The Calling of the Dogs

Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

Related Post Roulette

26 Responses

  1. Per se, says the pedant.Report

  2. Burt Likko says:

    I am far more cynical than Burt.

    That’s an ambitious claim, my friend.Report

  3. Jason Kuznicki says:

    As pointed out on the other thread, I think this all goes back to the comments Gingrich made about wanting to speak to the NAACP:  Smart white man tells black folk what they really need, because black folk couldn’t figure it out for themselves.

    If that’s not racist, then neither is the KKK.Report

      • This is just meant as a response to the counterarguments to JK’s summation: if Gingrich was just trying to make a point about a failed system, there were an infinite number of other ways he could have made that point without invoking the NAACP and black people in general.  It also cannot pass without notice that this statement was made in the runup to the South Carolina primary, which Gingrich has said is for all the marbles.  IOW, he was addressing his comments directly and solely at South Carolina conservatives.

        Perhaps his invocation thereof was a misstatement or just a poor choice of words, one might say.  Ok, fine. That was exactly what Juan Williams was trying to get him to say with his question. Instead of saying it was a misstatement, though, Gingrich bristled at the very suggestion and doubled down on his quote.  And for that he received a standing ovation by a bunch of white conservative South Carolinians, most of whom were likely old enough to remember Jim Crow.

        If that’s not an attempt to use racism to get votes, I don’t know what is.


    • Nob Akimoto in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      This is probably the most succinct account and explanation on the topic I’ve seen to date. Bravo.Report

    • BSK in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      Got whitesplaining?Report

    • Plinko in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      Thank you, Jason. I hadn’t had time to reply to either thread (stupid job), butthis has  rendered any response I could make superfluous as it would only try to make this statement in a more clumsy fashion.Report

  4. Context is all important in these situations.  If you break anything into its component parts, you shave them of their meaning, their context and as a result, you can put them back together into pretty much any narrative that you desire.  This “analyzing in the micro” trend results in people reading whatever they want to read into a set of statements. Therefore New is/is-not/was/was-not a racist/gandhi-an/humanist/whatever.

    Lee Atwater was a master of this…Report

    • Liberty60 in reply to Mahesh Paolini-Subramanya says:


      The reason we call them “dog whistles” is because they are words that are harmless until spoken by and to the right people, in the correct context.Report

    • Yes, “Newt doesn’t mention race at all”, which is part of the Southern Strategy playbook as explained by Atwater:

      You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

      (That’s actually prophetic, in a way. The Republican Party’s anti-government talking points were all formulated in an effort to capitalize on whites’ resentment toward the federal government for making them desegregate their schools. But that anti-government resentment has outlived the deep, all-pervasive racial animus on which it sought to capitalize. Progress!)

      Not explicitly mentioning race is rather the point of “dog whistling”. Peter Beinart made a good comparison– it’s like saying that there was a rise in predatory lending in his time at the Fed and calling Alan Greenspan the “Shylock banker”.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to reflectionephemeral says:

        Taking this argument a step further — does this mean that a political agenda of minimizing the scope or extent of activities undertaken by the Federal government is aimed at returning to the good ol’ days of Jim Crow? (Or perhaps that should be “minimizing the scope or extent of particular activities undertaken by the Feds”, begging the question of which ones.) That seems to be where you’re going with this point, but I’m not sure if you want to go quite that far.Report

        • Jeff in reply to Burt Likko says:

          I think it’s telling that the Tea Party wants the government out of welfare (it’s “sochulism”) and health care (“death panels”) but not Medicare.  I’m not sure it’s all race-related, but I do think that race could be a major component.Report

    • While I agree with this, I hasten to point out that the person in this case that was doing the parsing – Burt – wasn’t purposefully parsing the language to get to a place of neutrality.  He was sincerely searching to find what others told him was there but that he wasn’t seeing before he started parsing.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Thank you for this acknowledgement, Tod. The whole exercise was internally disquieting for me and posting it was something I did with trepidcation, knowing the risk of some people being ready to make a contrary assumption. It’s good to be understood.Report

        • Tod Kelly in reply to Burt Likko says:

          Yeah, it’s strange.  My post right before yours was far more incendiary to those that might disagree, and unlike you I didn’t couch what I was saying in provisional language.  And yet I think I escaped a lot of the heat I was dreading because your post immediately followed.

          It’s a funny old internet world.Report

    • JG New in reply to Mahesh Paolini-Subramanya says:

      I sure hope you meant “Newt.”  Otherwise, we shall have words, sir.Report

  5. James Hanley says:

    (Seriously, doesn’t it seem years since we were all talking about Herman Cain?)

    Not enough of them.Report

  6. Patrick Cahalan says:

    There’s a conversation we had a couple of days ago about context and goodwill and things coming from one person not being like things coming from another…Report

  7. boegiboe says:

    It strikes me that had Newt walked back his quote about the NAACP, he’d be dead in the water, politically speaking. He would have had to say words like “Though I meant no offense, I guess I can see how some people might be offended.”**  Then he’d have to blow the dog whistle that much harder to make up the ground he lost, all while the SuperPACs figure out the best sound bite to put in an ad.

    The long and the short of it is that Newt messed up with that NAACP quote. He may win S.C. with it, but he won’t get anywhere outside the South.

    Incidentally, one of the most telling actions I thought was when the crowd booed Juan Williams loudly enough that he had to repeat himself…and Newt giggled delightedly. That reaction was incredibly contemptuous, implying not just that “Juan” was beneath “Speaker Gingrich,” but that he was so far out of his depth that the crowd was putting him “in his place.”

    ** Obviously not a real quote. What’s the correct punctuation to use in this instance?Report

    • Mark Thompson in reply to boegiboe says:

      I don’t think he needed to walk it back, actually.  I think it would have been plenty easy for him to say “Look, you MSM liberals are trying to make everything I say about race. But I was just making a point about our failed welfare system, and about how this President has put more people on food stamps than any President ever…..” and then go into the rest of his response.

      But he didn’t even do that.  Instead, he basically acknowledged it was about race and said “So what?”  For that, he got a standing ovation.Report