Snapshot. Black and white.

October 26th, 2011

I remember a Playboy Magazine short story dating from the 50s or early 60s. It had to do with racism, and the only image I recall was of people walking through a zoo (presumably in the year 2000) in which the last remaining bigots were in cages. They shook the bars and hooted at passersby, calling out “Spic!. Nigger!, Kike!” and all manner of nastiness. The people strolled among the exhibits in amused bewilderment as they dodged clods of thrown feces. Racists, so long purged from society, were no longer anything but an anthropological freak show.

As I’ve reflected on this scene over the years, one racist on display has slowly come into focus. Whether the magazine story had an illustration I don’t recall, but I have filled in the frame with a black and white shot of an angry, supercilious, dark-haired, middle-aged man sneering through the bars. Somewhere in the past two decades the image has become clear. He is Pat Buchanan. It was as if the story had been written with him in mind, long before any of us knew who he was.

In 1992 Buchanan was the keynote speaker at the Republican Presidential Convention. His dire warning was of an America falling into the grasp of communist evildoers. Liberals called it the “Hatefest in Houston.” Molly Ivins said, “it probably sounded better in its original German.”

Pat’s been on all manner of talk shows and forums over the years since his service in the Nixon/Agnew White House. The criminal Spiro Agnew’s angry words were written by Buchanan. “Effete intellectuals” caught fire, but the line for the ages was, “Nattering nabobs of negativism.” Nabobs sent me to the dictionary, thus proving eloquence can be delivered by any source. In this case, cheap insults spat up by a known bribe-taker. Never has “vice” in the title “vice president” meant more.

I wish I had kept it, but five years ago I scratched a mustache with a black marker on Pat Buchanan’s picture in Newsweek. It was not a cheap-shot Hitler mustache, either. It was a Stalin mustache. It made Buchanan look as much like Stalin as the tea-brains made Obama look like Hitler.

On his book tour for “Suicide of a SuperPower,” Buchanan appeared on a radio show called “The Political Cesspool.” It calls itself Pro-White and says in its literature that “America would not be as prosperous, ruggedly individualistic, and a land of opportunity if the founding stock were not Europeans.” Take that you crybabies who’ve been brought up on the 14th amendment.

It would be unfair to castigate a man because he appeared on a wretched radio show, but Buchanan inspires that kind of unfairness in me. I have to accept that some individuals short-circuit the fair-play neurons in my reptilian hindbrain. Yes, I can go pretty low. But can I go this low? “Forty-nine of every fifty muggings and murders in New York are the work of minorities. That might explain why black folks have trouble getting a cab. Every New York cabby must know the odds, should he pick up a man of color at night.” Mmm-hmmm. This statistic presupposes the accuracy of the findings by Heather MacDonald, a conservative “scholar” who thinks that food stamps are a sign of wicked dependence in society.

MSNBC is being encouraged to fire Pat Buchanan. Frankly, I think it would be more useful to retain him. To allow him to appear on Hardball, Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell. Because a person appears frequently on a show does not (FoxNews excepted) mean that you endorse him or her. NPR’s firing of Juan Williams, whose breach of political correctness was infinitesimal, annoyed me a great deal. Buchanan’s Mein Kampf is undoubtedly a load of unmitigated dogshit, but keeping him off the air will not quell the stench. Only challenges from commentators willing to do battle will serve the public.

I’m looking at a black and white snapshot of Pat Buchanan taken in the early 1960s, when he was a student in Columbia’s School of Journalism. He looks friendly and faintly embarrassed to be wearing a coat and tie. He could be me, or you, or your dad or brother or uncle. But he’s not. Unless the men in your family are a racist pricks.





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