“This sentence,” Jonah Goldberg observed this morning, “is like a snake eating its own tail.” As self-contradiction, it’s almost a work of art. As argument, though, it’s as absurd as it is offensive. CNN host Don Lemon urges viewers to stop demonizing people, and then wonders why we don’t have travel bans on white men:
CNN's Don Lemon: "We have to stop demonizing people and realize the biggest terror threat in this country is white men, most of them radicalized to the right, and we have to start doing something about them." pic.twitter.com/OFu9fL3eHn
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) October 31, 2018
It’s tough to know which is funnier: Lemon’s smugness as he delivers this rhetorical whiplash, Chris Cuomo’s hostage-tape face, or the “FACTS FIRST” chyron that displays through the whole pathetic rant. I vote “FACTS FIRST,” although if Cuomo had started blinking an SOS, that might have put him over the top. The whole thing is so idiotic that it’s almost impossible to be offended by it; you couldn’t write this any better as a Saturday Night Live skit, even if SNL was inclined to satirize anything other than conservatives.
It’s tempting to play the “if a conservative had said the reverse” game, especially with CNN, who once banned Clay Travis for a crude remark about “boobs,” but that’s a trap too. There are two problems here, one of which is specific and simple, and the other which is more endemic. The simple one is that Lemon is a ridiculous figure, made even more so after this. No one will take him seriously, nor should they, after this display of ignorance and hostility.
The larger problem is our societal obsession on immutable characteristics as determinative rather than character. Not only have we not progressed past race and ethnicity, we practically wallow in it. We’re obsessed with ethnic identity as a marker of authenticity; we get DNA tests to claim it, we incentivize it through public policies that were intended to redress undeniable oppression and disadvantage. This obsession does nothing but divide people up into tribes rather than bring them together into communities. Lemon’s formula here duplicates that of other bigoted fringe groups; he’s only choosing more socially acceptable targets. The best option for this game is not to play.