Posted by Joe R. Hicks
The Anti-Defamation League’s national office recently mailed out a lengthy fund-raising appeal to its supporters, making the claim that “anti-Semitism has moved from the fringes into the mainstream.” The letter had not a word about the organization’s recently released poll taken among the American population which found the level of anti-Semitism in the country tied a historic low point of 12 percent (similar to that recorded in 1998).
If 12 percent still seems like a lot, let’s put this into perspective. There is the ongoing claim that approximately 10 percent of the American people think that Elvis is still alive—-an observation meant to make clear that there is a base of “outliers” that simply doesn’t respond as the other 90% of the public does on a whole host of issues——stereotyping of others being just one.
Why did the ADL send such a frightening message to its supporters? This organization has done exemplary work over past years in highlighting and combating bigotry and can rightly claim its share of credit for the low level of anti-Semitism that currently exists.
The ADL failed to make its case in support of its dire and dark message. To justify the argument that anti-Semitism is thriving the ADL strings together a series of anecdotes, anchored by this past June’s shooting at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. The letter argues that America’s Jews face a “… wave of hate that threatens the sense of security Jews in America have come to trust …”
It’s of course all too true that in many places around the globe anti-Semitism is something as vicious as it is virulent – particularly in Western Europe where Islamic immigration, legal and otherwise, along with a host of neo-Nazi movements, have made the issues of Jewish safety and security questionable.
But regarding this nation, it stretches credulity to imagine a “wave of hate” by stringing together aberrant anti-Semitic acts, speculating that some Americans blamed the Wall Street economic crisis on Jews, or even by raising the horrific killing of Stephen Johns, the heroic guard at the Holocaust Museum by a lone, crazed, aged gunman.
The Washington Holocaust Museum shooter was James W. von Brunn, a near-prehistoric white supremacist with a long, violent and virulently anti-Semitic past. He was a classic example of the so-called “lone-wolf” figure, which according to law enforcement officials, has no known attachment to any organized hate organization.
In fact, it is not just the ADL that engages in scare tactics to “enhance” contributions and passion from its supporters. Groups and agencies as diverse as the National Organization for Women, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, to local human relations commissions have all done the same.
As attitudes have moved, often dramatically, in a positive direction regarding ethnic diversity and religious tolerance, some organizations that were on the front lines of these changes found themselves struggling to justify their existence. Staffs had to be paid, doors of offices needed to be kept open, and lobbying had to be done. Failing to adjust out-of-date organizational mandates, many groups resorted to exaggerating the size and scope of the threats posed by racism or bigotry.
In 2003, the NAACP issued a survey to its members and supporters on “Race, Gender and Equity in America.” The survey came with a cover memo from the chairman, Julian Bond, who painted a picture of an America in the grips of ongoing racial victimization at the hands of savage and unrelenting racism. It didn’t seem to matter for an instant that this analysis bore no resemblance to the reality that most African Americans lived.
This approach continues unabated. Never one to shy away from playing the race card, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, in an attempt to intimidate every member of the Black Congressional Caucus into supporting the administration’s healthcare bill, attacked one black lawmaker for straying from the fold. Artur Davis, a black Democratic Congressman from Alabama, voted against the House version of the bill. Raising the outrageous specter of racial authenticity, Jackson said “You can’t vote against healthcare and call yourself a black man.” The message delivered was that any deviation from racial orthodoxy would be punished by the self-entitled arbiters of racial authenticity.
However, there is no such thing as an “authentic” black person, just as there are no “authentic” whites, Jews, Asians, or Latinos. The argument that all blacks (or any other religious or racial group for that matter) must speak or act with a single voice is reminiscent of another era in America when the view prevailed that all “Negros,” or all “colored” people were alike.
No matter if it is an opportunistic fund-appeal letter, or appealing to some imagined need for racial solidarity, it all erodes what we have actually accomplished. Over past generations we have succeeded in ridding the nation of the most pernicious practices of bigotry and discrimination. This has allowed equality of opportunity to prevail nearly everywhere in the nation. Engaging in racial intimidation or attempting to frighten people into supporting advocacy organizations may have some immediate payoff, but in the end we all lose.
