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“Bringing His Own Bile To The Party”: Backwards Moron Richard Cohen Is Not Fooling Anybody

Before we proceed to today in the continuing saga of “What in God’s Name Are You Talking About, Richard Cohen?” here’s a warning — get your gag reflex ready.

In a typically rambling screed about… something, Cohen, who recently became the first man to connect the dots between Miley Cyrus’ MTV Video Music Awards performance and what he likes to call “the so-called Steubenville rape” that happened one full year earlier, Cohen unleashes some choice nonsense thoughts on “Chris Christie’s Tea Party Problem.” In it, he ostensibly looks at the New Jersey’s governor’s political future and declares that “At the moment, it is Cruz, not Christie, who has seized the imagination of Iowa Republicans.” He also lets loose a truly outstanding array of bizarre assessments of prominent political figures, calling Sarah Palin “the Alaska quitter who, I think, actually now lives in Arizona,” Rick Santorum a man who’s “neither cuddly nor moderate” and Christie “too Joisey for the tea party — too brash, as well.”

But the true kicker of the piece comes near the end, when he swerves away from concern trolling Chris Christie to laughably state “Today’s GOP is not racist” — a declaration that the antics of party members would seem to contradict –and to consider what must be “troubling” the Tea Party right now. “People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York,” he writes, “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.”

Cohen would likely argue he’s just calling it like he sees it – reporting on incredibly offensive ideologies but not engaging in them himself. And hey, you want to suggest that political extremists might have a problem with a high profile mixed family? You might be right. Look how berserkers they went over that Cheerios commercial. 

But we all know this isn’t Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show,” brightly announcing that “I think New York City might be ready for a charismatic biracial family with their own signature, synchronized dance moves.” This is Richard Cohen — a guy who thinks that “conventional” people would have a vomit response to a mixed marriage – and who then parenthetically throws in a little gay panic to boot. Because in his mind, being a backward moron is “conventional.”

This is a man who, let us never forget, has written creepily of the “sexual meritocracy” of older men and declared Clarence Thomas “condemned of being a man.” This is Richard Cohen, the writer who applauded Switzerland for it leniency toward Roman Polanski, who admitted, “There is no doubt that Polanski did what he did, which is have sex with a 13-year-old after plying her with booze” and then proceeded to dismissively refer to that girl as a “victim” in scare quotes. (Note to Cohen: Just like with the Steubenville case, this behavior is called rape.) The same man who, fascinatingly enough, has reportedly been reprimanded for “inappropriate behavior” toward a much younger colleague. This is a man who in July explained that he could “understand why [George] Zimmerman was suspicious” of Trayvon Martin, because the young man was “wearing a uniform we all recognize” and who lamented, “Where is the politician who will own up to the painful complexity of the problem and acknowledge the widespread fear of crime committed by young black males?” A man who thinks maybe there’s something to this whole torture thing. One who hasn’t quite worked it out about homosexuals either, who’s decided that prejudice is bad but thinks “Gays don’t get some sort of pass just because they’re gay.”

You can almost understand how a guy like Cohen, who was spent his entire career amply demonstrating that he has a boatload of issues around women, sex and race, really hit the jackpot with Chirlane McCray. My God, look at her, all seemingly normal and living under the same room as a white man. Did I mention she used to be lesbian? Because she totally was. Surely, Cohen wants the world to understand, some people might have a problem with this. Not him, no, he’s just observing. Maybe asking for a friend.

It’s almost sad – almost – to watch a bigot try to cloak himself in the guise of concerned citizen. But rest assured, nobody with a track record like Cohen can use the phrase “gag reflex” without bringing plenty of his own bile to the party. And his transparently ugly shtick is fooling no one.

