Friday, January 07, 2005

Armstrong Williams: $240,000 OBO

In the most egregious purchase of a black man by a conservative white man since 1865, pundit Armstrong Williams got paid $240,000 of our tax dollars to praise Bush's education policy and convince other black people to do the same. I have a number of quick thoughts about this, which I will present below in brief form:

-I always wondered why one would be a black conservative. Now I know why.
-With this and Judith Miller's WMD distortions, I will never feel compunction about talking about this country's right-wing media.
-Rep. George Miller (D-Mealymouthia), report to Democratic headquarters for a tutorial on how to speak. Instead of "A very questionable use of taxpayer's money that is probably illegal," we need to hear "The administration is using your tax dollars to buy favorable media coverage, and that's completely wrong"? Or something that advances the partisan ball?
-As Josh Marshall asked on his website, which other media figures are in the administration's pay?

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I always wondered why one would be a black conservative. Now I know whyNo, no racism there. Nothing to see. Move on.

We all know that only 'authentic' blacks think correctly (ie leftist)

sheesh, I expected better of you.

Darleen

Neil Sinhababu said...

If you care about the advancement of black people, why would you be a Republican? The GOP generally opposes minimum wage increases, affirmative action, expanded health care coverage for poor people, expansion of the EITC, refundable tax credits, and other mechanisms of progressive taxation. In a nation where blacks are more likely to be poor than whites, Republican economic policies harm black people. And when election time comes around, it's the Republicans who are challenging voters in majority-black precincts.

One can easily be both black and conservative, if one takes no special interest in the advancement of black people. But if you take yourself to have a special interest in the advancement of black people -- and Armstrong Williams presented himself as someone who did -- it's hard to see how the GOP would appeal to you.

Given your comments in our previous discussions, I didn't expect you to expect better of me!

Max Goss said...

At times I have admired your restraint and charity, at least compared with other liberal blogs, but the outrageous cynicism expressed in this post, not to mention the ignorance of what black conservatives actually say (when was the last time you read something by Walter Williams, Shelby Steele, or, for that matter, Armstrong Williams?) is...well, let's just say that Darleen put it mildly.

Neil Sinhababu said...

Before posting, I went here to see what this guy was about. I'd read some of his writing in various places in the past, too. I can't claim familiarity with the other folk you talk about, though.

And when federal money is being used to bribe journalists into expressing partisan views, I think it's time for outrageous cynicism.

Neil Sinhababu said...

One further point I should make here: If someone on Daily Kos had said a week ago that the Bush administration was using taxpayer money to bribe journalists, I would've regarded it as conspiracy-theory nonsense. But now that I see it's true, I'm getting a little more sympathetic to conspiracy theories.

Max Goss said...

I should make it clear that I am not prepared to defend the payment you mention -- I don't know the details, but it does sound pretty fishy. It's what you said about slavery in the post and about the prospects for black conservatism in your response to Darleen that bespeak ignorance. If you listen to black conservatives, you'll hear them say that they defend conservative policies largely because they think they are better for black people. Now, you'll likely disagree with their conclusions (althouth maybe there's some hope for you yet!), but their conservatism is certainly not due to a lack of concern for the plight of blacks. As Darleen suggested, black conservatives (and I only mentioned a couple that I like best; there are also Thomas Sowell, Ward Connerly, Glenn Lowry, Clarence Thomas, Larry Elder, Ken Hamblin, JC Watts, and others) also argue that white liberals try to keep them in their place -- their "place" being giving some semblence of moral authority to a decrepit welfare state which liberals have a vested interest in preserving -- by loudly decrying any deviation from liberalism. You'll never hear a conservative say that a black liberal is inauthentically black, even though he thinks -- really, honestly thinks it Neil; I hope you know that at least some of us aren't poorly motivated -- that liberal policies hurt the black community and that conservative policies offer its best hope for social and economic equality. Maybe I'll open up a discussion of this on my blog, or maybe you can do so on yours. I'd be interested in having you participate in a real discussion of whether the minimum wage, etc. are good for minorities.

Max Goss said...

Okay, I just heard more of the details on Meet the Press. It's scummy. Paying for advertising is one thing, but paying a pundit is quite another.

Neil Sinhababu said...

