Let's Make One Thing Perfectly Clear: I Am Not A Racist Bigot. I Am A Cultural Bigot.

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  1. jackn2 says:

    biracial <- that's funny! I am suprised that the genetic code in a biracial person is able to function.

    and don't forget this gem

    "(Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) "
    – Richard Cohen

  2. jb says:

    Cohen should not be fired because he is a racist. He should be fired because he is a terrible writer (as evidenced by the fact that either he writes badly-written defenses of racism and sexism, or columns that are indistinguishable from same).

  3. Ryan says:

    This is an odd characterization of Chone's piece (with which I was unfamiliar before reading this blog entry).

    I agree that the portion about the mayor's family is a poor example of what the rest of the piece is driving at, but aside from stepping perhaps too far outside the central premise – that the GOP has been over-run or at least hijacked by extremists with views that distinctly clash with the modern picture of middle-class America – and being a poor example of that (it would be nigh-impossible to find one of said fringe supporters to actually state the view he's parroting), it's not as inherently problematic at Patrick suggests.

    I'm a little perplexed by this blog entry, actually. Unless you take the quote of of context and entirely focus on the fact that it discusses race relations in the US – a quagmire of discussion at the best of times – it seems a bit of prosaic laziness rather than anything indicating ill-intent or superior elitism.

    Cue posts calling me a liberal elitist /apologist /etc.

  4. Ryan says:

    It's probably worth putting the entire quotation in its context within the piece:

    Iowa not only is a serious obstacle for Christie and other Republican moderates, it also suggests something more ominous: the Dixiecrats of old. Officially the States’ Rights Democratic Party, they were breakaway Democrats whose primary issue was racial segregation. In its cause, they ran their own presidential candidate, Strom Thurmond, and almost cost Harry Truman the 1948 election. They didn’t care. Their objective was not to win — although that would have been nice — but to retain institutional, legal racism. They saw a way of life under attack and they feared its loss.

    Today’s GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled — about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.

  5. Jo says:

    Is it chilly deep underground? Two of my favorite blogs; this one and Lawyers, Guns, and Money, are in perfect accord with one another!

  6. I'm a little perplexed by this blog entry, actually. Unless you take the quote of of context and entirely focus on the fact that it discusses race relations in the US – a quagmire of discussion at the best of times – it seems a bit of prosaic laziness rather than anything indicating ill-intent or superior elitism.

    So, I take it that your point is that people are taking Richard Cohen out of context?

    Is that what you're driving at, Ryan?

  7. En Passant says:

    … revealed himself to be not a racist bigot, but a cultural bigot, a race-baiting hack, and a buffoon.

    But those are well thought out bigotry, hackery and buffoonery.

    It's the knee-jerk kind that's bad.

  8. jackn2 says:

    The context (i guess)

    Today’s GOP is not racist…
    insert examples suggesting that GOP is racist
    change the meaning of racist to 'Cultural Conservative'
    QED

  9. Ryan says:

    @Patrick

    Well yes – but not in the defensive way that you're implying.

    Cohen seems to guilty of trying to make a point using a bad example; however, it should be abundantly clear that his central premise is that elements of the GOP are severely out of touch. That he reveals that he may also be out of touch with the belief sets common to those elements of the GOP is, I think, a bit overblown given that it is a passing reference. That, and while it's by no means representative of the entire GOP, Cohen's assertion may not be entirely off-base concerning a very small percentage of the fringe element, if the last RNC is any indication: http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-08-29/politics/35490241_1_latino-voters-convention-stage-party-with-black-people

    Cohen's remarks were certainly not the ideal phrase to add weight to his premise, but I don't think they deserve the backlash they're getting – based both on the rest of his piece, and the fact that there is some evidence for what he's saying (though where he comes up with the "conventional people" term is beyond me. bad writer. bad!)

  10. Extraneus says:

    Those extreme right-wing Republican tea party people would rather live in a world that looks more like Clarance and Virginia Thomas.

  11. Cohen seems to guilty of trying to make a point using a bad example; however, it should be abundantly clear that his central premise is that elements of the GOP are severely out of touch. That he reveals that he may also be out of touch with the belief sets common to those elements of the GOP is, I think, a bit overblown given that it is a passing reference.

    So, I take it that your point is that this isn't actually all that big a deal, and that oversensitive people are making mountains out of a molehill?

    Is that what you're driving at, Ryan?

  12. ShelbyC says:

    Bloomberg made some dick-shit comments about the marriage, IIRC. Does that count?

  13. Mike says:

    Not that I feel like wasting characters defending Richard Cohen, but it's not like he's making stuff up. The top result of my first Google foray — "21% of likely Republican voters in Alabama, and 29% of likely Republican voters in Mississippi, think interracial marriage should be illegal." http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2012/03/republican-primaries

    That's from last year, and it's not a huge stretch to think that (a) the number who'd admit to thinking interracial marriage should be illegal is smaller than the number who do think that, and (b) the number of people made uncomfortable by it is larger than the number who think it should be illegal.

    (From the same article but a different poll, across the country, only 77% of Republicans — and only 88% of Democrats and 89% of independents — "approve" of interracial marriage.)

  14. Ed T. says:

    I know what happened – he meant to write "conservative" and his word processor changed it to "conventional".

    Dam ewe Auto-Correct!!

    ~EdT.

