News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.
Saturday, June 14, 2003
Bias and messages from the media:
Last month's MacWorld Magazine featured a cover story on stopping spam. I read it because the spam load in my blogging-only email box is humongous. However, I must not have paid much attention to the full-page picture illustrating the story.
The letter is from a much more observant reader, Jerome Leroy. The cartoon is of a crowd waiting at the entrance to a trendy nightclub. The doorman is holding a velvet rope he has released for a couple while keeping the rest of the would-be patrons, who largely fit Leroy's description, back. The couple being allowed to enter resembles Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman.
There is nothing I can call overtly discriminatory in this ad. It is more subtle than that. It implies some people are "In" and some people are "Out," with the determination made by race, age and class. It seems to me that is a pretty true statement of societal reality, but I don't think it is an idea MacWorld wants to promote. It wasn't long after some people, including me, pointed out the first 'switchers' campaign featured Mac converts who were all white, about the same age and even worked in the same fields, that a new crop of ads peopled with switchers or longterm Mac users who are disproportionately minority was released. This is a similar heads-up for MacWorld. I hope staffers for the magazine get the message.
There are sometimes overtly racist messages from the media. Some years ago, a phone company printed advertising in which countries were represented by tiny icons of people in native dress. Except for people on one continent, that is, Africa. There, the icons were of monkeys. The material was withdrawn after attention was drawn to the overtly racist slur.
Targeted advertising is meant to curry favor with the group it is targeted to. For example, commercials that tell women they can be competent in the boardroom, on the golf course and at home are meant to reassure women in the professions -- and sell them the product. But, sometimes I believe advertisers may insult some people in the targeted group and offend those in the groups that are not targeted. Presently, there is an ad for MacDonald's chicken salad. The target group is black women. The narrator, a 'sister from down the street' type, describes millions of women who fit that demographic as always doing for others, unappreciated and in need of something for themselves -- a chicken salad. It strikes me as doubtful that all or most women in the group fit the description or would even be flattered by being described that way if they do.
Sometimes, people from outside the target group can be offended by the assumption they are not included in the demographic the advertiser is pursuing. My ex, whom most people would consider a typical, middle-class white guy, took offense at ads that promote black people as being very cool because they imply white people are lame. He would point out that he was interested in the hip product being promoted, too. Of course, at the same time, such an ad is implying black people are naturally more emotional or good at sports or music, stereotypes that dehumanize even as they seek to flatter, because they imply race determines what traits individuals have.
There is a minefield media walks when dealing with issues of gender and race/ethnicity. MacWorld appears to have stepped on one of the smaller mines.posted by J. | 7:43 AM
Friday, June 13, 2003
Assailant convicted of assault: Hate crime ignored
To my surprise, a jury has decided the beating of a gay man at Morehouse College in Atlanta was not a hate crime. Via Ronn Taylor at A Burst of Light, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports the assailant was convicted only of assault.
However, jurors refused to convict Price of the charge which would have added five years to his sentence. Perhaps I should not be surprised. No one has ever been convicted of a hate crime in Georgia.
As a student of the law, I opposed hate crimes statutes. I adopted the reasoning that the crime, whatever it is, is already being punished by a conviction under the criminal laws applicable to rape, assault, or murder. However, in the years since, I've changed my mind. It is true that an assailant in a rape, assault or murder does not have positive intentions toward the victim. You could say he hates her. But, that hatred is directed at an individual, not a group. When a person is assaulted because of her race, gender or sexual orientation, I believe it is a form of terrorism because a message is being sent to the millions of other people who share that characteristic that they are hated.
The biggest hurdle in reasoning about hate crime statutes for me is in knowing the intent of the defendant. Unless he explicitly states it, his intentions must be garnered from the circumstances. And, often the circumstances are ambiguous. In the Morehouse case the motivation seems clear, though. Price saw Love looking at him while he was showering, he said. He left the shower, fetched a baseball bat and beat the victim. It seems to me that the assualt would not have occurred if Price had not known Love was gay and responded to that information. The jury disagreed, though it is not clear why. Perhaps they found the defense attorney's biased argument that Price felt he needed to protect himself from Love because of Love's homosexuality persuasive. Or maybe there were jurors who were hostile to the idea of hate crime statutes -- not unusual in the South.
