If it wasn’t for the oh-so-recent context that renders this acidly ironic, MSNBC’s latest foray into idiocy would hardly be worth mentioning. Coming just a few weeks after its own hosts mocked Mitt Romney’s family and Republicans over a family picture that showed Romney proudly holding his adopted African-American granddaughter — which eventually produced a tearful apology from Melissa Harris-Perry — the network’s official Twitter feed offered up this bon mot about a cereal ad that has nothing to do with politics at all (via Gateway Pundit and Twitchy):
As Jim Hoft points out, even their own reporting on the supposed conservative backlash to the ad didn’t actually cite any evidence of such:
The phrase “sparked a conservative backlash” contained a link to an MSNBC article from last year that mentioned the controversy over the ad, but the article did not report a political bent to the racist comments made about the ad. That article in turn links back toanother MSNBC article about the ad controversy that also does not ascribe political motives to the racist attacks.
In other words, Gabriela Resto-Montero and MSNBC made up the alleged ‘conservative’,’ right wing’ racist attack on the Cheerios ad.
Twitchy has followed the eruption of outrage over the demagoguery on Twitter, and noted that while MSNBC deleted the tweet, they were a little slow on the draw with an apology. MSNBC claimed, eventually, that the tweet “does not reflect the position of msnbc”:
Really? Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple says that’s exactly who they are, and the string of apologies following these incidents look increasingly like enabling devices rather than actual remorse:
The tweet in question isn’t clever, helpful or fair. It’s a divisive piece of taunting nastiness driven by a worldview that MSNBC personalities have surfaced with great regularity in recent memory, always followed by excellent apologies. After then-MSNBC host Martin Bashir suggested that Sarah Palin be subjected to an excrement-related punishment visited upon slaves, he said, “My words were wholly unacceptable,” among other very contrite things. After short-lived MSNBC host Alec Baldwin allegedly shouted down a paparazzo with homophobic language, he said, “I did not intend to hurt or offend anyone with my choice of words, but clearly I have — and for that I am deeply sorry.” After host Melissa Harris-Perry presided over a segment that mocked Mitt Romney’s family over a photo featuring his adopted African-American grandson, the host said, among other things, “So without reservation or qualification, I apologize to the Romney family. Adults who enter into public life implicitly consent to having less privacy. But their families, and especially their children, should not be treated callously or thoughtlessly.”
And now this Cheerios thing. The string of offenses raises doubts about Wolffe’s claim that the tweet from last night doesn’t reflect “who we are at msnbc.” Rather, the tweet appears to a careful observer to define precisely what MSNBC is becoming: A place that offends and apologizes with equal vigor.
The Erik Wemple Blog supports media organizations that muster strong apologies. Too often, mistakes are followed by stonewalling and a failure to repent. Apologies can be an important measure of accountability. Yet this string of meae culpae suggests that the apology may be morphing into an enabling device for the network’s tendentious and divisive attitudes. Sometimes a bad tweet represents the errant and unrepresentative thoughts of some employee managing the social-media accounts. And sometimes it represents institutional morays and prejudices.
Here’s the ad, which General Mills must be delighted is receiving so much attention. It will be the first Super Bowl ad to feature a biracial family, which is … no big deal in 2014 to anyone except MSNBC, apparently. It’s cute, and it sells Cheerios. And like everything else in the world, it’s yet another silly item for Comcast’s television unit to exploit and demagogue:
Reason’s Matt Welch notes that this lazy and idiotic demagoguery is hardly limited to MSNBC, even if they are its leading purveyors:
For an example, check out this passage in New Yorker Editor David Remnick’s extraordinarily long and often insightful recent profile of the president.
In the electoral realm, ironically, the country may be more racially divided than it has been in a generation. Obama lost among white voters in 2012 by a margin greater than any victor in American history. The popular opposition to the Administration comes largely from older whites who feel threatened, underemployed, overlooked, and disdained in a globalized economy and in an increasingly diverse country. Obama’s drop in the polls in 2013 was especially grave among white voters.
Italics mine, to underscore what one of the nation’s most decorated journalists felt zero need to substantiate in a 16,000-word article. Do older white voters really feel more “threatened” and “disdained” by a “globalized economy” and “increasingly diverse country” than other age and ethnic/pigmentation cohorts? I’m sure there’s plenty of interesting poll data out there, but Remnick (a 55-year-old white guy, FWIW) doesn’t need to cite any: He knows it’s true, his readers know it’s true, and the only real question is how much you can respectably pin opposition to this twice-elected black president on racism.
This isn’t just bad journalism, it’s bad tolerance. Attributing a single set of personality traits to scores of millions of people whose only commonality is age and race is the opposite of judging people not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. It’s also a cheap way to wave off the substance of anti-Obama criticism—why bother figuring out why a majority of Americans haveconsistently disliked the flawed Affordable Care Act when you can just roll your eyes and assert that the real reason is white anxiety and worse? There is nothing tolerant about assuming that those who have different ideas than you about the size and scope of government are motivated largely by base ethnic tribalism.
Most people, I think, have come to the conclusion that a citation of racism works in a similar way to Godwin’s Law. It’s the final, and losing, stage of any argument these days, at least those which involve progressives in any way.
Update: Is MSNBC executive editor Richard Wolffe “the most clueless person on the Internet”? John Sexton makes a pretty good argument for it.
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