June 07, 2003

MEDIA APOLOGIES, CONTINUED

Mikkke Carlton, who wrote last month of Robert Byrdís admirable background, today recants:

With trembling hand and fluttering heart I read the fax from Media Watch. It was very polite. Was I aware that the United States senator Robert Byrd had once been a member of the Ku Klux Klan?

Had I known that fact when I referred to his "admirable background" in a piece I wrote about him last month? Did this change my view about that background?

Media Watch was keen to include all relevant facts and opinions on this matter, said the fax, just a bit pompously.

The program would appreciate my response by 10am Monday, June 9, 2003.

Well, the answers are no, no and yes. I was unaware that Byrd had indeed worn the pointy hood for two years from 1942. Plainly, that renders his background considerably less than admirable.

Took Media Watch long enough. Maybe next they'll start paying attention to Phillip Adams.

Posted by Tim Blair at June 7, 2003 12:44 PM
Comments

I posted the following to mediawatch:

=====

It seems like MediaWatch, as well as Mike Carlton will be, ahem, whitewashing Byrd's past.

MediaWatch correctly states that Byrd denies being a current member of the KKK (although Carlton's biography of Byrd goes as far back as the 1930s, so his membership of the KKK would be within the time frame of the biography). However, he has been a KKK sympathiser since allegedly leaving it.

According to "Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd, Ex-Klansmen" by Michelle Malkin, (which also notes that Byrd was a Kleagle, ie a recruiter, not just an ordinary member as MW implies) Byrd wrote a letter to the Imperial Wizard of the KKK saying that the KKK is needed in West Virginia (his home state) and in every state of the Union. He filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights act for more than 14 hours. He opposed the nominations of Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court, two individuals that have nothing in common except the colour of their skin. He also opposed the desegregation of the armed forces.

Not exactly an "admirable background".

Is it relevant? There's a very scary possibility it is. "White Hope" by Michelle Cottle points out that white supremacists, neo-nazis, Klansmen and the like are pro-Saddam/Arafat/etc. and anti-Israel. Is it just coincidence that the only person in congress who's been a member of the KKK is congress's most vocal opponent of war with Iraq? And has he not been firmly in the mainstream of the anti-war movement? Maybe 4 corners shouldn't worry so much about a Jewish cabal trying to control American foreign policy (besides being untrue, it's unimaginative) so much as a Klu Klux Kabal trying to influence America's policy.

(Harry Belafonte has called Colin Powell a "house slave", which may be what Dan was referring to)

=====

and got the following reply

Dear Andjam,

We are looking at the story as I said.

We don't generally discuss on-going stories in our guestbook.

Yours sincerely,

Peter McEvoy
Executive Producer
Media Watch

=====

Maybe I shouldn't have said nasty things about mediawatch.

Posted by: Andjam at June 7, 2003 at 01:26 PM

This Phillip Adams/Media Watch obsession is becoming kind of strange...almost Rainman-like in its embarrassing narrowly-focused intensity.

I can almost understand the consuming hatred for Media Watch. I mean losing a public argument with a dick like David Marr would be a blow to anyone's ego. Resentment might simmer for months.

But Phillip Adams? Sheesh! Who gives a fuck?

Posted by: Adrian Luca at June 7, 2003 at 01:29 PM

Byrd's background is all but completely unknown in the US. Tim, you right-wing Aussie, I really appreciate your site, even though I'm what one is considered:

New York (where I live): Fascist Rightwinger
USA (my country): Liberal
The South(my homeland): Leftist
Pensacola (my hometown): Communist.

Thought this might interest you...a pinko in pensacola is a fascist in NYC.

Posted by: American Jeff at June 7, 2003 at 01:31 PM

Adrian,

Even worse is an obsession with those obsessed by Adams and Media Watch. No known cure!

Posted by: tim at June 7, 2003 at 01:48 PM

Where's that nutfuckcocker guy? I miss his valuable input.

Posted by: Tony.T at June 7, 2003 at 05:23 PM

But Tim, if Phil somehow got the Raines-man treatment (unlikely, he's small-fry and an aussie to boot) what would you find to amuse (or aggravate, as may be) yourself and your devoted readers?

Wow. I just had this wierd flash visualizing a sort of Frankenstinian melding of Mo Dowd and Annalise Braakensiek...

Sometimes I scare myself, y'know?

Posted by: mojo at June 7, 2003 at 05:47 PM

At face value, Byrd's high-profile anti-war speech wasn't remotely anti-semitic, anti-Israel, pro-Saddam or pro-KKK.

If Byrd himself - America's 'Dean of the Congress', the 'West Virginian of the 20th Century', etc - IS all these things, then it says a hell of a lot more about the good folks of West Virginia who keep democratically electing him than it does about the 'mainstream' anti-war movement, Andjam.