I will be keeping an eye out for other hate crimes cases in Georgia. I am curious to see what it would take for a conviction to occur.posted by J. | 8:26 AM
Wednesday, June 11, 2003
*Neo-Confederates demand 1956 flag
Georgia neo-Confederates have decided not to accept what they consider a loss -- replacement of the 1956 Georgia flag with a new flag, the second in three years, that does not contain the Confederate war emblem. The 1956 flag was adopted as part of Massive Resistance, the effort by white Southerners to prevent desegregation of public accommodations and schools. The neo-Confederates are petitioning the Legislature.
Though it is not as recognizable as a Confederate emblem, the recently adopted flag was also part of secessionist regalia. The legislators who orchestrated the compromise vote on the new flag had hoped it would pacify the neo-Confederates. However, the movement is a great deal more about resistance to diversity than it is about history. The symbol of that resistance to multiculturalism and equality is the flag adopted in 1956. So, there is a logic in the neo-Confederates continuing to demand the return of, or at least a vote on, that flag. Ironically, at the same time the behavior is also typical of the members of these groups in its perversity. Their goal is not to live as peacefully with the rest of the electorate as possible, which requires compromise, but to impose their will on the population. Because of the clout they wield in Republican circles, they have been able to do just that more often than you would think.
*Who's cemetery is it?
Who controls what occurs at our national veterans cemeteries, the federal government or the neo-Confederate movement? The question arose when a longterm member of the movement sought to use a ceremony at the Camp Lookout in Maryland to rail against the Confederate flag being flown there only on that special occasion. He is to be a speaker at a June 14 ceremony honoring the Civil War dead.
However, Veterans Administration rules governing such speeches require them to be nonpartisan and content neutral. The state's interest is in maintaining decorum at national military cemeteries. Apparently, discomfort at the thought of the spectacle neo-Confederate speeches and responses could lead to were sufficient to prevent the judge from granting injunctive relief to the petitioners.
Some advocates of broad freedom of expression, especially in public spaces, will be troubled by this ruling, They may point to the fact the ceremony honors Confederate soldiers and their nexus to contemporary neo-Confederates as supporting allowing the excised speech.
But, I see the resolution is a good reflection of my belief an activity should be allowed on public property if it conforms to the purpose of the area. Otherwise, it is acceptable to limit or exclude it. I believe this proposed activity does not conform to the 'fits the purpose' criterion because it would result in disruption in a place meant for repose.
The Confederate flag flew at the site until the 1990s.
*CSA mocks secessionist dream
Neo-Confederates may have been the only big fans of Gods and Generals. Now, the buzz among them is C.S.A, a film that mocks the values they hold dear. They are incensed by the very thought of its existence. In the mock documentary, the Confederates won the Civil War and have maintained chattel slavery into the 1950s or '60s. The modern conveniences of the era are present, but so are some geared to slave management. People the government of the C.S.A. is unable to accept as equals or enslave, such as Jews, have been confined to reservations.
Yes, that false claim about the cause of the Civil War does sound familiar. Several Southern bloggers, including Clubbeaux, post it to their blogs, often enough. And, it is possibly the most important staple of the neo-Confederate movement. Obviously, the director, Kevin Willmott, knows his turf.
I have been remiss about entertainment during the two plus months since I started blogging, but this is a film I want to see. I look forward to its general release.
The reporter says C.S.A. is too smart a film, especially for a satire, to be accessible to most Americans because so few know the facts about the Civil War. That leads me to wonder if better teaching of the history of South would result in better race relations. For example, would as many people be opposed to affirmative action if they knew just how harmful slavery and its aftermath, segregation, were?posted by J. | 2:14 AM
Tuesday, June 10, 2003
Traditional Calvinism and contemporary bigotry
I previously cited the doctrine of the elect in regard to one of the entries I reviewed for the New Weblog Showcase at The Truth Laid Bear. On further reflection, I believe it is a good lens through which to view several other blog entries we've been discussing. The doctrine grows out of Reformist mastermind John Calvin's (1509-1564) teachings about the role of Christianity in society. Though most of us learned what we know about Calvinism from studying the Puritans in elementary school, Calvin spent most of his career in Geneva. It was in that small, homogenous society that he developed his belief, "that people were saved solely by the grace of God, and that only people called the Elect would be saved. Only God knew for sure who the Elect were." He also believed that faith was more important to being saved than doing good works. In other words, a person could be a good Christian bound for Heaven without being concerned about the needs of others.
