In a rare appearance on Fox News Sunday on the 7th, radio host Rush Limbaugh joined Fox’s Chris Wallace to address the national reaction to the lack of indictments in cases involving the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police in Missouri and New York.
Wallace cited statistics that seem to substantiate the notion that there is a “perception of unfairness” in the disparate ways in which laws are enforced for African-Americans and whites. He also played clips of President Barack Obama and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio agreeing with the claim that race plays a factor in how the judicial system operates.
“I don’t think that things are rosy and perfect in America,” Limbaugh replied, “but to say that they’re no better, as the mayor of New York said, it’s absurd.”
“We have bent over backwards,” Limbaugh said of the nation’s efforts to repair race relations in the form of programs like Affirmative Action and legislation like the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
“Is it all perfect, no it’s not, but there’s no acknowledgment of any of the progress, Chris,” Limbaugh continued.
Limbaugh has a point here, but it is a criticism better directed toward de Blasio than Obama.
Within hours of the decision by a Staten Island grand jury not to indict the officer responsible for Eric Garner’s death, the mayor delivered a self-serving, fatuous speech in which he essentially indicated that racism was the only explanation for the grand jury’s decision. He went on to say that he has had to teach his children, who are biracial, to fear the police department he manages. Immediately following his speech, hundreds of agitated protesters took to major arteries in Manhattan where they proceeded to choke off traffic for days, fearing little in the way of legal repercussions for their demonstrations.
While the president has paid homage to the perception that racial bias is rampant in the American justice system, he has at least acknowledged racial progress. And he has done so, even quite recently while speaking directly to African-American audiences.
“It’s important to recognize that as painful as these incidents are, we can’t equate what is happening now to what happened 50 years ago,” Obama told a BET host in an interview which will air on Monday night. “If you talk to your parents, your grandparents, they’ll tell you things are better. Not good in some cases, but better. The reason it’s important to understand that progress has been made is that it then gives us hope we can make even more progress.”
Limbaugh went on to make a better point about the prevalence of misinformation and the spread of misinformation, and that is the fault of the national media.
“There was no ‘hands up, don’t shoot,’” Limbaugh said. “It didn’t happen, and that’s tearing this country apart.”
“We have people to whom the truth is relative,” he added.
It is true that the myth surrounding the idea that Michael Brown had his hands up in a gesture of submission when he was shot and killed has taken on a life of its own. This fabrication was embraced by members of the press and elected representatives in Congress alike. This “truth is relative” phenomenon could also explain why a sexy but dubious narrative about a gang rape in the University of Virginia was so credulously adopted by the press. That account damaged the reputations of both the alleged perpetrators and of that university before the publication in which this claim originated retracted it.
The collapse of this fable is proving hard for some to accept.
The impulse to embrace relative truths while ignoring the concrete facts has led people like Zerlina Maxwell, a columnist with a law degree, to insist that “We should believe, as a matter of default, what an accuser says.”
“Even if Jackie fabricated her account, U-Va. should have taken her word for it during the period while they endeavored to prove or disprove the accusation,” this individual, who purports to have a grasp of the law let alone the fundamental presuppositions of Western jurisprudence, wrote with presumed sobriety.
Limbaugh is right to call this condition what it is: lying, albeit for what is subjectively determined to be the greater good. Although, Platonic scholars would find it difficult to see what is noble about the perpetuation of false claims of rape and racial violence that only serve to advance the careers of a professional class of agitators.