Monday, December 7, 2009

Fear and Loathing at Patterico

Although I can't vouch for the accuracy of everything collected in Dennis Wheeler's "The Great Southern League Race Debate," it is an important document that explains what Stogie and others have been trying to explain about this "white supremacist" accusation against me, namely that it is false.

Whatever Patterico's intent in blogging about it, the main effect is that I've been provided ample materials for a discussion of how this smear got started. I didn't plan to spend any more time dealing with it, but one of my commenters asked me to address it, and so I will. The provenance was explained this morning:
Wheeler was -- and, so far as I know, still is -- a white separatist or white nationalist, call it what you will. In the 1996 e-mail list-server messages he collected, you will see that I argue against Wheeler's insistence that the Southern League (which subsequently became the League of the South) should adopt his own racial views. Others on my side in that debate included George Kalas and Gary Waltrip.
Wheeler's arguments did not prevail; he left the list-server and subsequently posted lengthy excerpts of the colloquy on his own site, without permission of the participants. Wheeler obviously believes himself correct, and considers the 1996 debate a vindication of his own views. It's a free country, and I can't tell him what to think.
Rather than starting with the how and why of my participation in that list-server, I'll begin by pointing out the when: It was 1996, and the occasion of the Atlanta Olympics had led to a lot of controversy over the Confederate symbol on the Georgia state flag and a lot of ill-informed MSM punditry about the "legacy of slavery," etc. Being a native Atlantan, I was outraged by the attempt of reporters for the New York Times and other major media outlets to smear my hometown, a thriving metropolis that had long boasted of being "The City Too Busy to Hate."

Ride With the Angels
As a reporter, editor and columnist for the Rome (Ga.) News-Tribune, I approached this ugly mess in the Gonzo way, stomping straight into the middle of the fight and becoming directly engaged with the fight and the fighters.

Arbiters of journalism ethics are free to criticize this method, but it gets results. If you're going to write about the Hell's Angels, ride with the Hell's Angels. Whatever is lost in terms of Objectivity is more than compensated by the elimination of misinformed bullsh*t, which is the real problem in American journalism.

From the standpoint of the news consumer, it doesn't matter whether Katrina Vanden Heuvel is a Marxist or whether Sean Hannity is a member of Opus Dei. What matters is whether they get the facts right or whether they are engaged in the dissemination of misleading distortions. What makes the MSM an object of criticism is that they strike a pose of Objectivity while disseminating such distortions.

Hunter S. Thompson was always a man of the Left, yet despised mainstream journalism on the same grounds as do most conservative bloggers today: The media get the facts wrong, or omit facts more important than what they report. Most often, to borrow the terminology of liberal analyst George Lakoff, the MSM "frame the narrative" in such a way as to prejudice the reader's perception of personalities (e.g., Howard Dean or Sarah Palin), events (e.g., the Iraq War or the NY23 special election) and social phenomena (e.g., homosexuality or crime).

If you allow your perception of the world to be controlled by the MSM -- permitting them to be the primary lens through which you view events -- you will be misinformed and disinformed. Just as Hunter S. Thompson saw the bogus "'terror on two wheels" hype about the Hell's Angels as an opportunity to seek out the Angels and discover the unreported reality, I have often found myself in the position of trying to discover similar realities, e.g., the absurd "Send the Body to Glenn Beck" claims about the death of Bill Sparkman.

Trolls and Hidden Agendas
All of this is by way of outlining a distinction that is very important. As a professional journalist, I was paid to cover the controversies of the mid-1990s. As a citizen, however, I felt a duty to become involved in those controversies, which is how I found myself on the list-server in July 1996, praising George Kalas for his efforts to prevent the League of the South from being marginalized as a racist organization:
I have never understood those black or white who say that the South should necessarily be riven by racial antagonisms.
-- Robert Stacy McCain, July 17, 1996
It was my praise of Kalas, you see, that elicited Wheeler's subsequent response and the debate that then unraveled. And as anyone who reads the whole thing will see, I got an early introduction to a phenomenon that bloggers now know as the "concern troll."

Wheeler didn't start out by declaring himself a white separatist, a provocateur attempting to hijack the organization whose e-mail listserver was, at that time, a public forum open to all. Instead, he began with a subtle attempt to undermine the authority of Kalas to speak for the League.

Thus began a long train of events which now, more than a dozen years later, results in me being accused of racism -- when my entire purpose was to argue against what I am now accused of advocating. I note this comment on the Patterico post:
I think DaveC is right that this can basically be put in enough context to be forgivable, if RSM wants. . . .
-- Dustin
Well, I've never met Dustin and perhaps never will. While I appreciate his message of support, the "forgiveable" part bothers me. Whom have I wronged, that I should seek their forgiveness? Granting that people have been offended, this was when they were led to believe (by the framing of the narrative) that I was expressing some personal doctrine of my own, rather than discussing the attitudes of others.

