(The Root) — We recently heard former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and current Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, both Republicans, use the word “stupid” in reference to their own party. Although they had in mind comments about rape and pregnancy like those made by losing GOP senatorial candidate Todd Akin, the problem, to me, goes much deeper.
Indeed, the relation of today’s right-wing politics and news media to social reality often reminds me of a remark made by Alberta Roberts during an interview by anthropologist John Langston Gwaltney for his classic book Drylongso, when she said, “Now, the biggest difference between [black people] and white people is that we know when we are playing.”
Of course, truthfulness is not a black or a white characteristic. Right beside Lance Armstrong, one could also point to Marion Jones, and so on. Still, Roberts’ comment seems especially pertinent in light of some of the derision heaped on President Barack Obama’s second inaugural address from some quarters.
That this speech I characterized as the velvet-glove approach can be construed as openly partisan or divisive — which a number of commentators on the right have now done — I find astonishing. Such comments, however, are wholly in step with a pattern in today’s conservative politics and media of embracing distortions, half-truths and sometimes outright lies, while always adopting a posture of outrage.
I won’t appeal to easy targets here. So let’s set aside the claims of a liberal “war on Christmas” from Fox News. Let’s also table for the moment the endless bellowing and attendant implication from conservatives that somehow there was a conscious Obama-administration failure and deception in the tragic deaths of U.S. personnel in Benghazi, Libya. Take all of that off the table.