Sunday, February 17, 2008

TD, Wrong Again

Okay, I know you’re going to ask me. Maven, why are you always picking on the Richmond Times-Dispatch? If you don’t like it, just cancel your subscription.

That is a fair question. The answer is, “I don’t know.”

But seriously, I criticize the TD because I want to see it become a great newspaper. A great community like Metro Richmond needs a paper worthy of its citizens. When the editors of the TD fail in being world class, this maven needs to let them know.

So what am I in a huff about now? It is yesterday’s editorial “Obama and Che.” This editorial reveals the editors’ lack of understanding and sensitivity with regard to a symbol that is terrifying to many African Americans. It also shows that even though Senator Obama has not yet captured the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination it is not too early for the TD to start branding him with the L word.

The editorial reads,

Barack Obama, whom National Journal ranks the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate, doesn't hold with American-flag lapel pins. He says they're a substitute for real patriotism.
On the other hand, he apparently doesn't mind the fact that workers in an Obama campaign office in Houston hung a big Cuban flag with Che Guevara's mug emblazoned on it. Obama's team says merely that the flag is "inappropriate."
It's a lot more than that. Guevara wasn't some romantic mystic reading poetry in an ashram. He was a terrorist who directed hundreds of show trials and executions. He overthrew one bloody dictatorship only to impose another.
A poster glorifying Che is the moral equivalent of a noose. Why can't Obama -- who likes to be thought of as a noble exception to political orthodoxy -- come out and say so?

I have only been a journalist since I started this blog a year and a half ago. Yet, it is obvious to me that the reference to the National Journal ranking Barack Obama as the most L member of the Senate has absolutely nothing to do with the subject of the editorial. The only reason I can see for it being there is to arouse negative feelings about Obama in those within the TD’s circulation area who consider liberals as a threat to truth, justice and the American way.

But it is the last paragraph of the editorial that mystifies me. How can any reasonable person suggest that a poster of Che Guevara is the “moral equivalent” of a noose? I was around in the 60s, so I know that Che wasn’t the Robin Hood figure he was portrayed as. He was a pretty nasty dude. Che had a large roll in turning the Cuban revolution into a reign of terror.* So, any person, especially one not even born in the 60s, who displays a poster glorifying Che as a hero probably doesn’t know “the rest of the story.” A noose as a symbol, however, is an entirely different matter.

Over the years, thousands of African Americans were murdered by being hanged. To generations of African Americans, especially men, it was not unreasonable to fear that their lives might end hanging from a tree with a noose around their necks. The threat of the noose was used to keep African Americans in line. Lately, when it has become fashionable for racists, or even those just playing pranks, to suspend nooses either in public places or in places close to a particular African American, the fear of the noose has been brought back. Displaying a noose is not only telling African Americans “we don’t like you,” it is also threatening that “we know how to deal with you.”

Clearly, a poster of Che is not the “moral equivalent” of a noose. A poster of Che hanging in one of Senator Obama’s campaign offices is clearly “inappropriate.” However, it is not even in the same ballpark as a noose.

*Calling him a “terrorist” is of course in the eye of the beholder. I am sure that George III considered Washington and the Continental Army as a band of terrorists (assuming he had ever heard of the word “terrorist.")


J. Tyler Ballance said...

If you take what Obama says and place that same rhetoric under a picture of Joe Biden, or any man who is also a Democrat, and nobody would pay any attention.

Once you get past the FB2 (first black to...) there is NOTHING about Obama that is interesting or inspiring for Americans.

Supporting someone for President because you feel sorry for their race, is not a sound way to select the next leader of the Free World.

Paul H said...

Overstating the case is a common journalistic tactic, not uncommonly used by bloggers, including myself, but pointing out the moral inconsistencies of Barack Obama is perfectly appropriate.

The fact that he is no more inconsistent than anyone else is exactly the point.