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Cliven Bundy reminds the conservative press the dangers of touting extremist cranks as national heroes

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, April 24, 2014 9:40 EDT
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Cliven Bundy news conference
 
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If you woke up this morning and cracked open your electronic version of your daily newspaper, I imagine you heard what I did: The whooshing sound of the anuses of the entire staff of Sean Hannity’s show puckering, simultaneously.

Republican politicians began backtracking on their support of Nevada anti-government rancher Cliven Bundy after the New York Times caught Bundy making racially-inflammatory remarks blaming African-Americans for willingly submiting to dependency on federal assistance.

“They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton,” Bundy was quoted as saying to a group of supporters last Saturday. “And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

As an off-hand observation, I really resent the conservative double standard where young people, people of color, urban liberals, etc. are immediately pounced upon if they use non-standard English grammar, but it’s apparently cute and charming when cranky old racists do it. Oof.

His argument, of course, is boilerplate blame-the-victim nonsense from Republicans who are trying to blame black people themselves for racial disparities instead of systemic racism. But he failed to employ their standard code words and euphemisms, so he’s an embarrassment now. The Sean Hannity routine of pretending to be “reporting” on this story while rallying the troops to support this mooching motherfucker who is openly stealing from the taxpayers will probably be over as of now. Or, at least if he’s smart. The smart thing to do right now would be to pretend none of this ever happened and simply refuse to acknowledge the hours of coverage that Fox handed over to Bundy to trot out his bizarre and self-evidently racist belief that he is uniquely privileged to reject any laws that inconvenience him.

However, Hannity did dig his heels in and throw a fit when Jon Stewart made fun of him. I give it 50/50 odds he tries to salvage this. Perhaps Sarah Palin will get involved, with her patented argument that a conservative’s freedom of speech is imperiled if liberals use their freedom of speech to criticize or mock conservative speech.

Bundy is clearly beneath contempt, but his arguments deserve a rejoinder anyway, if only because they are far more widely believed than most conservative leaders let on. So here is a good piece to read. I will add to this that there is no surprise, on any side of the aisle, that Bundy, who has argued that he’s being oppressed by having to pay federal grazing fees, nonetheless seems to think actual slavery was good for black people. Something to remember when looking back over all this. Most conservatives who rushed to support Bundy knew that he probably was this odious of a racist—anti-government cranks almost always are—but they also knew they could coast on the benefit of the doubt that is extended as a matter of course to angry white right wing nuts on this issue, even when they’re spouting barely coded racist arguments. And he blew it by opening his big mouth and confirming what everyone, and I mean everyone, already knew was likely true.

Nor should be particularly surprised that Bundy felt free to be so open about his opinions. This guy has successfully been robbing the taxpayers and he’s getting widespread support for it! He must have felt invincible.

The silver lining in all this is that it’s now going to be much easier for the federal government to shut Bundy down. The level of public support he’s gotten has surely played a role in federal concerns that he and his supporters will open fire on law enforcement, and that level of support is drying up as we speak.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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