Thursday, December 15, 2011

MSNBC Takes The LOWE’s Road

Caving to a Romney campaign complaint about an MSNBC report that Mitt Romney has been using a KKK slogan from the 1920s verbatim on the stump, to “keep America American” after a Romney campaign aide called to “alert them of the misreporting” Chris Matthews, who was not involved in the report, read this apology to the Romney campaign:
“We reported on a blog item that compared a phrase used by the Romney campaign to one used by the KKK way back in the 1920s. It was irresponsible and incendiary of us to do this and it showed an appalling lack of judgment. We apologize, we really do, to the Romney campaign.”
It was the first I’d heard of it and was taken aback by the vehemence of the statement, so I checked it out. My question for Chris, Al Sharpton, NBC News President Steve Capus, their research, production, and editorial staffs is this: have they bothered to check the facts? Can you, as Rachel would say, “do the Google”?

Two questions come to this blogger’s mind about this story: (1) Is it true? And (2) was it objectively reported in correct political historical context? The answer to the first question is, clearly, yes. As for its reporting by MSNBC, AMERICAblog responded, after laying out its sources:
“And here's what MSNBC said this morning:

"So you may not hear Mitt Romney say "Keep America American" anymore, because it was a rallying cry for the KKK group, and intimidation against blacks, gays and Jews, and the progressive AMERICAblog was the first to catch on to that."

So what part of that is wrong, and what part of that deserves an effusive apology such as Chris Matthews gave this evening on MSNBC? And it was one hell of an apology. ... Clearly, Mitt Romney went ballistic at MSNBC behind the scenes over this story, which is telling. But again, what part of the story is wrong? Is the Romney campaign seriously going to keep using an old KKK slogan? I somehow doubt it. But the Romney campaign appears to be digging in, claiming that this is in fact not an old KKK slogan. ...

It is appalling. But nobody "compared" anybody to the KKK. The story was, is, that Mitt Romney has repeatedly used a slogan that just happens to be a former Ku Klux Klan slogan. And it is. So is the Romney campaign claiming the slogan isn't a former Klan slogan?  Are they saying that Romney will continue to use it? No chance in hell of that. (And that's news.)

And can you imagine what the networks would have done if the Obama campaign were using an old KKK slogan, even inadvertently? Oh the never ending prime-time debate it would create. But, as always, when a Republican is on the receiving end of the criticism, it's no big deal, and in fact, you're a bad person for even mentioning it. ... It would have been nice if the traditional media had had such high standards during the Clinton impeachment, the Swift Boat Veterans, the Reverend Wright story.”
The author makes good points, worth reiterating: (1) What part of the story is wrong? (2) There was no comparison to the KKK; the story is Mitt Romney repeatedly using a KKK slogan. And (3) the double standard regarding Democrats (MSNBC, if you're familiar with the story, is the LOWE's of cable news organizations); had the President done the exact same thing, the right wing machine would have gotten into high gear to pound him while an excitable Chris Matthews lined up an entire week or two of segments. Hypocrites.

Whatever the intended meaning is irrelevant. It is not inadvertent, since Romney has used the phrase as something his speech writers plugged in (see LA Times report). It is what is, an inflammatory phrase by a major candidate contending for the Republican nomination for president. It's absurd to consider this in a vacuum, given the Republican Party's long and craven history of using racially charged code language, symbolism, and imagery to reach a certain segment of its base. And it's astonishing that MSNBC repeatedly excuses racism from the GOP candidates.

The only critique I have of Thomas Roberts is he would have been better served to have used other sources, e.g., the HuffPost, which was out early with it, report their take on it, perhaps interviewing the reporter, rather than going with a shorthand synopsis/headline. But there's no doubt but that it's news, it was accurately reported and thoroughly sourced.

The apology read by Chris, however, seemed to cast doubt on the quality of the facts citing “a blog item” that “compared” the Romney slogan to the KKK’s. Anyone who bothers to check will discover that AMERICAblog, which unearthed this disturbing but hardly surprising tidbit of information, got it exactly right. The “blog item” is not only impeccably sourced but to say it was “compared” — as in a phrase that is similar to another — to the KKK slogan is untrue insofar as the Romney slogan is a verbatim copy of the KKK slogan rather than a variation on it.

According to New York Times, the Romney campaign “did not specify what it believed to have been misreported.” They wouldn’t want to go there, as Michael Steele likes to say (props to him on forcing MSNBC to cave?), would they.

The conservative site Mediaite reported earlier: “An NBC insider tells Mediaite that NBC News President Steve Capus addressed this story this morning at an editorial meeting, and stressed the need for accuracy, fairness, and caution before proceeding. Capus is reportedly furious at the way the story was handled, and MSNBC is in the process of apologizing to the Romney campaign.”

They are crowing at MSNBC’s public genuflecting, including the Reverend Al-turned corporate stooge, who made the network’s spinelessness complete with this totally unnecessary and gratuitous statement: “For someone who has been the victim of unproven innuendo and half-truths, I agree the report was not proper if you could nail down all the facts. And this network did the right thing by apologizing.”