 

By: Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon, November 12, 2013

November 13, 2013 Posted by | Bigotry, Racism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“We Know Them From The Nightly News”: Washington Post Columnist Richard Cohen Is Terrified Of Black People

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen wrote an offensive, poorly reasoned column about racial profiling. In 1986. And also this week. And once or twice or let’s say perhaps a dozen additional times in the interim. The occasion of this week’s installment of “Richard Cohen explains why black men should be treated as second-class citizens for the safety of us all, which is to say rich old white men” is the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin. Cohen is very sorry that Martin is dead due to Zimmerman incorrectly assuming him to be a criminal of some sort based solely on Martin’s demographic profile — in other words, Cohen is sorry that Martin is dead because of racial profiling — but on the other hand, Cohen argues, racial profiling is correct and necessary because black people are scary, at least when they wear certain things.

I don’t like what George Zimmerman did, and I hate that Trayvon Martin is dead. But I also can understand why Zimmerman was suspicious and why he thought Martin was wearing a uniform we all recognize. I don’t know whether Zimmerman is a racist. But I’m tired of politicians and others who have donned hoodies in solidarity with Martin and who essentially suggest that, for recognizing the reality of urban crime in the United States, I am a racist. The hoodie blinds them as much as it did Zimmerman.

A “uniform we all recognize.” “We all.” “We.” Richard Cohen speaks for us all. Or “us” “all.” That one incredibly dumb assertion, stated with perfect idiotic certainty in the first-person plural, is exactly the sort of thing that makes Richard Cohen America’s worst columnist on America’s worst opinion page.

In the world outside Cohen’s tiny boomer rich guy bubble, “a hoodie” is worn by … nearly all young people and plenty of not-so-young people. To call a hoodie part of a (universally recognized!) “uniform” of Dangerous Black Thuggishness makes about as much sense as invoking high-tops or baseball caps. It is the “uniform” of youth. But then, to Richard Cohen, youth plus blackness makes probable cause.

Throughout much of the column, Cohen, play-acting at being a brave speaker of uncomfortable truths, keeps claiming that no one in America is willing to broach the topic of Black Criminals.

Where is the politician who will own up to the painful complexity of the problem and acknowledge the widespread fear of crime committed by young black males? This does not mean that raw racism has disappeared, and some judgments are not the product of invidious stereotyping. It does mean, though, that the public knows young black males commit a disproportionate amount of crime. In New York City, blacks make up a quarter of the population, yet they represent 78 percent of all shooting suspects — almost all of them young men. We know them from the nightly news.

And, obviously, the nightly news has no ingrained bias in favor of fear-mongering and sensationalist coverage of crime.

That statistic is the only one in the column. Left out are numbers indicating current crime rates, the historical trend of crime rates, the probability of any given person, or any given wealthy white person, becoming a victim of violent crime, the percentage of crimes committed by black men in Sanford, Fla., or really any number at all that would’ve provided more enlightening context than “number of black shooting suspects in New York City.” Political scientist Jamie Chandler says, “Cohen should be embarrassed by his innumeracy,” but Cohen does not embarrass easily.

If he did, he might remember the lesson of his 1986 Washington Post Magazine column justifying racist treatment of black men. In it he defended shopkeepers who deny black men entrance into their stores. “As for me,” he wrote, “I’m with the store owners, although I was not at first. It took Bernhard Goetz, of all people, to expose my sloppy thinking.” Bernhard Goetz was a man who shot four young black men on a New York City subway car after he became frightened that they were going to rob him. (It was never actually proven that they were going to rob him.) Because this column ran in a newly relaunched Washington Post Magazine featuring a cover story on a young black rapper accused of murder, black Washingtonians protested, and eventually earned an apology from Post executive editor Ben Bradlee.

They did not receive an apology, at least not right away, from Cohen, who instead wrote a newspaper column headlined “‘Accused of Racism,’” in which Cohen complained of being accused of racism. In this column he defended cabdrivers who refuse to pick up black people. (Two years later, as Tom Scocca reports, Cohen acknowledged that his critics were “mostly right.” He acknowledged this after he went to Atlanta and met rich black people.)

