In Archie’s Bunker

When I was a kid back in the 70′s, it was easy to believe that racism in America was on the way out; no one I knew, and certainly no one I respected, was openly racist unless they were old, dumb, and/or ignorant.  Racism still existed, of course, but it was as embarrassing in polite company as it was passe’…  Archie Bunker was an object of ridicule, and perhaps because the only real person I knew that was an unapologetic racist was my crazy grandmother, Etta, I figured that the whole concept would die a deserved death with the passing of her generation, and I naturally hoped that would be soon.  (Especially in Etta’s case…)  I remember how aghast I was when I asked my snoopy neighbor, Mrs. Boutin, who never missed anything, whether she saw anyone take one of our bicycles, and she replied, “Well, I didn’t seen any negroes around that day.”  I wanted to say, “Well, you bigoted old biddy, that means a WHITE person must have stolen it, but that wouldn’t have been as interesting to you as counting my mother’s wine bottles in the garbage or talking to Etta about how horrible we all were.”  But I was not as outspoken in those days.

Still, this was the era in which Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” was still successful in getting crooked and rapacious Republicans elected, and Karl Rove and Lee Atwater were eagerly devising a strategy to keep America racist, at least until the next election, even as corporate America and the media, ever anxious not to lose a sale to irrational hatred, were abandoning the racist ship in droves.  When I got to college in the early 80′s, this belated awareness of the real world was rapidly being transformed, rhetorically at least, into a supposedly stifling “political correctness” that magically transformed white bigots into beleagured minorities themselves (which they were in a sense) who suffered under the heavy hand of an imagined “elite” bent on keeping the white trash, er, man, down.  With the rise of right-wing publishing, Etta acolytes like Charles Murray and Dinesh D’Souza were allowed to publish absurd eugenecist garbage that differed only from “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” by their chosen targets, and soon, with the addition of gays and others, the Republican party essentially reconstituted itself as a hate group.

The political neccessity of this move was and is hard to question; selling economic royalism of the sort FDR so successfully defeated isn’t easy, but I’m continually horrified how easy it still is.  What makes a person so hateful, dumb, and insecure that they think their baleful station in life is caused by relatively powerless minorities, rather than by the people (all white) laughing their way to the bank?  Every social program, no matter how useful, or even paltry in the scheme of things, became a treacherous handout to some darkie or other and the cause of high taxes; every economic reversal made to enrich the overclass could somehow be blamed on “Welfare Queens.”  Nice work if you can get it.

Unfortunately, the rise of the right wing media and the politicians it glorified, coupled with the decline in status of all the non-rich that necessarily followed that development, created a climate where people were so willing to believe such nonsense that the Republicans could no longer resist stoking the flame further, and Lee Atwater’s dog whistles morphed into the Freeper foghorn we hear today.  The targets broadened:  African Americans were joined by “illegal immigrants” and any other minority that was handy; soon the racism of the right was as broad, complex, and all-encompassing as Etta’s; no one except white, preferably small-town “Christian” types were immune from the vehement but inchoate hate that had been nurtured like the plant in “Little Shop of Horrors” all those years.

Then came Sept. 11.  Now, in addition to the usual suspects, the right had found an even better enemy, one much more numerous, but still personally unknown to much of the Archie Bunker “base.”  It was like an early Christmas to those who would use racism to exploit, rob, and distract suffering Americans, and it would, as a bonus, involve costly wars, ridding ouselves of hated civil liberties, and make racism seem necessary, rather than just good fun, and would be much less problematic for the military/media/industrial complex to exploit, given the fact that it was so deliciously, as Etta would have put it, “foreign.”  Muslims had just the right combination of outsiderdom that Hispanics and Blacks were rapidly losing, and better yet, weren’t even (gasp!) Christian.  Who could ask for more?

By now, of course, the right had so broken down the barriers to irrational racial hatred that Michelle Malkin could call for internment, Ann Coulter could call for outright genocide, and many paler (no pun intended) imitators could revive the unoriginal idea of complete segregation at airports and elsewhere, and get booked on TV to say so, repeatedly, as the right has all this week, in the wake of the Underpants Bomber.

William Faulkner once said, “The past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past,” and Etta, if she were watching Fox News, rather than Archie Bunker, on her Quasar console all these years later, would have to agree.  In between nibbles on her Flaky Flix, she’d say, “That Candy Crowley reminds me of me.”


  1. retzilian says:

    I still maintain that this neo-racism is working mainly with people over age 55 or 60, other than the token neocon youngsters/brownshirts in the Republican party who were raised by frothing racists.

    This strategy will not be effective with younger Boomers or X-Generation, never mind the Y-Gen, who are being raised by X-Gens and young boomers. It’s a temporary tempest in a teapot, so I don’t get too excited about it. This new bigotry is geared toward the people who were already closet bigots – the dwindling far-right and white trash who don’t represent enough votes to matter.

    • cocktailhag says:

      That seems to coincide with my experience with my nephews and their friends. They attend diverse inner-city schools, and their friends are of all races. They make fun of racism; it seems so anachronistic and irrelevant to them, since a lot of their parents are interracial couples, and they themselves are hybrids.

  2. retzilian says:

    And, Also, the bigots who are spouting this bigotry on TV are white trash with money. You can put a bigot into a nice suit and give him a staff and a driver, but you can’t wash the trash out of his head.

