Anger, race, religion, sexual preference and the Internet

There’s a story about an editor in Lake Crystal who republished a racist joke in his newspaper. The story is making the rounds — you’ll find it on WCCO and FOX9. Both reprint the joke, which we shan’t do, as it is one of those especially nasty ones that people like to tell when they’re feeling mean, and figure the fact that it’s a joke excuses them. Suffice it to say it trades on stereotyping African-Americans, including taking a potshot at the president. Tom Lyden of FOX9 seems to have driven around Lake Crystal trying to find a black person to respond, but in vain, as the city is 98 percent white. They also note that the joke was lifted intact from the Internet, making the editor a plagiarist, although “[p]lagiarism at this point seems to be the least of the editor’s worries right now.”

FOX9’s site has its own problem. It has a Facebook application at the bottom of the story that tracks responses to the story via the popular social networking site. At this moment, the first response is a call to deport all blacks and Jews, although the commenter doesn’t use the word “blacks,” preferring a racial epithet; the second commenter seems to like that epithet so much, it’s their only response. The third commenter extends the racist joke to include even more stereotypes. Of course, FOX is not responsible for how people on Facebook respond to their story, but it’s a bit of a shock to realize how many people are willing to be blatantly racist — merrily racist, even — on a site that links them with their actual name.

Aren’t they at all concerned about future employers Googling them? Current employers? Co-workers? Their parents and children? It wasn’t that long ago that two students from Duluth mocked a fellow student on the Facebook page, belittling her for being African-American, which led to protests and disciplinary action. But people still don’t seem to realize the Web is not a private conversation. There is, in fact, a site that tracks people on Facebook who use the N-word (and includes the comments, which are often reprehensible so you may want to be cautious about clicking on the link).

The site’s posts around the weekend of 9/11 showed the epithet is often also applied, in a modified form, to Arabs and Muslims, who are the subjects of much hostile and contemptuous discussion. One suspects there has always been a strata of racial and ethnic hostility embedded in U.S. soil, but it’s been unearthed lately. Perhaps it’s that social media have just made it easier to locate messages that would have been shared privately earlier, or perhaps the events of the past few years, including the election of an African-American president, have prickled already existing racial and ethnic tensions, causing outbursts. Perhaps it’s that this sort of hostility is tacitly approved of by certain leaders, or at least not loudly denounced, and so there’s a sort of permission that is assumed, if not stated outright.

Rep. Keith Ellison himself made this case on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” as reported by Andy Birkey of Minnesota Independent. His exact quote: “I think there is anxiety and frustration in the country. There are some politicians who believe it’s to their political advantage to identify scapegoats and try to turn Americans on Americans for their own political advantage by pandering to our worst instincts and fears.”

In a related story, Birkey also reports that People for the American Way sent letters to Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty, among five other conservative leaders, asking them to distance themselves from Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association. The group was one of the sponsors of the Values Voter Summit, which featured Bachmann and Pawlenty on the bill. People for the American Way included a bullet-pointed list of statements Fischer has made in regards to Muslims, and it’s a piece of work. Fischer also has said that gay sex is a form of “domestic terrorism”; amazingly, he doesn’t seem to have been engaging in hyperbole — the Daily Dish has the complete quote, and it’s extraordinary.

Of course, it’s not all a world of Facebook comments and inflammatory political rhetoric, thank goodness. We’ll turn to Birkey again, as he also has a story about something called Minnesotans Standing Together: A Multi-faith Prayer Service for Respect. This interfaith service is specifically intended to counter anti-Muslim rhetoric, although Birkey notes that the inclusion of former Gov. Al Quie has ruffled some feathers, as Quie left the Evangelical Lutheran Church and encouraged others to do the same when it began admitting gay and lesbian pastors.

As it happens, the Twin Cities ELCA received three lesbian pastors this past weekend, as reported by Lindsey Seavert of WCCO. The subject is still contentious; Seavert quotes another pastor, who says, “It is complete departure from the Bible. It is a public departure from the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. The ELCA is departing from the rest of the Christian community, officially, that is what is happening.”

As far as we can tell, Bachmann did not distance herself from Fischer this past weekend; she instead looked forward to November, predicting big Republican wins in the forthcoming elections and praising the Tea Party.

Bachmann was on a straw poll at the Values Voter Summit — as a possible candidate for president. According to Pat Kessler of WCCO, Bachmann claims she had asked not to be part of that poll but was unable to get her name removed at the time of her speech. Who was not on the poll? Tim Pawlenty, who claims his name was removed at his request, as he was in Asia for a conference and could not be at the Summit. Kessler references an unnamed source who says Pawlenty was concerned about not doing well in yet another straw poll. Bachmann’s opponent for her congressional seat, Tarryl Clark, is taking advantage of all this, pointing to it as evidence that Bachmann has eyes on the White House. “If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck,” Clark claims, “Michele Bachmann is considering running for President.”