That lesson, apparently, was short-lived. In an interview with Politico about this week’s column, Cohen explained how racial profiling isn’t inherently racist, because everyone does it:

“Now, a menace in another part of the country could be a white guy wearing a wife-beater under-shirt. Or, if you’re a black guy in the South and you come around the corner and you see a member of the Klu Klux Klan.”

This is Richard Cohen defending his position — that “young black males” dressed in “hoodies” deserve to be targeted not just by the police but by armed idiot civilians pretending to be the police — by invoking the Klan. For Richard Cohen, a young black person dressed in not just politically neutral but also omnipresent attire is basically the equivalent of a guy dressed in the actual official uniform of a terrorist organization dedicated to the violent establishment and maintenance of white supremacy. Richard Cohen just has a pathological fear of black men, and he wants not just to espouse and justify this view, but also to be allowed to do so without anyone calling him racist.

Richard Cohen is obsessed with the notion that no one in America is ever brave enough to talk about race, or at least brave enough to talk about it in the way he would like to talk about it, bearing in mind that he probably doesn’t actually read anyone outside his immediate professional sphere, or anyone below the age of 50, or probably women or writers of color. “In the meantime, the least we can do is talk honestly about the problem,” he says in this week’s column. (“The problem” is the black male crime wave.) “Crime where it intersects with race is given the silent treatment,” he says. He complains that instead of addressing the fears of white people like Richard Cohen head-on, Barack Obama has instead sold out his own grandmother for being racist, a malicious misreading of his 2008 Philadelphia speech that is common among right-wingers complaining of reverse racism. (Cohen does not add, as FAIR’s Peter Hart notes, that in the same speech, Barack Obama did explicitly say that “wish[ing] away the resentments of white Americans” as “misguided or even racist” is unfair, because “they are grounded in legitimate concerns.” It’s not clear that Cohen bothered to read the speech before quoting the bit about the grandma.)

It could be argued that politicians and public officials everywhere are addressing the fears of Richard Cohen, and they are doing so by locking a breathtaking number of young black men in prison, in addition to regularly stopping and harassing them on the streets of large American cities. But Cohen doesn’t concern himself with that. What he wants is for politicians — liberal politicians, preferably black ones — to tell him that it is OK to be scared of black people.

Here is Cohen in 2012, sort of defending stop-and-frisk, and again invoking the story of Trayvon Martin as an opportunity to discuss America’s single most pressing racial issue, people calling Richard Cohen racist:

As with the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, race is not only a complicating and highly emotional factor but one that does not always get discussed in an open manner. A suffocating silence blankets these incidents. Accusations of racism are hurled at those who so much as mention the abysmal homicide statistics — about half of all murders are committed by blacks, who represent just 12.6 percent of the population — and they come, more often than not, from liberals who advocate candor in (almost) all things. Others reply as if there are not basic questions of civil rights and civil liberties at stake.

It never occurs to Cohen that perhaps accusations of racism hurled at Richard Cohen constitute the “open discussion” he is so desperate for.

Cohen is not always such a fan of “open” discussions, as we learned in 2006, when he built an entire column around the fact that he’d received a lot of emails criticizing and insulting him. In that column he described getting a lot of mean emails as being the target of “a digital lynch mob,” so, yes, this is definitely the right guy for an informed and constructive conversation on race in America.

As a man who still somewhat incoherently clings to the label of “liberal,” Cohen does acknowledge, in what amounts to an aside in this week’s column, that there are some complicating factors in his diagnosis of Black Criminality:

The problems of the black underclass are hardly new. They are surely the product of slavery, the subsequent Jim Crow era and the tenacious persistence of racism. They will be solved someday, but not probably with any existing programs. For want of a better word, the problem is cultural, and it will be solved when the culture, somehow, is changed.

Whoops, we created a huge impoverished underclass. There is probably nothing we can do for them now, and they scare me, so they should work on fixing their “culture.”