Byrd got 78% in 2000. But...hang on a minute, Bush, unexpectedly, polled 52% to Gore's 46% in WV, and picked up five bonus electoral pts there.

So...what? Are West Virginians 'pro-Israel' on account of their support for Bush, or 'anti-Israel' on account of their support for Byrd? Or could it be that it's simply bullshit to draw any conclusions at all from purely circumstantial overlaps like this?

Enough already. I concur that screaming 'Jewish cabal!' at the drop of a hat is unimaginative. So are dumb-ass intimations of shared bigotry based on single-issue-association. The anti-invasion movement is no more aligned with every last thing Byrd thinks, whatever it is, than the pro-invasion movement is with everything Limbaugh or Coulter spouts on a bad day.

No doubt the invasion was both opposed and supported by hardcore nutcases. So what.

If Robert C. Byrd is one, West Virginians should vote him the hell out of the Senate. When I read an eloquent floor speech given by the only Senator in US history to be elected eight times (close to fifty years), I tend to assume he's not some dangerous closet-Nazi type, since I prefer to believe that America's voters, her press, her church groups and sundry other righteous guardians of Freedom and Decency would have found the bugger out by then.

Am I wrong? Henny-penny...

Posted by: Jack Robertson at June 7, 2003 at 05:51 PM

Seems to me everyone's missing the point. He apologizes about Byrd and then slams Truman. I consider myself pretty politically well read, and have never heard any rumors of Truman being a Klaner.

*****
Vile stuff, I grant you, although hardly uncommon in Americans of Byrd's generation. There is some evidence that Harry S. Truman was once a Klansman.
******

Posted by: Kevin at June 7, 2003 at 06:04 PM

The reason he mentioned Truman is because it helped get the taste of crow out of his mouth...

On the same token I hope that Mike now applies his reasoning in his article to all future criticisms he writes about other people. The past is now a bucket of ashes according to him now.

Someone who said something so vitrolic as this - where is he on the record as recanting such a view?? Obviously not since old Mike couldn't find it in any internet search - bet you it wasn't for lack of trying.

Posted by: don at June 7, 2003 at 09:31 PM

Unfortunately, Jack, there is a huge anti-semitic crowd that seems to turn up at all the peace protests. In fact, here is a story about Jewish anti-war protesters who were attacked by their fellow anti-war protesters, for being Jewish.

Posted by: Tatterdemalian at June 7, 2003 at 10:10 PM

The USA isn't one country in the way Australia is. They have a much richer diversity of beliefs. The John Birchers et al thought Eisenhower was a communist, and I recall a naive teacher who was shocked when she told her primary school class Kennedy had been assassinated, and they cheered. She just didn't understand Southerners.
Besides, for all his shortcomings, Byrd is an improvement on the Byrd Dynasty's founder, who began it all selling alcohol and guns to the indians, and dealing in black and indian slaves.

Posted by: Norman at June 7, 2003 at 11:06 PM

The USA isn't one country in the way Australia is. They have a much richer diversity of beliefs. The John Birchers et al thought Eisenhower was a communist, and I recall a naive teacher who was shocked when she told her primary school class Kennedy had been assassinated, and they cheered. She just didn't understand Southerners.
Besides, for all his shortcomings, Byrd is an improvement on the Byrd Dynasty's founder, who began it all selling alcohol and guns to the indians, and dealing in black and indian slaves.

Posted by: Norman at June 7, 2003 at 11:07 PM

One thing that has shocked me is how many of the opponents of the war are in various ways potentially tainted goods.

An ex-KKK member, someone who has either committed child sex offences or is so careless he could easily be framed by the mukhabarat, a parliamentarian with a lifestyle far beyond his accounted for income, a PM with family members connected to TotalFinaElf, two goverments with UN security council vetoes who just happen to have the majority of Iraq's oil contracts.

Thank goodness for the likes of Chomsky who Pilger who have opposed this war because they've opposed every war in the past generation or two.

*****

Byrd got 78% in 2000. But...hang on a minute, Bush, unexpectedly, polled 52% to Gore's 46% in WV, and picked up five bonus electoral pts there.

*****

Interesting point. My first thoughts would be that several people have noted that he's into porkbarrelling and maybe he would have got a lower vote if he didn't porkbarrel his voters.

Or maybe Bush stole the nation rather than just Florida. :P

Posted by: Andjam at June 8, 2003 at 03:24 AM

Byrd is definitely one the most successful pork-barrel politicians; his favorite trick seems to be highway and bridge construction for his home-state, at least according to an old 60 Minutes from the mid-90s. Furthermore, West Virginia's habit of re-electing Byrd is self-perpetuating: having one of the most senior senators in DC gives W.V. a huge boost in theoretical power (especially when Dems are in power), so why lose it all by electing a rookie?

Put all the talk of the Klan or the senator's "eloquence" aside -- West Virginians vote for Byrd out of habit and out of being wed to the pork he brings them. It's certainly confusing, then, to see all the mass-hagiographing by certain quarters...