  15. A list of past triumphs by Cohen. I particularly like:

    There is no doubt that Polanski did what he did, which is have sex with a 13-year-old after plying her with booze. There is no doubt also that after all these years there is something stale about the case, not to mention a "victim," Samantha Geimer, who has long ago forgiven her assailant and dearly wishes the whole thing would go away. So do I.

    Of course, that excrescence was taken out of context. No one opposes child molestation more than Richard Cohen!

  16. Dick Taylor says:

    @Ryan,

    In what part of this nation in 2013 do "people with conventional views" vomit at the thought of inter-racial marriage? It makes a convenient straw horse to try to demonize cultural conservatives, but really? If he had said, as you do, that there are fringe elements within the GOP that would have difficulty with this, he would at least have made an essentially non-falsifiable statement that would have tarred Republicans with his racist brush. That, by the way, would also apply if he had referenced fringe elements in the Democrats, or in any sufficiently large group of people across the world. Some people are crazy.

    But he didn't say "fringe elements in the GOP". He said "people with conventional views". And he said that those "conventional" people were no doubt nauseated at the concept of an inter-racial marriage. I'm not sure whether the smug assumption of intestinal superiority over "conventional" people is more annoying than the completely ridiculous basis for that assumption, but it's a close race. Either way, he deserves the kicking he's getting, and then some.

    Even if you believe that Republicans should be demonized, why on earth would you defend this completely buffoonish attempt to do so?

  17. Shelby says:

    There's nothing terribly interesting here, really, aside from Cohen's incompetence at expressing his unfounded views. He's just making up "bad ideas" and attributing them with no basis to the vast majority of his political opponents. Though why someone who clearly loathes, and has no comprehension of, Tea Party types, would also characterize them as "conventional" — that I can't explain, except that (once again) he's a really bad writer.

  18. Ryan says:

    @Patrick

    I think the entirety of my 10:53 AM post makes it pretty clear what I'm driving at – Cohen's central premise is sound, but his example – which is supported by some evidence, mind – is a poor one given his central premise. There are much better – and more sophisticated – examples that he could have chosen than a simplistic element of race relations to demonstrate how out of touch the GOP fringe. Then again, he may have chosen that example simply because it is hyperbolic (in which case it was a poor editorial choice rather than a poor prosaic one).

    If the objection is that Cohen has painted a large swath of – let's face it – conservatives with a racist brush using rhetorical hyperbole, I'm finding it a little ironic given that I just participated in a discussion with another Popehat author who painted another voluntary association of people with a similarly-stigmatizing brush. Though I realize that isn't your doing and perhaps I'm being unfair to your blog entry on the same site as Clark's =)

  19. EAB says:

    Yes, I agree that Cohen's making a culturally bigoted statement here. That said, I live in a state where 30% of Republican voters currently believe interracial marriage should be illegal. Presumably those people find it gag-inducing enough that the law ought to prevent it, and plenty more would find it unacceptable within their own families even if they don't want to make it illegal. I don't know any English teachers in Alabama, but I can promise you that some Mississippi English teachers do indeed find it nauseating. I know too many of them, and I also know too many people in interracial marriages who experience the discrimination.

    I don't think that attitude is the product of conservative ideology per se — the correlation probably goes the other way, our history being what it is. However, given that our politics are incredibly divided along racial lines, it's undeniable that a substantial percentage of deep-Southern conservatives really do have ugly race issues, including interracial marriage. The problem is the racism, not the "conventionalism" (whatever that means), but it's a real problem nonetheless.

    A post-racist America would be awfully nice, but Mississippi and Alabama and Louisiana and Georgia aren't there yet. It's better than it was forty years ago, but we still have a long way to go.

  20. Ryan says:

    @Dick Taylor

    Perhaps I'm being a little forgiving of Cohen in reading it this way, but I immediately tied his reference to "people with conventional views" back to his earlier reference to "Dixiecrats of old" and knew immediately what elements of society he was talking about, as the piece earlier framed the GOP fringe as a resurgence of the Dixiecrats of old. The allusion appeared clear, but perhaps I'm reading more into it than Cohen actually intended.

    This – I must say – is the first piece of Cohen's I've ever read, and his writing is unimpressive for the fact that it relies on allusions between sections.

  21. Michael Stack says:

    I don't agree with the point Cohen is trying to make, but I think it's pretty clear that when he writes, "people with conventional views…", he is writing from the fictional perspective of a right-winger – it is his imagined thought process of the right-winger, not his own.

    I agree with 99.5% of what I see on Popehat but I guess this is part of the other .5%.

  22. amblingon says:

    If we just replace the word 'conventional' with 'culturally conservative' the problem disappears, right? Objectively, cultural conservatives express more negative views of interracial marriage, gay people, and racial minorities than any other demographic, so that seems to be fine.

    I also don't get what you mean by 'cultural bigot.' Social conservatives are dillweeds who get their kicks picking on the most vulnerable members of society. Saying so isn't bigoted.

  23. Shane says:

    They don't call them ivory towers for nothing.

  24. Ryan says:

    @Dave Crisp

    From the article you posted:

    The problem is that Richard Cohen thinks being repulsed isn't actually racist, but "conventional" or "culturally conservative."

    Maybe this is the problem – that's not the sense I get from reading this piece (then again, I've never read any other Cohen piece so I'm missing author context). The sense I get is that his use of "people with conventional views" is a euphemism. It seems readily apparent that he's condemning those views.

    Herein lies the problem with the quagmire that is race relations. Not being American, and not growing up with the realities of race relations in the US, I can look at Cohen's piece and think that he's condemning a fringe element of the GOP and its goes without saying that these notions are inherently racist and evidence of just how out of touch some of those elements are.

