The Radical Center
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The Radical Center

Art and Racism: An Unlikely Comparison

Understanding art may help us understand racism. Consider philosopher/novelist Ayn Rand argued art is a “selective re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value-judgments.”

An artist has to pick and choose what to include or not include. Rand seemed to see this as particular to artists but not to other professions. I think the definition fits a wider group than she originally thought. She thought a reporter printing facts is not being an artist but a journalist. But, the reporter, like the artist, betrays his own values in his reporting.

In any story there are an array of facts from which one can choose; which facts you think important, and which you think unimportant, is determined by your values.

Here is what made me think about this. I saw a headline in the sleazy British tabloid, The Daily Mail. It said something about a “transgendered babysitter arrested for child abuse.”

I looked at the headline and wondered why it mentioned the babysitter was transgender. Consider a similar headline: “Jewish babysitter arrested.” The reader would find the reference to Jewish particularly odd, as it has nothing to do with the fact a child was cruelly punished and died. That is, the babysitter did not kill because she was Jewish, nor did she kill because she was transgendered. The selective mentioning of her being transgender, as opposed to other characteristics such as her race, is because the Daily Mail appeals to bigots of all sorts and this reference attracts their attention.

That caused me to remember the racist group the Conservative Citizens Council, a group the disgusting Sam Francis was involved with. It used to be called the White Citizen’s Council if you didn’t know. So I went to their site and looked at their headlines. Virtually all of them mention race or is a story about race.

They ONLY report crimes of blacks harming white victims, never the other way around. In fact, most criminals and most victims are of the same race. You wouldn’t know it from their reporting. They selectively report black-on-white crime because that is the only crime that is important according to their “values.” In this case their values are race hatred.

The anti-Semites (and this group is anti-Semitic as well) would report on a Jewish man who raped a woman. Of course, very few Jewish men rape anyone. But, that is not how Der Stürmer of Nazi fame reported things. If you believed their selective recreation of reality all criminals were Jewish and all victims were poor innocent, blond-haired, blue-eyed Germans.

If you damn rapists in all cases then your values are anti-rape. But, if you damn rape when conducted by black men, and say nothing when it is committed by white good ol’ boys, it isn’t rape you hate its blacks.

If you have a strong stomach and can listen to the endless bullshit that comes out of the mouth of the current president of the United States you’d think all criminals were “illegal immigrants.” In reality, immigrants, whether legal or not, have lower crime rates than native-born citizens. Recently Trump lied and claimed there are some 300 victims of immigrants per week!

It’s a pure invention, a lie told to idiots who have abandoned rational thought in favor of having some authoritarian leader telling them what to believe. Consider that to have 300 victims per week would mean 15,600 murders by immigrants per year. Total homicides in 2017 was 17,284 — down slightly from 2016. Trump is falsely asserting that 90% of all homicides are committed by immigrants — something law enforcement knows is a lie.

Previously Trump claimed, again falsely, that 63,000 Americans were murdered by immigrants since 9/11. If that were true, and there is no evidence it is, it would mean one-third of all homicides are committed by immigrants — a far cry from Trump’s current lie how 90% are. Trump simply borrowed a lie by self-proclaimed white supremacist Steve King. Not only did Trump lie about the problem he claimed, “it’s getting bigger.” In fact, he then claimed the 63,000 figure is actually much higher “because things aren’t reported.” Actually, of all crimes, homicides tend to be most thoroughly reported — it’s hard to hide murders. It’s not like paying off Playboy models in order to deceive voters.

If Trump is to be believed — something that gets harder and harder to do with each lie he tells — somewhere between one-third and 90% of all homicides are committed by immigrants. Yet, there is no evidence any of this is true.

This is the problem I have with some critics of anti-discrimination laws. They will damn the laws when used by a gay victim of discrimination, but say nothing about religious groups using these laws all the time. Their problem is with gays more than with the laws. Similarly some damn it when used by blacks, but say nothing about other cases. Religious claims of discrimination are more numerous than cases dealing with sexual orientation. But, you wouldn’t know it from the howls from the Religious Right. They only talk about these laws when used by gays. They don’t have problems with the laws; they have problems with people being gay.

Selective claims, that ignore the bulk of the facts, are very enlightening — not because they tell us anything about the facts being discussed, but because of what they reveal about the one making the assertion. In the world of David Duke all criminals are black, because Duke hates blacks. In the world of Der Stürmer all criminals were Jewish because the Nazis hated Jews. In the world of the Religious Right, gays are the problem since they hate gays. And in the twisted narcissistic world of Donald Trump all criminals are Hispanic because Trump hates Hispanics.

Your selection of facts — or invention of them, like art, betrays your values.

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A blog for the Moorfield Storey Institute: a liberaltarian think tank.

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James Peron

James Peron

James Peron is the president of the Moorfield Storey Institute, was the founding editor of Esteem a LGBT publication in South Africa under apartheid.

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