Wednesday, September 10, 2003

This smear must stop

It's time for Glenn Reynolds to explain himself.

Today, the renowned Instapundit continues to repeat the charge that MEChA is a racist organization by comparing it to Jim Crow:
But the fight against racial prejudice at the highest levels of the Democratic Party in California is not without its setbacks, as Cruz Bustamante is still refusing to renounce MEChA. Well, we didn't end Jim Crow overnight, either.

First: Does Reynolds really believe MEChA is comparable to Jim Crow? Atrios pretty cleanly dispenses with that notion.

Second: The underlying logic of Reynolds' argument is that the "identity politics" of MEChA (and by extension, that of any mainstream civil-rights organization that vigorously attacks the tenets of white supremacism) is identical in nature to the institutionalized white supremacy of Jim Crow and its attendant ills: segregation, lynching, endemic discrimination.

In doing so, Reynolds not only grotesquely smears mildly militant minority-rights groups, he minimizes the horrors of the Jim Crow era. Suggesting that the systemic atrocities committed against blacks in the first half of the American twentieth century are in any way comparable to even the most distorted reading of Mechista rhetoric or activism is exactly the same kind of despicable historical revisionism deployed by those who compare the Holocaust to various lesser atrocities. I would even place the superficial comparisons of George Bush to Hitler, so despised by Reynolds, in this category as well (though I would not, for reasons discussed earlier, include discussions of the "Bush family-Nazi connection" in the same).

Reynolds, as I said, has some explaining to do. This kind of minimizing the historical realities of the racist South is precisely what Trent Lott was doing when he landed in the national doghouse. Of course, Reynolds likes to compare Bustamante to Lott -- as though MEChA were comparable in either rhetoric or agenda to the Council of Conservative Citizens, or the "Aztlan" myth to the reality of segregation. Reynolds, of all people, should know better.

If, as seems to be the case, Reynolds believes that MEChA comprises "fascist hatemongers" and is a racist organization, he especially needs to explain just why this is so.

I say this as someone who has over the years examined several hundred various organizations -- right, left, and anywhere else -- to try to ascertain whether or not they are genuinely racist in nature. The majority of these have been right-wing "Patriot" groups, many of whom lurk on the fringes of the racist right, and many others who wander fully into that territory. Sorting out just who is racist and who is not entails applying appropriate, considered and accurate criteria, and applying them with both care and discretion.

I know that Glenn Reynolds has partaken of this work as well. He was, I believe, one of the original subscribers to the Militia Watchdog listserv when Mark Pitcavage started it up (in 1996, I think) and has over the years been a valuable contributor to its work -- which is primarily in trying to track various forms of right-wing extremism. So this turn of events has been, I must say, personally quite baffling.

Let me emphasize again: Accusing anyone, particularly a national civil-rights organization that enjoys broad mainstream participation, of being racist is an extremely serious charge. Its ramifications are widespread and can be devastating for any group on whom the label is placed. Misusing it cheaply, especially for scoring easy political points, is beneath contempt.

If Reynolds is going to accuse MEChA of racism, and continue to demand that Cruz Bustamante "denounce" them, he needs to explain to his readers:

--What are his criteria for defining a racist organization?

--What are the behavioral traits of racist organizations -- historically and otherwise?

-- How does MEChA fit those criteria?

As I have explained at length, it is clear by the criteria used not only by myself but most other monitors of hate groups that MEChA is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a genuinely racist organization. Some of its early rhetoric is indeed annoyingly militant, and is at best shrill if not divisive by today's standards. Reynolds put it this way a few posts ago: "It's not 1964 anymore." Of course not -- but then, the rhetoric that seems to have their shorts in a bunch dates back to 1969.

Guess those five years are all the difference needed for conservatives to smear minority advocates as "racists."

Reynolds, I must note, defends himself by saying he has linked to opposing viewpoints. But all of these links have come with disparaging and dismissive language -- which would be fine, except that Reynolds provides no counter-arguments to the points that they raise. It's all with a sort of "oh my God can you believe these PC morons" rolling of the eyes. Logic and reason -- let alone basic fairness and decency -- sad to say, have been entirely lacking from his handling of this subject.

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