularly vile and cowardly crew has apparently decided to try to make me famous, devoting at entire posts to me, with my name and title in the headline. With an apparent regular readership of about half a dozen mother’s-basement-bound Orly Taitz wannabes, the blog  is unlikely to make me as recognizable as this James McPherson or this one or this one (the first two are Pulitzer Prize-winning writers, the third a Civil War general), but its anonymous (naturally) author is doing his/her best. The site is one of those racist paranoid New World Order sites, and had posted a warning about a Muslim stamp issued for the holidays under the “Muslim Obama administration.” One respondent cried, “The government is slowly becoming muslim-based,” while another suggested that Barack Obama was involved with a plot to kill off black people with vaccinations (no, I don’t get the Muslim stamp connection either).

I should have known better than to respond, since this site is one of those that proudly portrays the racist depiction of Michelle Obama that I mentioned in a recent post. But I felt obligated to note, “The stamp was first issued during the George W. Bush administration, in August 2001–about a month before 9/11, and then reissued in September 2007 ,” and that “there are lots of available Christmas stamps, along with stamps commemorating Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Valentine’s Day, Black history, the Lunar New Year, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and the Simpsons,” and that a 10-second web search would do much to boost the credibility of ther arguments.

That prompted a serious of nutty personal attacks from other respondents. These folks are toxic fungus common to many blogs, using the pseudonym as a modern version of a Ku Klux Klansman’s outfit to hide their identity. Fortunately they spend most of their time hidden away from most of civilized society, trying try to abuse and intimidate others from the shadows. They generally lack either the intelligence or the guts to be willing to open up their ideas to public scrutiny (one even complained after my comment that I was on “a private blog,” whatever that is), and because they’re afraid to remove the electronic pointy hoods, their only real threat is that they might induce other morons to commit violence.

By the way, I don’t response to those sites to try to start arguments–life is too short for that. I do so because I know that too few readers seek out a variety of sources, and I feel that it’s part of my obligation as an academic to contribute when I can to general knowledge, and to the democratic process. Based on what happened this time, though, I think from now on I’ll limit my responses to sites with named contributors.

Of course, I wasn’t terribly surprised at the venomous responses I received in return after posting my comment. What did surprise me was that the site host approved my comments–and then changed one of them to make it look as if I’d said something that I hadn’t (something very profane, at that). It was the first time I’ve ever had to point out the key elements of libel law (probably something every blogger should be familiar with) to force someone to delete something from a blog.

In addition, the host then featured me in an entirely new post, calling me “another idiot liberal professor that wants to poison student minds.” No surprise there, either, but in this case the post included a couple of photos of me, a partial bio, contact information for a couple of school administrators, and a suggestion that readers call to complain about what I was doing on “company time.” It also included my office phone number and email, though so far no one has used them. For reasons I cannot fathom, the post also listed all of the editors (and their contact info) for the award-winning student newspaper that I happen to advise (students, of course, do all of the writing and editing).

I never know whether to be more impressed with the power that some people think college professors have, or more depressed by those same people’s lack of respect for the intelligence and integrity of young adults. I certainly can’t imagine my employers caring much what anonymous hatemongers might have to say about me. Besides, one of the things I love about working in academia is the respect that most people in it have for a diversity of opinions. And aside from the fact that I was writing on a Saturday morning after a 60-hour week, part of my job as a teacher is to share my knowledge beyond the confines of the classroom. That’s why academics from all disciplines write books, journal articles, guest opinions in newspapers, and, increasingly, blogs.

Since that Sunday post, the host of the site has also featured me in three other headlines, and parts of a couple of other articles. Among the things I’ve been called by various writers on the blog in the past couple of days: “a feminist sympathizer” (I’m actually a feminist), “a radical leftist” (no doubt, compared to these folks), “a spineless whimpy little coward” (despite usually being the only writer there using his real name), a “funny looking little nerdy chap” (hey, I’m no lumberjack, but still…), “a disgrace to America and to college professors everywhere,” “the poster boy for NAMBLA,” “a mother——– feminist,” and “a c——-ing squirrely nut holding gnarly Gilligan elitist liberal” (I edited out the profanity with two of those comments).

Unfortunately, one of my conservative and highly ethical students (the other person on the thread using a real name, and someone who–like most of my students–disagrees with me on most things political) came to my defense on the site (oddly, these people apparently believe in Jewish New World Order black spy helicopters, but seem clueless about Google alerts). That college student has been equally disparaged on the site since then. Brave and classy folks indeed.

Posted in Education, History, Legal issues, Media literacy, Personal, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Burn a flag for the Fourth

Posted by James McPherson on July 3, 2008

The Fourth of July weekend is an appropriate time to discuss patriotism and its ultimate icon, the American Flag. Barack Obama and liberals draw considerable criticism for failing to honor the flag in ways deemed appropriate by conservatives, while some self-defined patriots apparently can’t wait to find new ways to use the flag to break the law.

As fearful as some conservatives and weak-willed legislators are about flag-burning liberals, I’d be willing to bet that more conservatives than liberals will engage in unlawful flag-related behavior this weekend–in many cases an unfortunate byproduct of combining patriotism with ignorance. And that would be true even if flag burning were made illegal, rather than just being the legally proper way to dispose of a worn flag.

