Mark Williams, the chairman of the Tea Party Express, got booted from the Confederacy of Dunces last month, because, in response to an NAACP suggestion that the group repudiate racial elements within the movement, he wrote and published an "Open Letter to President Lincoln" from the emancipated slaves, something he referred to as "satire." In his "satire," all Williams did was put down in words what many Tea Party types refuse to say out loud.
Dear Mr. Lincoln,
We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don't cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop.
In fact we held a big meeting and took a vote in Kansas City this week. We voted to condemn a political revival of that old abolitionist spirit called the "tea party movement."
The tea party position to "end the bailouts" for example is just silly. Bailouts are just big money welfare and isn't that what we want all Coloreds to strive for? What kind of racist would want to end big money welfare? What they need to do is start handing the bailouts directly to us Coloreds! Of course, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is the only responsible party that should be granted the right to disperse the funds ...
Perhaps the most racist point of all in the tea parties is their demand that government "stop raising our taxes." That is outrageous! How will we Coloreds ever get a wide screen TV in every room if non-Coloreds get to keep what they earn? Totally racist! The tea party expects Coloreds to be productive members of society?
Mr. Lincoln, you were the greatest racist ever. We had a great gig. Three squares, room and board, all our decisions made by the massa in the house. Please repeal the 13th and 14th Amendments and let us get back to where we belong.
Precious Ben Jealous, Tom's Nephew NAACP Head Colored Person
Laugh? I thought I'd never start! How can you convince someone there is racism in their midst when it runs in their blood? A week later, Williams was still on cable news defending his remarks by saying the NAACP was guilty of reverse racism, which appears to be the Tea Party's prime rebuttal for all the patriotic Americans' outrageous behavior at the various kleagle rallies around the nation. Their new hero, Kentucky senatorial candidate Rand Paul, expressed the still-burning racist ember that private businesses should be able to choose who they serve. Not if they serve the public, they don't. And I don't believe for a second that Paul is a racist. However, when I grew out my beard and started hanging around with people with long hair, they called me a hippie. So, if the sheet fits ...
The term "yellow journalism" was created in the late 1800s to describe the sensationalist rhetoric and fabricated stories of newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst. The Hearst of the 21st century, Rupert Murdoch, became a naturalized U.S. citizen in order to own multiple media outlets in the same market, like The New York Post,The Wall Street Journal, and Fox News. His brand of contemporary yellow journalism is far more insidious than the sabre rattling of a few newspapers and makes the "Remember the Maine" jingoism of the Hearst era seem almost quaint.
With Fox acting as a running-dog for right-wing extremism, pseudo-smart "entertainers" like Glenn Beck get free rein to espouse their inflammatory "theories." So, when a real journalist, like The Washington Post's Dana Milbank, calls Beck out for his serial use of Nazi references to describe the Obama administration, the right's reaction is to claim that the country is experiencing a phase of "political correctness," in which their freedom of speech is under attack. They have become oblivious to the difference between "free speech" and "hate speech," and the saddest and most alarming statement of all about Fox News is their massive ratings success.
Fox virtually leaped on blogger and Tea Party apologist Andrew Breitbart's odious contention that reverse racism existed at the Department of Agriculture in the person of one Shirley Sherrod. By slicing and dicing Sherrod's speech before the NAACP, he made a convincing argument that she was discriminating against white people. I confess that I was fooled too. When I saw the initial reports and video of Sherrod on Fox News, I thought that she must certainly resign, and the outrage of the Obama administration and the NAACP was justified. They made the same mistake that I did — assuming that Fox was a semiresponsible news organization that abides by the rules of journalism. How foolish of me.
Why should I have assumed Fox News vetted the Breitbart piece, when he was the one behind the story and video of ACORN's adventures with the now felonious, fake pimp and then spent six months lying about it? And all in the cause of proving Mark Williams' supposed point in his "satirical" letter to Lincoln: that honest, hard-working citizens' tax money goes directly to the support of shiftless layabouts who prefer "big-money welfare" to a job — the raison d'etre of the Tea Party movement.
Tea Party darling Tom Tancredo has announced his candidacy for governor of Colorado, only months after waxing nostalgic about literacy tests at the polls during the Jim Crow era. Since good test results are a prerequisite for entering a respected college, isn't there some way we could institute civics literacy exams for potential candidates for public office? At least check their SAT scores.
Randy Haspel writes the "Born-Again Hippies" blog, where a longer version of this column first appeared.