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Welcome to a long, hot summer of right-wing race baiting

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If you thought last summer's Obama Beer Summit was troubling in terms of how far-right media partisans wallowed in the topic of race, early indications are this simmering season is going to be much worse as Fox News and its brigade of haters fan the flame of division and distrust.

There's no question that race peddlers went nuts last summer over the controversy involving Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates and Cambridge, MA police Sgt. James Crowley, as well as Obama's later involvement in the story. But this time around, "wingers have removed all mechanical governors and are talking about race in America the way that perhaps they've always wanted to talk about it during the Obama era; in unapologetically ugly, resentful and divisive tones.

How else do you describe the emerging right-wing meme, pushed by Rush Limbaugh, that Obama is really some sort of Black Manchurian Candidate, fixated on exacting revenge from prejudice white America?

Aided by a storyline that involves a tiny hate group called the New Black Panther Party (so much more menacing that an aging Harvard prof!), the GOP Noise Machine has gone loco over a comically porous story of voter intimidation; a tale that even one Republican official with intimate knowledge has dismissed as "small potatoes" and not worth any attention.

Conservative commentators, however, have been quick to run with the phony story, calling it evidence of racial bias in the Obama administration and fitting it into a series of grand, race-based conspiracies. Rush Limbaugh's, for instance, claimed the fact that the Department of Justice did not seek criminal charges against the New Black Panther Party was "the natural course of events" with "a black attorney general" and "a black president."

RedState stressed how it was an "African-American" AG who supposedly dropped the charges. (Emphasis in original.) Blogger Ed Morrissey suggested the DOJ's decision amounted to a "compensation for historical injustices," and that "after more than a century of black voters being intimidated at the polls, it just wouldn't seem fair to prosecute a black group for voter intimidation."

Morrissey's evidence? He didn't have any.

Of course, Limbaugh, RedState, and Morrissey all ignored the facts of New Black Panther Party case in order to clear the path for dishonest race-baiting. The right-wing has to ignore those facts, otherwise there's no there there. (i.e. The Bush DOJ treated a case of voter intimidation involving right-wing Minutemen the exact same way the Obama DOJ handled the New Black Panther case.)

But apparently with the New Black Panther story in the media bloodstream, far-right players suddenly feel free to let the race-baiting fly:

Honestly, we haven't seen this kind of high-profile, race-based fearmongering since last July, when Glenn Beck spent the final full week of that month unleashing a torrent of ugly and hateful allegations about Obama, driven at the time by the Gates/Crowley controversy:

But Beck soon retreated, at least temporarily, from that nasty line of attack. Why?

Because on the morning of July 28, he appeared on Fox & Friends and announced that the President of the United States, who was raised by his white mother, had "exposed himself as a guy" with a "deep seated hatred for white people," and that Obama was in fact a "racist." The repercussions to the astonishingly hateful broadside were swift. Not from Fox News of course, which holds Beck to no discernable standard. Instead, the repercussions came from the marketplace and within months Beck had lost approximately 80 [[200]] advertisers and his TV show was virtually void of blue chip sponsors who were willing to appear on his show.

Looking back, Beck, like an overeager toddler anxious to be the first on the playground swings, might have simply sprinted out too fast in front of his playmates last summer when he went on national television and announced the President of the United States hated white people. But as irrational Obama Derangement Syndrome has continued to ferment for an additional twelve months, and as radical right partisans continue to dream up all kinds of dark conspiratorial tales about the president, Beck once again seems comfortable playing the race card, and playing it hard.

And so do lots of other Obama haters, like Limbaugh, who's had lots of practice in the past:

  • "We are being told that we have to hope [Obama] succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles ... because his father was black."
  • "I do believe" Obama is an "angry black guy.""
  • "Obama is "more African in his roots than he is American" and is "behaving like an African colonial despot."

Just typically rancid stuff. What's new now though, is the jaw-dropping notion that Limbaugh's pushing about how Obama's policies, which the AM talker insists are ruining this country, can be explained by the president's burning desire to exact revenge on America for its historical sin of slavery and long-running discrimination against minorities. In fact, that's why Obama ran for president in the first place -- to drive unemployment up and make white people suffer economic hardships just like blacks have for decades.

Why is this kind of aggressive race-baiting thriving now? Aside from the arrival of the New Black Panther Party (non) story, it's because Limbaugh, and the rest of the full-time Obama haters who make millions spinning increasingly wild tales about the almost uncontrollable evil that drives Obama and his fellow Democrats, needs to continually come up with some sort of explanation for why Obama is bent on destroying America and shredding the Constitution, demonizing this country, trashing our allies, and purposefully making life miserable for most. I mean, that's not typically what U.S. presidents do, right?

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Eric Boehlert is the author of Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush (Free Press, 2006). He worked for five years as a senior writer for Salon.com, where he wrote extensively about media and politics. Prior to that, he worked as a contributing (more...)
 
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