Really? So tell us, Rev, what are the “facts” this blog “attempt” (attempt at what?!) did not properly “nail down”? Have you forgotten the right wing and Republican racist smears against African Americans? How about Andrew Breitbart getting Shirley Sherrod fired from the Ag Dept. for an edited video hit job in which she was falsely portrayed making supposed anti-white racist statements? These are the lies your colleague Michael Steele dismisses as just “politics.”

Where was MSNBC? Where was MSNBC on Reverend Wright, or birtherism, or the Kenya and socialist smears, all directed against President Obama? Oh they came around, after the stories had festered for days, weeks, and months, after participating in insincere hand-wringing, along with all the other sharks and jackals in the Beltway Media. These stories were pure fabrication, and your despicable corporate media sat on its hands because they were good for ratings and the bottom line.

For your information, Reverend, someone with your civil rights background might appreciate this. Here are the sources for the AMERICAblog “attempt”: (1) The “Jewish Threat” — Anti-Semitic Politics of the U.S. Army by Joseph Bendersky; and Amilcar Shabazz's Advancing Democracy: African Americans and the Struggle for Access and Equity in Higher Education in Texas. These are the excerpts from the two books referencing the KKK's use of the slogan, “keep America American” now appropriated by the Romney campaign — from Advancing Democracy, followed by The "Jewish Threat":

And for Chris Matthews, the historian with appalling gaps in knowledge who evidently never bothered to check the veracity of the story — got a problem with a blog? Then check the Huffington Post’s Christina Wilkey (I'm sure Howard Fineman will put in a good word for her), why don't you, Chris. Wilkey wrote a good piece fleshing out the AMERICAblog report, adding this historical factoid, that the slogan was first used in the 1850s by the nativist Know-Nothing party — as MSNBC competes with FOX and CNN in a race to the reactionary corporate pit for "know-nothing" network props:
“It's the type of coincidence every politician dreads. On Tuesday, political commenters reported that one of Romney's go-to campaign catch-phrases, "Keep America American," was a central theme of Ku Klux Klan publications in the 1920s, and served as a rallying cry for the white supremacist group's campaign of violence and intimidation against black Americans, as well as Catholics, gay people and Jews. ... The progressive AMERICAblog first posted examples of the overlap, and a spokeswoman for Mitt Romney declined to comment on the matter when reached by HuffPost. ... The slogan was first used in the 1850s by members of the anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic movement called the "Know Nothing Party," many of whom were reacting to the dramatic influx of immigrants in the mid-19th century, especially those fleeing Ireland's Potato Famine.”
The HuffPost link includes the Romney video ad in which he uses the KKK slogan. Similar reports have appeared in the New York Times, WaPo, and others, none disputing the essential veracity of AMERICAblog's report. Curiously, while a spokeswoman for Mitt Romney “declined to comment on the matter when reached by HuffPost” they had no such compunctions getting on the horn to the MSNBC suits to compel Matthews to issue the ridiculous apology. They must have some powerful "friends" at the network.

The conservative site Mediatie downplays Romney’s use of the phrase contending there are “only two examples of Romney using the phrase given, and I couldn’t find any others” and “the ‘campaign ad’ they embed in the story doesn’t appear to be anything of the sort. It’s definitely not a Romney ad, and it doesn’t even look like a PAC ad, but rather, a homemade video by a supporter.”

That’s odd, because at the conclusion of the well-produced ad we hear, “I’m Mitt Romney, I’m running for president, and I approved this message.” The Los Angeles Times ran a story on Romney’s campaign, in which he used the controversial phrase only days ago, reporting on stepped-up efforts and spending by the candidate:
“Mitt Romney and his supporters moved to prop up his faltering campaign Friday, unleashing millions of dollars of ads across Iowa and trying to connect personally with the voters who will cast the nation's first ballots in January.

A Romney-sympathetic "super PAC" — an independent group that can raise unlimited sums — launched a $3.1-million, three-week ad buy across the state. The 30-second television commercial contrasts Romney's job-creation record with President Obama's.”


Romney aimed his fire at Obama, and acknowledged the importance of such interactions with voters.

"There are people in this room who are informed and who care about this election, who recognize that this is a defining time for America," he said. "We have on one side a president who wants to transform America into a European-style nation, and you have on other hand someone like myself that wants to turn around America and keep America American with the principals that made us the greatest nation on Earth. And I will do that with your help."”
So, this phrase, in context, comes as Romney steps up his campaign claiming President Obama wants to transform the U.S. into a “European-style nation” which is code for socialist and, of course, foreign. Or, as Chris our dear corporate lackey used to say, "the other." You know, the usual racist Republican garbage, so commonplace now it barely raises an eyebrow at MSNBC. Just ask Michael Steele; he'll spin all your troubles away, Chris. But wait, there's more — much more. The brilliant rational conservative Andrew Sullivan echoes Steve Benen in being “creeped out” by Romney's stump routine:
[A]s Seth Masket noted, “keep America American” sounds an awful lot like a line we might expect from Bill the Butcher. (It also, of course, reinforces the not-so-subtle attack on President Obama’s patriotism, which has long been a favorite ploy for Romney.)