Part of the problem comes because many people seem to consider the flag a religious symbol. Most don’t go as far as the Ku Klux Klan, which may offer the most extreme version of conflating patriotism and Christianity (its two “guiding principles) with its three primary symbols, “the Flag, the Constitution and the Holy Bible”–though for some modern variations of the Klan (others here and here), the Stars and Bars flag seems to be more important than the Stars and Stripes. But while most conservatives have little in common with the Klan, the various apparel versions of “these colors don’t run” T-shirts also fetishize the flag. I’m no Jehovah’s Witness, but I do appreciate the Witness’ Supreme Court-approved stance that saluting the flag (which I do, incidentally, though I don’t own a flag pin) might be deemed idolatry.

George H.W. Bush campaigned in front of a flag factory and won points by berating Michael Dukakis for vetoing a bill (which would have been unconstitutional), requiring public teachers to lead the Pledge of Allegiance (which Bush himself had never recited as a student, though Dukakis had). Bush’s actions prompted cartoonist Garry Trudeau to drape his invisible Bush characterization with a U.S. flag.

Conservative wingnuts, helped by the mainstream media, now are using flag pins and the National Anthem to try to portray Obama as non-patriotic (Time offers a short history of the relatively brief life of the flag pin). Yet many of those same conservatives regularly violate the U.S. Flag Code, adopted during the hyper-patriotism of World War II.

Here are some relevant sections of the flag code, along with examples of the law being violated–including by the current president Bush:

“The flag should form a distinctive feature of the ceremony of unveiling a statue or monument, but it should never be used as the covering for the statue or monument.”

 

“The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.”

“The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.”

“The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery.”

 

“The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.”

 George Bush desecrates a flag:

“The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard.”

  

“No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations.”

 

“The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”

The fact is, how best to express one’s patriotism can be complicated. For example, my three favorite versions of the National Anthem, all of which in the right circumstances can still bring tears to my eyes, all feature performers who would not even have been fully recognized as people when this nation was founded. The first, by Jimi Hedrix, is an anti-war version performed during Woodstock. The second might be viewed as a pro-war version, performed by Whitney Houston at the Super Bowl during the first Persian Gulf War. And in the third basketball coach Mo Cheeks rescued a young girl who under pressure forgot the words to the song. I’ve posted YouTube versions of all three below.

The complications of patriotism are discussed further in an excellent essay by Time‘s Peter Beinart, who points out that common liberal and conservative versions of patriotism both are flawed:

When it comes to patriotism, conservatives and liberals need each other, because love of country requires both affirmation and criticism. It’s a good thing that Americans fly the flag on July 4. In a country as diverse as ours, patriotic symbols are a powerful balm. And if people stopped flying the flag every time the government did something they didn’t like, it would become an emblem not of national unity but of political division. On the other hand, waving a flag, like holding a Bible, is supposed to be a spur to action. When it becomes an end in itself, America needs people willing to follow in the footsteps of the prophets and remind us that complacent ritual can be the enemy of true devotion.

Patriotism should be proud but not blind, critical yet loving. And liberals and conservatives should agree that if patriotism entails no sacrifice, if it is all faith and no works, then something has gone wrong. The American who volunteers to fight in Iraq and the American who protests the war both express a truer patriotism than the American who treats it as a distant spectacle with no claim on his talents or conscience.

So honor your country this Fourth of July by burning a U.S. flag, if your own flag is worn out. Then replace it with a clean new one, symbolic of America’s promise as well as its past.

Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock

Whitney Houston at the Super Bowl

Mo Cheeks and Natalie Gilbert

Posted in History, Legal issues, Music, Politics, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 39 Comments »

The science of cross burning for Christ

Posted by James McPherson on June 28, 2008

An Ohio “science teacher” has been fired for promoting his Christian faith by, among other things, telling students that the theory of evolution is wrong because the Bible does not support it (something I suspect the science teachers at the Christian university where I teach would dispute), and by using an electronic device to burn crosses into the arms of students. The teacher claimed that the mark was an “X”: I’ve included a photo below so you can judge for yourself.

In my favorite quote from the original story, a friend (who brings to mind the phrase, “With friends like these…”) apparently told the Columbus Dispatch: “With the exception of the cross-burning episode. … I believe John Freshwater is teaching the values of the parents in the Mount Vernon school district.” Might that be termed the Ku Klux Klan defense?

After the firing, the Dispatch noted that Freshwater “had declared himself a free-speech martyr.” Funny, I thought the Christian martyr was the man who died on the cross, not the guy who physically abused kids that he was supposed to be teaching about how God’s world really works.

Now I’m taking off to camp, fish and commune with nature–three of the best reasons to live in the Pacific Northwest in the summer. Assuming I can find and afford gas to get back home, I’ll pick up the blogging again in a few days. If you’re new to the site, perhaps you’d like to catch up with what I’ve written previously. Regardless, there are some great resources linked at your right for news, opinion and education about media and politics.  And if I’m not back before then, Happy Fourth!

Posted in Education, Journalism, Legal issues, Personal, Politics, Religion, Science | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »