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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rhetorical Flourishes

Would a more apt title to this be "How To Say Nigger And Still Sound Intellectual"?

Just take a look and you tell me.

The predictable racial invective allowed at Fox"Nation" flows just as freely as D'Souza's poorly constructed thesis.

But it isn't only Dinesh that is on the only one "anti-colonialism" talking-point train. Enter likely Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich:

Gingrich cited a recent column D'Souza wrote in Forbes -- promoting his upcoming book on the theme that Obama's central motivation is to weaken America, viewing it as an evil colonial power: "Incredibly, the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s. This philandering, inebriated African socialist, who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anticolonial ambitions, is now setting the nation's agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son."

In an interview with ABC News this morning, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs responded to Gingrich by accusing him of trying to appeal to those people "who don't believe the president was born in this country." That is, Gingrich was accused of attempting to use coded language for the birther movement.

"You would normally expect better of somebody who held the position of Speaker of the House but look it is political season and most people will say anything and Newt Gingrich does that on a genuinely, on a regular basis," Gibbs said.

I wouldn't at all say that it's coded any longer, as it is blatantly in your face on a daily basis.

There's lots to be questioned with D'Souza's latest tome, considering the fact that much of his thesis is predicated on an anecdotal error from Obama's book "Dreams Of My Father".

Here, I believe, is where Obama got his skin treatment anecdote. He found it in Fanon and altered the setting and the facts to invent a personal experience instructive about American racism. Barack Obama, meet Tawana Brawley. Obama’s bogus racial incident is reminiscent of the Brawley case, in which Brawley fabricated a story about being a victim of racist assault. But in a way Obama’s lie is worse. Brawley’s fabrications were the product of a troubled 15-year-old, while Obama’s were delivered as an adult in a book that, in some respects, served as his presidential campaign manifesto. Because this is not a trivial deception, we cannot let it pass: It is time for Obama to come clean.

I'm guessing that if any of you have heard Sean Hannity talking about Al Sharpton you will be familiar with the Tawana Brawley incident. But that's another story all together, even though it gave rise to more racial animus from the conservative movement - and continues to.

What Dinesh is not presenting in his argument is that Obama's father was quite literally absent from his life. He is, from my understanding at this point, is relying more on a poor understanding of Obama's book "Dreams" as well as cobbling together pieces of his father's life and attempting to project that onto the son.

This is something that D'Souza should be wary of pursuing, as The Economist reports:

...while I don't have any trouble understanding how Barack Obama thinks, I have a lot of trouble understanding how Dinesh D'Souza thinks. And if I were to try to understand his thinking using the same methods he uses to interpret Mr Obama, I might look to his Indian background, which is where he says he gained his insight into anti-colonialism. Mr D'Souza notes simply that he grew up in Mumbai, but a more complete accounting is that his parents were members of the Christian community in the state of Goa, which was colonised by Portugal. The last name "D'Souza" is a common family name in West Africa, where it indicates that the family is descended from the slave-trading coastal mixed-race elite. In India, however, it indicates that the family likely belongs to the Roman Catholic Brahmins, Hindu Brahmins who were converted by missionaries beginning in the 17th century. Interestingly, the Christian community in Goa retained a Hindu-style caste system, with Catholic Brahmins continuing to discriminate against Catholic dalit or "untouchables", whom they refer to as mahara or chamaar. Elite Catholic Brahmin households in Goa sent their children to Jesuit schools (like the one Mr D'Souza attended) and often spoke Portuguese at home, referring to the main local native language, Konkani, as the lingua des criados ("language of servants").

Goa remained a Portuguese colony until it was annexed by India in 1961, which happens to be the year of Mr D'Souza's birth. Many Goan Christians did not welcome the annexation, fearing they would be subsumed in the Hindu-Muslim mega-state. A later source of anxiety was India's affirmative action (or "reservation") policies, which set aside university slots and civil-service jobs for people from recognised historically stigmatised groups, known as "scheduled castes and tribes". Beginning in the early 1980s, when Mr D'Souza was off studying at Dartmouth, these affirmative-action policies engendered widespread resistance among India's elite classes, who were terrified of losing their privileged status in a colossal country where hundreds of millions of indigents might overwhelm the available spots at top schools (and reduce their kids' chances of, say, going to Dartmouth). Goa itself has set itself up as a redoubt against the reservation policies: it has the fewest scheduled castes and tribes of any Indian state. This is largely because elite Christians have refused to acknowledge discrimination against the Christian dalit, or to allow them to be recognised as a scheduled caste. Pope John Paul II rebuked Indian bishops for these practices on his visit to Goa in 2003.

The way that I read that is that it shows that D'Souza can be framed in the same light that he has placed Obama in - albeit in a ham-fisted and bizarre way, considering that the thesis that simply because a father is one way that that must mean the child will be as such.

But let's look at the racial component in all of this.

Beck has set this up in such a way where he can easily deflect accusations of racism being leveled directly at him, as he is hosting a non-white, non-American-born man of some apparent educational level to make the argument that Obama - for lack of a more polite way of putting it - is an angry negro.

The reality of this is that it's not about how D'Souza's narrative is constructed on hyperbole and conjecture, but how those that will use this information to espouse their racism. It's actually a pretty impressive bit of pre-damage control from the modern conservative media.

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