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"The Progressive" Defends Rev. Wright.--

In a magazine called "The Progressive," Ruth Conniff writes this anti-progressive article in defense of Rev. Wright:

Watching Jeremiah Wright's speech to the National Press Club Monday morning was both cathartic and alarming.

Cathartic because, after weeks of the endlessly repeated soundbites from his controversial sermons, which have been used to tar his former parishioner Barack Obama, Wright got to speak up for himself. He spoke plainly about racism, his own leftwing political point of view, and what he called, wryly, "this unknown phenomenon of the black church."

Much of what Wright said was absolutely true--yet too hot for white America, for the National Press Club, and for a mainstream U.S. Presidential campaign. It was not great for Obama, whom Wright hinted has distanced himself from his former minister only because he's "a politician" doing "what politicians do."

In his appearance on Bill Moyers' show Friday, as well as his Press Club speech, Wright blew away any hope the Obama campaign may have had that he would stay mum and let the storm of controversy he kicked up with his impolitic sermons pass.

Instead, Wright came out swinging, mocking the media for knowing nothing about the black church, for taking soundbites from his sermons out of context, and, basically, for being lazy and ignorant. . . .

At times he seemed cocky, clearly enjoying putting his Press Club hosts' noses out of joint and playing to the crowd of supporters. At times he seemed a little confused, saying both that Obama had and hadn't distanced himself from Wright within the space of a minute.

He talked a lot about reconciliation, but at the same time, in heated terms, he outlined the ugly history of racism in our country, from slavery to Jim Crow to the Klan to gross economic disparities today. There was a lot of anger visible under the surface of that tight smile. And, most alarmingly for the Obama campaign and its supporters, there was ample fodder for more endlessly recycled sound bites. Fox News will have a field day.

It was striking to hear the themes of Wright's speech: the criticism of U.S. militarism and imperialism, racial and economic injustice, the references to progressive figures from Cornel West to Jim Wallis, and watch the audience and the press corps react.

Most progressives, and even most Democrats, understand where Wright is coming from. Just as Bill Moyers made reference to his previous encounters with Wright and the friends they have in common, many of the touchstones of his politics are familiar to both black America and progressive America.

What will this mean for the rest of the nation?

To be sure, Wright's refusal to denounce Louis Farrakhan, his angry-sounding declaration that Farrakhan didn't put him in chains or "make me this color," his assertion that "yes, I believe our country is capable of doing anything" in answer to a question about whether he thinks the United States deliberately infected black people with AIDS will be held against him.

But the audience of his friends and supporters ate up his strikes back against what has surely been a racist and unfair campaign against him. Wright's 9/11 sermon, though it looks, in soundbite form, supremely insensitive, was actually a profoundly moving statement on the tragedy and on the desperate, destructive logic of revenge.

lostmycookies (mail):
Bla bla bla. We should draw this to a close by having David Duke run head-to-head against Obama. Winner takes all. Now that would be an election to remember!
4.29.2008 10:54pm
nicestrategyn (mail):
Yeah, most Democrats do know where Wright is coming from. So do most people with a rudimentary understanding of social history of the 20th century.

Even more know where he is now, which is beyond the pale in several respects. There are bits of truth mixed alongside bits of paranoid nonsense. The insinuation made by this post, that most progressives or Democrats kinda sorta want to agree with Wright's worldview, is bunk. Throwing around Peoples Republic of Berkeley type caricatures of the left is weak. And yes, I'm sure there are some things that Wright and liberals generally agree on that will turn off moderates and be anathema to conservatives, but that doesn't require bringing Wright into it just because he made a couple of self-serving public appearances in defense of his racial blinders.

People are complicated, Wright included. A resistance to labeling people as either good or evil based on some political litmus test should be a sign of distinction.
4.29.2008 10:56pm
Gaius Marius:
The above defense didn't work in the 1920s for Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" and it won't work today for the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
4.29.2008 11:04pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
The Progressive article shows exactly where the problem lies -- it is clearly written by a secularist who does not view the issue in terms of Christian thought. Wright plays well with Identity Christians (both of the aryan and black theologies) and with secularists who view things in terms of ideology divorced from theology. The Identity Christians agree with his theology. The secularists ignore the Christ part and only look to the ideology.

Most Christians, however, who live beyond Identity Christianity view this as anathema, and ideology-based excuses only make it worse.
4.29.2008 11:09pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Somehow, I'm betting that when the author of that piece heard Pat Robertson suggest that 9/11 was the result of a whole slew of our sins, she did not consider it a "profoundly moving statement on the tragedy and on the desparate, destructive forces of secularism."
4.29.2008 11:10pm
Diggity Steve (mail):
Thank you for demonstrating a pitch-perfect use Godwin's Law, Gaius. Thread ended.
4.29.2008 11:10pm
Gaius Marius:
Thank you for demonstrating a pitch-perfect use Godwin's Law, Gaius. Thread ended.

Bitte Schon!
4.29.2008 11:16pm
Ben P (mail):
I don't even know why I bother reading this anymore.

Next post please.
4.29.2008 11:22pm
frankcross (mail):
I think the New York Times nailed it: He doesn't hate America, he loves the sound of his own voice.
4.29.2008 11:29pm
jccamp:
If you're bored, go to "the Progressive" link in the thread, and skip down to the posts re: the article. Maybe that's a Hillary site, but I thought this place had a tough crowd.

I'm feeling much more progressive myself, now that I spent a few minutes over there.
4.29.2008 11:29pm
cjwynes (mail):
I read the entire transcript of his remarks to the press club. The only bit I thought was colossally stupid and indefensible was his response to the question about the gov't creating AIDS, and even there he hedged a little by saying the gov't is "capable" of it. The rest of it, while 90% bullshit, was well-grounded in his worldview, which is skewed but not as fringe as some have suggested. I've studied the antebellum south and am (at least, for a white guy) somewhat familiar with the history of the black church, and his interpretation of that history is IMHO a fair one. Nat Turner used to give sermons to the other slaves out in the woods, and they had alot of what would now be called "liberation theology" in them, albeit in a rudimentary form. Apart from the religious ideas he has, none of the political remarks he made (which were very few at the press club talk) or ever has made, including the notorious sermons, are anything you couldn't hear just sitting outside the sociology department at any major university these days... or printed in a "progressive" magazine.

Now I don't think it's going to do black Americans any good to sit around stewing over slavery and Jim Crow decades after the fact, waiting for an apology and a plate of Rice Crispies squares from the President. But if Wright refuses to just get over it, then that's his business, and he's hardly alone. I wouldn't want him or anybody who believes as he does to be president, but I could say that about alot of people.
4.29.2008 11:32pm
EH (mail):
cjwynes: I'd only add that the problem is that he's bringing up these topics. To the degree that race is brought into the race, it would seem the only non-controversial use is as a handicap, not as facts. Massa don't like no talkback.
4.29.2008 11:42pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
As another commenter on another blog noted, nobody has ever placed Rev. Wright in chains, and only God and his parents are responsible for the color of his skin.

He's a racist, pure and simple. He evaluates people primarily by their group identity, the color of their skin, rather than the content of their character. Simply by virtue of my being white, I am, in his mind, a participant in a conspiracy to keep him down. It is apparently an imperfect conspiracy, given his easy access to the national media and the posh house in the fancy, mostly-white neighborhood he lives in.

The piece does state some truths. This rhetoric is indeed familiar to most progressives. That's why the voters as a whole have decided not to let the progressives run the country.
4.29.2008 11:46pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
cjwines,

That some think that this is "not as fringe as some have suggested" is pretty much the problem. Fringe lunatics are being more and more accepted by the left and being presented as though their ideas were sane.
4.29.2008 11:50pm
Bored Lawyer:

none of the political remarks he made . . . or ever has made, including the notorious sermons, are anything you couldn't hear just sitting outside the sociology department at any major university these days... or printed in a "progressive" magazine.


Indeed.
4.29.2008 11:54pm
LM (mail):
nicestrategyn + frankcross = the truth.
4.29.2008 11:58pm
Matt_T:
Why has the left adopted the "progressive" label? Certainly there's not much progress on offer this election cycle and there hasn't been in the last few either.
4.30.2008 12:04am
Ben P (mail):

cjwines,

That some think that this is "not as fringe as some have suggested" is pretty much the problem. Fringe lunatics are being more and more accepted by the left and being presented as though their ideas were sane.


Funny, those on the left feel very much the same way about those on the right.

You might think any number of things about these people, but they see Tom Coburn suggesting half seriously that doctors who preform abortions be given the death Penalty, and they see Tom Tancredo suggesting we build a border wall that leaves Brownsville on Mexican side of the wall, and they see Jerry Falwell blaming Feminists and gays for 9/11, and they see a World View that is, to them, just as antithetical to their own as what Wright said is to yours.

But you might say, I don't believe any of those things and a lot of Republicans don't believe any of those things, but yet you share a party with some people who do.

Just because there's some loon out there (and why the hell does anyone who writes for this blog care about what THE PROGRESSIVE is writing anyway?) who agrees with you find insane doesn't mean everyone who disagrees with you about something agrees with them.
4.30.2008 12:08am
Ben P (mail):

nicestrategyn + frankcross = the truth.


QFT
4.30.2008 12:10am
Harry Eagar (mail):
I dunno what churches cjwines went to, but I'm a white southerner, and I went to black services quite a bit (for the gospel singing), and I never heard anything remotely like Jeremiah Wright.

I've never been to church in Chicago. Maybe it's different in the North.
4.30.2008 12:15am
therut:
Yep. Just as I thought. The leftists are showing their true nature to the average Joe and Jane. Finally.
4.30.2008 12:18am
Borealis:
Does anybody notice that Rev. Wright took "Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you" and turned it into "It is OK to do unto others as they have done to you."

The difference between those principles is what most religions, and most morality, is based on.
4.30.2008 12:29am
cubanbob (mail):
progressive, an another disguise for communist. enough said.
4.30.2008 12:31am
ArtEclectic (mail):
So, what is really more damaging to the country:

Crazy man in the White House saying deficits don't matter?
Or
Crazy man in the pulpit saying that government invented AIDS?


The difference? One sets policy and the other doesn't.
4.30.2008 12:34am
Gaius Marius:
So, what is really more damaging to the country:

Crazy man in the White House saying deficits don't matter?
Or
Crazy man in the pulpit saying that government invented AIDS?


What about the crazy man who regularly attended church for 20 years and only now discovers that his pastor/spiritual mentor/political Sith Lord is a racist lunatic?
4.30.2008 12:41am
Bruce:
"Progressive" is coming into vogue as an alternate name for liberals, but "The Progressive" magazine has been around since (and gets its name from) the original Progressives in the 1920s. It's the magazine that famously tried to publish details on how to make a nuclear bomb in I think the 1970s, which was enjoined for a time.
4.30.2008 12:59am
Elkglen-nli (mail):
Greenwald says:


Why the Jeremiah Wright story deserves more attention

I think the most important thing to note about the Jeremiah Wright Story is that we're a Nation plagued by exceedingly few significant problems; blessed with a quite healthy political culture and very trusted political and media institutions; composed of a citizenry that is peacefully content with its Government and secure and confident about their future; endowed with a supremely sturdy economic foundation free of debt and other grave economic afflictions; vested with the ability to command great respect and admiration from the other nations of the world; emancipated from the burdens of war and intractable conflicts which have toppled and destroyed so many other great nations of the past; and, most of all, we're becoming freer and more prosperous by the minute.

Not only that, but we have an extremely impressive, serious and honor-bound ruling imperial class devoted to the preservation of all of these blessings.

So it isn't as though we really have anything else to talk about besides Jeremiah Wright. There are some countries in the world -- probably most -- which have so many big problems that they could ill-afford to devote much time and energy to a matter of this sort. Thankfully, the United States isn't one of them. I believe it's critical that we keep that in mind as we discuss him for the next seven months.
4.30.2008 1:02am
Carolina:
I watched the BBC news tonight and the newsreader there described Wright as "a bit of a nutter" (I love how the Brits use the Queen's English, btw). I think many/most people would agree with that assessment.

The more important question, though, is what kind of person sits in the pews for 20 years listening to the "nutter," has the nutter officiate at his wedding, and sings the praises of the nutter in his book?

Even ignoring the substance of what Wright said over the years, is Obama so tone-deaf to the average middle-American's worldview that it took the press club speech to finally convince him to put some distance between them? What does that say about how out of touch Obama and your average American are?
4.30.2008 1:04am
Jim Rhoads (mail):
That Greenwald sure is an observant fellow, isn't he Elky?
4.30.2008 1:06am
David Sucher (mail) (www):
Hey lighten up, folks. Wright said some stupid things -- like just about everyone on this blog at some time or another. Stop all the faux shock as it is not very credible.
4.30.2008 1:23am
EH (mail):
This Wright thing is much more important than the McCain 100 Years.
4.30.2008 1:41am
llamasex (mail) (www):
Wright Watch day 3

I demand to that his college dissertation be made Public. It is important to know what Obama's preacher was thinking before I make my vote on this election.
4.30.2008 1:56am
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
I think the bit about the way "black folks thing" versus the way "qwhite folks think" was the most astonishing. Go back and look at it: he said, in so many words, although slightly different ones, that black people really don't handle logic well, have natural rhythm, and can't learn to sit at a desk and behave well in class. Pretty much all the stuff my great grandfather Jefferson Davis Martin would have said back in Georgia.
4.30.2008 2:05am
Dave N (mail):
David Sucher,

I may have said my share of dumb things on this blog--but when I have never demagogued like Jeremiah Wright or ever said anything so patently offensive. And when I thought MY pastor WAS demagoguing, I changed churches.

So please stop the equivalency when none really exists. You usually make much better arguments.
4.30.2008 2:48am
Dave N (mail):
And some idiot at the Nation agreed with Wright as well.

The author of the Nation piece even argues, that Wright "is the opposite of the caricature of an angry, America-hating false prophet that has been so crudely attached to him."

To which I respond, "Are you smoking crack or what?"
4.30.2008 3:59am
wuzzagrunt (mail):
Charlie wrote:

I think the bit about the way "black folks thing" versus the way "qwhite folks think" was the most astonishing. Go back and look at it: he said, in so many words, although slightly different ones, that black people really don't handle logic well, have natural rhythm, and can't learn to sit at a desk and behave well in class. Pretty much all the stuff my great grandfather Jefferson Davis Martin would have said back in Georgia.

Apparently, the idea that the natural talents and inclinations blacks cause them to excel in professional sports and the entertainment industry, while whites possess natural talents for math and science, is what now passes for "progressive" thought. Who knew? I guess the goons over at Stormfront can now call themselves progressives. They hate America, too.
4.30.2008 5:24am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Those of us who don't know him can only speculate as to what Wright's game is. It does seem that he's trying to destroy BHO's candidacy who so far has put on a poor response. BHO is a day late and a dollar short if he thinks he's contained the PR disaster on his hands.

So why does Wright continue to come across as a nut, sort of a black version of Huey Long? His attitude could spring from an insular existence where he meets so little confrontation that's he just flew off into the gamma quadrant. There's a saying: "A fish doesn't know he's wet."
4.30.2008 7:46am
BlueBear (mail):
This string up of Rev. Wright is typical blame-the-victim B.S. Is it really so shocking that a victim of racist terror should entertain beliefs that they have been the target of various government conspiracies to harm them? when they have been the target of government conspiracies to harm them. Tuskegee, anyone? Wrights views are colored by his ongoing experience of racist violence and discrimination. Duh! You brutalize the victim and then feign surprise when she feels paranoid. Grow up!
4.30.2008 8:54am
Falafalafocus (mail):
BlueBear:

What?

Even if this was just about Rev. Wright (it's not, but it's no use explaining that at this point), your argument doesn't wash. I will assume that Reverend Wright was a "victim of racist terror" as I have not studied the man's history and know only that he has publicly stated that he was recently a slave, in chains, and had a certain skin color (though not by the doings of Minister Farrakhan).

Please enlighten me though: exactly why should his history give him a licence to preach as he does from the pulpit?
4.30.2008 9:36am
BlueBear (mail):
FocusOnTheFamily,

I never said that Wright has a license to "preach as he does from the pulpit?" I don't even know what that vague phrase means. Please enlighten me.
4.30.2008 9:50am
Crimso:

Wrights views are colored by his ongoing experience of racist violence and discrimination. Duh! You brutalize the victim and then feign surprise when she feels paranoid. Grow up!