Sullivan adds: And a classically McCarthyite one, from an alleged moderate. Apparently Romney's campaign shares the slogan with the KKK.
One of my favorite blogs, “Irregular Times,” has this fascinating post, unrelated to the AMERICAblog story, entitled “One Country One Flag One Language – The KKK Code In The 2012 Presidential Election.” I think it's important to reproduce it in full here, to give the nitwits at MSNBC something else to chew on. Here's more evidence of the connection between today's Republican Party and the symbology and slogans of the KKK, which southern white (and Iowa) racists — Republican base voters — are steeped in. According to a Southern Poverty Law Center report, Mississippi is second only to Iowa in the number of KKK groups per capita — surprise!:
“Mitt Romney declares that, “English needs to be the language that is spoken in America. We cannot be a bilingual nation like Canada.”

Rick Santorum votes for a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning, declaring that “the flag of the US is a unique symbol of national unity”. Thaddeus McCotter not only votes for legislation to ban flag burning, he one-ups Santorum by afterwards playing an electric guitar with an American flag pasted on to it.

“We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto,” says Newt Gingrich. Defending his legislation to ban flag burning, Gingrich lectures that “The values of absolute freedom are values destructive” to democracy.

Michele Bachmann harumphs that “We’re losing our country. People are not assimilating themselves to America. They’re not speaking English, and you must speak it if you want to succeed here in this country.”

The common thread uniting these comments is found on this coin.”

In case anyone's interested, I researched the provenance of this coin, because, unlike the MSNBC navel gazers, I do my homework. I found it in a site specializing in KKK memorabilia. Here is its description: “This is identified as the "So-Called Dollar" token, numbered KK-214.3 in the exonumia reference shown below. This coin has the initials of the Emperor William Joseph Simmons, elected in 1922 present on this token.  Note especially the placement of the open palm between the digits "22" of the 1922 date. It is a nickel alloy, measuring 35mm in diameter. It is exceptionally thin and rimless. The condition is about very good showing circulation wear. There is moderate to heavy tarnish present. It has a small hole from where it was drilled for a necklace. This coin dates to the Second Klan, with the date of the perfecting of the order of the First Klan (1866) and Founding of the Second Klan (1915) and 1922. Note the two dots dressing the "ONE FLAG" are present (1923 die version).”

The "Irregular Times" post continues:
“It’s a coin minted by the Ku Klux Klan. It’s an expression of White Nationalism, which has found its way into the politics of Republican presidential campaigns in the past, and will surely find its way into the Republican presidential campaigns of 2012.

They tell us that there’s one real America, a traditional America – and that America speaks English and honors the flag. One Country One Flag One Language – that’s the KKK motto that fits the Republican playbook to a T.

As seen on this coin, the KKK also loved to throw in love for the Bible into their racist campaigns, just as current Republican candidates, love to speak of Christianity a requirement for political office.

The KKK loved to promote itself through codes of the sort seen on this coin. AKIA stands for A Klansman I Am. OSFK stands for One School Flag Kountry.

The Republican presidential candidates are working with consultants who know how to throw around KKK codes with the best of them. Republican speeches will defend the flag, promote the English language, and rally around the Bible – and the message will be clearly received.
Newt Gingrich wrote the racist Republican code language manual, along with Lee Atwater, Karl Rove, and Frank Luntz. In due time, for anyone who's interested, I'll post a brief history of racist code language in the Republican Party. But don't anyone insult our intelligence by claiming ignorance that it is alive and well in today's Republican Party.

What's truly galling to me is the practiced, insincere disingenuousness of the (MS)NBC braintrust regarding the quotidian use of racially charged language by this Republican Party. Newt Gingrich does it often on an hourly basis out on the stump. He was a fixture on Meet The Press with David Gregory precisely for his facility to use "incendiary" language, to quote Chris's asinine projection, while David never really challenged the institutionalized racism of Michael Steele's pals. When he did, it was genuflecting apologetically. And one has to wonder why thinking people hold corporate media — (MS)NBC in particular for pretending to be what it isn't — in such contempt?

I'm with Steve: “Maybe it’s just me, but I find phrases like “keep America American” kind of creepy.” When I hear Newt Gingrich propose putting poor children, thousands with distended stomachs suffering from hunger in America, to work cleaning the bathrooms of the privileged few, I am reminded of that phrase at the entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp: "Work Makes Freedom."

As for the LOWE's reference, it was inspired by the last remaining truly independent progressive cable media outlet in America: CURRENT TV. Take it away Keith, and thanks for loaning me the title:

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