In What Freaking World Is Swearing More Controversial Than Embracing White Supremacy?
Earlier this month, newly minted Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan called Donald Trump a "motherfucker." Republicans were thrilled for an opportunity to test the waters and see if they had enough street cred left to clutch their pearls over such a thing given their election of President Grab 'Em By The Pussy. Centrist Democrats were thrilled for an opportunity to show how incredibly balanced they are by saying it was definitely bad to call the President a motherfucker, something he obviously is. Chris Cillizzas across the country cried out about civility and going high and wrestling with pigs. Or whatever.
This past week, Congressman Steve King, in the pages of The New York Times, announced that he was not so sure what was especially "offensive" about being a white nationalist or a white supremacist.
"White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?" Mr. King said. "Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?"
Now, to reasonable people like you and I, one of these things is clearly worse than the other. And it's the swear word! KIDDING. Clearly it's the sitting congressman who simply cannot stop saying obviously racist things. Yet, a study of the media coverage of these two things from Media Matters shows that cable news spent far more time discussing a fucking swear word than a sitting congressman not seeing the big deal about white supremacy.
Not to mention all the headlines referring to King's comments as "racially charged" or "racially tinged" or "controversial" because calling him a racist would just be too drastic. One wonders exactly what it would take for any outlet to just straight up say "racist," or even "white supremacist," a term he clearly thinks is not all that bad. Would he need to be wearing a specific outfit? What, precisely, does one have to do to make the leap from "racially tinged" to "actually racist?"
As Media Matters notes, the only mention on Fox was not even really about what he said. It was about how he was "fighting back" against The New York Times story for, uh, having quoted him directly, I guess. Maybe that part was supposed to be a secret? Is it unfair to expect an adult man who has lived in America for all of his 69 years to have some idea about why "white supremacy" is bad?
But even CNN and MSNBC -- the supposed "liberal bias" stations -- barely covered it. And it is a big deal! It's a very, very big deal. You would think they could carve out an hour in their wall-to-wall Russia coverage to discuss this for more than 14 minutes. Apparently not.
There are two reasons for why this is. The first is the general fact that Democrats tend to be well-behaved and polite, and so when one does something that is less polite, it is news. We expect Republicans to say terrible things, and we certainly expect Steve King to say racist things and to talk about how he is a white nationalist, so there's a certain "dog bites man" aspect to this particular controversy. There shouldn't be, but there is.
The other reason is more tactical in nature, and it is brought to you by the people who tend to be more worried about "division" than Republicans being actual monsters. These are the people who desperately want to go back to the imaginary days of "principled conservatives," the kind of people who loved the feeling of the words "but you've got to give it to Paul Ryan, he's a real policy wonk!" in their mouths. It made them feel reasonable, so very reasonable. So what they want to do is properly chastise Democrats who veer too far off the "civility" track and downplay the utter horridness of Republicans in hopes of getting back to that. It also makes for some good "both sides!"-ing. It's hard to be the "reasonable person in the middle of all of this" when one side is clearly terrible.
To be very clear here, it is Wonkette's official position that Steve King is a motherfucking racist and a motherfucking white supremacist and also that "racially tinged" is not a real thing.
And now, your open thread!
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse