Hanna Rosin, author of the book “The End of Men” (Spoiler Alert: Men don’t actually end), apparently channeled the irritation I’ve been putting into the ether toward some of my fellow liberals and distilled it into 4 paragraphs of concentrated wrong.
In her piece at Slate she chides CNN’s John King for using the term “Dark-skinned” in description of what his source said was a suspect in custody. Because the piece is so short I’ll quote it at length, just so you don’t think I’m making this up or taking it out of context.
She begins with the quote from John King,
“A physical description was given to me of the suspect, Wolf. I want to be very careful here because this is very sensitive information, but the description given to me is a dark-skinned individual,” King said, according to the Daily Caller. “And I want to just stop there. … There was some further descriptions used, but just for sensitivity purposes until we get more information, I think it’s best to stop there.” King also added, “There are some people who will take offense for even saying that.”
This is where the fun begins. Rosin plays dumb stating that,
It’s not entirely clear why King thought people “will take offense.”
This is, as we’ll see, little more than a rhetorical device. Rosin knows exactly why King is worried about people taking offense. But before we get to the coup de grace Rosin is going to give us an obvious non-answer to her own question so as to place King in a bad light, thus allowing her to effectively poison the well. So she asks,
Was it because he was feeding them incomplete information?
Here, Rosin asks us to entertain the idea that John King is worried that people will take offense to the term “dark-skinned” because he’s is reporting information that is given to him by his gov’t source, which will then be later retracted (a fact which he can’t be aware of as he’s reporting it). This ladies and gentlemen, is a textbook example of a non sequitur. But, playing along with our seemingly befuddled writer Rosin, the only answer to her speculation is to say: no, that is not why John King was worried, as it doesn’t even make sense. But fear not, Rosin has another idea,
Or perhaps it was because he used the term “dark skinned.”
Holy fucking shit! She’s nailed it! King is worried that some people will take offense to saying “dark-skinned” because he said “dark-skinned”! How do I get a job where I get paid to write articles where I say “I bet that person is worried about offense being taken for saying A, B and C, because they just said that themselves.” But we’re just getting to the best part as Rosin concludes
I’d argue that it’s warranted to take offense for both reasons.
Seeing as how one of those reasons makes no sense in context of King’s comment, we have a clear indication that Rosin isn’t really interested in addressing the issue raised by King’s worry and is more interested in using it to continue the beating of her favorite horse (If this horse were a race horse it would almost certainly be called “My Liberal Guilt”). Her final paragraph begins as such,
There is a huge difference between a specific description of a suspect—white supremacist, African-American, Mexican, Pakistani—and an incredibly vague term like “dark skinned.”
Now, with just that said I’m in agreement. The initial terms given are very specific (even though white supremacist, seems to be an orange among all the apples of physical description we’re talking about, but lets be generous and forget that), whereas the term “dark-skinned” is much less specific. While “Mexican” for example would narrow our number of suspects considerably, “dark-skinned” only rules out Caucasians, Hispanics and probably Asians. So not nothing, but still leaves a lot to be desired. But that obviously isn’t all that was said,
The latter, in the great tradition of orientalism, is designed to be open ended enough to allow for the (terrified, exotic-hungry, racist) imagination to fill in the blanks. It is an insult by inference, a way of conveying something we on one side know about that person on the other side, wink wink, without saying it outright.
So John King’s source didn’t use the term “dark-skinned” because a more specific term was lacking due to limited information, no, no. It was designed to pique the fervid imaginations of racists and King knew that. Thus, without anything other than pure assertion, we see that John King was worried about knowingly using a racist term. He certainly was not worried about using a non-value-laden term that might give certain quarters of our population the vapors, and allow them to cry “offended!”, due to the very mention of skin color. Couldn’t be that.
Not able to leave well enough alone, she takes aim at Wolf Blitzer,
It also brings out the worst in most people, including Blitzer, who followed up with a frantic,”We can’t say whether the person spoke with a foreign accent, or an American accent?”
This looks somewhat damning, eliciting a picture of a salivating Blitzer hoping for a better race baiting story where the suspect is one of those strange-sounding towelheads, I’m sure. Of course it only looks so damning if you have no idea what’s going on, which Hanna Rosin apparently does not. Blitzer is here asking if the suspect more fully matches the description of a suspect described by The Police (sadly, not the band). Blitzer had to ask, because King clearly indicated that many people will read any plain description as racism and so was afraid to report further,
“And I want to just stop there. … There was some further descriptions used, but just for sensitivity purposes…”
So not getting all the info, and knowing there’s more, Blitzer has to ask if the suspect had a foreign accent because that was part of the description used for a suspect.
I repeat, King refused to report not because the information would impede the investigation if stated, but because to say it might make some people mad. Or worse as Rosin implies, it could give racists something to be racist about. That is the outrage of this incident. Not that someone was too far from their fainting couch when King uttered the highly charged words “dark-skinned”, but that he refused to report further on information he had regarding a bombing that resulted in 3 deaths and nearly 200 maimings, due to nothing more than fear.
So, Hanna Rosin is helping to create a rod for not only her own back, but ours as well. Adding to a chilling effect that reduces what news organizations will report to citizens due to nothing more than fear of the charge of racism (or any other actually negative term such as sexism, ageism, homophobia, etc. etc.). Yet, I see no cries of racism when the man suspected of sending poisoned letters to a Republican Senator and the President, is not simply described, but named. One Paul Kevin Curtis of Corinth, Miss. But, only I seem to find the describing and naming of suspects in both cases perfectly ordinary, as it’s standard in the news to do so. What’s that called again? Oh yes, I remember.