Left-wing pundits often like to criticize right-wing pundits for being paranoid, but paranoia is clearly a phenomenon not constrained to the right. Bob Herbert’s recent piece in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/23/opinion/23herbert.html) reveals a particularly irrational strain of paranoia, not to mention a myopic perspective and a near-total absence of rational thought.
Whatever Mr. Herbert’s former achievements, his writing seems to have lost nearly all connection to reality. I hadn’t heard of the Tea Partiers who showered a Parkinson’s victim with money, but that hardly sounds like cause for much concern, certainly not comparable with the beatings endured by civil rights advocates in the sixties. Besides, I thought liberals were in favor of redistribution of wealth.
I am convinced that the whole racial epithet business is just as much bull feathers (as Dan Rather would say). Andrew Breitbart has offered to donate $10,000 to the United Negro College Fund if anyone can produce any video evidence of a racial epithet being hurled. As of this writing, no one has come forward to claim the prize for the UNCF.
Still, let’s consider: even if there was one guy who yelled it, or even several guys who said bad things out of the millions of Tea Partiers across the country, who cares? One guy? Seriously? Saying the Tea Party movement is a bunch of racist, bigot, homophobes because of one racist (who, for all we know, could have been planted to make the Tea Partiers look bad) is like saying the Civil Rights movement was a bunch of philandering whorehounds and skanks just because Martin Luther King, Jr., serially cheated on his wife. That would, of course, be unfair. There were a lot of decent people in the Civil Rights movement, and even MLK had his positive attributes. Unless I am much mistaken, this has been just about the largest, most non-violent protest in the long history of man’s relation to man.
Look, racism is repugnant wherever it is found. When left to fester unopposed, it has resulted in many of the most shameful, awful incidents in human history. Under no circumstances should racism be allowed to take hold in American politics, and especially not in mainstream political discourse. Even this one incident, if it actually happened, should not be taken lightly. However, it should certainly be put in proper perspective. One kook out of millions is a fairly decent batting average. In fact, I would argue that such a low proportion is in fact evidence for the classiness, not bigotry, of the Tea Party movement. Have you read any left-wing blogs lately?
Mr. Herbert says of the Republicans, “This is the party that genuflects at the altar of right-wing talk radio, with its insane, nauseating, nonstop commitment to hatred and bigotry.”
As evidence he points out that Glenn Beck “called President Obama ‘racist’ and asserted that he ‘has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.'”
This is very nearly self-parody. If calling someone racist and accusing them of hate is evidence of “insane, nauseating, nonstop commitment to hatred and bigotry,” then who could possibly be more committed to hatred and bigotry than Mr. Herbert himself? To my knowledge, Glenn Beck only called the President racist once, while Herbert has already called different people racist twice this month (see link above and http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/02/opinion/02herbert.html).
If these constitute the worst abuses our “civil rights leaders” can come up with, then I think it’s time to reexamine where the real paranoia resides.