That this discussion has been fairly criticized, I cannot deny, but I wasn't writing for publication, I was trying to prevent Wheeler's attempt to hijack the League as a vehicle for his own purposes. That this preventive engagement was successful ought to be counted to my credit, rather than being cherry-picked in an effort to discredit me.

Yet it would be dishonorable to say that the end justified the means, so if my readers feel more explanation is due, I will try to satisfy that demand. Over and over, I've said that this is a long story, and a story of such value that I did not intend to tell it for free, merely to defend myself against an accusation that my friends know to be false. I am not a "white supremacist" or a "segregationist" or whatever other perjorative label my enemies wish to attach to my name.

Nevertheless, since I am in the middle of a fundraising drive to collect $2,000 for a trip to Pasadena -- Roll, Tide, Roll! -- I'll put aside whatever else I might have done today, and try to explain the basics, so long as the readers keep hitting my Pasadena tip jar.

The Discussion Continues . . .


  1. Racism is the belief that one race is superior to others. Thinking your grandkids are better because they are white is racism. Wanting your grandkids to be white is a preference and is not racist in my opinion.

  2. Patterico fight like a girl, oh wait that is misogynistic...

    Patterico fights like a leftist. Okay, that works.

  3. I think the attitude of yours that is being denounced is the assertion that "the attitudes of others" which you defend as "THIS IS NOT RACISM" are, in fact, racist and only a racist would declare otherwise.

    Nonsense on stilts, of course, of the most pernicious kind. Patterico has imagined a definition of racism (without specifying its terms) and used that to condemn (albeit in a back-handed way) you for not toeing the ideological line in the sand. I have respect for the P-Man and will suppose that he was not aware he was doing so -- that way lies Sullivanism, the abrogation of the role of Grand Inquisitor and thus claiming a right of reading others out of Society.

    To describe something as "natural" is not to endorse it. It is natural to feel revulsion when one's prejudices are confronted. Nor is aversion to readily foreseeable (and avoidable) difficulties prima facie proof of racism, anymore than the thought it would be better if one's child were hetereosexual evidence of homophobia. It is simply recognition that in a fallen world it is preferable to have fewer issues to confront rather than more. Reductioing ad absurdum, it would follow that the hope one's child is bright is proof of irreconcilable antipathy toward imbeciles.

  4. I was astonished - and appalled - to find Patterico engaged full on in the 'Raaaaacist" boondoggle which heretofore I had associated solely with gauchistas of the Democratic Loony Bin. If I may, I would like to repost here my comment to Patterico's post.


    Mr. Frey, you’ve jumped the shark with this. The post and comment thread is an Orwellian wet dream. McCain has evil thoughts. Or he approves of those who have evil thoughts. Or maybe he sympathizes with people who have evil thoughts. He believes evil thoughts are “natural”!

    Mr. Frey, you’re a lawyer and, I have no doubt, a very good one. You know thoughts are not actions. Heck, you even know that thoughts are not necessarily intentions. Time was when racism meant the intent to cause harm to someone on the grounds of their race coupled with an act of harm or at the very least an active willingness to seek out opportunities of inflicting such harm or the active support of those who did such harm or advocated doing so.

    Is this what Mr. McCain is involved in? Manifestly not. He is guilty rather of thought crime, of not toeing the Kumbaya Line beloved of Liberal Witch Hunters that all white people – whiteness here is of the essence – at all times suppress any and all negative feelings and thoughts they may have of people of other races especially blacks.

    All whites now have an imaginary censor – a kind of Harvey the Rabbit – who accompanies them everywhere and vets everything they feel, think and say to ensure its complies with the dictates of racial orthodoxy. If they offend they are condemned as “racist”.

    This used to be called a smear, i.e. character assassination, but it has now become an act of sacramental cleansing for white folks: Thou hast sinned against the Most High Kumbaya. Repent! Repent! Repent or thou shalt be cast out into exterior darkness where there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of David Duke’s teeth. In other words: “He should just flatly renounce it!” Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. The penance is not of course three Hail Marys but an act of profound self-abnegation which renders the wretched penitent a life-long captive of the Salemic Priesthood of Racial Orthodoxy.

    This rite is reserved for white people alone for only they carry the Mark of Jim Crow upon them, only they suffer from the Original Sin of Slavery. Only they can be racist for that is precisely how this new “racism” is defined.

    It is said that “white people can’t jump”. They are however willing, nay eager to learn. Every time the subject comes up, they all cry out, “How high?”

  5. OK, Stacy, PROVE you aren't a RAAAAACIST. Spend the next ten years doing so. Or, just come to my blog and enjoy this Week's Rule 5 action, entitled "And the colored girls go doo, doo doo, doo doo," as a sort of mea culpa every "racist" thing that you've ever said or written.