Saturday, April 16, 2005

Seeping into the system

Since the creep of right-wing extremism into mainstream conservatism is a major topic of this blog, I'd be remiss in not bringing to your attention a recent report from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting's Steve Rendall describing some of the more noxious examples of this trend in the mainstream media:
Racism, in fact, may be gaining a firmer foothold in American media institutions as its promoters adopt more stealthy and sophisticated ways of presenting it. Consider two recent episodes in which David Brooks and John Tierney, both conservative New York Times writers, touted the work of Steve Sailer, a well-known promoter of racist and anti-immigrant theories.

Following the November elections, David Brooks used his column (12/7/04) to celebrate something he called the "natalist" movement. Natalists, said Brooks, defy Western trends toward declining birth rates by having lots of children and leaving behind the "disorder, vulgarity and danger" of cities to move to "clean, orderly" suburban and exurban settings where they can "protect their children from bad influences." According to Brooks, natalists are more churchgoing and conservative than their less wholesome neighbors in more liberal urban areas, and are an increasingly important political force.

Though the movement sounds a bit like the post–World War II demographic trend dubbed "white flight," Brooks makes no reference to ethnicity until halfway through the column, when he cites Sailer on white fertility:

As Steve Sailer pointed out in the American Conservative, George Bush carried the 19 states with the highest white fertility rates, and 25 of the top 26. John Kerry won the 16 states with the lowest rates.

Brooks is well-known for lightly documented demographic analysis (Philadelphia, 4/04), but he never explains why he believes white fertility is more important than that of other groups.

Did Brooks understand his source's views? A look at the American Conservative article (12/20/04) that Brooks presumably read, since he cited it, ought to have raised the suspicions of an engaged columnist. In it, Sailer describes the undesirable urban traits he says white people are trying to escape: "illegal immigrants and other poor minorities," "ghetto hellions" and "public schools." Are these the things Brooks meant when he alluded to "disorder, vulgarity and danger" and "bad influences" in his Times column?

As American Prospect Online found (12/7/04), a little research reveals Sailer as a leading promoter of racist pseudoscience. As a principal columnist on the white nationalist website, named for Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the "New World," Sailer (e.g., 2/23/03; 12/12/01) extols the work of academic racists who say Africans as a group are innately less intelligent than whites or Asians. He is also a staunch defender of the Pioneer Fund, a primary funder for such racist research (as well as of

On the rare occasion Sailer gives race a rest, it's usually to make some other mock-Darwinian argument, as when he ruled out the possibility of a gay gene, suggesting instead that homosexuality is a disease, possibly caused by a germ (, 8/17/03): "An infectious disease itself could cause homosexuality. It's probably not a venereal germ, but maybe an intestinal or respiratory germ."

A New York Daily News column (12/13/04) rebuked Brooks for plugging Sailer, suggesting that the Times columnist "might want to do a background check on the next 'expert' he quotes," pointing out that "Sailer also writes for, which the KKK-fighting Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled a 'hate group.' " According to the News, the Times failed to respond to inquiries about the matter. No other mainstream outlets seem to have commented on the affair.

The piece gives more background on Sailer, and notes that Tierney's NYT report citing Sailer preceded Brooks':
Weeks before the Brooks column, Times reporter John Tierney (10/24/04) quoted Sailer, describing him as "a conservative columnist at the Web magazine and a veteran student of presidential IQs." Tierney cited Sailer's claim that George W. Bush’s IQ was likely greater than John Kerry's, information Sailer extrapolated from the results of different tests the two had taken—tests that were not intended to measure IQ.

Were Brooks and Tierney aware of Sailer's racist work? Were they sucked in by Sailer's sophistication, his academic sounding arguments? Or was it his bona fides with "mainstream" conservative outfits like the National Review and American Conservative?

The report goes on to describe other major players in the mainstreaming of white-supremacist ideologues, including the late Sam Francis (infamous for remarking at an American Renaissance conference that whites need to "reassert our identity and our solidarity, and we must do so in explicitly racial terms through the articulation of a racial consciousness as whites").

Even more relevant, perhaps, is the career of American Renaissance's Jared Taylor, whose mainstreaming (especially by MSNBC's Joe Scarborough) we have previously noted. The FAIR report includes some noteworthy recent instances of this, particularly one noted in January by Pittsburgh Gazette columnist Dennis Roddy:
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day last week, when much of the nation took a holiday, "race-relations expert" Jared Taylor was hard at work. He began at 6:45 a.m. with an interview with a Columbus radio station. At 7:05 he was on the air in Orlando. An hour later his voice greeted morning commuters in Huntingdon, W.Va.

At 10:10 a.m., he was introduced no fewer than four times as "race relations expert Jared Taylor" on Fred Honsberger's call-in show on the Pittsburgh Cable News Channel. Four hours later, he was back on the air with Honsberger on KDKA radio, where he repeated the message he'd been thumping all day: Martin Luther King Jr. was a philanderer, a plagiarist and a drinker who left a legacy of division and resentment, and was unworthy of a national holiday.

What Taylor did not say, and what Honsberger didn't seem to know until I picked up the phone and called in myself, was that Jared Taylor believes black people are genetically predisposed to lower IQs that whites, are sexually promiscuous because of hyperactive sex drives. Race-relations expert Jared Taylor keeps company with a collection of racists, racial "separatists" and far-right extremists.

I attribute the failure of the mainstream media to be cognizant of the tactics of these folks, and the way they disguise their agendas and beliefs, more to ignorance than maliciousness.

Unfortunately, there is all too often a willingness (if not outright eagerness) among mainstream conservatives, from pundits to politicians, to conveniently overlook these matters when it suits their purposes -- see especially Michelle Malkin, who writes for VDare. And I don't think ignorance explains it all away.

No comments: