The conservative response to the shootings in Dallas and Tennessee is a study in White Fragility. And “insanity begets itself” when Republicans and the media attack Hillary Clinton. (More)
“The Neville Chamberlain of this war”
Almost lost in the shock and horror of Dallas later that day, a gunman in Tennessee opened fire on passing motorists:
Hours before a black Army veteran shot 12 officers at a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, another former Army soldier was accused of shooting indiscriminately at passing cars and police on a Tennessee highway.
And like the Dallas sniper, Lakeem Keon Scott said he was motivated to act in response to police violence against African-Americans, authorities said Friday.
One woman died and three others, including a police officer, were wounded Thursday morning in the Tennessee rampage, one of several spasms of violence across the country this week amid boiling tensions over policing and race.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reports that Scott was armed with “an automatic-style rifle and a pistol,” and was firing at cars from a motel window.
Predictably, this is President Obama’s fault:
The head of a law enforcement advocacy group lashed out at President Barack Obama in the wake of the Dallas shootings that left five police officers dead, accused the president of carrying out a “war on cops.”
“I think [the Obama administration] continued appeasements at the federal level with the Department of Justice, their appeasement of violent criminals, their refusal to condemn movements like Black Lives Matter, actively calling for the death of police officers, that type of thing, all the while blaming police for the problems in this country has led directly to the climate that has made Dallas possible,” William Johnson, the executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, said in an interview with Fox on Friday morning.
“It’s a war on cops,” Johnson also said. “And the Obama administration is the Neville Chamberlain of this war.”
If only the president and the DOJ would tell those troublemakers to shut up – or better yet, put them in jail – when they dare to protest cops have killed 136 black men and children so far this year after killing 258 black citizens in 2015. Never mind that unarmed black citizens are five times more likely to be killed by cops than unarmed white citizens. Protesting that glaring racial bias is a “war on cops,” and attempting to correct it is “appeasement.”
“Blame the person or event that triggered the discomfort”
These and similar outpourings of white rage yesterday – like the Drudge Report headline ‘Black Lives Kill’ – are a case study in what sociologist Robin DiAngelo calls white fragility:
White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.
In the dominant position, whites are almost always racially comfortable and thus have developed unchallenged expectations to remain so. Whites have not had to build tolerance for racial discomfort and thus when racial discomfort arises, whites typically respond as if something is “wrong,” and blame the person or event that triggered the discomfort (usually a person of color).
Were there no media reports or organized protests like Black Lives Matter, most whites would have no idea how often cops kill black citizens … because most whites’ social circles are almost entirely white. Even former Speaker Newt Gingrich admitted that in an interview yesterday:
It took me a long time and a number of people talking to me over the years to begin to get a sense of this: If you are a normal, white American, the truth is you don’t understand being black in America and you instinctively underestimate the level of discrimination and the level of additional risk.
I’ll call that ignorance Fragile White World. And in Fragile White World, cops killing black citizens is not a problem because it’s invisible. But when the media report on cops killing black citizens, and groups like Black Lives Matter protest it, it becomes visible. In Fragile White World, the reporting and protests are what “creates racial tension.”
Thus, in Fragile White World, the president should shut down the reporting and protests … so whites can once again be blissfully unaware that cops routinely kill black citizens. Voila! No more “racial tension!”
So yes, in Fragile White World, the president’s failure to shut down the reports and protests is “appeasement,” making him “the Neville Chamberlain of this war” – the war on White Fragility.
“And thus the insanity begets itself”
What made this episode unique is that the same media that expected Republicans to overreach played a critical role in increasing their expectations of a political windfall.
Republicans in Congress and their conservative media allies largely brought this upon themselves. They were the ones who made right-wing sop out of baseless speculation that Clinton might be indicted for violating a law nobody’s ever been convicted of violating.
But due to a strange brew of incentives that proved toxic – the competition for eyeballs, the lack of subject matter expertise, the industry standard of reportorial balance – the mainstream media did nothing to puncture this myth. To the contrary, it treated the threat of indictment as a permanent question mark hovering over Clinton’s campaign like a dark cloud. In a different media ecosystem, this wouldn’t have happened. A mix of common sense and truly basic research and reporting would have established a consensus that Republicans were trying to gin up intrigue and damaging innuendo, but that an indictment was extraordinarily unlikely. Instead, the remote odds of one came to be seen as something like a 50-50 proposition, to the point where even professional Democrats began to worry Clinton might be charged with a felony and prosecuted.
By the time Comey handed down his utterly predictable recommendation that prosecuting Clinton would not be reasonable, it had become a foregone conclusion on the right that an indictment was imminent, and could only be sidestepped through corruption.
We will be dealing with the fallout of the email investigation well into Clinton’s first term in the White House, unless Democrats reclaim the House and Senate. But now, instead of investigating Clinton for endangering national security or for some other crime related to her public service, it will transform into a shameless witch hunt. The kind of partisan onslaught that only seems to make the Clintons more powerful. And thus the insanity begets itself.
I’d like to think the media could correct these flaws. Alas, anti-Clinton conspiracy theories draw page views and boost revenues … so I’m not hopeful.
Photo Credit: Carlo Allegri (Reuters)
Good day and good nuts