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November 19, 2009 | 4:45 pm
Posted by David A. Lehrer
Yesterday, Ruth Seymour, the long-time general manager of, and the creative force behind NPR radio station KCRW, announced that she will retire next spring. Her retirement provides an opportunity to note what an important contribution she, KCRW and its sister NPR station, KPCC, make to our community and our sanity.
KCRW and Ruth are being lionized for the eclectic mix of programming that is the station’s hallmark—-cutting-edge music programs, public radio standards (Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Marketplace, etc.) and locally generated broadcasts (Which Way LA?, Left, Right and Center, etc.) and rightfully so.
However, I think Ruth’s most significant contribution is the locally generated programs that offer a nearly extinct species of local broadcasting—-thoughtful discussion of important issues with an intelligent, articulate and informed host. KCRW’s two standout local efforts hosted by Warren Olney are Which Way LA? and To The Point. Both are Ruth creations.
I distinctly remember hosting an ADL leadership retreat in Palm Springs on the weekend of the Los Angeles riots in April, 1992; our scholar-in-residence was Warren Olney, known then as a thoughtful commentator on LA issues and a charming, erudite guy. He told us on the Saturday of the weekend that he had to leave a bit early because he had received a call from Ruth who had asked him to host a special “short term” broadcast later that week that was tentatively titled, “Which Way LA?” The rest is history.
The role of Which Way LA?, Warren Olney, Larry Mantle’s Airtalk on KPCC and Patt Morrison with her daily broadcasts (also at KPCC) can’t be over stated. They are what is left of public affairs broadcasting in LA.
At one time, two and three decades ago, every FCC licensee had a legal obligation to provide some form of “public affairs” programming. While these may have often been deadly dull interviews ghettoized on Sunday mornings, at least they existed and they occasionally did good, revealing work. I remember debating Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas (then the newly appointed head of the SCLC) on a freezing Sunday morning in 1977 at the Watts Towers for a KNBC program that devoted 15 minutes to a discussion of the
case and the issues surrounding affirmative action.
Today, no such legal obligation exists and public affairs programming on local stations has virtually disappeared; too often replaced, at least on radio, by talk show hosts who favor spinning, screaming and yelling over discussion and illumination.
That’s where Ruth, Warren, Larry and Patt come in—-they are the last, best hope for keeping politicians accountable, exploring important civic issues in a way that cuts through spin and BS, and allowing conflicting ideas to be discussed in civil and long-form settings. With the decline in influence of the Los Angeles Times, their roles are more important than ever.
We are all indebted to Ruth, Warren, Larry and Patt, and should take this occasion to think about how much we count on and need them. Ruth’s retirement is an appropriate time to be reminded of what a critically important role these four individuals have played and are playing in keeping Southern California from devolving into chaos and tilting into the sea—-at least four folks are watching and holding leaders accountable in a public and often revealing way.
November 13, 2009 | 8:06 pm
Posted by Joe R. Hicks
Seven members of Congress are being investigated by the House Ethics Committee. All seven are black and the Congressional Black caucus has taken exception. They say the whiff of racism’s in the air.
Sorting out their claim, it appears they believe that black lawmakers are being racially profiled – the legislative equivalent of the canard of “driving while black.” However, my view is that this is just the same old, same old – a victimization rant that has unfortunately become all too familiar.
Truth be told, ethics probes haven’t disproportionately zeroed in on black legislators in the past. In fact, white lawmakers have been the most frequent targets of the Ethics Committee’s investigations.
To point out just two, need I remind the Caucus of the long-running investigation of former Majority Leader Tom Delay – recently a “Dancing with the Stars” circus act. Delay had his hands slapped for his dealings with shady corporate lobbyists. And then there was former Congressman Mark Foley? This Republican was forced to resign over his embarrassing “infatuation” with a male teenage House page.