So since Reginald Denny was beaten for being white, I can become a preacher and preach white supremacist garbage? I'm sure that'll fly. Perhaps Wright can explain to everyone the terror that has been inflicted upon him. Him personally. I'll bet you a month's salary that I can come up with as many personal incidents in my life. Then he and I can compare personal assets. Only a lunatic would be able to look at that and say that he's oppressed and I'm his oppressor. Face it. The emperor has no clothes. All of you who insist he's dressed to the nines should sober up.
4.30.2008 10:12am
Gaius Marius:
This string up of Rev. Wright is typical blame-the-victim B.S. Is it really so shocking that a victim of racist terror should entertain beliefs that they have been the target of various government conspiracies to harm them? when they have been the target of government conspiracies to harm them. Tuskegee, anyone? Wrights views are colored by his ongoing experience of racist violence and discrimination. Duh! You brutalize the victim and then feign surprise when she feels paranoid. Grow up!

Bluebear, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright is not a victim, he is an opportunist and a lunatic race-baiter in the same league as members of the KKK.
4.30.2008 10:37am
Gary McGath (www):
Why "anti-progressive"? Wright stands for Progressivism at its purest: Victimology, racism, denunciations of anyone who disagrees as "ignorant."
4.30.2008 11:39am
whit:
"The insinuation made by this post, that most progressives or Democrats kinda sorta want to agree with Wright's worldview, is bunk"

most democrats? probably not.

most progressives? imo, yes.

go over to democraticunderground.com

wright "speaks the truth", the truth that dumb "murcans" won't realize, bla bla bla

that's the conclusion. over and over again. i've even seen threads from atheists saying "im an atheist but i would join his church" etc.

if you want to know what progressives think you go where they talk to each other.

progressives LOVE wright.

essentially, many say that wright may hurt obama, but that's because americans are too stupid to understand his pearls of wisdom.
4.30.2008 11:56am
Falafalafocus (mail):

FocusOnTheFamily,

I never said that Wright has a license to "preach as he does from the pulpit?" I don't even know what that vague phrase means. Please enlighten me.

I presume that this was directed towards me. Allow me to connect the dots:

It is reported that Rev. Wright has, at best, highly objectionable ideological positions that he advocates during his sermons.

When those positions are brought into light, you shrug it off as "typical blame-the-victim B.S." You further asked, "Is it really so shocking that a victim of racist terror should entertain beliefs that they have been the target of various government conspiracies to harm them?" You conclude by explaining, "You brutalize the victim and then feign surprise when she feels paranoid. Grow up!"

Your rant thus reads as follows: 1) Rev. Wright suffered racism in his past. 2) Therefore his own racism and anti-americanism is excused even if he preaches this ideology from the pulpit to a congregation as if it were theology. 3) Anyone who refuses to excuse the Reverend is therefore childish.

I thought my question was simple, so I will ask it again:

Why does 2 follow from 1? Better yet, in what universe ("grown up" or otherwise) does 2 ever excuse 1?
4.30.2008 1:30pm
Bruce:
Wright stands for Progressivism at its purest: Victimology, racism, denunciations of anyone who disagrees as "ignorant."

It's a good thing VC comment threads don't often devolve into pointless name-calling.
4.30.2008 1:36pm
MXE (mail):
I think the bit about the way "black folks thing" versus the way "qwhite folks think" was the most astonishing. Go back and look at it: he said, in so many words, although slightly different ones, that black people really don't handle logic well, have natural rhythm, and can't learn to sit at a desk and behave well in class. Pretty much all the stuff my great grandfather Jefferson Davis Martin would have said back in Georgia.

It's certainly obvious that if a white person so much as touched this idea with a 10-foot pole, the shit would hit the fan. (Cf. Lawrence Summers.)

I think people are a little overly touchy about this sort of thing, but it is still an incorrect and stupid stereotype, and I'm amazed that left-leaning publications won't call Wright on it.
4.30.2008 1:59pm
HipposGoBerserk (mail):
"What about the crazy man who regularly attended church for 20 years and only now discovers that his pastor/spiritual mentor/political Sith Lord is a racist lunatic?"

One who attends a church to appease his believing wife. Any of the priests at the parishes my wife has taken me to could be as loopy as Wright and I'd have no idea even though I am regularly present when they preach. For all I know Obama is simply being politically polite to the superstitious majority in this country.
4.30.2008 5:07pm