Arrrgh!

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by Paul Gottfried by Paul Gottfried

While on my computer this week, I overheard the Bill O’Reilly program and picked up big chunks of revisionist history. On Tuesday night, Bill’s guest was the Hoover Institution’s resident neoconservative black Shelby Steele, who revealed this information to his obviously adoring host. The suffering that white Americans had inflicted on blacks over the last three hundred years was so incalculable that there was no way to atone for it. It was "like what the Germans did to the Jews" and so it was best just to go on living in the same country without recriminations. In any case blacks could now take care of themselves because "they had been free since the 1960s." Although O’Reilly was deeply moved by Steele’s Christ-like attitude, I found what he said perplexing. I had wrongly assumed that most blacks had been emancipated in the 1860s, except for the ones who came from the West Indies who had been freed in the 1830s. And though segregation had continued in the South from the late nineteenth century until the 1960s, I do recall going to school with black students, who came out of two-parent families, in the 1950s. My science teacher in the ninth grade was a black lady, like the head librarian in the Broad Street Library in Bridgeport, Connecticut, which I frequented in the mid-and late fifties. Little did I know, until last night, that those black acquaintances were slaves, and would only be liberated in the 1960s, about the time that race riots broke out in my hometown. I suppose those rioters were just beginning to feel the freedom that my black schoolteacher and our town librarian had not enjoyed ten years earlier.

But I was struck by Steele’s forgiving view toward a white population who had committed crimes against his race that, we were told, are comparable to what happened at Auschwitz. What has to be explained, however, is how it was that American blacks even under slavery lived longer and healthier lives than many European workers at the same time. As far as I know, the Jewish populations confined to Nazi death camps didn’t do as well. But I wouldn’t expect O’Reilly to have raised such quibbles: he was too busy drooling all over his guest. Nor would I expect the Anti-Defamation League to protest the parallel brought up with the Holocaust. Foxman and company only start objecting when the Poles and other Eastern Europeans, as opposed to PC victims, bring up their peoples’ sufferings under the Nazis or Soviets. Blacks, feminists, gays, etc. can belabor the Holocaust comparison all they want. (Please consult the last, very long footnote in my book on multiculturalism to learn who is or is not authorized to make this comparison.)

On Tuesday evening, O’Reilly welcomed another interesting guest, Michelle Malkin, who had just published a book recounting the insults she had suffered from unsympathetic readers. Although I usually enjoy Michelle’s columns and personality, when she’s not beating up on Japanese Americans, I thought her appearance on O’Reilly was a bit over the top. If you’re a public figure taking jabs at others, don’t complain when somebody calls you a name. Like other writers on this page, I too have suffered this indignity many times, without enjoying Michelle’s fame and good relations with the "movement."

Michelle then went into a rage about how liberals are uniformly vicious and spend their time assaulting Republicans. The last time that I checked liberals and neoconservatives were still nicely cohabiting at the Washington Post and on FOX. Presumably some other, unseen liberals, who flood the internet with their poisonous messages, were responsible for Michelle’s book-length fit of anger. These, mind you, were not the same liberals as the ones who invite Jonah, David, Rich, and Sean to lunch — or those liberals who praise Bill Buckley as the second coming.

But this time Bill was listening hard. When Michelle observed that all "liberals are on the same side and never criticize the Left," her host asked whether this wasn’t "equally true for conservatives." According to Bill, conservatives are "soft" on their own kind, as seen by the fact that not enough of them have gone after Mike Savage, a radio talk show host with whom Bill has been quarreling of late. Michelle responded defensively that she had indeed been critical of Savage, which was exactly what Bill wanted to hear. My own problem with this conversation is that it ignored what I had been observing for decades, that the "conservative movement" is a pack of cannibals who have been destroying those on their right since the 1950s. The only reason this development is not apparent on FOX is that it covers up the conservative record. It carefully keeps off the screen the scads of excommunicated conservatives, whom the viewer never knows about. There is no political group, outside of Cambodian Communists, who have raised infighting to such dizzying heights as the American Right. Or at least that was my impression until I had the pleasure of listening to Bill on FOX.

November 4, 2005

Paul Gottfried [send him mail] is Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College and author of Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt and The Strange Death of Marxism.

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