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December 27, 2008
Is 'Barack the Magic Negro' racist? (Updated)
I suppose the real question is will there ever be agreement among everybody on just what is satire and what is racism?
The answer is not as long as liberals see playing the race card as the political advantage it is.
The latest blow up involves a Rush Limbaugh parody that first surfaced on his show during the campaign. "Barack the Magic Negro," an edgy satire of Obama's celebrity and popularity with white voters that was written by Paul Shanklin and played numerous times on Rush's show, was sent out as a Christmas greeting by RNC chair candidate Chip Saltsman with the message:
"I look forward to working together in the New Year," Saltsman wrote. "Please enjoy the enclosed CD by my friend Paul Shanklin of the Rush Limbaugh Show."
Also on the CD were other examples of Shanklin's satire including “John Edwards’ Poverty Tour,” “Wright place, wrong pastor,” “Love Client #9,” “Ivory and Ebony” and “The Star Spanglish banner.”
Shanklin's stuff is mostly brilliant satire. But like all good political humor, it walks a line of good taste and decorum. In fact, by pushing the boundaries as Shanklin does, he defines for us the essence of political satire. In this respect (not in talent) Shanklin's material is no more objectionable than Jonathon Swift or George Orwewll for that matter.
That is, unless you're a liberal seeking to make political hay and stifle free expression. You can criticize "Barack the Magic Negro" as unfunny or not in good taste. But when you use the inflammatory word "racism" to describe it, you go beyond critiquing the work and enter the world of pure politics. This liberals do on a regular basis and they get away with the sliming of political speech and speakers they disagree with because the press refuses to call them out on it.
In fact, the left has lowered the bar on what constitutes "racism" by redefining the term to suit their own political needs. And by refusing to acknowledge any set definition of the word, the left deliberately undermines free speech by cutting off debate with the left in a superior moral position and the person being unfairly smeared as a racist unable to defend themselves. If one tries to stand up and fight the charge, they give automatic legitimacy to the left's argument. And if they remain silent in the face of such slimeball tactics, the smear works and sticks to the accused like glue.
Having said all this, is it an appropriate Christmas message from a potential RNC chairman? It wouldn't be my first choice but then I don't think Saltsman the guy for the job anyway.
What is clear is that this despicable tactic by the left predates Obama and has done more to poison relations between the races in this country than all the cross burnings and hate speech delivererd by the morons in the Klan or the Skinheads. The reason is simple; the left has appropriated the word "racist" in order to define the debate on race - any issue, any time, anywhere - on their terms and their terms alone. Do you oppose Affirmative Action? You're a racist. Do you oppose set asides for business based on race? You are a racist. Do you oppose racial quotas in college entrance requirements? You are a racist.
No debate. No exchange of ideas. No give and take on any issue that touches race unless you first accept the left's position on these and other issues. If you don't, the debate is closed off by simply calling you a racist - end of discussion.
So it's no surprise they see legitimate satire as "racist." In fact, the surprise would be if they didn't.
Tom Lifson points out that the term 'Barack the Magic Negro" was first used in an Los Angeles Times column by by cultural critic David Ehrenstein - a fact that the parody makes mention of.