Though I focused on the class bias inherent in Del Simmons' argument that returning societal resources to the poor in the form of tax refunds was unjustified because they hadn't earned them in my review of his Weblog Showcase entry, I could have just as easily focused on the second tenet -- that a person can be good while being indifferent to the impact of his selfishness on society. Simmons's argument in his entry supports both interpretations. But, before we go on, this is not an entry about religion per se. Though we are using aspects of Calvinism as our lens, what interests me is the material world. Tiger of Tiger Rantin' and Raggin' used very similar reasoning in his short entry. He argued poor people should not have 'so many' children so that the costs of caring for them would not have to be shared by other people in society. He is woefully inaccurate in regard to the poor and childbearing. Most have an average number of children, two, among Americans. His argument against shared responsibility for the young is a position a 16th or 17th century Calvinist would have found agreeable. Modern societies differ in that most of us realize that there is a need to support children in general to produce adult workers who keep societies functioning, in addition to what most of us would term a moral duty not to let anyone's children starve or go shoeless.
I believe the Calvinistic underpinning is also present in the rehabilitation of the image of the Ku Klux Klan currently being carried out by Clubbeaux, and other Right Wing bloggers and readers who have added approving comments to his jeremiads. We looked at Clubbeaux's claims about the Klan in his own words earlier. Actually, those are not necessarily his own words. His remarks, though cast in terms of a personal awakening, as white supremacist David Duke cast his in his autobiography, My Awakening, are pretty much boilerplate for members of the neo-Confederate movement. One can go to any site affiliated with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the League of the South, the Council of Conservative Citizens or similar groups and read claims that the Ku Klux Klan is not bad, it is just misunderstood. Let's consider the doctrine of the elect again. Simmons' apparently believes the wealthy are the elect. Clubbeaux believes that white working-class men are. By that, I mean he believes they are more deserving than others. Therefore, any societal policy that promotes equality for people he considers not elect, in Clubbeaux's case mainly African-Americans, who he can barely mention without slighting, is wrong and should be abolished.
Indeed, Clubbeaux would prefer a society in which the poor are forced to rely on the generosity of the wealthy to survive. And, in keeping with his white supremacist views, he casts his preference in terms of race.
Some people would appeal to religion in regard to that obviously morally wrong position. But, from a traditional Calvinist perspective, it is not wrong. One can be a good person, even go to Heaven, while not giving a fig for his fellow man, which is very easy for the Clubbeauxs of the world when that fellow man looks different from them or is a woman.
Clubbeaux has posted another entry extolling the Klan as the protector of working-class whites from the depravities of the government and people of color. His remarks have mainly been cheered, though as far as I know no virtual crosses have been burned.
We will look at the views of the bloggers who have opposed Clubbeaux and his fellow travelers at Silflay Hraka, including those of a conservative or two, in a subsequent entry.
Note: Clubbeaux's real name is David Sims and he may live in or near Richmond, VA. I would be interested in any information about Sims' political activities, particularly involvement in neo-Confederate groups, readers might be able to locate. Much of the material he is posting is recruitment oriented, so I believe that angle might be one worth researching.
Note: The World Book Encyclopdia, OS X Edition, was cited in this entry.posted by J. | 2:17 AM
Sunday, June 08, 2003
Where the boys are
I stopped by Fred Meyer on the way home from downtown today to snatch some light eats and bottled water. (Can't live without the stuff when it gets hot.) I was in a long line at the cash register, so I had an opportunity to look at the entertainment magazines and the tabloids. Demi Moore is all over the covers with her beau -- a 25-year-old b-, oops, guy.
People who like to accuse me of being a bigot because I am not a bigot should pick up their pens now. I couldn't go there. To paraphrase comedian Moms Mabley, "The only thing a boy can do for me is tell me the way a man went." Am I being prejudiced or, as I suspect, wise?
It has been reported that older woman-younger man pairings are increasing.
However, I can't quite fathom what the attraction would be for the woman.