The Black Caucus frankly looks silly when they point out that others are “also” engaged in unethical behavior—-that hardly excuses the alleged inappropriate actions of Caucus members. In fact, as I write this, the Ethics Committee is looking into the actions of other members of Congress – and they are, in fact, white.
However, most troubling is the fact that many of those being defended on racial grounds by the Caucus seem indefensible.
Black Caucus members still voice outrage that Speaker Pelosi ousted William Jefferson from his post on the all-powerful Ways and Means Committee back in 2006. They argued at the time that Pelosi’s actions were racially motivated. This was laugh-out-loud stuff, since Pelosi represents the San Francisco Bay Area – one of the most liberal districts in the nation.
Talking about indefensible, Jefferson was discovered to have stashed $90,000 in his home freezer. This gives new meaning to the term “cold, hard cash.” The cash was from a bribery deal with a Nigerian government official. For this and a host of other charges, Jefferson’s been convicted and will face 13 years in federal lock-up, announced today.
And exactly how did racism play a role in any of this?
Then there’s Charley Rangel, the long-time New York Congressman, who is also the Chair of the Ways and Means Committee. He’s under investigation for failing to pay taxes on $75,000 worth of rental income from a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic. It is also alleged that he failed to disclose at least $600,000 in assets, until this past August.
Nonetheless, the Black Caucus issued a letter expressing support for Rangel, saying “…he has our full support” and that “…we are proud of the thoughtful leadership he provides the House …” So the stink of financial improprieties doesn’t bother them? The brother’s just out-witting the system and “getting his,” right?
Apparently untroubled by the probe of Rangel’s financial behavior, even worse is their support of Maxine Waters and Laura Richardson.
Maxine came to the attention of the Ethics Committee because she and her husband owned between $250,000 and $500,000-worth of stock from One United Bank – a black-owned bank in Los Angeles. Additionally, her husband, Sidney, sat on the bank’s board of directors.
Waters allegedly leaned on the Treasury Department, asking for a federal bailout for One United – all without disclosing her or her husband’s links to the bank. The government eventually coughed up $12 million in TARP funds for One United.
Laura Richardson’s story is equally troubling. Her Sacramento home was foreclosed on and then sold to a third party. She bought the property back, which then sat idle, becoming a run-down eyesore for her neighbors. Out of their own self-interest, the local neighbors cut Richardson’s grass and cleaned up the yard – something deemed by the Ethics Committee to be an improper gift to the Congresswoman (the Los Angeles Times has reported on all the sordid details of Richardson and her several homes).
Why is it that Richardson allowed her home to become such an eyesore that it looked like a crack den and her neighbors felt compelled to clean it up?
Now the Committee is also looking into trips to the Caribbean taken by Charley Rangel and four other black House members – Michigan’s Caroline Kirkpatrick, New Jersey’s Donald Payne, Mississippi’s Bennie Thompson, and Donna Christian-Christensen from Virginia.
The Committee is investigating whether their island junkets violated House rules. According to the Committee, these trips were sponsored, funded and organized by an agency known as the Carib News. If true, this is simply against the rules.
Speaking of rules, why isn’t the Black caucus embracing these probes?” Shouldn’t they be jumping up and down, saying they want the truth more than anybody? They should be advocating legislative excellence and the highest possible standards of behavior. Instead, they have adopted an embarrassing “why us” victim posture.
But it could also be argued – as I do – that the Black Congressional Caucus is a hold-over form an era that’s long-past. C’mon, is there really some racial identity interest they serve that’s fundamentally different from any other elected officials?
November 11, 2009 | 5:13 pm
Posted by David A. Lehrer
Last week, in the wake of the tragic murders at Ft. Hood, I heard news reports of a local press conference involving Salaam al Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, LA County Sheriff Lee Baca, and the acting chief of the LAPD, Michael Downing. The thrust of the gathering was to decry the senseless violence at Ft. Hood and to “reassure” Muslim Angelenos that police cars had been deployed to Muslim institutions around the county and city to guard against a possible anti-Muslim backlash for the Texas mayhem and murder.
There was something strangely troubling about the press conference and the subsequent local coverage of the Ft. Hood tragedy.
