The GOP, the New York Times and the ‘Bog’ of Racism

As the Republican presidential context heats up, so does the racist rhetoric. And, in some quarters, white voters are giving that kind of rhetoric a standing ovation. Yet, The New York Times, the nation’s leading news organization, seems unwilling to clearly and unequivocally call out the obvious racism of the GOP.

(Image from CNN)

In an excellent piece at FAIR, Peter Hart writes that:

“When a Republican presidential candidate goes around talking about Barack Obama as the ‘food stamp president,’ eventually reporters are going to have to write about racism.”

That is, unless they’re writing for the NYTimes.  Last Thursday, (1/18/12), Jim Rutenberg had this to say about Newt Gingrich’s food stamp rhetoric:

Mr. Gingrich was clearly making the case that he is the candidate most able to take the fight to Mr. Obama in the fall, but he was also laying bare risks for his party when it comes to invoking arguments perceived to carry racial themes or other value-laden attack lines.

Hart’s take on the reporting here is, “this is the kind of language one expects to encounter when reporters have to figure out ways to talk about racism without calling it racism.” 

It’s also an excellent example of the kind of white racial framing that the NYTimes routinely offers readers. And, of course, this is no coincidence. The NYTimes is a HWO (historically white organization) serving a predominantly white readership. (If you have any doubts about how how white the NYTimes is, watch the documentary “Page One” for a glimpse of who’s running the shop there.) So, it makes sense that their reporting is from a white perspective for a white audience.

The NYTimes does not seem to have trouble acknowledging, at least on the opinion pages, the whiteness of the GOP candidates, most notably the unmitigated whiteness of Mitt Romney. (Yet, even in that article, the title is “What’s Race Got to Do With It?”  eliding a bit the thoroughly racial content of the article.)

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day (1/16/12), the NYTimes John Harwood reported on why several Republicans didn’t pursue the presidential nomination:

Political heavyweights who declined to enter the 2012 race all had uniquely personal reasons. Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana faced family resistance; former Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi feared being bogged down in the politics of race; Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey doubted his readiness for the Oval Office.

Again, Harwood is side-stepping the obvious issue of racism here with the euphemism of “the politics of race.”  Those with a political memory longer than a minute will recall that just last year (2010), Barbour was extolling the supposed virtues of the white supremacist Citizens Council groups in Mississippi. In Barbour’s re-imagined civil rights history, these were anti-Klan activists, when of course, these were simply the suit-and-tie version of the KKK, founded to oppose school integration as critics pointed out at the time. Yet, the NYTimes obfuscates this with their description of the “bog” of racial politics.

Fortunately, there are excellent writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Atlantic) who do not share the timidity of the NYTimes when it comes to the racism of the GOP. Coates writes:

“When a professor of history calls Barack Obama a ‘Food Stamp President,’ it isn’t a mistake to be remedied through clarification; it is a statement of aggression. And when a crowd of his admirers cheer him on, they are neither deluded, nor in need of forgiveness, nor absolution, nor acting against their interest. Racism is their interest. They are not your misguided friends. They are your fully intelligent adversaries, sporting the broad range of virtue and vice we see in humankind.”

Coates is right, of course. Those who stood and cheered Gingrich in South Carolina earlier this week were standing and cheering their own interests.  Gingrich’s performance in South Carolina is part of what prompted Chauncey DeVega to call this “air raid siren” racism (instead of “dog whistle” racism).

Rather than offer a scathing critique and analysis of this, the NYTimes gives the GOP and racism a pass.



  1. Blaque Swan

    Here’s where the white racial frame (?) really bothers me. There’s no credible argument that Newt’s comments weren’t racist. So why the obfuscation? How is it that Newt gets to be so bold as to suggest that African Americans are lazy or ignorant or both, but no one’s supposed to call him out?

    But the whole thing was enough for me when the crowd booed the Golden Rule.

    • Nicthommi

      I wouldn’t expect the NY Times to “call out” anything b/c they seem to enjoy opening up comments that allow people to post inflammatory and racist comments about minorities, but frequently keep comments closed about topics focused on other groups.

      Don’t EVER read the comments section if they post a story about Black or Latino kids trying to get into school, go to better schools, go to college etc.

      And this is the same paper that for whatever reason chose to feature an old black hooker who was previously seen in that HBO series “Hookers on the Point.”

      So yeah, I expect them to be as silent as ever as they post articles and open up the comments so that people can make nasty comments about black women, the FLOTUS and POTUS, etc.

      • Blaque Swan

        It’s been my practice to avoid comments sections of newspapers and magazines unless I’m looking for specific information, ie AVATAR spoilers. So I hear ya on that point. . . . As a side note, is it just me, or have the comment sections here become more like NYT’s than usual?

        And it’s not that I expect the Times to call out racism. I’m just ever disappointed by how delusional and illogical the white racial frame can be. It’s like being back at my 80% white alma mater all over again and hearing some white girls complain about the unfairness that there’s a campus Black Student Movement when a “White Student Movement” would be roundly criticized.

        I mean, as much as I like being black – our language and food, our worship style(s), the depth of our humanity – it’s little moments like these that make me wonder just how good and uncomplicated it must be to be white.

          • Blaque Swan

            It’s more than that. It’s being able to deposit/withdraw/cash large sums of money from your bank account without any problems. It’s not getting illegally kicked out of your friend’s apartment only to have the police say of the older white man who owns the property, ‘he’s just of a different time.’ It’s getting rich spewing nonsense about the “other” and promoting policies that hurt your primary audience.

            Sometimes I wonder if white North Americans don’t live in some other dimension, some other reality, some bubble that’s impossible to burst.

  2. Maria Chavez

    When Gingrich says, “Food stamp President” I think it is doubly loaded and racist. He is making a racist claim that food stamps equal “undeserving” blacks lacking in work ethic and all the other stereotypes. I also believe he is suggesting that President Obama is implementing racially biased welfare policies in favor of blacks over whites. It has both those layers of racism in it and everyone should be calling it out for what it is.

    Gingrich is a loathsome individual in so many ways. His hypocrisy of making claims about the “Washington Elite” is another example. He is nothing if he does not represent the worst of the Washington elite. He is a corrupt Washington insider and has been so for at least the last 25 years.

    His discussion of the so-called God fearing founding fathers is stupid from a former history professor too. Most of the framers of the constitution were politically savvy, racist agnostics. I guess that’s the power of origin myths, but really. From a former history professor. The way he says that he and Republicans represent the politics of the Constitution while Obama represents the politics of Sal Alinsky is more of the same. I could go on and on.

    I am disheartened that the people of South Carolina bought into all of this and am amazed at who the Republicans of South Carolina have put forward tonight. Joe Feagin’s forthcoming book dealing with racism and political parties, particularly the Republican party, couldn’t be more timely.

  3. cordoba blue

    If black people turn out in force to vote this year, I think Obama can be re-elected. Plus, for the record, he didn’t favor African Americans over any other group. This is common knowledge and the NAACP knows this. He’s never shown sympathy for blacks, only pretty much told them to “work for what you want and don’t let a tragic past dictate your future.” So it’s just playing into white fears to call him the food stamp president.He never was!
    It doesn’t really matter what the Republican party says in the end. If white America is paranoid about a black head of state, then he’ll be removed and replaced (in this case) with a white Republican. Plus, if we had a black Republican for president, then whites would rally around a white Democrat to replace him. The whole idea is to get rid of the “black threat”. Call it what it is. White America wasn’t ready for a black president, and no matter who opposes the incumbent, even if he has a two-digit IQ, he’ll slide in and replace him. Unless the blacks get out the vote!

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