    You folks, on the other hand, appear to be reading this entirely differently – that Cohen's association of these views as conventional or conservative is problematic because he doesn't associate them with racism independent of conventionalism or conservativism.

    Regardless, it seems there is a great deal being "read into" this piece, generally.

  25. If we just replace the word 'conventional' with 'culturally conservative' the problem disappears, right? Objectively, cultural conservatives express more negative views of interracial marriage, gay people, and racial minorities than any other demographic, so that seems to be fine.

    I also don't get what you mean by 'cultural bigot.' Social conservatives are dillweeds who get their kicks picking on the most vulnerable members of society. Saying so isn't bigoted.

    So, I take it that your point is that you while Cohen, unfortunately, said that most Americans are racists who come close to vomiting at the sight of a child of mixed race, you wish that Cohen had said that a small minority of Americans, with whose politics you happen to disagree, are racists who come close to vomiting at the sight of a mixed race child?

    Is that what you're driving at, Amblington?

  26. Lizard says:

    Based on responses I've seen to the column, it seems they fall into two categories:
    a)People who live in a cultural/social context where "conventional" is a negative term, and the use of it is intended to be insulting and othering, referring to "people who are not real people, like us" find Cohen's column perfectly fine, and do not understand what the fuss is about. To them, "conventional" can be synonymous with "ignorant, bigoted, uneducated, foolish, narrow-minded", and substitute those words reflexively. They (mentally, unconsciously) read the sentence as "Bigoted, foolish, etc., people gag reflexively…"

    b)People who live in a cultural/social context where "conventional" is primarily a neutral term, meaning "the average Joe", "most people", "the common clay of the New West", and the use of it is a statement about majority views and where the broad social/cultural consensus of America happens to be at the moment, however, interpret Cohen's column as saying "Most Americans find interracial marriage literally stomach-churning". Even if Cohen intends this as a condemnation, it's hard to see it as wholly negative within that context: As a general rule, when a columnist for a mainstream paper invokes "most Americans", he does so to place a stamp of approval on the topic, or at least acknowledge that it's something widely accepted by otherwise basically decent people. (There's plenty out there who consider "most Americans" to be basically evil, corrupt, vile, and despicable people, but they generally don't get columns in mass media outlets.)

    Cohen's a professional writer. If he means "extremist", he should write "extremist". If he chooses the term "conventional", he is making a statement about the current mainstream, publicly tolerated, attitude towards interracial marriage — and if he thinks that there's a broad mainstream repulsed by it, he is revealing much about himself. Either he is incredibly isolated in his bubble, with no knowledge of the world except that which is fed to him by sources with a single bias (there is no such thing as an unbiased source; you need to sample multiple biases to distill something like the truth), or he is projecting his own loathing of the topic onto others, and then claiming he's horrified by it.

    PS:I think the leaderboard to the right should be based on word count, not post count. I have obviously self-serving reasons for this.

  27. Irk says:

    @Ryan Popular opinion as I'm reading it now is that Cohen is a bad writer, as you say, and was probably trying to make a certain point, but he let his racism get in the way of his already-poor writing skills and accidentally tarred himself with the same brush that he missed the dixiecrat descendants with.

    Or basically, what I'm reading from most people is that Cohen can be a poor writer AND a racist, and he probably is both. The racism can be read from his rather specific focusing on DeBlasio's marriage and children in the way of "how could you come up with that example if you weren't a closet racist"? Basically a Freudian racist slip. It's not really important to me to decide whether DeBlasio is a racist, I don't have an opinion one way or the other whether he is one. I'm more saying what I'm observing the analysis to be.

    The whole 'his wife WAS a lesbian' thing is knocking him into "some sort of bigot" territory, though. Those weird overtones of 'curing homosexuality' combined with the utter obliviousness of what queerness or bisexuality are is pretty stomach-curdling. He might be implying that "conventional" people don't know what bisexual is, but I wouldn't trust his writing to be that nuanced. Once I look at that full-on, I start to go back to his writing about inter-racial marriages and give it more scrutiny, and my opinions get skewed towards 'maybe he's a racist too' once reconsidering it.

    The question becomes: can just a bad writer say such terrible flubs with no thought about how they would be perceived, or does it take a closeted racist, homophobic, bigoted writer to achieve this? The former seems like it would be difficult on its own, but when you combine it with the latter it's a lot more likely to happen.

  28. Not being American, and not growing up with the realities of race relations in the US, I can look at Cohen's piece and think that he's condemning a fringe element of the GOP and its goes without saying that these notions are inherently racist and evidence of just how out of touch some of those elements are.

    But that isn't what Cohen wrote, is it Ryan? It's what you would have asked Cohen to write, had you been his editor.

    For someone who has never read anything else Richard Cohen has written, someone who "[n]ot being American, and not growing up with the realities of race relations in the US," you seem to have some awfully strong opinions about matters on which you are, by your own admission, poorly informed.

  29. wolfefan says:

    Quoting Jonathan Capehart at http://www.washingtonpost.com

    To recap, according to a Public Policy Polling survey released last week, a plurality of Republicans (43 percent to 37 percent) surveyed thinks it is fine to wear the Confederate flag to school. An overwhelming majority (57 percent) don’t think the gay pride rainbow flag should be worn to school. And 38 percent believe it is more appropriate for high schoolers to wear the rebel flag than those who say the same about the rainbow flag (9 percent). Knowing what I know now, that 52 percent who said they were “not sure” which was more appropriate makes more sense, albeit of the troubling variety.

  30. Ryan says:

    @Lizard makes a good point – although I quibble a bit on (a). I don't typically use "conventional" as a euphemistic shorthand, but the greater body of Cohen's piece made it clear – or so I thought – that his use of the term "conventional" was indeed a euphemistic shorthand for "out-of-touch, bigoted asshats in the GOP fringe that have an apparent ridiculous level of influence" (more or less).

    But yeah, other than that little quibble, good post.

  31. Troutwaxer says:

    Leaving aside all the other problems with the piece, Cohen is telling us that right-wing Republican racists are "conventional." This is what you see looking at the world through the skewed lens of the beltway bubble. Cohen needs to get out more and spend less time with the people he sees as "conventional."

  32. Dick Taylor says:

    @Ryan,

    I think you're being far too generous. I broke down and read the entire piece. Then I re-read it, trying desperately to find a coherent thread or point to the thing. Paraphrased, I think it says this:

    "Chris Christie won re-election. I went to a website for Iowa Republicans. (I hate Sarah Palin.) I either can't discern or or can't articulate the difference between Republicans, the Tea Party, cultural conservatives, or anyone else nominally to the right of Bill DeBlasio. DeBlasio's cool. Did I mention he's married to an African-American woman? Or that they have kids? 'Cause that's important because all those people I can't distinguish up there sure want to vomit when they think of him. And her. And them. I sure hope Chris Christie hates them too. The bad people, that is. Not DeBlasio."

    Did I capture it about right? It was kind of hard to read, and the lights kept flickering in the room as I got down the page.

  33. Ryan says:

    @Patrick

    But that isn't what Cohen wrote, is it Ryan?

    I found the earlier references in the piece sufficient to make that point; it seems you did not.

    For someone who has never read anything else Richard Cohen has written, someone who "[n]ot being American, and not growing up with the realities of race relations in the US," you seem to have some awfully strong opinions about matters on which you are, by your own admission, poorly informed.

    There is a difference between being poorly informed and bringing cultural baggage to the table. I may lack the cultural baggage that is common among all Americans concerning race relations (e.g. my grasp of the situation is observational and historical only; I have no experience living in the context and it therefore counts against me in a discussion like this), but I do a considerable amount of reading about US politics generally and at least try to remain factually informed.

    I find it hard to get worked up about Cohen's statements precisely because I'm merely reading what he's written without the associated cultural implications. That works well in Cohen's favour when a citizen of certain other countries reads his piece (bringing their own cultural baggage to it), but it does him no favours among his [likely] intended audience.

  34. Jo says:

    OP said to Ryan:

    For someone who has never read anything else Richard Cohen has written, someone who "[n]ot being American, and not growing up with the realities of race relations in the US," you seem to have some awfully strong opinions about matters on which you are, by your own admission, poorly informed.

    Concern trolls gonna be concerned…

  35. Ivy says:

    I think Cohen's biggest mistake here was thinking that he was a clever wordsmith. There's nothing sadder than someone with no sense of humor who thinks he's funny.

    OK, no, wait, he did say something funny– "The GOP isn't racist, just troubled." OK, THAT made me laugh. Kinda like saying "Pinochet wasn't an evil despot. He was just misunderstood."

  36. Ryan says:

    @Dick Taylor

    Perhaps I am. Your reading seems to have some associated snark :) Here's what I got from it:

    -Chris Christie is a moderate Republican.
    -This doesn't necessarily bode well for him because Republicans like those in Iowa really don't like moderates at all.
    -The problem with the GOP is the Republicans voting in the early primaries in Iowa and SC (and knowing what I know from elsewhere, I immediately inserted "big chunks of the Tea Party" here) are more inclined to pick anybody but Christie, so long as they are Christian and extremely right-wing.
    -The appearance of these elements represented by Iowa and SC, who love Ted Cruz, (here again, I inserted "big chunks of the Tea Party") is problematic because their efforts to pursue their agenda may sink Chris Christie (here is where he compared the situation to the Dixiecrats).
    -Next is the contentious paragraph with "conventional" in it. This paragraph is a direct parallel to the Dixiecrat experience and appears to be intended to support the assertion in the previous paragraph – that like the Dixiecrats, chunks of the Tea Party may inadvertently sink the GOP ship that is Chris Christie. E.g. the Tea Party chunks are totally out of touch with the mainstream (example: race relations) and may pursue an agenda that makes the GOP irrelevant to everyone.
    -The next two paragraphs add further exposition to that point and conclude the piece.

    Is that overly forgiving? Perhaps. I found the allusions clear – likely due to the fact that I'm not bringing American cultural baggage to the table, but I am trundling with my own along behind me (which, compared to the US, lies decidedly in the classical liberalism direction) coupled to a working knowledge of American politics.

  37. See above for an important bit of context.

  38. Ryan says:

    @Patrick

    OK, point made. In the absence of context concerning Cohen's writing generally, I'd say his current piece is just prosaic laziness and not much to get worked up about; however, given his past writing behaviour, it would seem that Cohen is indeed something of a special kind of douchebag and deserves the criticism he gets.

    Carry on.

  39. Kevin says:

    @Ryan, you're being wilfully obtuse.

    Since you pretend not to get what is objectionable about Cohen's statements, let me spell it out for you in simple enough language that I don't think even you can pretend not to get it: Cohen is saying that anyone to the right of him politically is a racist. He's saying that anyone who lives in flyover country is a racist. He's saying that anyone who criticizes him is a racist.

    That's bigoted and you know it.

    I find it hard to get worked up about Cohen's statements precisely because [snip pseudo-intellectualism]

    No Ryan, the reason you find it hard to get worked up about Cohen being a cultural bigot is much simpler than that: it's because YOU'RE a cultural bigot.

  40. Ryan says:

    @Kevin

    Cohen is saying that anyone to the right of him politically is a racist. He's saying that anyone who lives in flyover country is a racist. He's saying that anyone who criticizes him is a racist.

    No, that's what you're reading. That's not what his piece actually says. Nor is it what I think, but thanks for the ad hominem! For the record, I prefer my cultural bigotry to be empirically sound, so I'm much more inclined to call specific people or affiliations with a specific movement (like, say, white supremacist gangs) racists, rather than anyone to the political right of me. I'm not typically in favour of tarring vast swaths of any population with the same brush based on an inconsequential factor like what they politically call themselves or the job they do.

  41. Matt says:

    I dunno. I honestly can't come up with any complete reading of the offending paragraph that makes any sense.

    It does seem to me that he intended "People with conventional views" to mean something very different than "most Americans", and it seems like that entire paragraph was an attempt at ratting off a list "crazy things that social conservatives think". And the way the paragraph ends would support that reading. The social changes he mentions are more established in some parts of the country than others, and a substantial number of social conservatives are in fact upset because this doesn't look like "their country" any more.

    The problem is he began the paragraph by saying "Today's GOP is not racist" and then listing attitudes that clearly are racist (and sexist, and homophobic.) That's the major WTF bit of the paragraph to me. It's perfectly reasonable to read what follows as a list of things the author thinks aren't racist. But I doubt that's the case if for no reason other than that I doubt he'd be brave enough to knowingly say that in public. My suspicion is that he inserted the "GOP isn't racist" phrase at the begining after drafting the rest of the paragraph as some attempt at avoiding being accused of calling the GOP racist (which he still does).

    Maybe I'm being way too generous here. I don't read this guy's column, and I'm not going to start, because he's simply not any good at writing. And he apparently has a history of saying other crazy things. I would think they'd just fire him for sucking at his job, except that this kind of controversy is probably good business for the newspaper.

  42. Bill Kilgore says:

    The best part of this whole basket of stupidity is that Ted Cruz would be, were he not a Republican, a minority who the "conventionals" would despise because of his pigmentation. But yet…

    I like the part of the movie where the prep-school progs run around and project their own integration anxiety onto the people who they disagree with politically, but at this point, hasn't this particular scene dragged on for long enough? This movie needs a good car chase or I want my nine dollars back.

  43. Resolute says:

    "I was taken out of context" and it's modern day, internet age equivalent, "my Twitter account was hacked", are almost always code words for "I said something stupid, got in trouble for it, and don't want to admit to my mistake."

  44. Xenocles says:

    @Michael Stack:

    "I don't agree with the point Cohen is trying to make, but I think it's pretty clear that when he writes, "people with conventional views…", he is writing from the fictional perspective of a right-winger – it is his imagined thought process of the right-winger, not his own."

    Yes, that was clear to everyone. The problem is how freely he substitutes his imagination for reality. I'm free to imagine that you enjoy biting your toenails and viewing ungulate-themed pornography, but you might be somewhat annoyed if I offered that as a statement of fact about you. It would be an extremely unflattering assertion that is rather divorced from reality.

    A better columnist might understand that your typical conservative is far more worried about DeBlasio's apparent communist ties than about the complexion of his family. I doubt most of them even knew about the latter before they had an opinion about him. But that would require some empathy and charity, both of which the discourse these days sorely lacks.

  45. Burnside says:

    Hey guys…guys…..

    Ryan is not typically in favour of tarring vast swaths of any population with the same brush based on an inconsequential factor like what they politically call themselves or the job they do. He's merely saying that it's fairly obvious that Cohen's not a bigot because he is only calling Tea Party members, Iowans and South Carolinans racists (but not all Americans).

    :-P

  46. Ryan says:

    Strawman much?

  47. ChrisTS says:

    I cannot imagine that Ryan will be wasting any more time trying to have a conversation, here.

  48. Ryan says:

    @ChrisTS

    Indeed, it appears I have suddenly run out of ones and zer

  49. LabRat says:

    The other part of the problem is that even assuming the most charitable possible view of his column (which does take some work to assume), his point morphs from "everyone to the right of me is a nauseous bigot" to "fringe elements hold fringe views". Which may be technically correct, but is also something of a non-point.

  50. Dion starfire says:

    I'm free to imagine that you enjoy biting your toenails and viewing ungulate-themed pornography, but you might be somewhat annoyed if I offered that as a statement of fact about you.

    Tthat's very rude and offensive to nail-biters and purveyors of sheep porn. You, sir, are a porn and nail-biting bigot, and should be fired from any public communications position you may have.

  51. Xenocles says:

    @Dion-

    I absolutely agree that I should never be employed to speak to the public, ever, on anyone's behalf.

  52. SirWired says:

    I think we can all agree that it was very poorly written, at best.

    Frankly, I think he's "Guilty as Charged" in thinking that it's "unconventional" to accept interracial marriage. Yes, that makes him an elitist, blindered, moron. Until he "doubled down" I would have blamed it on sloppy editing or a typo. But if that was the case, he would have said so in his follow-up.

    Beyond that, his basic thesis (which is in no way original or interesting) is that parts of the country less accepting of things such as interracial marriage are less likely to nominate politicians such as Chris Christie to be the GOP candidate for president, is quite true, if banal.

    The real question is, why would anyone think this was worthy of an opinion column; I thought columnists were supposed to be about unconventional thinking, leaving rote statements of fact for the beat reporters.

  53. mcinsand says:

    The problem as I see it is that Cohen's attitude is typical of modern day loyal partisans. I have friends that hang on every word from The Drudge Report, especially if there is a story about how evil the Democrats are… which they must be, since they aren't Republicans. Likewise, I have friends on the other side where anything that remotely portrays Republicans as Cohen did must be gospel. After all, they are not Democrats, so they must be evil.

    Being loyal to a party has come to the point of having to turn your brain off. They tolerate no dissent, or at least they don't tolerate it well. You have to be loyal to the party line, or you must be one of those scum. And, to reiterate, every nasty rumor we have heard about their 'conventional' habits must be true, if only because such rumors reiterate their scumminess.

  54. Garrett says:

    a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?)

    Shouldn't Cultural Conservatives be worshipping this guy? He's married, to a woman, with children (of his own), and provides proof that Gay Conversion Therapy works. This is like a Cultural Conservative's dream mayor!

    It seems that a point is being made with evidence which is largely to the contrary. That may not be evil, but it is horrible writing and debate.

  55. Levi says:

    In or out of context, Cohen's statements make no sense. Even if you take at face value his backpedalling statement

    What I was doing was expressing not my own views but those of extreme right-wing Republican tea party people.

    … in his piece he goes at length to describe Ted Cruz as the ultimate tea party avatar favored by Iowa. Cruz is a Latino born in Canada (though generally considered a natural-born American citizen). Cruz's father, also mentioned by Cohen, is a Cuban immigrant.

    Cohen's argument that anti-immigrant tea party Iowans (who are "not racist" but nevertheless gag at the thought of a biracial family in New York) would never consider Gov. Christie because they prefer Ted Cruz should show anyone that he has nothing but irrational disgust for the people "on the other side". He can read a poll, but he has bizarre misconceptions about the demographic he purports to analyze. So, apparently, does his editor.

  56. Wharrrrrrgarbl says:

    If you are familiar with Cohen's greatest hits (including such oldies as the 1986 hit "Shopkeepers Should Be Afraid (of Young Black Men)", as well as more recent classics like 2003's "Only Fools and Frenchmen (Don't Want to Bomb Brown People)" and last year's "Trayvon's Hoodie = Criminal Uniform"), it's clear that he is in fact, just an unreconstructed racist. Context doesn't help him wriggle out of it.

  57. Shane says:

    @Mike

    "21% of likely Republican voters in Alabama, and 29% of likely Republican voters in Mississippi, think interracial marriage should be illegal."

    What about the Democratic voters, (which according to your supposition will be all black) do they think that interracial marriages should be illegal too? or are we only going to get one side of the racist coin?

  58. Marconi Darwin says:

    …Best Buy assistant managers in Bakersfield…

    HEY!

  59. Levi says:

    @Shane

    That poll was limited to people who intended to vote in the Republican primaries in those states, so the source article's description of "likely Republican voters" is a bit ambiguous. The crosstabs are still pretty funny. For example, 44% of "very liberal" people who intended to inject themselves into the Alabama Republican primary thought interracial marriage should be illegal (20% in Mississippi). The Democrat numbers for illegal interracial marriage (again, Democrats intending to vote in the Republican primary) were Alabama 26%, Mississippi 15%. You're talking small portions of the participants either way.

  60. Nick says:

    Hey, don't lump him in with the rest of us coastal elites. I thought the upside of being called an effete liberal pantywaist all year was not having to take ownership old white bigots with a warboner.

  61. Lizard says:

    Shouldn't Cultural Conservatives be worshipping this guy? He's married, to a woman, with children (of his own), and provides proof that Gay Conversion Therapy works. This is like a Cultural Conservative's dream mayor!

    Following that logic, they'd embrace the monogamous Barack and Michelle Obama over the multiply-divorced, continually adulterous Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump, but oddly, this doesn't seem to be the case. "Family values", to the right, rarely involves valuing actual families. (Which might be why the biggest social issue on the right is desperately trying to *stop* people getting married. I keep imagining trying to explain this to my stereotypical image of a hippie from the 1960s. "So, wait… in the future… it's the liberals are advocating for people to, like, get married and live in the suburbs and raise their kids, and it's the conservatives who are like 'Hell, no, you got to keep living in sin and not having kids and being irresponsible and unbound by law or tradition'? Man, that's freaky.") (Then I explain that the President approves of torture, assassination, and oversees a surveillance state that would make J. Edgar Hoover wet his frilly pink panties… and the right considers him a liberal who's too soft on crime and terrorism.)

  62. Sami says:

    Defending his thesis on the grounds that he meant X by "people with conventional views" is something of a furphy. Because he declared racism and homophobia to be conventional, and that does, in fact, apply a heavy layer of dismissive scorn to most of society.

    Because he apparently thinks that not being a bigot is unconventional. That achieving "elementary decency" is somehow an unusual gift for him and his oh-so-elite friends. (He would never say "buddies", that's so suburban.)

    Fuck that guy.