One listened to the spokespeople and could almost believe that the Muslim community had been victimized—-not dozens of innocent soldiers at Ft. Hood—- and that there was an inchoate blood lust on the part of the American public to blame the Muslim community for the terror perpetrated by Nidal Malik Hasan.
References were made to “threatening calls and e-mails” that were directed at MPAC and then to the oft-recycled, and mostly apocryphal, stories of hate directed at the Muslim community after the murder of three thousand innocent Americans on 9/11. In fact, there was precious little hate evidenced after 9/11 and there was no effort to “take it out on the Muslim community” after Ft. Hood.
The media went out of its way (irrationally in most instances) to avoid drawing the fairly obvious conclusion of what animated Nidal Malik Hasan’s murderous rampage (see our blog of November 10).
A notable exception was yesterday’s Los Angeles Times, which bravely editorialized about balancing security demands with religious tolerance in the military:
But it would be equally tragic if the armed services allowed an insistence on religious tolerance to stand in the way of detecting and rooting out extremism in the ranks. It’s essential to avoid profiling people on the basis of their religion, but that doesn’t require us to deny the existence in this country, as elsewhere, of a dangerous and anti-American ideology that identifies itself with Islam and seeks to recruit believing Muslims.
What most of the media, and most clearly our local officials, did was to unfairly short-change the American public. We were treated as if we were vengeful bigots who generalize from an individual to the group from which he/she comes without giving it a second thought. This viewpoint holds that unless we are admonished not to give in to our base instincts, all hell will break loose.
The fact is that when Seung-Hi Cho, a young man of Korean origin, massacred dozens of students at Virginia Tech in 2007, Newsweek headlined, “Korean Americans Brace for Backlash”, Newsday’s front page blared, “Koreans Fear a Backlash.”
It didn’t happen then and won’t happen now; Americans have actually absorbed many of the civil rights lessons of the past fifty years.
After this past week and the message that was sent both overtly and subtly, the recent Gallup poll which found that, despite a brief and notable bump after Obama won election last year, optimism (or lack thereof) about U.S. race relations is back to its pre-2008 election levels makes sense.
While virtually every poll of actual racial attitudes shows unprecedented levels of understanding, people are, nevertheless, convinced that things aren’t good, in no small measure because the media and much of our chattering classes refuse to recognize the transformation of America. At almost every opportunity they warn of our potential misdeeds (as in this case), they assume that we are animated by our most base motives (court mandated gerrymandering assumes we vote primarily on parochial ethnic/racial grounds), they invoke the specter of hate crimes and bigotry as if they were omnipresent phenomena, and they ignore the good news in the amelioration of racial and ethnic relations because it alters the accepted narrative of victimhood and history.
This persistence in viewing us as closet bigots waiting for the opportunity to act out our intolerance—-overtly and covertly expressed—-is itself altering our communities, but in the wrong direction.
November 10, 2009 | 6:33 pm
Posted by Joe R. Hicks
I just watched President Obama’s talk to an audience assembled at Fort Hood to honor the memory of thirteen service members killed by army Major Nidal Malik Hasan.
Given the legal complexities yet to play out at Hasan’s upcoming trial, the president probably struck the proper tone. However, he avoided the implications of failed intelligence by responsible agencies and why, given the shooter’s history and past terrorist sympathy, no one connected the dots.
Both the FBI and military intelligence were aware that the major was communicating on a frequent basis with a rabidly-militant Muslim cleric in Yemen and yet choose to downplay the connections.
But why? Has “diversity” and “sensitivity” toward Muslims become something that has trumped common sense – not only in the nation’s corporate sector, the mainstream media, university campuses and government, but now within the military as well?
Army Chief of Staff, General George Casey, made the rounds of this past Sunday morning new shows. He sounded more like a corporate public relations flack, trying to manage a crisis, than a military man searching for the truth. Apparently operating from talking points, the General stressed the “diverse” nature of the army and spoke about the “sensitivities” involved – cautioning against “speculation.”
