Walking like a panther

by Dave Weigel

My post on Megyn Kelly's one-woman-and-a-network war against the Obama DOJ over the New Black Panthers has inspired some smart criticism, led by David Freddoso.

I am surprised at the apparent lack of self-awareness in Dave’s post. I’m not going to say I haven’t enjoyed his wall-to-wall coverage of the “birther” movement, but tell me: Just how is it different from this? There are superficial differences. For example, surely fewer Americans share the Black Panther ideology than remain muddle-headed about Barack Obama’s birth certificate. But the last time I checked, Orly Taitz hadn’t threatened to kill anyone on camera, tried to scare anyone away from a polling place, or received preferential treatment from Barack Obama’s (or anyone else’s) Department of Justice.

Actually, I dealt with this issue, or tried to, in an earlier post about why not to indulge conspiracy theories about Trig Palin. I don't want to quote myself, but Birtherism is a fairly popular conspiracy theory at this point, advanced at times by popular conservative voices like G. Gordon Liddy and Frank Gaffney, and advanced to convince critics of President Obama that their commander-in-chief is illegitimate. Taitz has represented a soldier who declined to serve under President Obama because he claimed that the commander-in-chief was not a citizen, and both the lawyer and the soldier worked to spread this myth. And we live in a weird media world now, where people can pick a news diet of stuff like Alex Jones and WorldNetDaily, and become certain that the media is hiding the real truth about their president's legitimacy. It's a problem -- Mark Levin and Glenn Beck refuse to let "birthers" on their shows for that reason.

To answer Freddoso's last three points:

- The video of the Panthers "threatening to kill" is taken from days before the election, from a documentary about their antics, and the threat is obviously impotent -- King Samir Shabazz is just mouthing off. These morons have never actually committed violent acts.

- The scary tape of the Panthers pulling their stupid stunt features voters or volunteers walking freely into the polling place behind them.

- We don't know that the Panthers got "preferential treatment" -- this was a "voter intimidation" case where no voter came forward to say he was intimidated.

James Taranto had a smart response, too, although at the end he loses the plot a bit, comparing my use of the term "minstrel show" to New York Times columnist Charles Blow's use of it in describing black entertainers at a tea party.

Weigel's invocation of "minstrelsy" rankles. The headline's reference to "Megyn Kelly's Minstrel Show" seems completely out of place, since neither Kelly nor Powers (nor an unidentified brunette who makes a cameo) is wearing blackface. Now maybe Weigel didn't write the headline and meant only to suggest, as he does in the text, that Shabazz, in the Hannity interview, was acting as a minstrel.

I wrote the headline, and Taranto is right -- I was referring to Shabazz. When Fox invites the NBPP on, it's giving viewers the image of clownish angry black men in military outfits and telling them -- against all evidence -- that they represent some real political or protest force. Michael Moynihan brings up a good comparison in his post on this, pointing out that the Swedish press sometimes spotlights the antics of the Westboro Baptist Church, the despicable people who protest funerals (including the funerals of soldiers), and inform readers that they're more than a fringe group despised by basically everyone in America.