Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fox News And The Very Scary Black Men.

The right-wing Washington Times is having a field day with the Justice Department’s decision to drop a voter intimidation case brought against a group styling itself the New Black Panther Party."


The Times claims that “political appointees” overruled “career justice lawyers.” Since the Washington Times never misses an opportunity to push a far-right wingnut agenda lets unpack the story.

Thanks to the Bush policy of “Burrowing In” the placement of political appointees in formerly career positions career government employees are not what they used to be. Far too many political hacks have invested themselves into the bureaucracy of far too many executive agencies for any one to trust the neutrality of those institutions. The politicization and corruption of the civil service was massive in the Bush Administration.
Are these complainants true career civil servants or just political operatives with an agenda to promote?

A good place to start is to look at the people at the center of the controversy. Who are the New Black Panther Party? The most honest answer is “The sin qua non of the scary black man.”

They are an offshoot of the Nation Of Islam. They are black nationalists and rabid anti-Semites. They are so over-the-top that even the original Black Panthers wants nothing to do with them. ( We are thus talking a fringe of a fringe. The organization has come under the gaze of both the ADL ( and the Southern Poverty Law Center ( In the election of 2008 they also came under the gaze of the federal government.

In an incident lovingly documented by Fox Noise :

two young toughs decided to strut around a polling place. One of the posers decided to carry a club. The local police quickly put an end to the proceeding, whisking away the men from the polling facility. The whole sorry affair was used to “prove” that Obama was “intimidating voters” in the center cities.

Enter the Federal Government who decided to sue the New Black Panther Party on charges of Voter Intimidation. The charge had technical merit but also appeared to be a curious bit of over-zealousness. It was using a sledge hammer to squash a gnat. The Philadelphia Police Department and local authority seemed to have the situation well in hand. Exactly why did the Federal Government need to big-foot into this situation? In short the decision to prosecute does not pass the smell test. There is no history of the NBP interfering with previous elections, no history of violence outside of a few tussles in Dallas, no indication that this flare up was anything more than a one-off local affair. The initial prosecution looks to be politically motivated.

The courts did find against the NBP and were about to impose a fine against the organization. But as this started as a political prosecution and pander to one part of the electorate it ended as a political dismissal and pander to a different pressure group. The politicos probably thought that the punishment would do nothing more than make the NBP martyrs.

The violation was real but still to call this " ‘the most blatant form of voter intimidation’ that he had seen, even during the voting rights crisis in Mississippi a half-century ago.” is a complete overstretch. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Civil Rights struggles and the history of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 would laugh at the outrageousness of that summation. The NBP was few super-fringe radicals making nuisances of themselves; this was nothing like the murderous violence the freedom riders had to confront fifty odd years ago.

Looking past the hyperventilation and faux outrage it is not too difficult to see why the wingnuts of Fox News and the Washington Times have taken this story and run with it. At the very least it is a way to chip away at the claim that the Obama Administration is a return to an a-political justice department. It is a lovely way to set up an argument of false equivalency. “See the Obama Administration is every bit as corrupt as the Bush Administration when it comes to the politicization of the Justice Department.” It is also a way to push totally toxic race baiting memes. It is way to link the image of scary black men to Barack Obama.
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