The problem actually is cultural. It’s the culture that created and still coddles Richard Cohens.

 

By: Alex Pareene, Salon, July 17, 2013

July 19, 2013 Posted by | Racism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“How To Lie With Statistics”: Stoking White Fear With Bad Analysis

This week, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen published an inarticulate and very inept interpretation of the demography of shootings listed in the New York City Police Department’s 2012 Crime and Enforcement report. In his “Racism vs. Reality” piece, he argued that the post-Zimmerman discourse about racial profiling isn’t acknowledging that people are afraid of black men because black men commit more crime.

Cohen writes that blacks make up “a quarter of the population and commit 78 percent of the shootings in New York City.” He implies that the city’s “Stop & Frisk” program is justified: “If young black males are your shooters, then it ought to be young black males whom the police stop and frisk… It would be senseless for the police to be stopping Danish tourists in Times Square just to make the statistics look good.”

Cohen should be embarrassed by his innumeracy. He cherry-picked one piece of data and drew biased, grand generalizations, which serve no purpose other than to stoke “white fear” and reinforce a long running stereotype of the “Negro Savage,” a term used by white supremacists to assert that a slave was a docile creature, content in captivity, but as a freeman, a dangerous menace from the dark continent driven by base and barbaric instincts to rape and pillage white society. The Ku Klux Klan and others used this stereotype to justify lynching and other violence against blacks during the segregation era.

Today, this stereotype has morphed into the “Criminal Black Man.” The dangerous, inner-city, hoody-wearing, gun-toting, drug-dealing man who must be watched, stopped and frisked to ensure that proper society remains safe.  It is a conception that has a long running, insidious and chilling effect on public policy. It shapes ineffective policing techniques and many other ineffective laws meant to lower crime rates. We need to go no further than Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s WOR radio interview last month to see how this plays out. He said, “I think we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little.”

Had Cohen read Darell Huff’s 1954 book, “How to Lie with Statistics,” or attended one of the National Press Club Institutes’ recent talks on data journalism, he would have realized his inferences are weak because he misinterpreted the statistics. He committed sampling bias and overgeneralization. Cohen looks at one facet of the NYPD report and superimposes it on the entire U.S. population of black men. He doesn’t consider any other angles that may blow a hole in his conclusions, such as: How many shootings ended in a guilty verdict? How many were justified? How many accidental? How many arrests ended in acquittal?

Or for that matter, how does this information relate to the fact that New York City’s crime rate is at its lowest since the 1950s, in light of the fact that it’s minority population has grown significantly since? Or at the very least, why are the police incapable of conducting race-neutral work. Rooting out potential criminals based on behavior and not race?

Cohen’s column would have contributed rather than detracted from this conversation had it discussed how these stereotypes inform public policy choices. Instead of fanning “white fear,” he would have helped loosen the emotional grip this trial now has on the national discourse, a stranglehold that is drawing lines in the sand, fueling recriminations and preventing a substantive, solutions-driven conversation about taming the real elephant in the room: Why do we consistently allow stereotypes to stymie our continual efforts to cultivate a fair, just, democratic American Society?

 

By: Jamie Chandler, U. S. News and World Report, July 16, 2013

July 17, 2013 Posted by | Racism, Zimmerman Trial | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Bombs Over Baghdad”: Ten Years On, Iraq War Skeptics Have A Right To Say “I Told You So”

Possibly you remember “Shock and Awe.” No, that’s not the title of a Rolling Stones concert tour, but of the United States’ bombs-over-Baghdad campaign that began exactly 10 years ago. American soldiers went pounding into Iraq accompanied by scores of “embedded” journalists seemingly eager to prove their patriotism and courage.

A skeptic couldn’t help but be reminded of spectators who rode from Washington in horse-drawn carriages to witness the battle of Bull Run in July of 1861. They too expected a short, decisive conflict. Even on NPR, invading Iraq was treated like the world’s largest Boy Scout Jamboree, instead of what it turned into: arguably the worst military and foreign policy blunder in U.S. history.

