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Denounce or be damned

July 14, 2010 | 11:54 am
I'm not an apologist for the Tea Party movement, but I've seen no evidence that the movement is pervaded by racism. Certainly, it's predominantly white, and certainly it has attracted some racist nuts. (Along with some non-racist ones. A billboard comparing President Obama to Hitler and Lenin is crazy, but it's not racist.)

Still, I see a fairness problem with the NAACP's resolution calling upon Tea Party leaders to "repudiate those in their ranks who use racist language in their signs and speeches." (The quote is from an NAACP press release which does not provide the text of the resolution.)

Calling on an organization to denounce abhorrent behavior by some of its devotees may seem reasonable. But it implies that the extremists/bigots/bombers are a sufficiently significant component of the organization that such a gesture is necessary.

It's a clever rhetorical device that anyone can use to put a movement or a cause on the defensive, and it often serves the ulterior motive of discrediting the organization through guilt by association. In the case of the NAACP and the Tea Party, it had another negative consequence: more publicity for Sarah Palin.

-- Michael McGough


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