Let's Make One Thing Perfectly Clear: I Am Not A Racist Bigot. I Am A Cultural Bigot.
You're probably familiar with the "Kinsley Gaffe," defined by the man for whom the term is named as what happens when a politician tells some obvious truth that he really shouldn't utter. An example would be Gordon Brown's description of a bigoted woman as "a sort of bigoted woman," a truth that immeasurably assisted Brown in his quest for promotion from Prime Minister to United Nations Special Envoy for Education.
So far as I know, there is no shorthand term for a gaffe in which a public figure tells what he believes to be a truth, which in fact only reveals some unpleasant truth about the speaker himself. That's what Washington Post editorialist Richard Cohen has done in a disastrous column published Monday, where Cohen wrote that "[p]eople with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children," and further in yesterday's attempts to clean up the mess he made, in which Cohen, complaining that people accusing him of racism and calling for his job just don't get it, revealed himself to be not a racist bigot, but a cultural bigot, a race-baiting hack, and a buffoon.
I'd like to offer the term "Cohenism" for this sort of gaffe.
Cohen begins with the standard lament that those demanding his head are taking him out of context. He didn't mean to say that conventional people (meaning most Americans including the New Yorkers who elected Bill DeBlasio mayor) become nauseous at the thought of an interacial couple, even though that's precisely what he said.
What he meant to say is, well, let's let Cohen speak for himself:
I don’t understand it …. What I was doing was expressing not my own views but those of extreme right-wing Republican tea party people. I don’t have a problem with interracial marriage or same-sex marriage. In fact, I exult in them. It’s a slander…
Ah, it's those extreme-right-wing Republican tea party people who blow chunks at the thought of the mayor of New York defiling his race with a dusky skinned woman. Though Cohen, with his layers of fact-checkers and editors, could not be bothered to name a single-extreme-right-wing Republican tea party person who disapproves of the mayor's marriage. Because it just goes without saying that they do. After all, they're … people with conventional views.
You know … diesel mechanics in Cincinnati, farmers in Iowa, Best Buy assistant managers in Bakersfield, English teachers in Alabama. Flyover people in flyover country…
The middle class.
People who could never get into the sort of swanky parties that award-winning Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen attends in midtown Manhattan, rubbing shoulders with the lettered, where they positively exult over interracial and same sex marriage, and over these arugula canapes Leon got from a caterer in the Village, and this magnificent Côtes du Rhône that cost $200.00 a bottle.
What I meant to say was, Richard Cohen cares for and respects the middle class. Richard Cohen is not an elitist asshole who spits on his readers. Richard Cohen wants affordable health care and decent jobs for everyone in flyover country America, and anyone who says different is a NAZI!
I think it’s reprehensible to say that because you disagree with something that you should fire me. That’s what totalitarians do.
I am about to send this email to the Washington Post:
To the editors:
It was disappointing to read Richard Cohen's Monday bloviation to the effect that the majority of the Post's readers ("people with conventional views") become sick to their stomachs when contemplating the biracial children of Mayor Bill DeBlasio. Sheltered as he is in his Manhattan enclave, Mr. Cohen perhaps is unaware that race relations outside Tribeca have improved greatly since the dark days of Jim Crow. It seems that Mr. Cohen has lost all touch with the America he writes about. Accordingly, I suggest that perhaps it is time to put Mr. Cohen out to pasture as a columnist emeritus, allowing him to retire into the sunset with his generous pension and the grateful memories of readers who recall the days when Mr. Cohen was sane.
Another example of Richard Cohen's unconventional thinking: He endorses random, suspicionless police searches of black and latino American citizens, because "Stop-and-Frisk" saves lives.
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