Political correctness was the order of the day, and not just from the army spokesman, but from mainstream media figures as well; they almost all seemed intent on making us believe Hasan was as much the victim as those he shot.
The ABC’s Diane Sawyer said on air that she wished Nidal Malik Hasan was named “smith.” And why would she wish this?
Other than Muslims having attained the stature of favored “victims” in the ideological pantheon of folks like Sawyer, her unstated reason may be the often-trotted out reference to the possibility of a backlash against the nation’s Muslims. This is the claim du jour of those representing Muslim organizations … and afforded deference by willing accomplices within the mainstream media.
But this claim is as false as it is slanderous. The view that America is a nation of rabid Islam-hating bigots, with a hair-trigger for violence, is simply fiction. Even after the 9/11 attacks that left 3000 Americans dead at the hands of Islamic killers, with the exception of a handful of incidents nationally, there was no significant “backlash” against American Muslims. Americans have the ability to target their anger at those responsible for heinous acts, and not broader populations of innocent people.
Demonstrating the extent of the politically-correct approach in the face of what was clearly an act of Muslim extremist violence, even the celebrity television psychologist, Dr. Phil, presented the Fort Hood killer as a victim. The pop television psychologist argued that “stress” may have been the cause, along with the pressure Hasan “endured” while counseling returning service personnel. However, what appeared to send Dr. Phil over the top was a guest who happened to mention Major Hasan’s religion. Dr. Phil reacted to this revelation as if the guest had used the N-word.
But why is there reluctance to identify Major Hasan’s murder spree as the act of a Muslin fanatic? Here is a life-long Muslim who had ongoing links to Anwar al Awalaki, a well-known international terrorist figure, was someone who once gave a lecture in which he stated that infidels should be beheaded and have oil poured down their throats, once attended the same San Diego mosque as two of the 9/11 hijackers, hands out copies of the Koran shortly before the shooting, and yells “Allahu Akbar” while mowing down his victims.
Yet, the FBI has offered this mealy-mouthed assessment. “The investigation to date has not identified a motive, and a number of possibilities remain under consideration…”
So, according to this pronouncement, Nidal Malik Hasan’s religion had nothing to do with his actions. If this is true, then religion also played no role in the actions of the nineteen 9/11 terrorists, and Osama bin Laden’s devout religious beliefs are coincidental to his declared war against America and the West.
It’s time to push aside this kind of political correctness. Misplaced “sensitivity” will prove increasingly dangerous. Don’t agree? – just ask the dozens of surviving victims of Major Hasan’s deadly attack.
November 4, 2009 | 7:20 pm
Posted by David A. Lehrer
Now that the media frenzy relating to yesterday’s elections has run its course, it’s time to start focusing on more pressing issues than what the election of the new governor of Virginia really means for America.
An impending decision by the Obama administration—-what to do in Afghanistan—is one of the issues that ought to occupy our and the media’s attention. Unfortunately, much that is written and said about Afghanistan and America’s role there is superficial and comes from “mavens” with little expertise in either the region, security issues, or the Islamic world. The sound bites of ninety seconds that the news offers are often short on insight.
If you’d like to learn more from exceptionally well-informed experts in order to come to your own conclusion as to what we should be doing in Afghanistan, come to our Critical Issues Seminar next Wednesday, November 11 at the Autry National Center in Griffith Park (4700 Western Heritage Way—- at the junction of the 5 and 134 freeways in Griffith Park). The program begins at 7:00PM.
In a joint program with NPR station KPCC, Community Advocates is presenting a panel discussion entitled Afghanistan—-Which Way Forward?
Larry Mantle, host of KPCC’s Airtalk, will moderate. Congressman Adam Schiff, a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence and of the Committee on Foreign Operations, will join Dr. Kalev I. Sepp, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Dr. Reza Aslan, author of No God But God (a New York Times bestseller) and the upcoming Words Without Borders:Writings From the Middle East, to discuss where we should be going.
There is no admission fee for what promises to be a provocative and illuminating program that will be broadcast locally and nationally.