Man Thinks Being White No Big Deal, Consumes Diet Of Fake News
Being white is an advantage, even if you have to overcome challenges unrelated to race, and “fake news” is a cancer.
NEW YORK — The New York Times recently ran a piece about fake news (as opposed to satire, which I support in any form, directed at any and all politicians) in which they interviewed a Mr. Larry Laughlin, who enjoys a bit of the old wives tales of his favorite right wing authors.
I encourage you to read the article linked to above, but for context, here’s the bit I’m especially interested in:
For Mr. Laughlin, conservative sites are a balm for the soul in a liberal world whose narrative of America, he says, seems to diminish him and all that he has accomplished. He was his own legal guardian at 16, after his mother fled his alcoholic father. He built his metal finishing business from scratch after earning an associate degree from a community college. The company he owned employs about 17 people. He and his wife adopted three mixed-race children.
“My struggles in life are just dismissed,” he said, recalling being lectured by one of his children’s liberal friends at a party in his large home. “‘You have a nice house and got it made because you are a white guy.’ There are all of these preconceived notions that I’m a racist, idiot, a bigot, and oh, uneducated.”
Whoever says this guy has had an easy life on account of his race can eat a bag of dicks. His life was decidedly not easy.
In his statement however, Mr. Laughlin seems dismissive of the idea that being white counts for something. Being white is a big deal. A really big deal. Just ask any black man in the last five hundred years of American history.
People don’t get a set number of life challenges and reach a quota. Yes, his parents were awful. His climb was no doubt very difficult. His choice to adopt his children is laudable. Now just imagine all those things while being part of a minority that is discriminated against.
With regard to what could be a disconnect on the part of Mr. Laughlin: Is this part of the central disconnect of today’s culture? If Jill deserves more credit for her accomplishments, Jack feels like he’s being devalued? Certainly the zero sum game ideology has played out in our politics of late, but this isn’t politics. This is the recognition of other human beings’ struggles, especially when they aren’t the same ones you have had. This is the most important kind of understanding.
It’s easy to look at someone who has suffered as you have and say “I get that guy.” Any Jew whose family fled the Nazis (the old ones, not the new ones so much… yet) gets the struggles of black families whose ancestors were enslaved, lynched, and chased out of their homes in the middle of the night by the Klan. It’s harder to look at someone whose struggles aren’t in parallel, especially when they may not like you so much (see: Israeli-Palestinian conflict).
I’d urge Mr. Laughlin to consider that being black can be just as serious an impediment to success as an alcoholic family, a disability, or a lack of education. Studies have shown that resumes with “white sounding names” are more likely to make it to interview than ones with “black sounding names”. Specifically, someone with a “white sounding” name need only send out ten resumes for one callback, whereas a candidate with a “black sounding” name needs to send fifteen. This little fact is just the tip of the iceberg. The study cited above was from 2003, before someone could just look you up on LinkedIn or Facebook and see the color of your skin.
A Millennial friend of mine who is both black and very privileged told me the following story about her time in a very fancy high school in the South: When she was in an SUV with several white friends from the exclusive private school she attended, the driver, a classmate, took it upon himself to run a black pedestrian off the road into a drainage ditch. He thought it was funny. So did the other passengers. When she asked what in God’s name he was doing, he responded “Well, you’re not a nigger like him.” Naturally, this is how her friends treated her. Imagine how she gets treated by people who aren’t close friends.
Now, imagine that dynamic, Mr. Laughlin, when you were in college. I’m sure you were discriminated against there, or in the workplace, because of your upbringing, your perceived intelligence, and even the quality of the clothing you could afford. Imagine, on top of all you have had to endure, having to send out a third more resumes. Imagine that when you arrive at work with a headache, someone just assumes you’re lazy and it’s a mark against you, and they may not even tell you about that judgement. Imagine you get run off the road by an SUV full of privileged white kids as you walk to work, but telling your colleagues about it will mean hearing them question what you did wrong. Imagine all those things on top of what your life was.
Your party guest was clearly an idiot. There is no excusing what they said. There is also no excusing the dismissal of race as a factor in one’s success in the United States. And by “one” I mean you, and me, and everyone else who passes for white. Being willfully blind to that only makes it harder to understand “the other side”, be it ethnic, economic, or political.
