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December 21, 2010


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Campaign Manager

I'm going to disagree - I don't think it was a strategy on Haley's part.

I suspect if you called your old friend Paul Neaville and asked him about Haley, he'd agree - Barbour is a smart man who sometimes just can't help but make stupid comments that range from the merely insensitive to the flat out racist.

Benjamin J. Kirby

Thanks for the comment, Campaign Manager. We'll see -- I have to say, it's tough seeing how he could be so stupid. That said, even the best of the best say bone-headed things some times, so hey, maybe.

Either way, it's a great reason to reach out to my old friend Paul, who I'm sure will have good insight.

Stephen Malagodi

Can you imagine this: that even the Spencerian, an honest, liberal and obviously educated blogger could make such a stupid statement like this:

"It's kind of hard to imagine he's not racist."

Now that wouldn't indicate some level of prejudice on Spencerian's part, would it? It wouldn't be some evidence of regional profiling, would it?

Of course not. Why it's obvious. Barbour is a 'good ole boy'; he's White, he's fat, he's Southern. He must be a racist. That's not profiling, that's just common sense.

Lenny Bruce had a joke about this kind of ignorance many years ago. But the problem here is that it requires that the reader has imagination enough to hear this with a deep Southern accent. Ok, ready?

"If Albert Einstein had talked like this, we wouldn't have no bomb." Go on, get outta here with that catfish crap.

Because anyone who talks like that is obviously stupid, racist and morally inferior.

I'm sick of seeming like I'm defending Barbour. I couldn't give a shit about Haley Barbour, but the smug superior arrogance of this post and the hundreds more like it, is sickening.

Benjamin J. Kirby

Stephen, I don't know what you're saying because you're comment is not really very coherent.

I wrote that line not solely because of the way Barbour talks, not solely because of where he's from, but because of the aggregate of those things combined with his own comments which proved him to be racist, or at least have a tendency to err on the side of racism, if you will. He defended a racist organization. It's my belief that particular comment is in and of itself racist (and Barbour faded enough heat from others who thought so that he later walked it back).

If you're accusing me of regionalism, then I take the accusation in stride and point you to his comments: am I wrong?

This has nothing to do with the way he talks, which is not something I mentioned, Stephen. I don't really care how Haley Barbour talks which, by the way, since I'm from Arkansas, is not unlike the way *I* talk.

I take Barbour as a serious contender for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012. I said that in the post. There's nothing superior about that. I mentioned all the things Barbour has done in his career. Nothing stupid about that. I view this post as a warning to fellow progressives and Democrats that Barbour is the real deal and we should be on notice. Nothing smug there.

Merry Christmas, Stephen.

Stephen Malagodi

Ok, my introduction of accent, of language as a social marker was perhaps confusing. So let's just stick to what you wrote.

Hm, well, maybe.  Hell, probably.  Come on.  The guy is a white good ol' boy from Yazoo City, Mississippi who came of age towards the grudging end of segregation in the south*.  It's kind of hard to imagine he's not racist."

What part of that prima facia prejudice is unclear? Shall we deny that there is widespread stereotyping of Southerners and that your expression would not be a textbook example?

Imagine if that same language were used about a Palestinian. But don't think that I'm singling you out, this kind of glib remark is rampant. Recently, on Democracy Now with Amy Goodman, her guest Professor John Dittmer referred to Governor Barbour as "an unreconstructed Southerner." Un-Reconstructed. Professor Dittmer is an historian, so the use of the word 'reconstruction' should not have been lost on him. Why not use the word "unrepentant"? Because this was a Freudian slip that speaks volumes.

Like I said, I don't give a crap about Barbour, but the reaction to this haughty superiority is the fertilizer that people like Sarah Palin thrive on. With every breath, every posture, every wink, every silly Mama Grizzlyism, Palin is saying "see how they think they're better than you and me?" And, sorry to say, it works because it has a measure of truth. It is the very same dynamic of superiority and resentment that characterized the feelings during Reconstruction, and here we are still.

Sorry to put a bad flavor in your holiday, but no professional journalist would get away with writing something like that. The editor would have caught it immediately. Bloggers are not journalists, and do not have the same resources for fact checking or the same restrictions on editorial impropriety. But they (we) should have some measure of the responsibility and some level of accountability, even if it's just shame, that apply to journalists. We should be careful with what and how we say something. If we are wielding this weapon of words, then we should be somewhat cognizant of their implications, their effects and the aftermath of their utterance.

*not to nit-pick, but 'the south' as you used it in the sentence refers to a specific area, like the East, West, or North and is properly capitalized, the South.

Benjamin J. Kirby

Stephen --

Thanks for the editorial correction on "south" versus "South" -- that's pretty embarrassing. Appreciate your catch.

It's only "prima facia prejudice" if you take the paragraph you quote entirely out of context, which you did. It's only stereotypical in a vacuum. I meant for the post to be taken as a whole. Mississippi at the time Haley Barbour was coming of age was not exactly known for racial harmony. People of Governor Barbour's background -- with respect not just to heritage but to his conservative political leanings, and most specifically with, frequently, a mix of those two things -- also have an unfortunate predilection for racism.

Oh, and he said something racist.

If you used the same language about a Palestinian, and the Palestinian subsequently detonated a suicide bomb, would you take offense at his having been called a terrorist?

I must say, I'm still lost on the "haughty superiority" of my post, but we'll just have to agree to disagree. I'm describing a guy who can actually get away with making racist remarks and still be a very serious contender for 2012. It's the point of the post.

And just one last point of order, here, Stephen: I don't think I'm better than *anyone*, have never said I do, know that I am not, and say those words or words to that effect frequently on this blog and in person.

Not for nothing, but I'm not a professional journalist. Stephen, if the standard you hold this or any other blog to is a journalistic standard, than I'd respectfully suggest you stop reading blogs. Blogs aren't Journalism 2.0 -- they're something different, new. These are my thoughts, ideas, experiences, editorializations (if that's a word, which I guess it's not, really). I try to write well, I try to get my facts right, and indeed, I try not to embark on ad hominem attacks or careless posts.

We agree: there is a level of responsibility, here, and I thank you for your comments, Stephen, because they will make me think long and hard before my next post. I appreciate it, I really do.

You didn't put a bad flavor in my holiday, but I sure do hate to see folks who are so grumpy at such a time of joy.

Stephen Malagodi

Here's my joke about Haley Barbour. I haven't decided if it's any good or not:
"What people don't seem to understand is that Haley Barbour wants to be President of the Confederacy, not the Union. Why would a Rebel want to be President of the Yanks?"
It's a joke.

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