  63. Dictatortot says:

    I'm moved to coin "the Cohen effect": this is when a politician, pundit, or partisan so flawlessly embodies his political opponents' silliest, most overheated strawmen that even reasonable, sane, non-conspiracy-theorists can't shake the crazy suspicion that he's on their payroll.

  64. David but not that David says:

    Maybe I see it this way only because I'm a bit of a math guy, but here's how I see it, with pointers to standard First Order Logic.
    He appears to be using a somewhat fuzzy equivalent of a Universal Introduction. The basic process is this: take some group. Pick a random (read: typical or conventional) element in that group. If some general statement holds for that element, assuming nothing but inclusion in the group, then it holds for every element of the group.
    So his "conventional" would apply back to the group he's picking from: the Tea Party, or maybe even a specific subset of that.

    Note I'm conveniently overlooking the fact that his logic is flawed – I'm just trying to see some thought behind it that could possibly make sense. But that's giving him the benefit of the doubt, which, as others have explained, he really, really, really doesn't deserve.

  65. Mark - Lord of the Albino Squirrels says:

    Seems like there are two legit options to me:

    1) Cohen is a bigot (cultural, racial, or both) and a poor writer.
    2) Cohen is a troll pundit and a pretty good writer.

    Don't know which one is worse or which one is the actual case, but option number 2s are getting frighteningly… conventional in the modern press.

    Feel free to take "number 2" out of context.

  66. philosopherva says:

    Oh, my. I guess that is why (being a conventional thinker myself) I voted for Robert Sarvis (his father of English descent, his mother Chinese, who is married to an African-American pediatrician from Mississippi, with two beautiful children) to be the remote successor of Mr. Jefferson as the Governor of Virginia. The very thought of his polygenic miscegenation makes me nauseated.

  67. Cohen is a troll pundit

    Unlikely. If Cohen's a troll, he's been a successful troll for 45 years, 45 years in which he's outwitted people as sharp as Hunter S. Thompson, who in the 1980s described Cohen as an undescended testicle with a journalism degree.

  68. Mark - Lord of the Albino Squirrels says:

    If Cohen's a troll, he's been a successful troll for 45 years, 45 years in which he's outwitted people as sharp as Hunter S. Thompson, who in the 1980s described Cohen as an undescended testicle with a journalism degree.

    My gut feeling is that you are right (that is, Cohen is likely not a troll) from what I've read of his stuff, but I don't see how the above makes that unlikely. Getting someone more skilled, intelligent, and successful to call you an undescended testicle sounds like being a successful troll pundit to me.

    …it also sounds like being an undescended testicle with a journalism degree. Tomayto, tomahto?

  69. Nigel Declan says:

    Cohen's assertion that stop-and-frisk saves lives is probably technically correct in the same way that the policies described by Kurt Vonnegut in his story Harrison Bergeron technically promoted equality.

  70. bill says:

    @Mike:

    but it's not like he's making stuff up. The top result of my first Google foray — "21% of likely Republican voters in Alabama, and 29% of likely Republican voters in Mississippi, think interracial marriage should be illegal."

    .

    You really think one survey showing that less than 25% of likely Republican voters in two of the most backward states in the country allows any significant references to be drawn? I guess it depends on how you define making things up but Republican Primary voters != 'people with conventional views', people in Alabama/Mississippi != 'people with conventional views', etc etc. For the record, I'm as big a fan of interracial families as one can be but as a point of argument, thinking something should be illegal doesn't necessarily equal being nauseated by it either although I'll grant both objections cause my gag reflex.

    He's not a 12 year old kid writing a social studies paper, he's a well educated highly paid professional that also had proofreaders. If I wrote an article about beliefs of Popehat readers where I reference Popehat readers throughout my article, then right after mentioning Popehat readers I generalize about blog commenters, would you buy that I was commenters of World Star Hip Hop? If you say Yes, I'll have to take your word for it but that's hard to believe. He wrote the article, proofread it and supposedly had at least an editor or proofer read it, and it still slipped through the cracks? It's possible I guess, but it's a safe bet that if someone like a Limbaugh, DeLay or Coulter made the same comment, it'd be seen as proof positive of their bigotry by damn near all many of the same people saying criticism is just overreaction to a clumsy but innocent slip. If it looks like a Dog Whistling Concern Troll post, quacks like a Dog Whistling Concern Troll post, it's a duck. For my money, if he updated his post to read "people with conventional views" with "loathsome a55holes" at least it'd be technically accurate.

  71. amblingon says:

    So, I take it that your point is that you while Cohen, unfortunately, said that most Americans are racists who come close to vomiting at the sight of a child of mixed race, you wish that Cohen had said that a small minority of Americans, with whose politics you happen to disagree, are racists who come close to vomiting at the sight of a mixed race child?

    Is that what you're driving at, Amblington?

    Yes, more or less.

    One caveat; lets not minimize the moral necessity of opposition to social conservatism. Social conservatism is synonymous with racism, sexism, homophobia, and so on. I don't 'happen' to disagree with it any more than I 'happen' to disagree with the proposition that gay people should be imprisoned.

    I think Cohen is an asshole and writes plenty of objectionable things (used to be a lesbian? Because bisexual people don't exist?). But the idea that there are a significant number of conservative Americans who don't like the idea of black people dating white people isn't objectionable, because it's true.

  72. Michael says:

    Great piece Patrick, I loved every bit of it.

    Some people here don't seem to understand that Patrick wasn't accusing Cohen of being racist against black people; Patrick was stomping Cohen for belittling commoners, pedestrians, rubes, yokels and other "average" Americans. Cohen lives in a dark fantasy land where the people he disagrees with politically are secret klansmen and drink the blood of children.

