Thursday, April 24, 2008

Willie Horton and Reverend Wright-Type Ads

These are ads that show despicable people who are black in an association, of one kind or another, with a candidate for office. The premise of the day is that these ads are racist. This premise rests upon the further premise that:

Showing such black people on TV, and linking them to a candidate, is racist.

But what is the basis for that premise? There are only two possibilities:


1. Blacks are a lowly race and linking them to the candidate wrongfully taints him by association to a lowly race.


2. The ad creator knows that many viewers of the ad incorrectly believe that blacks are a lowly race and will therefore decide not to vote for the candidate associated with blacks in the ad.

Now, #1 is a racist premise. So, anyone who objects to the Horton/Wright-type ads on its grounds is a racist. It shouldn't come as a surprise if many liberals fall under this category. So many of them practice the bigotry of low expectations (excusing Obama's attending a socially diseased church, for example, or refusing to accept that black people can make it on their own in this world, for another example.)

So, the non-racist alternative seems to be #2. But it rests upon a problematic premise. It assumes that it is the intent of the ad creator to influence racist viewers and not to influence viewers who prefer not to vote for candidates associated with despicable people. In fact, as the ads show despicable people linked to a candidate, it is simpler to assume that the ad creator wants to target viewers who don't want to vote for candidates who are linked to despicable people. To prove that the ad creator has the racist viewer in mind carries quite a burden when it's a matter of common sense that very many viewers will not like to vote for candidates who associate with despicable people. This is because not liking to vote for such candidates is itself a common-sense attitude. So, to assume that the target of Horton/Wright-type ads is people with common sense makes more sense than to assume that the target is racists.

In fact, it's a bit loopy to take #2 as the premise for viewing the Horton/Wright-type ads as racist. For this implies that if an ad creator is to escape the sin of racism, he may show only despicable white people, but no despicable black people, in any ad intended to denigrate a candidate by associating him with those people. This implies that any candidate who adores certain despicable people may not be criticized for it in any ad which shows the color of those people's skin if it is black skin. That's simply loopy. Think about it. Horton and Wright may not be shown. Because they're black. If they were white it would be okay. That's nutty.

So, if you think the Horton/Wright ads are racist, then either (#1) you are a racist or (#2) you are committed to a rather loopy premise.

UPDATE: A technical aside: #2 portrays the ad creator as a cynical race-baiter and therefore not a racist in the narrow sense of "racist"; #2 does not entail that the ad creator himself believes that blacks are a lowly race. However, there is an extended sense of the term in which the race-baiter is a racist. In that he is willing to stoke the fires of racism, he is a racist in this extended sense.