On the subject of fake news, I applaud Mr. Laughlin’s efforts to deprive the racists of clicks and revenue.
I would also point out that if he feels liberals have a joke he isn’t in on, he should try to get in on it. It feels awful to be laughed at and not know why. Is my fly open (again)? Is there TP on my shoe? Is it a whitehead? In any of those cases, I’d rather know what the laughs were about so I could address it.
The Difference Between “Fake News” & Satire
Good comedy comes from two things: truth, and punching up. The powerful deserve to be taken down a peg or two in comedy, and comedy is a wonderful way of illustrating irony. These things combine in satire to produce the likes of The Daily Show, The Onion, Clickhole, Cracked, etc. These sites succeed because they communicate essential ironies of the real world through satire.
The reason Fox News’s The 1/2 Hour News failed was because it wasn’t funny. Why wasn’t it funny?
It had jokes and comedians, but it punched down, and it was thoroughly without any irony. When the establishment takes a swing at the competition, it always fails. The President, for example is always fair game (though when someone is as cool as Obama, more difficult to parody, as Fox discovered) but the poor tend not to be.
This brings us to the essential content of “fake news”:
When you aren’t funny, don’t have the capacity to see irony, you don’t have any track record to point to, and you don’t have any new ideas, what’s left?
Lies. Threats. Rage.
“Fake News” is just another word for propaganda.
Fake news isn’t “fake news”. Let’s call it what it is: lies. “Fake news” is the sort of lies that lead a concerned (if not very bright) father to go to a pizzeria looking for child sex traffickers, with his loaded Kalashnikov. Satire would just make him laugh a painful laugh and get on with his life. No one watches a Daily Show item and assumes there’s some dastardly conspiracy out there that needs a good guy with a gun (possibly because the left usually isn’t as trigger happy, but also because satire is obviously a joke).
The “mainstream” right wing media including News Corp (who I used to work for many years ago) have been attempting to legitimize their fun house mirror “perspective” for decades by claiming the title of insurgent, and saying their point of view isn’t a point of view, it’s a “truth” that the “lamestream” media doesn’t want you to know about. When they print something untrue, there’s a small retraction on page sixteen and no one really notices. Sooner or later one of their columnists will cite it, but leave out the retraction and it goes back into circulation. Eventually we all get an impression that they print things that are untrue sometimes, but the fans hand wave it as “mistakes” and “in the past.” It’s never time to play the blame game, unless it’s someone on the other side, politically.
Mama Fox v. The Pups
First of all, based on their ratings as compared with their competition, Fox News is hardly the underdog. Secondly, as a professional liar (a magician) I can tell you the right’s framing of the dynamic in news media is the only way to legitimize a lie for which there is no hard evidence, the contrivance that no media is objective or truthful.
This model has spawned its competitors in radio and on the internet. Just as the internet is eating most traditional broadcast television, the grassroots right wing internet media is starting to dine on Fox News.
This is where it gets sticky. In television there are huge conglomerates with millions of dollars for gathering news. In the disappearing newspaper trade there is less money, but less deadline pressure than in television. Both of these entities, because of the money involved and the brand names on the line, are under pressure to tell the truth, and make amends when the truth is lost. Their business is the facts, the very resource fake news cannot gather in any form. They report the ugly facts on all takers, left and right.
On little news sites, left and right, all the legwork is borrowed from the work of outside print and television entities, and aggregated as with Drudge. This creates a lack of accountability for the truth of the articles cited, which is fine so long as the pursuit of truth is the first principle. When the pursuit of truth is paramount, and the printed story is shown to be false the aggregators will correct their stories. When the goal is to deliberately mislead, neither the source nor the author can be believed, and this feeds into the narrative that all news is lies.
Remember that scene in Back To The Future when Biff says “Make like a tree and get out of here”? That’s the fake news sites. Too stupid to make good jokes, and uninterested in truth, it resorts to threats.
Hillary Clinton Is Running A Child Sex Ring. Obama Started ISIS. The Jews control the banks.
I urge you, Mr. Laughlin, to not only deny them revenue but your time. Your mind and indeed your soul are too good to waste time on them. It may hurt to watch the network news or read the paper sometimes, take it from me, but the truth that hurts is better than the lie that is a balm.