Whether the minimum wage and other programs help poor folks is a discussion that I (time permitting) would be very interested in participating in.

Definitely the first thing one should think when hearing "policy x is bad for black people, so we should get rid of it" is that the speaker wants to help black people and believes that ending x will help them. But I have some doubts about whether this accurately describes the mental state of Mr. Williams, which I might go into in a future post. After reading some of his articles, it seemed that he was simply using his blackness to amplify his attacks on policies and institutions he disliked for reasons disconnected to the fate of black people.

Max Goss said...

You may be right, Neil. My only real exposure to Williams, apart from hearing him on the radio a couple times, is a lecture I once heard. He talked a lot about his upbringing and was very up front about his desire to help black people. But that's just one lecture given several years ago.

Brandon said...

It seems to me like there are usually dueling notions of what's "good for black people" that are being brought to bear when conservatives and liberals discuss these issues. Liberals (especially utilitarians) think in terms of which policies are going to allocate more resources to black people and their communities, but most of the conservatives I talk to about liberal policies toward minorities have a kind of moral/theological notion of what makes the black community better off. So, where liberals think that material benefits like after school programs and subsidized housing are the key to making minority communities better off, conservatives tend to think that more principled/spiritual changes are important, so their main focus is on doing away with programs that they think render minorities somehow dependent on the state, thereby giving them integrity/independence/rugged individualism/whatever. That is, the conservative answer as to what sort of government action is good for minorities is the same as their answer as to what sort of gov't is good for everybody: cops and soldiers to defend their lives and property, and not much else.

My view, if you couldn't guess, is that conservatives have the same bad attitude toward minority issues that they do toward humanitarian aid in the rest of the world (Peter Beinart articulates this in next week's New Republic, and defended it abley today on the McLaughlin Group):
If it's not a military (or in the domestic case, a criminal) problem, it's not a problem the government should concern itself with. So the conservative answer to problems in the inner city is to put people in jail. Social problems should be solved by families and churches. When these institutions fail, the government steps in only to clean up the mess and put the bad apples behind bars - only, that is, when it's too late. Bush et al. are willing to talk the talk of "compassionate conservatism" but I think that's just doubletalk for funnelling federal funds to churches.

Am I wrong?

Brandon said...

Apparently I am right!

Rousseau said...

Are you wrong? One of the reasons I'm trying to somewhat stay out of politics these days is I simply cannot take the argument anymore that one side (republican or democrat) philosophically likes less government than the other. This has been BS since the original anti-federalist Jefferson finished the Louisiana Purchase. Republicans like some government interference in places, Democrats like it in other places, and both love to take the libertarian idealistic high ground when they can.

Now maybe Republicans do have a strong vision for helping the black community, and are more in touch with the populist religious fervor of many blacks. However, a) 90% of the community still votes against the GOP, in a day and age where even Texas or MA (or any state but almost all black DC) gave 30% to the other guy, so this is certainly not a very democratically approved vision, and b) it's intensely frustrating and harmful to discussing tese issues when Republicans say the liberals specifically desire (consciously or subconsciously) to make a welfare state that keeps the black man down. Wrap your mind around how evil an insult that is, and how clearly it's designed just to comfort white middle class people that the GOP doesn't hate blacks, instead of actually convince blacks to vote for them.

Lastly, the civil rights movement climaxed almost 40 years ago. I don't care if everything the Dems have done was written by MLK, it's insane that 90% of blacks vote Dem. No other group votes for their party more than black women, which approaches 95%. Evangelists, atheists, homosexuals, even saying you're a DEMOCRAT doesn't predict which nominee you vote for as much as being a black woman does. I think you need a really damn convincing reason (bigger than, well dems avg policy helps the economic group which the avg black belongs to, or at least dems think it does) to explain this, and I can't find one.

My only guess is that Republicans are way too ruthless in trying to block votes. They may see it as an electoral game, where either side would do anything, but the rather tight knit community is probably very insulted upset and even terrified at the bureaucratic maneuvering and quasi-intimidation used to prevent registrations every 4 years. I know if a Dem tried to block my vote because of my zip code, I'd be pretty pissed.

Anonymous said...

If you really don't know why you might be a black conservative, may I suggest reading Thomas Sowell?

Sebastian Holsclaw