Skepticism, however, was in short supply. Spooked by 9/11 and intimidated by the intellectual bullies of the Bush administration, American journalists largely abandoned that professional virtue in favor of propaganda and groupthink.

Among scores of examples, the one that’s stuck in my craw was allegedly liberal Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen. Reacting to Gen. Colin Powell’s anti-Saddam speech to the United Nations General Assembly—since repudiated by its author—Cohen wrote that “Iraq not only hasn’t accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them. Only a fool—or possibly a Frenchman—could conclude otherwise.”

“War fever, catch it,” this fool wrote.

I added that to anybody capable of remembering past intelligence hoaxes, it wasn’t clear that Powell’s presentation answered any of the objections put forward by doubters like George H.W. Bush’s national security advisor, Gen. Brent Scowcroft.

“To any skeptic with a computer modem, moreover, it became quite clear why Powell’s speech failed to convert many at the UN,” my Feb. 5, 2003 column continued.

“Key parts of [his] presentation were dubious on their face. That alleged al Qaeda base in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq? If it’s what Powell says, why hasn’t it been bombed to smithereens? British and U.S. jets have been conducting sorties in the no-fly zone for months. Because it’s a dusty outpost not worth bombing, reporters for The Observer who visited the place quickly saw.

“The mobile bio-war death labs? Please. Even if [UN inspector] Hans Blix hadn’t told The Guardian that U.S. tips had guided inspectors to mobile food inspection facilities, anybody who’s dodged herds of camels, goats and sheep and maniacal drivers on bumpy Middle Eastern highways had to laugh. Bio-war experts told Newsweek the idea was preposterous. ‘U.S. intelligence,’ it reported ‘after years of looking for them, has never found even one.’

“Then there was the embarrassing fact that key elements of a British intelligence document cited by Powell turned out to have been plagiarized from magazine articles and a California grad student’s M.A. thesis based upon 12-year-old evidence.”

I could go on. In fact, I did.

“This isn’t conservatism,” I concluded. “It’s utopian folly and a prescription for endless war.” Although the short-term outcome wasn’t in doubt and Americans could be counted upon to rally around the troops, it struck me as almost mad to imagine that the U.S. could convert Iraq into a Middle Eastern Switzerland by force of arms.

That was basically the Frenchman’s conclusion too. Conservative Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said that although “we all share the same priority—that of fighting terrorism mercilessly,” invading Iraq without just cause would likely “exacerbate the divisions between societies, cultures and peoples, divisions that nurture terrorism.”

If it were up to me, the Post columnist’s byline would read like a prizefighter’s robe: Richard “Only a Fool or a Frenchman” Cohen. However, there are no penalties in Washington journalism for being proven dramatically wrong.

The safest place during a stampede is always the middle of the herd.

My own reward was getting Dixie Chicked out of a part-time teaching job halfway through a series of columns about Iraq. Supposedly, Hendrix College ran out of money to pay me. My most popular offering had been a course about George Orwell. Oh well.

But the purpose here isn’t to blow my own horn. (OK, maybe a little.) It’s to point out that not everybody got buffaloed. Many thousands of American and European citizens took to the streets to protest what they saw as imperialist folly.

I was also very far from being the only journalist to notice that the Bush administration’s case for Saddam Hussein’s imaginary “weapons of mass destruction” didn’t add up. Anybody reading the astringent dispatches of Knight-Ridder (now McClatchy) reporters Jonathan Landay, Warren Strobel, John Walcott and Joe Galloway couldn’t help but know the score.

But the prediction I’m proudest of was a cynical observation I made after morons began smashing Dixie Chicks CDs and renaming fried potatoes “Freedom Fries.”

A former Hendrix student emailed me proof: a photo of a vending machine in a rural Arkansas truckstop.

Sold only for the prevention of disease: “Freedom Ticklers.”

