Tuesday, July 01, 2003

One Last Whine for Ol' Strom

In recent years “conservative” has become frequently synonymous with “whiner.” Ann Coulter comes immediately to mind, but she’s too easy a target. A more general case in point, the ad infinitum, ad nauseum complaint against the mythical liberal media even after the Right Wing has staged a brilliant victory in becoming the most influential force in at least the broadcast media (radio and TV, progressives rule the blogosphere).

A not infrequent contributor to this whinefest is the right-leaning RealClear Politics website. The latest is by Tom Bevan and involves the alleged impugning of the late Strom Thurmond:
Strom & the NY Times

I looked at close to a hundred headlines this morning written about the Thurmond story in papers across the country. Every single headline either made no mention of Thurmond's segregationist past or accurately described Thurmond in the head or subhead as a "former" or "ex" segregationist. Every paper except one, that is:

Strom Thurmond, Foe of Integration, Dies at 100 - Adam Clymer, NY Times

Just how misleading is this? The purposeful omission of the word "former" or "ex" in the headline imparts to readers of the "Paper of Record" that Thurmond was actively against racial integration up until the day he died.

I'm no huge fan of Strom Thurmond, but to me the bias here is stunning. Can you imagine the NY Times giving the same misleading treatment to a Democrat:

"Robert Byrd, KKK Member, Dies at ...."

But, you say, Thurmond's opposition to integration was a defining component of his public career. Fine. I'm not saying the NY Times should whitewash Thurmond's record on the issue, only that they accurately represent it in the headline.

Still, I'm fairly confident the editors at The Times wouldn't approve such an obviously derogatory headline for just anybody, even if it did describe a defining component of their public career:

"Bill Clinton, 2nd President Impeached in History of United States, Dies at..."

This simply wouldn't happen. Not at The Times, not at the NY Post, and not on Fox News. It wouldn't happen because it's biased and inappropriate as part of a headline, and any self-respecting news organization would know that.

Not so fast my deluded Right-Wing friend. If “The Times” you were referring to happened to be your favored Washington Times, my bet is that they already have Clinton’s obit written and impeachment is prominent. The NY Post superimposes weasel heads on other countries’ diplomats, so I’m not sure the phrase “self-respecting news organization” is applicable. As far as Fox News goes, have you actually watched it?

You refer to Strom’s experience as a “foe to integration” as “a defining component of [his] public career.” Try the defining component of his career. Consider the following:

Strom ran for president in 1948 on the States Rights, or "Dixiecrat," ticket, due to his opposition to integration. Read their platform. His primary reason for running for the Leader of the Free World was because he was a “foe of integration.”

Strom said: "I want to tell you that there's not enough troops in the Army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the Negro race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes and into our churches." -- speech to 1948 States Rights convention.

(Actually, this publication from that bastion of liberalism, San Francisco, sacrificed accuracy to soften what old Strom actually said. The quote can be heard at Strom watch and as you will note he did not say “Negro.”)

He was the originator of the 1956 "Southern Manifesto" against the 1954 Supreme Court desegregation ruling. Thurmond holds the record for the longest filibuster in Senate history; he spoke against the 1957 civil rights bill for twenty-four hours, eighteen minutes. (This is from the Strom Thurmond Institute at his alma mater.)

Of greatest historical significance was his abandonment of the Democratic Party in the mid-1960s in disgust at the civil rights policies of a Democratic President, Lyndon Johnson. The move set a trend that transformed the south from Democratic stronghold into cornerstone of an emerging Republican majority.Strom Thurmond, Symbol of Segregation, Dies at 100

Bevan states: The purposeful omission of the word "former" or "ex" in the headline imparts to readers of the "Paper of Record" that Thurmond was actively against racial integration up until the day he died.

No, Tom-- just that he was against it at least until the day his opposition no longer mattered. He was perhaps the nation’s most visible long-standing “foe of integration” until the battle was lost. Nobody ever accused this embodiment of the argument for term limits (Which I think Strom supported in 1994) of not being a pragmatist. “Foe of integration” is at least arguably the single most meaningful label that best fits his long career. If not, what do you consider to be his landmark legislative achievements over his lengthy tenure? His accomplishments are mostly ones of longevity, bringing home the pork and, my personal favorite, fathering children in his seventies.

Strom “changed” only because the tide changed and it changed in spite of this “foe of integration[‘s]” best efforts. Strom was not unfairly impugned by the “liberal media.” In fact, he largely got a pass.

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