The question/allegation, of course, is "Are you a racist?" / "You are a racist!" And over the last couple of weeks, the guy the question/allegation has been most visibly put to in the right-wing blogosphere is The Other McCain. For a wee bit of background, see here. McCain's latest riposte is here.
At the beginning of this cage match, my natural inclination was to cheer Stacy on. I've met him -- hell, I've spent a couple of days stuffed in a van with him. He's a nice guy, personable, and while I strongly disagree with his notion that a Peckerwood Populism of the Bob Barr / Wayne Allyn Root variety -- a marriage of convenience between libertarianism and "states rights" conservatism -- is either workable or desirable (here's my own brief take on the possibility of a libertarian populism), he didn't strike me as a racist.
The fact that McCain's primary interrogator/accuser is Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs made it easier to assume the righteousness of McCain's cause. If you're not familiar with LGF, try to imagine a massively multi-player online simulation of Saddam Hussein's old Ba'athist regime in Iraq, with Johnson cast as The Leader. He's omnipresent and demands the worship of his subjects. He and his Baghdad Bobs "disappear" internal dissidents, brandish the equivalent of WMD (allegations of racism, for example) at external enemies, and spend a good deal of their time marching up and down the public square in their fancy uniforms. It's a disgusting display, and the temptation is always present to assume that the enemy of LGF is, if not necessarily a friend/comrade, at least worthy of sympathy and support.
And then, of course, there's the whole "cage match" angle. As McCain puts it, "Being Notorious Is Not the Same as Being Famous, But It's Better Than Being Anonymous." He loves a good blogosphere food fight, he can run smack with the best of'em, and his World Wrestling Entertainment®-like approach produced more than a million hits in his first year of blogging, with the smart money on another two million before his second year is done. So, he has an incentive to milk this kind of stuff for every hit it's worth.
In terms of actual content, McCain's response to the question/allegation seems to me to have been of the "dance around it" variety ... and now I notice that that mode of response goes way back to long before the Charles Johnson episode.
Time machine time. First, let us take a giant leap all the way back to 2002, when Michelangelo Signorile, writing in New York Press, attributed the following quote to McCain:
"[T]he media now force interracial images into the public mind and a number of perfectly rational people react to these images with an altogether natural revulsion. The white person who does not mind transacting business with a black bank clerk may yet be averse to accepting the clerk as his sister-in-law, and THIS IS NOT RACISM, no matter what Madison Avenue, Hollywood and Washington tell us."
So far as I can tell, every time McCain is confronted with this alleged quote, things get weird. The venue of said confrontation suddenly turns into a 1950s Jitterbug contest. McCain calls his accusers liars. He invokes the wrath of God. He proclaims his personal righteousness and portrays himself as the long-suffering victim of lesser men. In at least one case -- listen to the MP3 coming up -- he seems to deny that he wrote it ... but not exactly. He certainly denies that he posted it on a web site ("Reclaiming the South") operated by "white separatist" Dennis Wheeler, as Signorile claims, but at least one variant of the allegation claims that while he didn't post it, he did in fact write it (in a "private" email discussion which Wheeler re-posted to the site).
Fast-forward to 2006 and a phone call from McCain to the Alan Colmes radio show [hat tip and file hotlink -- John Amato at Crooks & Liars]:
You know, I never in my life imagined myself calling Robert Stacy McCain this, but there's no other word for it: Clintonesque. I mean, WTF, Stacy? In fairness, it does sound like he may have been ambushed when he thought he was calling in to discuss another topic, but the RS McCain I know is pretty quick on his feet.
I'm no Charles Johnson. I don't excommunicate people from my blog for disagreeing with me or failing in their duty of reverence and worship (nor do I believe that anyone would give a damn if I did). Nor am I Torquemada -- if McCain doesn't want to answer my questions, there won't be any tongs, pincers or breakings on wheels.
I am, however, going to quote Stephen from Braveheart in relation to the matter: "The Almighty says quit changing the subject and answer the fuckin' question[s] [or quit styling yourself the victim]." Stacy:
- Did you write that?
- If so, could you -- pretty please with sugar on top -- explain it to the 90% or so of people who would read it as a racist statement, albeit one followed by a statement that it isn't? Put it in its greater context if there is one, for example, or explain that you were quoting someone else by way of disagreeing with them, or whatever?
- If not, could you please explain (to the extent that you may know) who did write it and how it came to be attributed to you by Signorile et. al.?
Inquiring minds want to know, and I mean that. Unlike some others, I'm not leaping to conclusions. I'd like to understand what's going on here.