We don’t know who HuffPo contributor and Obama apologist Jason Linkins is, but HuffPo had better get rid of him pretty quickly. An online publication with HuffPo’s impressive Progressive credentials can’t afford to have racists on its writing staff, and Linkins’ sin was pretty egregious.
Linkins’ racist attack on Asians comes early in a 1,900 word long article explaining that Obama didn’t really, actually, totally lie when he said 24 times that, if you like your insurance, you can keep it. Given the fact that millions of Americans have already been told that they’ve lost their policies and tens of millions more (both those with individual and those with group coverage) will soon hear the same message, Linkins’ really has to sweat to achieve this equivocal, but still Obama-friendly, conclusion. Ultimately, what Linkins seems to say is that Obama and his minions just sort of lied, rather than really lied, but they did it for your own good, to get you out of that horrible ghetto of people who own cheap plans that contain only provisions they actually want. Talk about being damned with faint praise.
This type of prevarication — which Linkins honestly terms “spin” — is not newsworthy. What’s noteworthy is Linkins’ use of demeaning pidgin English (emphasis added):
Well, the news today is that lots of people aren’t going to keep the plans that they are on, and are receiving notice from their health insurance providers that they will be shunted onto different, perhaps more expensive plans. And they no likey.
Wow! What’s with that dig at Asians? I mean, who can forget 1935’s Charlie Chan in Paris, when the nefarious Max Corday insults the sophisticated Chan by speaking to him in pidgin:
Max Corday: [in a condescending pidgin English/Chinese accent] Me happy know you. Mebbe you likee havee little drinkee?
Charlie Chan: Very happy to make acquaintance of charming gentleman.
Charlie Chan: Me no likeee drinkee now – perhaps later.
Think about that: Even in 1935, when Hollywood was still creating segregated movies and engaging in the worst types of stereotyping regarding blacks, Asians, Hispanics, etc., Hollywood and America understood that the pidgin phrase “me likee” or “you likee” was deeply disrespectful and demeaning.
I think it’s pretty disgusting that Linkins sends out a dog whistle to HuffPo readers tying discontent with Obamacare to Asians. This is especially suspect when one realizes the growing number of Asian Americans practicing medicine and attending medical schools. Is Linkins trying to blame Asian doctors for Obamacare woes? We won’t speculate further, because we can’t pretend to know what Linkins was thinking. All we know is that this kind of despicable subliminal racism taints everything it touches. Linkins needs to be disciplined immediately, both as a punishment and an example.
For those unfamiliar with my sense of humor, the above is, of course, satire. It’s true that Linkins used the phrase “they no likey,” and it’s true that this phrase is associated with the worst kind of anti-Asian racism. I strongly suspect, though, that Linkins’, typical of his political class, is completely oblivious to the linguistic history behind that distasteful phrase. I’m therefore equally certain that Linkins didn’t intend in any way to be racist.
My point in writing this post has nothing to do with Linkins. It is, instead, to heighten awareness of the fact that, for malevolently-minded people, as I just pretended to be, finding and attacking these “dog whistles” in good Alinsky fashion is easy. It’s a cheap, down-and-dirty way to smear ones political opponent. I didn’t have to bother reading what Linkins wrote, so I didn’t need to challenge it on the merits. Instead, I called him a racist and considered my job done. Were I actually to write this way seriously, rather than as satire, my real theory would have been that people who are racists can’t make good arguments and they certainly cannot make arguments that deserve to be considered on their merits. (If you’d like to see an intelligent, substantive challenge on the merits to Linkins’ argument, check out James Taranto.)
When I hear about blacks complaining that Lordes’ The Royals is a racist insult to black people because she talks about “Cristal (champagne) and Maybachs”; or that Blurred Lines is “rapey” (making Robin Thicke a rapey-ist) because it takes a fairly honest look at today’s hypersexualized club scene; or that any negative remarks about Obama’s politics are an unerring indicator that a critic is racist, I can only say that we’ve crossed a line.
Indeed, it’s something of a time line, because we’ve effectively returned ourselves to the Middle Ages, where small cadres of scholars tainted intellectual discourse by wasting their time debating the numbers of angels that could fit on the head of a pin. While these arguments were always reserved to a minority, they bespoke an intellectual narcissism, frivolity, and incestuousness that makes intellectual growth impossible. It’s as if the whole world has fallen prey of Wallace Stanley Sayre’s dictum that “Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low.”
In terms of cries of racism, the stakes are certainly low as to each individual combatant. Linkins doesn’t care about me and I don’t care about him. Were he to call me a “right wing wacko,” I would sneer right back at him that he’s a “delusional Marxist.” We’d then retire to our corners in the proud consciousness of duty done, at least when it comes to the battle of ad hominem attacks. But while we’re congratulating ourselves on the quality of our insults, ordinary Americans are tuning out. They know I’m not a right-wing wacko, but am instead, a nice neighborhood soccer mom, who believes “that government is best that governs least”; just as they know that Linkins is an ordinary working stiff who truly believes that redistribution of wealth, if it’s only done right, could work. Their verdict as to both of us is “They’re mean and stupid, and I’m not going to listen anymore.”
Dog whistles are for dogs. Most people are poor communicators at best, which means that we should give them the benefit of the doubt before rushing to the worst conclusions. Failing that, the marketplace of ideas is effectively dead.