Thursday, 06 September 2012

Does the existence of conservative “individuals of color holistically demolish the Left’s paranoid, feverish, and disgusting fantasy that white Republicans speak with white bigots through some tribal Caucasian dialect[?]“ No. You don’t need to be a white Republican to appeal to white Republicans: you merely need to tailor your rhetoric so that it appeals to white Republicans. Doesn’t matter what color you are. It’s not about the person on the stage: it’s about the audience that person’s appealing to. Meaning Deroy Murdock’s entire post is beside any and all points: If Republican operatives truly are brilliant enough to use secret code to convince white bigots to pull the elephant lever in November, they should have been smart enough to control the podium at their convention in Tampa, Fla. As a black man, the Republicans’ racial code never penetrated my ears. However, my eyes worked just fine. And what I repeatedly saw were minority faces on my TV. The racist dog whistles must have gone silent even for Labradors when a black woman and former secretary of state named Condoleezza Rice addressed the convention for nearly half an hour in prime time Wednesday night, just before vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan gave his acceptance speech, arguably Tampa’s finest. Similarly, and also in prime time, a Hispanic senator named Marco Rubio (R., Fla) introduced the Republican party’s presidential standard bearer, Mitt Romney, while 30 million people tuned in … And Rice and Rubio were far from alone. Black Republicans such as Representative Tim Scott of South Carolina; Saratoga Springs, Utah, mayor and congressional nominee Mia Love, and former Alabama representative Artur Davis (an ex-Democrat) all addressed the convention and were televised, at least on C-SPAN. Leading Hispanic Republican speakers included Texas Senate nominee Ted Cruz, Puerto Rico governor Luis Fortuño, New Mexico governor Susana Martinez, and Nevada governor Brian Sandoval. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley also wowed the crowd. She is an American of Indian descent, another ascendant minority group. These amplified, televised, and loudly applauded individuals of color holistically demolish the Left’s paranoid, feverish, and disgusting fantasy that white Republicans speak with white bigots through some tribal Caucasian dialect. His argument amounts to “Because people of color were on the stage the rhetoric couldn’t be designed to appeal to white people.” Except Murdock and his italics prove that argument wrong: if these people of color were “loudly applauded” then whatever rhetoric they used was effective on their audience. This is Rhetoric 101: all rhetorical appeals are effective on a given audience in a particular historical situation. It’s called “the rhetorical situation” and Murdock’s defined the Republican National Convention as one in which a person of color living in 2012 could muster up a message that appeals to a Republican audience. What does their audience look like? According to FOX News and the Washington Times it looked like this: All Murdock has proven is that people of color can effectively appeal to almost exclusively white audiences. There’s no logic to the claim that white Republicans can’t be racist because they approve of speech designed to pander to them. The more important point isn’t that white Republicans are racist but that the majority...
"Wikipedia informed Roth that it would require 'secondary sources' to verify his assertion that his novel was not inspired by the life of Anatole Broyard" That seemingly innocuous statement is from the “Inspiration” subsection of the Wikipedia entry on Philip Roth’s novel The Human Stain. I write “seemingly innocuous” because it points to problems central to both Wikipedia’s operating ethos and literary analysis. Speaking to the latter first: this isn’t a case about what a text means or what its author intended it to mean so we can avoid the hairier arguments about whether meaning resides within a text or is communicated through it. This argument is about source material. Where something came from instead of what and how it means. According to a Wikipedia-approved secondary source, Michiko Kakutani, The Human Stain is the story of a black man who decided to pass himself off as white. This premise seems to have been inspired by the life story of Anatole Broyard—a critic for The New York Times who died in 1990—at least as recounted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. in his 1997 book 13 Ways of Looking at a Black Man. Kakutani’s review meets all Wikipedia’s criteria for a “reliable source.” Except it isn’t. She said the “premise seems to have been inspired by the life story of Anatole Broyard,” which indicates that she’s no more familiar with the source material than anyone else. Charles Taylor’s review of the novel at Salon constituted the other “secondary source” for the Broyard connection and made its way into the Wikipedia entry thus: Taylor argues that Roth had to have been at least partly inspired by the case of Anatole Broyard, a literary critic who, like the protagonist of The Human Stain, was a man identified as Creole who spent his entire professional life more-or-less as white. But as with Kakutani, Taylor’s evidence—mistakenly identified in the Wikipedia entry as an argument—is also pure supposition: There’s no way Roth could have tackled this subject without thinking of Anatole Broyard, the late literary critic who passed as white for many years. Given the “strength” of the “evidence” provided by these secondary sources, there’s no need to perform a detailed literary analysis to determine that the connection to Broyard didn’t warrant inclusion in the Wikipedia entry. Since no one else would the task fell to Roth’s biographer: Or at least someone claiming to be his biographer. An editor demand proof and re-inserted the Broyard bit: At which point Roth’s alleged and now annoyed biographer re-re-deleted the Broyant bit: Later that afternoon a different editor re-re-inserted the Broyant bit and added a little more on it: This other editor, Parkwells, then took it upon him- or herself to further substantiate the idea that Roth based his novel on Broyard: So despite Roth’s purported desire that there be less about Broyard in the entry, Parkwells is determined that there be more. Remember Kakutani’s weak proposition about what the premise of the novel “seems” to be? Here’s how Parkwells translates her “seems”: Kakutani’s now been “struck,” as if with great force, by the parallels between Roth’s novel and Broyard’s life. But Parkwells’ not finished...

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