I communicate with several male bloggers in their twenties regularly, including Jesse of Pandagon, Julian Sanchez of Notes From the Lounge and the anonymous fellow at Byte Back. They are all bright and well-informed. Julian is handsome. These young men seem much more complete than I did from ages 20 to 25. (Heck, back then I still had the ability to suffer fools without letting them know I considered them fools. Obviously, I wasn't me yet.) But, in my eyes these intelligent and well-spoken specimens of their gender are still man-children, like little brothers to me if I had a younger brother. For all their 'completeness' they have yet to experience much of what happens to a person doing that next decade or more. It is that dearth of life experience that makes me wonder what Demi sees in Ashton. While she was giving birth to and rearing three girls as close to his age as she is, he was skateboarding or going on Boy Scout camping trips. He has no memory of when John Lennon was alive. The two Gulf Wars must loom much larger to him than to her because she, like me, grew up in the shadow of the Vietnam War. His Mom may be only 45.
I no longer have Steely Dan's Gaucho album. It went missing at some point over the years. But, I'm sure Demi has it in her collection. I believe she should Listen to "Hey, Nineteen."posted by J. | 10:18 PM
The New Weblog Showcase
There is still time to vote in The Truth Laid Bear's New Weblog Showcase. (Up until Monday morning, though I am not sure by who's clock.) Silver Rights is among the entrants. You can vote for "Some logs and a bottle of wine" by clicking this link.
I began compiling information for this entry intending to recommend four or five entrants, in addition to several I've described in previous entries. However, I was unable to achieve that goal. Too many of the entries are poorly thought out and poorly written. As someone who takes thinking and writing seriously, I cannot in good faith urge those contestants on. Another problem with the blogs is that some of them are very thin mimicries of other weblogs, usually the InstaPundit or the law blogs, of which there are already too many in my opinion. Venomous Kate has warned newcomers not to imitate Glenn Reynolds in her advice column for newbies, but obviously that advice isn't taking. A third reason I found myself running out of choices is that some of the entrants are trite regurgitations of Right Wing kant, as we saw with FreeSpeech. I will vote for a conservative voice, but not for one that just left FreeRepublic to start a blog.
That said, let's examine two of the entrants. I've voted for one, but not the other.
*Reason of Voice.
Does the use of a phrase that makes no sense for the name of one's blog bother other people, or just me? I will credit the blogger, Michael, with being consistent. Other aspects of his blog don't make any sense either. He is one of those conservatives who falsely claim to have just stopped being liberals yesterday, while the evidence proves otherwise. The entries on his blog could just as easily be on the InstaPundit's, if they were shorter or Balloon Juice, if he weren't an isoblogger. There is nothing to distinguish this blog from the thousands of Right Wing blogs already in existence.
The entry in the contest is a lengthy Clinton bashing, with Sidney Blumenthal's new book as alleged impetus, though one suspects it was not necessary to this blogger's views on the Clintons at all. Two thumbs down.
Update: The blogger at Reason of Voice, Dan, takes exception to my review. You can read his blog here.
I realize all this caterwauling about a little criticism from the not so macho men of the blogosphere means I should probably reconsider reviewing blogs. I will likely write an entry on that topic soon.
*Tiger: Raggin' & Rantin'
Tiger needs to learn how to do basic research. A cursory examination of demographic material would let him know the average American family has two children. Most low-income families also have one or two children. Instead of doing that research, he takes a false premise and 'rags and rants' on it.
I am one of the minority of bloggers who say blogging is close to or is a type of journalism. People who disagree point to the lack of fact-checking by most bloggers as proof blogging is no more journalism than it is brain surgery. This entry is prima facie evidence of the argument. Tiger is so certain of his prejudices that it didn't cross his mind to Google "family size low-income."
Perhaps, I am a stickler for this issue because I worked as a reporter for years. My advice to other bloggers: Check your facts.
So, why did I link to, thereby voting for, this entry? The blogger made a positive impression on me by attempting to review all of the entrants in the contest, an ambitious and unselfish act.
So far, the leader in the contest is Mac-a-ro-nies. There are several blogs with no votes, including Reason of Voice, Dog of Flanders and Across, Beyond, Through, if you want to be a good Samaritan. Excerpts from all the entries can be read here.posted by J. | 3:46 AM