Pawlenty is back in Minnesota after his weeklong trade trip, and as the Associated Press reports, he’s back to campaigning, helping raise money for GOP gubernatorial nominee Scott Walker. In the meanwhile, in Minnesota, Ramsey County only has 16 emergency shelter beds for homeless youth, who are estimated to number about 600; “For poor,” the Star Tribune reports, “health care at extremes”; WCCO reports that 10 percent of Minnesotans lack health care insurance altogether; and the housing crisis in Minnesota reached some sort of symbolic nadir when Minnesota Sen. Mee Moua revealed that her parents’ house, where she rented, was foreclosed.

In arts: The Star Tribune’s Rohan Preston profiled “the power trio” that collaborated to bring “The Master Butcher’s Singing Club” to the stage at the Guthrie. Specifically, these are director Francesca Zambello, playwright Marsha Norman and novelist Louise Erdrich, upon whose book the play is based. The book addresses, in part, the massacre at Wounded Knee, in which 150 Lakota men, women and children were killed by the 7th Cavalry Regiment in 1890. Erdrich has this to say about writing fiction based on history: “Our history books are expurgated and cleaned up,” she tells Preston, arguing that a job of authors of fiction is “to talk about the true history of our country … a history of dispossession, slavery and denial of women’s rights.”

In sports: It’s been a good year for the Twins, as Karla Hult of KARE11 reports. 3.2 million fans have attended Twins games, which is the most in decades. Hult interviews one fan who says, “I’m a hooter and hollerer. So I want to come down here and make some noise and support the team.”

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Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Karl Bremer on 09/20/2010 - 10:33 am.

    So Pat Kessler takes Bachmann at her word that she
    “claims she had asked not to be part of that poll but was unable to get her name removed at the time of her speech.”

    The Strib’s Jeremy Herb reported as far back as September 8 that Bachmann’s name was on the “Value Voters” poll.

    “Bachmann is included with Pawlenty and 15 others in the Values Voter Summit straw poll, which will be held next weekend in Washington.”

    Bachmann spoke at the “Value Voters” confab on September 17. Se we’re supposed to believe that with three media people on her congressional staff and the crack campaign team of Sergio Gor and Andy Parrish, Bachmann was unable to get her name off that poll in 10 days?

    Furthermore, how can Bachmann take her name off a poll that crack Political Advisor Andy Parrish says she was never on?

    When will political reporters start fact-checking everything that comes out of Michele Bachmann’s mouth, rather than the occasional fact-check of her ads? You’d think they’d have learned by now.

  2. Submitted by Susan Maricle on 09/20/2010 - 10:35 am.

    I read WCCO’s account about the Lake Crystal newspaper on Rick Kupchella’s Bring Me the News. And I was struck by this sentence about the editor:

    “In this week’s paper, he wrote an apology and said everyone has an opinion when it comes to politics.”

    The editor was doing far more than giving a political opinion, he was perpetuating a racial stereotype and passing it off as a political opinion.

  3. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 09/20/2010 - 10:59 am.

    “But people still don’t seem to realize the Web is not a private conversation”

    More proof why you and I should never run for public office, Max. As if more proof was needed.

  4. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 09/20/2010 - 11:03 am.

    Can we guess who that paper will be endorsing for governer?

  5. Submitted by Michael Hunt on 09/20/2010 - 11:10 am.

    And yet Bachmann continues to lead in her District. And you think there’s no direct correlation between Republican spending cuts in education and Bachmann being re-elected?

  6. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/20/2010 - 12:16 pm.

    I don’t understand why Al Quie’s views vis-a-vis homosexuality would be questioned by “Minnesotans Standing Together”, bunny.

    If anything, he’d be a moderating influence.

  7. Submitted by Jim Greg on 09/20/2010 - 12:36 pm.

    You were able to properly use “African-American” and avoid that n-word…but you use “sexual preference”—what the heck is “sexual preference”?

  8. Submitted by Gregory Lang on 09/20/2010 - 03:54 pm.

    On Saturday the Star Tribune had a staff written headline saying that Anita Hill and two others were ordained.

    My first thought was the Anita Hill of the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. The short article mentioned that Anita Hill and the two others had been in Twin Cities ministries for more than a decade. From this I concluded that this was a different “Anita Hill”.

    This seems either poor writing or some type of ego-eccentricity to assume Strib online readers would be following Lutheran gay clergy issues closely enough so that they would know what “Anita Hill” was being mentioned. I’d venture that 90% of the readers first thought of the Clarence Thomas hearing Anita Hill. I would say that our local “Anita Hill” needs at least a middle initial mentioned.

  9. Submitted by Daniel Mortensen on 09/21/2010 - 08:30 am.

    @Susan Maricle
    I noticed that comment as well and found it absolutely preposterous. There is no political opinion expressed at all, just racist vitriol.

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