Posted by: Flynn at June 8, 2003 at 06:37 AM

What do you bet Media Watch goes soft on Mikkkey. And I never knew the KKK was a maintsream organisation in Byrd's generation: "Vile stuff, I grant you, although hardly uncommon in Americans of Byrd's generation. There is some evidence that Harry S. Truman was once a Klansman."

Posted by: erstplonk at June 8, 2003 at 09:15 AM

The Prince of Pork, Sen Byrd, proves an age old point; if the electorate places its faith in voting for a living instead of working for a living, it doesn't do you any good in the long run. West Virginia is, compared to States with fewer devotees of Pork, poor.

Posted by: Siltstone at June 8, 2003 at 10:06 PM

The New Republic (a liberal, albiet pro-war, US newsmagazine) ran a great overview of Byrd recently ("Inside Job", November 4, 2002), that can be accessed at: http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20021111&s=crowley111102

BTW, West Virginia is a dirt-poor state, but it rakes in tens of millions of dollars in federal funding (sometimes for things as trivial as a Center for the Study of Obesity)more than its residents pay out in taxes, and Byrd is the biggest reason for that discrepency. GW Bush, meanwhile, carried West Virginia by promising to uphold a steel tarrif that subsidized the local ecomony to the detriment of the rest of the US (and to the detriment of the US's standing as a proponent of open world markets). Hence, there is nothing inconsistent about West Virginian's embrace of both Bush and Byrd.

Posted by: Sean P at June 9, 2003 at 05:57 AM

Senator Byrd is EXCELLENT for the state of West Virginia - a state, ironically, that became such by splitting from pro-slavery, seccessionist Virginia in 1863. WVa has, in this American's opinion, probably the best roads in the country, thanks to Senator Byrd. Byrd is a fine Senator in general but his membership in the KKK deserves to be brought up time after time. It should haunt him and his state and all Democrats.

Posted by: Dave Violence at June 9, 2003 at 08:56 AM

Oh, and don't forget this charming little comment uttered during an interview on "Meet the Press" a few years back:

"There are white niggers. I've seen a lot of white niggers during my time--I'm going to use that word."

How many people wanna bet that Media Watch would have screamed bloody murder over that quote if Byrd had wound up supporting the war with Iraq?

Posted by: Sean P at June 9, 2003 at 10:05 AM

My predictions for tonight's MW.

They'll probably run with the Byrd story, as it'd look anomalous if it got mentioned by Carlton but MW didn't run a segment.

It probably won't mention Alan Ramsey and Margo Kingston also quoting Byrd.

It will probably buy Carlton's line about Byrd's membership of the KKK not having anything to do with his opposition to the war.

It may or may not mention some of Byrd's background since leaving the KKK.

I'll be pleasantly surprised if it credits Tim without some snarky comment or reference to that flag in the rubble thing.

Posted by: Andjam at June 9, 2003 at 11:19 AM

He's recanting in such a way as to make it seem like, hey, it's hardly a train wreck, LIGHTEN UP, guys, sheesh, anyone can make a mistake, etc. Whereas in fact it destroys his "moral argument" over the war. As if the continuing saga of mass graves all over Iraq didn't do that anyway.

The anti-war left has to face up to the fact that they do not occupy the moral high ground vis-a-vis the war. Quite the reverse. It's good to be anti-war when its unjust. It's bad to be anti-war when that is a righteous war that will relieve people of rule by terror.

Posted by: Dave F at June 9, 2003 at 09:03 PM

My predictions came true. MW lived down to my low expectations.

Posted by: Andjam at June 9, 2003 at 11:28 PM

"... said the fax, just a bit pompously."

His faxes talk? You Aussies, with your fancy new technology. Here in the U.S., we still have to read faxes.

(Normally I wouldn't be so nit-picky, but this guy is supposed to be a professional writer.)

Posted by: Ben at June 10, 2003 at 09:07 AM

Yeah - it uses OCR to identify the text and then uses a sound card to say it.

Posted by: Andjam at June 11, 2003 at 12:29 AM

I see a lot is being said about Senator Byrd and WV on here. So I thought I would say a little something since I am from WV. I see the reason for Senator Byrd getting so easily re-elected because his name is on almost every brige or building in this state..I almost get sick to my stomach I am so sick of seeing his name. I don't think the majority of the people in this state even care about elections. Just my opinion though. His being in the Klan is NEVER brought up around here. I didn't even know about it until a few years ago. He has been in the Senate so long that I think the people go in the voting booths see his name and automatically assume that he's the best choice since his name is on everything. Now I am not saying he hasn't done anything good for this State. His improvements to the interstate road system was definatly needed. I just don't agree with his affiliation to the KKK or some of the other bad decisions he has made on behalf of WV.

Posted by: Rachel at June 14, 2003 at 12:13 PM