As anyone who has spent any time reading news Weblogs such as the Swamp knows, reader comments are central to the lines of communication that are opened by debate over the issues -- or sometimes quirky stories -- of the day. But in the interest of civil debate, comments sometimes are not accepted.
At CBSNews.com, they have found so many offensive comments about Sen. Barack Obama that are objectionable for their racial bias or other prejudice that they are no longer accepting comments on their stories posted about the senator who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president.
It's worth considering what that says about society here in the early years of the 21st Century.
The Swamp's lines are open on all stories, of course, though we insist upon the right to reject objectionable comments about anyone or anything. Read on about the block at CBS:
CBSNews.com has informed its staff via email that they should no longer enable online comments on stories about presidential candidate Barack Obama. The reason for the new policy, according to the email, is that stories about Obama have been attracting too many racist comments.''
I wonder: what constitutes a 'racist' comment? I have a suspicion that the definition of 'racist' is rather fluid and open-ended, as usually seems to be the case. It has to be that way, obviously, because otherwise the PC apparatchiks would not be able to keep nailing people for 'racism' unless they can keep expanding the definition.
Now some will say, 'they should ban racist comments!' Fine; most newspaper blogs and webforums are moderated, and certain slurs will not be allowed, but to close down all comments regarding him shuts down all criticism, however legitimate and civil. And what's more, it puts Obama in a special category in this regard.
And if Obama is thus placed above criticism and protected by some special ban on comments about him, how is that fair to the other candidates? It's likely that all conservative candidates, and non-minority candidates, will be subject to scathing criticism, up to and including personal attacks, insults, scurrilous names. This certainly seems to be the rule on just about any forum or news blog I have visited, where personal attacks are tolerated. But it seems Obama is to be exalted above the rest.
This is Political Correctness in a nutshell: if one is a member of certain protected groups, based on their history of perceived 'victimhood', then one is shielded from criticism. It may be open season on everybody else, but for the specially protected Victim Classes, no unflattering words and name-calling are allowed. Deference and PC smarm are the order of the day.
It's been said that a sure way of discerning who holds the power in a group is to observe who can be criticized and who cannot. The PC speech codes tell the whole story.
And by the way: if American blacks are given special deference because of the history of slavery and discrimination, then how does Obama rate? None of his ancestors were slaves in America. His father was an African studying in America; none of Obama's ancestors were here during Jim Crow days. Why then is he accorded the special considerations attendant on slave ancestry then? (Similarly, for that matter, why are all non-white immigrants and students granted affirmative action preferences, which are supposedly meant to compensate for past discrimination, which they never experienced? Just wondering...)
The prospect of our having a President who is above criticism, and the idea that any of us who might find fault with such a leader would be open to racism accusations, is a disturbing one. Our president, and all our political leaders, must be accountable. Our forefathers decided that monarchy was not a desirable thing, because the idea of royalty implies inherited privilege and it implies a ruler who is above criticism, and who is not accountable. Obama would in a sense be in that position as president.
I was alarmed, though I should not have been surprised, the other day when someone I know, who usually votes Republican, said she hoped that "the black one" would be elected President in 2008. I asked: why? She answered: "well, I just think it would be good. Maybe it would show blacks that we're not racist!''
I was dumbfounded, but I have a feeling there are many, many people in America who would and could vote for Obama on that basis. He has the white guilt vote sewn up, needless to say. He alone can absolve us of our ancestral 'sins,' so these guilt-ridden people believe.
Here is an example of some purported Republicans supporting Obama's candidacy:
Republicans defect to the Obama camp
DISILLUSIONED supporters of President George W Bush are defecting to Barack Obama, the Democratic senator for Illinois, as the White House candidate with the best chance of uniting a divided nation.
Tom Bernstein went to Yale University with Bush and co-owned the Texas Rangers baseball team with him. In 2004 he donated the maximum $2,000 to the president’s reelection campaign and gave $50,000 to the Republican National Committee. This year he is switching his support to Obama. He is one of many former Bush admirers who find the Democrat newcomer appealing.
Matthew Dowd, Bush’s chief campaign strategist in 2004, announced last month that he was disillusioned with the war in Iraq and the president’s “my way or the highway” style of leadership – the first member of Bush’s inner circle to denounce the leader’s performance in office.
Although Dowd has yet to endorse a candidate, he said the only one he liked was Obama. “I think we should design campaigns that appeal, not to 51% of the people, but bring the country together as a whole,” Dowd said.
This is distressingly common 'thinking' among many vaguely well-intentioned Americans: they think Obama will 'bring us all together', and to the feel-good, warm-and-fuzzy types, this is absolutely the highest imaginable good.
But would he bring people together, or would he divide us further? I can only think the latter; he would, I believe, be inclined to favor 'his people', by which I mean blacks, considering that he is a member of a church with decidedly Afrocentric beliefs and programs. And I think he would position himself as a 'bridge' between Moslems and and non-Moslems, which of course would involve more 'reaching out' and ecumenicism which would ultimately favor Moslems and increase their power and influence in our country.
And being a Democrat, of course he would favor all the Victim Groups at the expense of the shrinking majority.
But still there are many self-effacing Americans who would welcome some 'uniting' figure who could magically remove the troubling divisions from our country.
Some months ago, David Ehrenstein wrote this piece:
AS EVERY CARBON-BASED life form on this planet surely knows, Barack Obama, the junior Democratic senator from Illinois, is running for president. Since making his announcement, there has been no end of commentary about him in all quarters — musing over his charisma and the prospect he offers of being the first African American to be elected to the White House.
But it's clear that Obama also is running for an equally important unelected office, in the province of the popular imagination — the "Magic Negro."
The Magic Negro is a figure of postmodern folk culture, coined by snarky 20th century sociologists, to explain a cultural figure who emerged in the wake of Brown vs. Board of Education. "He has no past, he simply appears one day to help the white protagonist," reads the description on Wikipedia.''
Actually the term 'magic Negro' echoes a term invented by Richard Brookhiser some years ago.
I have heard that Rush Limbaugh is now playing one of his song parodies, the Magic Negro, based on "Puff, the Magic Dragon." How long before Al Sharpton or one of the other PC vigilantes goes gunning for Limbaugh and declares that song and the phrase to be 'racist'?
If CBSNews.com is putting Obama off-limits for criticism, then what next?