Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"That's the nature of these people"

Who are these people? Black people? Nope. "ACORN people."

Who just happen to be black.

The quote in the post title comes from a disturbing video which features an angry white guy and wife chasing after a trio of black people shouting at them that they're ACORN frauds and what not.

Dave Neiwert describes the video (linked in the link above) as such

One People's Project has the full-length version of this video, taken from the big 912 rally in Washington, D.C., showing a middle-aged white man and his Asian wife chasing after and harassing a trio of black people -- primarily two teenagers and an adult guardian (possibly their mother) who were selling "Don't Tread on Me" flags along the long grassy mall.

As you can see, the man -- who identifies himself as Tim Jones -- shouts after them: "ACORN! These people are ACORN!!! They are frauds!!! ACORN is fraud!!! Obama sucks! This woman sells signs for profit of ACORN!!"

It attracts more harassers, and it verges on the point of an outbreak of violence when the D.C. bicycle police show up and break up the scene.
And goes on to ask

The bigger question is: Why target African Americans when there are are hundreds of vendors at these things? And why assume that they have anything to do with ACORN?

Because, to the teabaggers, ACORN is synonymous with scary black people. The kind who, in the minds of Glenn Beck and his followers, are lurking, waiting to overthrow America when Obama orders them to. (Even if they later turn out to be a dance troupe.)
Neiwert concludes by noting that "ACORN" seems to have become an epithet which has the functional equivalency of the 'N' word. That certainly appears to be the case in the video. And having grown up in the South, I must say that hearing/seeing the angry white man in the video address a black teenage male as "boy" in such a tone of voice is fairly offensive. (Indeed, the older woman accompanying him, apparently his mother, is angered to the point of violence shortly after that remark.)

This gets back to an idea I've had for several years now that forms of prejudice that once animated conservative politics which are no longer socially acceptable have survived by becoming more generic. Yet, maintaining a structural similarity to the original form of bigotry, the more generic meme can still serve to transmit prejudice. For instance, instead of blaming Jews for destroying Christmas, blame communists, then liberals, then "s-ps." As you transition from Jews to s-ps the apparent bigotry lessens at each step.

I explored this notion at length in my post noting how Bill O'Reilly's demonization of "s-ps" serves to transmit more obviously prejudiced forms of bigotry. (And for a related process, see this post.)

In this case: instead of hating black people you can hate "ACORN people" (who just happen to almost always be identified with black people.) Arthur Goldwag noted something similar in response to a comment I made about the structural similarity of Glenn Beck's conspiracy theories which posit ACORN at the head of a plot to overthrow American democracy to traditionally bigoted conspiracy theory.

Not to plug my book, but in the sections on the Illuminati and the Council on Foreign Relations (which to this bunch is a secret society), I wrote about some of Beck’s predecessors. Building on the conspiratorial writings of Nesta Webster (which drew extensively on Augustin Barruel’s and John Robinson’s 18th century anti-Mason tracts), the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and a thoroughly caricatured and tendentious appropriation of Carroll Quigley’s scholarship about the Cecil Rhodes circle, writers like Gary Allen, Joseph Welch, Willis Carto, Myron C. Fagan, Cleon Skousen and others connected the dots from Satan through the Jews, the Jews through the Masons, and the Masons through Woodrow Wilson, the billionaire architects of the Federal Reserve (who oddly enough also underwrote Bolshevism) and the One Worlders at the UN.

Not all of them were explicitly anti-Semitic, but anti-Semitism provided a strong impetus for their theorizing. The comparatively philo-Semitic Robert Welch wrote that anti-Semitism was yet another Communist plot, designed to distract attention from their own sinister agenda and bring discredit on anti-Communists (”Lenin himself did what he could to have himself and his fellow Communists of the Jewish race hated more as Jews than as Communists).” Now that the standard bearer for liberalism is black, it stands to reason that the right wing conspiracist cast of villains will be darker-hued. In a sense SEIU and ACORN are Cadillac-driving welfare mothers writ large–only now they don’t just steal nickels and dimes from hard working white Americans but have the power to expropriate everything they have.

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