  73. bill says:

    @Amblignton:
    But the idea that there's is a large segment of humanity who doesn't like interracial dating isn't objectionable, because it's true.
    FTFY
    I dislike social conservatives as much as the next guy, but there's a huge gulf between not liking an idea and having to withhold one's gagging reflex over it. I live in an area that's chock full of every bad conservative stereotype but I'll throw this in (I have no data to support it, just personal observation)… the vitriol against interracial dating varies greatly depending on the direction. Among hardcore white bigots, seeing a white man with a black/hispanic/asian female doesn't generate near the vitriol that it does in the opposite situation Here in SC, social cons are pretty fond of Nikki Haley and her husband and Clarence Thomas is virtually a celebrity. When Herman Cain's infidelity came out, I don't remember seeing much vomit in the streets. Female attractiveness or lack thereof correlates pretty highly with the vitriol too. And take a stroll over to youtube and check out any of Tommy Sotomayor's videos and tell me who's gagging the hardest. I can't say for sure which is greater, but i think gagging over interracial relationships is as much about playa hatin' as it is about racial bigotry.

  74. Deathpony says:

    So are they "People with conventional views" or "Extreme Right Wingers?" Im still confused. Or maybe he was trying to say that the "Extreme Right Wingers" would consider themselves merely "People with conventional views" while simultaneously preparing their nearest cross for burning, as those people are wont to do apparently.

    Whatever point he was trying to make I guess it disappeared down its own rhetorical oesophagus at some point in his eagerness to throw straw together and call it Republican. His hates are fairly clear, even if his language isnt.

    That said…if his point deeply embedded somewhere under there was that Christie will have trouble wooing the Republican base in the primaries than less moderate candidates, thats probably kind of self evident. Just not sure how the DiBlasio blues explosion makes that point any stronger.

    Also not sure that Patrick's characterisation of Cohen and his kind (cue the canapes and the cote du rhone…could we have some more elitist stereotypes please?) is any much more helpful than Cohen's ridiculous stereotyping of conservatives, but cest la vie. Pass me some of those canapes…

    Oh and for God's sake, don't let Ken know this thread descended into the realms of ungulate porn. He is paranoid enough about the pony menace as it is without that.

  75. Dictatortot says:

    As a social conservative from the Deep South, I'm frankly perplexed. Apparently, there's all sorts of things my gorge ought to be doing that it simply isn't. Should I consult a GI specialist?

  76. Sami says:

    I think the real problem I have with this guy is his failure to own his prior statements.

    You cannot claim both "extreme" and "conventional" as descriptors of the same group. If he wants to allege that, in the United States of America, "conventional" thinking is bigotry that outdates, quite possibly, the United States of America, then he can do that. But his bullshit backtracking on that is pissweak.

  77. Tom says:

    Awwwwwwwwwwww, man. Jon Stewart and his posse just totally stole your bit.

  78. That Anonymous Coward says:

    Perhaps if we stopped asking people if they approve of it or not, they might get over it.
    Asking the question leads them to think that their opinion matters on a settled matter of law, and that objecting loud enough might somehow make it all go away like it was a bad dream.
    (See also Affordable Care Act killing bill attempt #879182)

    Mayhaps we might even stop trying to assign all blame on those who are different in some way, accept they are not the cause of all of the problems in your life.
    Bring back that silly idea of personal responsibility… you didn't get fired because of the immigrant, you got fired because your a lazy drunk.
    You didn't land the hot chick because that *insert favored pejorative here* stole her, it is because your personality sucked.
    Those gays getting married didn't destroy your marriage, perhaps it had to do with your banging the babysitter.

    Accept that change happens and you don't get to veto that change because it is different and it scares you.

    As to this alleged writer, you write for the Washington Post – perhaps inserting clickbait worthy snippets into your stories to get eyes on them is the wrong way to get attention.

  79. Insert entire leg. He has GOT to get out more.

  80. JT says:

    Cohen demonstrates a frequent oversight when people write on cultural topics: it's myopic to argue against discrimination while employing cultural stereotypes to make your argument. It's an act of deepening one's hole to then use guilt-by-association arguments in your own defense.

  81. Xenocles says:

    "Asking the question leads them to think that their opinion matters on a settled matter of law, and that objecting loud enough might somehow make it all go away like it was a bad dream.
    (See also Affordable Care Act killing bill attempt #879182)"

    You mean the settled law that everyone now agrees needs to change somehow? Or do you mean settled the way that Plessy was settled? Or do you mean settled the way it was settled that the King of England was in charge here?

    Funny, I thought that in a republic the opinion of the people mattered a great deal to laws of all kinds. I guess legislators can go ahead and ignore correspondence outright now instead of answering them with vaguely related form letters. At least we can save some money on the fired staffers.

  82. princessartemis says:

    Asking the question leads them to think that their opinion matters on a settled matter of law, and that objecting loud enough might somehow make it all go away like it was a bad dream.
    (See also Affordable Care Act killing bill attempt #879182)

    In many places, it's a settled matter of law that men having sex with men is a jailing offense. Let us not pretend our opinion matters on this.

  83. Careless says:

    "Accurately quoting me is slander" is one of my favorite attempts to get out of something

  84. Anony Mouse says:

    Since my point was made above, I'm adjusting.

    Did I capture it about right? It was kind of hard to read, and the lights kept flickering in the room as I got down the page.

    You need more light!