Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Obama racism, again

Insulting Obama is automatically racist.

From the link: 

"The point, in all cases, is that the statement in question is objectionable, regardless of the speaker's intent, because it the social context in which the statement exists makes it so. Whether or not one is aware of that social context and is being offensive "on purpose" is irrelevant."

Perhaps the most frightening thing that jumps out of this statement is the assertion that social context defines meaning.  Did you get that?  Read the quote again: it is saying that regardless of what you are trying to communicate, your message is defined by social context.  

Who defines social context?  People could argue about it at length; in this case, the author may be referring to the general blogosphere (i.e. the blogs the author reads or considers "important"), or the corporate media (i.e. the media the author absorbs or considers "important").  In any case, social context is dependent upon the person defining it.  A person's group and perspective are their social context.  

So, the quote essentially says: What you intend to communicate to me is meaningless.  My social context tells me what you said, even if you don't agree with it.  

An end to communication, certainly--the listener already knows the answer.  Don't even bother correcting them, because their social context (or, depending on their level of arrogance, "everyone's" social context) has already told them the true meaning of what you're going to say.  

I didn't initially believe Arthur Silber when he warned that progressives were labeling anyone who disagreed with Barack Obama as "racist."  Having been either wise or ignorant* enough to avoid arguments about Obama, I gave the American self-titled progressives too much credit.  

(*My money's on the former, but given this recent string of posts, I've obviously regressed into the belief that communication can change some peoples' weltanshauung)

But, the hostesses of BitchPhD have helped me to see that indeed, insulting Barack Obama is racist, and unacceptable.  

I think the quote above (from them) speaks for itself: who the hell cares what you say, if they already know the answer?  If you don't fit into their social context, any critique is automatically racism, because they already know all the definitions.  

Of course, people who call Barack Obama a "muslim terrorist" are probably racist.  They may be doing it out of racist motivations.  They may be subconsciously racist, and may be wanting to cause racial turmoil by saying it.  

But the statement itself is not racist.  "Muslim" is not a race, and "terrorist" is not a race. A racist can, for racist reasons, call Barack Obama a terrorist, without the remark itself being inherently racist.  A racist can also call a banana "tasty" without the remark itself being inherently racist.  A non-racist can call a banana "tasty" without the remark itself being inherently racist, and a non-racist can call Barack Obama a terrorist without the remark itself being inherently racist.  

Associating a phrase with the character of the speaker is a way of marginalizing the phrase.  If an idiot accidentally says something intelligent, it might be good to pay heed.  If a genius says something stupid, it might be good not to dwell on it too much.  But if all language becomes associated with the speaker, it blinds the listener to learning anything from a source s/he has already considered "bad."  

The words we select to communicate with each other have great meaning, because if we take them by their actual definitions, we can communicate things to one another that may be new and different.  If all listeners automatically decide to redefine terms based on their "social context," communication can never occur.  Viewpoints cannot be changed, and thoughts stagnate.  

Shame on those educated, well-off American "progressives" who seek to make even Newspeak an inefficient means of control, because they have already decided to arbitrarily change the literal meaning of every English word so that no constructions are possible which can alter a viewpoint.  


LMackenzie said...

"they have already decided to arbitrarily change the literal meaning of every English word so that no constructions are possible which can alter a viewpoint."

Like "family" now means "straight Christian family with married parents and children".

Like "values" now means "Christian and/or Republican values".

Like "life" now means "the precious innocent life of a vulnerable baby".

Like "liberal" now means "irresponsible out of touch valueless elitist" (instead of respecting its being part of the semantic field of "liberty."

Like "democrat" now means "friend to terrorists" (instead of respecting its being part of the semantic field of, well, democracy.)

I'm sorry, the right has been reframing and appropriating key discursive terms far more egregiously than the left ever will, slaves as we are to the idea of diversity.

Artemis said...

I think an important distinction ought to be made here. The claim isn't about whether the person is racist; it's about whether the statement is racist. The person has intent, and so her intentions probably have meaning for her in lots of ways. But wrt the statement, it has no intent. This guy says it a lot better, check it out: http://tinyurl.com/43k2zq

Oh, and as an Obama supporter, I think there are lots of ways to find fault with him politically without resorting to racism. And I think that some people do. And I think that some people don't. And I know many people who have criticized racist attacks against Obama without claiming that all Republicans or Conservatives always make racist attacks.

Please stop generalizing.

Manitor said...

lmackenzie, your argument--"the right wing did something bad, so 'we' [the left wing?] get to do it too--is inappropriate. It is not proper to behave badly and attribute the source of the behavior to someone else. You are the one who decides how you behave, and other people cannot provide you with a pass to behave wrongly simply because they do also.