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, March 20, 2013

March 21, 2013 Posted by | Iraq War | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Political “Idjits”: Is the GOP Bound for A ‘Political Jonestown’?

Once upon a time the Republican Party included a few widely-respected leaders who valued reason and flexibility — names like Eisenhower, Javitz, Weicker and a few others come to mind. Hell, Nixon was a paragon of sanity compared to some of the loons running the GOP asylum now. if this sounds overstated, read Richard Cohen’s Sunday WaPo column “A Grand Old Cult,” in which he explains:

To become a Republican, one has to take a pledge. It is not enough to support the party or mouth banalities about Ronald Reagan; one has to promise not to give the government another nickel. This is called the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” issued by Americans for Tax Reform, an organization headed by the chirpy Grover Norquist. He once labeled the argument that an estate tax would affect only the very rich “the morality of the Holocaust.” Anyone can see how singling out the filthy rich and the immensely powerful and asking them to ante up is pretty much the same as Auschwitz and that sort of thing….Almost all the GOP’s presidential candidates have taken this oath, swearing before God and Grover Norquist to cease thinking on their own, never to exercise independent judgment and, if necessary, to destroy the credit of the United States, raise the cost of borrowing and put the government deeper into the hole.

Cohen notes the role of revisionist history and denial in the Republicans’ increasingly unhinged worldview:

…The hallmark of a cult is to replace reason with feverish belief. This the GOP has done when it comes to the government’s ability to stimulate the economy. History proves this works — it’s how the Great Depression ended — but Republicans will not acknowledge it.The Depression in fact deepened in 1937 when Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to balance the budget and was ended entirely by World War II, which, besides being a noble cause, was also a huge stimulus program. Here, though, is Sen. Richard Shelby mouthing GOP dogma: Stimulus programs “did not bring us out of the Depression,” he recently told ABC’s Christiane Amanpour, but “the war did.” In other words, a really huge stimulus program hugely worked. Might not a more modest one succeed modestly? Shelby ought to follow his own logic.

‘Logic’ may not be the best word to describe GOP thinking in the second decade of the 21st century. Cohen notes a similar pattern of denial with respect to Republican policies on abortion and global warning, and adds,

…Independent thinkers, stop right here! If you believe in global warming, revenue enhancement, stimulus programs, the occasional need for abortion or even the fabulist theories of the late Charles Darwin, then either stay home — or lie.This intellectual rigidity has produced a GOP presidential field that’s a virtual political Jonestown. The Grand Old Party, so named when it really did evoke America, has so narrowed its base that it has become a political cult. It is a redoubt of certainty over reason and in itself significantly responsible for the government deficit that matters most: leadership. That we can’t borrow from China.

The problem for Democrats is that, when Republicans become irrational proponents of discredited ideas and failed polices, there is not much incentive for Dems to up their game. Dems are not being challenged to respond to good arguments so much as tantrums by intellectually-constipated ideologues. The public gets cheated out of an enlightening debate and everybody loses.

What puzzles is why all of the Republicans have guzzled the Koolaid. Why hasn’t it dawned on the party’s brighter bulbs, perhaps Senator Lugar or, maybe Scott Brown or Huntsman that “Hmm, I could really separate myself from the pack of idjits by taking things to a more rational level”? All indications are that the public would like to see a little more flexibility from Republicans.

There may well come a point when the Republicans’ impressive party discipline starts to look like pointless obstructionism to swing voters. The public can see that, so far only one party is compromising. If sanity prevails, the Republicans’ unspoken meme that “we’re 100 percent right, and they’re 100 percent wrong, so we won’t give an inch” can’t play much longer without diminishing returns.

 

By: J. P. Green, The Democratic Strategist, July 5, 2011

July 8, 2011 Posted by | Abortion, Class Warfare, Climate Change, Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Deficits, Democracy, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, Global Warming, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, Public, Public Opinion, Republicans, Right Wing, Swing Voters, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Voters, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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