    Besides the fact (at least for me it’s a fact) that these people are phonies and liars – they aren’t really afraid of terr-ists, they don’t even seriously believe most of what they spew – it’s all political fear-mongering designed to claw back to power and reclaim their majority.

    It’s all BS. Have they quit flying commercial? Have they hired bodyguards? Have they sent their nannies, gardeners, and other domestic servants to the INS? Hardly.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Well, the problem is that they convince white trash that their ignorant fears are legitimate and worthy of public airing. Of course, that may not be such a problem after all, because it drives away potential allies/voters who are embarrassed to be associated with such claptrap.

  3. nailhead tom says:

    Probably can’t hurt to start with the basics, since you’re obviously ignorant of them. Essays, written articles meant to prove some sort of a point, are structured as follows:

    1. A strong thesis statement with logical supporting points.

    2. Body paragraphs that discuss the supporting points in the order they are mentioned in the thesis statement.

    3. Good transitions between paragraphs.

    4. A conclusion which summarizes what has been said in the body of the paper.

    5. Appropriate diction and tone.

    It doesn’t hurt to have a semblance of logical, maybe even original, thinking as well. Just as the wonder of the internet has allowed the universal dissemination of shallow and erroneous thought expressed poorly, it has enabled the instant and effective criticism of that thought and expression. At one time denizens of such widely separated communities as Greenland and New Guinea would be forever unaware of your pointless ramblings, now everybody in the world has the potential to be unimpressed by them. That’s progress, I guess.

    • dirigo says:

      HEY TOM !!! —

      Go teach your junior high school grammar class, you hectoring pedant.

      Who cares what you think about Hag’s scribbles, other than the fact that you seem to have an obsession of some sort in posting here?

      Maybe he’s still learning how to write, or is experimenting with a style. What in hell is that you?

      Actually, I would like to thank you personally for contributing to an epiphany I’ve just had about the perils and dynamics of blogging, and e-mail. I decided in the last days to cease all e-mail with a relative of mine because, over many years now, much of what was being said was increasingly combative, fairly useless, even harmful emotionally in terms of digging for deeper meaning in a relationship.

      But that was personal.

      It could, of course, come down to two bad writers writing badly and in bad faith, but I think there’s something odd and difficult about these forms: e-mail and blogging. Haven’t quite figured it out. But in pulling back from this particular relative, I thought of you, and your tendency to assume that we’re all here just waiting for your next lecture.

      Anyway, some of us here just hang out with Hag, and many of us post our own stuff. There are comments, some argument, and, in case you haven’t noticed, a fair amount of tongue-in-cheek, as in, “Don’t take it too seriously, jerk.”

      As for the atmosphere, or the dynamic, it might be we’re occupying a big day room in a digital dorm (We’re all slobs, by the way; we leave gum wrappers, empty chip or popcorn bags, beer and soda cans all over the tables and chairs. And HAG IS THE BIGGEST SLOB OF ALL). Or maybe it’s an old Irish pub (Hag is the bartender; he’s got red hair, wears a Kelly green vest, and holds court with an incomprehensible brogue) – with several pool tables under lamps, and chairs and tables near the walls, somewhat in the dark (I think I can hear a fiddle). Or possibly, we’re meeting occasionally at the record rack in the old music store (Hag’s wondering why he can’t buy 45s with the big holes), next door to the malt shop.

      Who knows? It could be anywhere in each of our little heads.

      We pretty much all get along, except, it seems, with you, and I wonder how it was that you invited yourself in. Please understand, I don’t presume to speak for anyone else here, but that’s the way it seems, and I’d be happy to hear of someone jumping up in your defense.

      Anyway, it’s a blog, idiot. Anything goes.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Ah, with a little more teaching from Miss Grundy, er, Nailhead, I might someday be able to write as compellingly and scintillatingly as he.
      I would point out, Tom, that that’s the way eighth graders are taught to write, but unlike you, they can’t keep turning in the same essay day after day.

  4. timothy3 says:


    I think there’s something odd and difficult about these forms: e-mail and blogging. Haven’t quite figured it out.

    I’ve often thought that, unlike conversation where the topic ebbs and flows, readers of blogs irrationally demand that the blogger cover each and every tangential point not directly related to what the blogger has chosen to write about.

    Glenn Greenwald recently made the observation that he spends more time in comments responding to what he didn’t write than what he did.

    Tom here frequently does the same when he’s not offering up inexplicable comments like

    Greenland and New Guinea would be forever unaware of your pointless ramblings, now everybody in the world has the potential to be unimpressed by them.

    Who, I ask, would frequent a blog consisting of “pointless ramblings”?

    • dirigo says:

      We’ve yet to test the assumption, implicit in Tom’s reference to the good people of Greenland and New Guinea, that Hag has had, or ever will have, an intention to address them directly.

      And of course, at this moment, it may also be the case that the good people of Greenland and New Guinea are not yet aware of the fine works emanating from on an almost daily basis.

      In saying that, I of course am assuming that, once exposed to, the good people of Greenland and New Guinea will be far more impressed by its content than Tom is.

      • cocktailhag says:

        According to Google Analytics, out of the more than 2000 visitors to the Hag last month, there were visitors from 23 countries, led of course by the US, Canada, Britain, and Switzerland. No Greenlanders or New Guineans, though. Maybe next month.

        • dirigo says:

          You’ll hook ‘em, sooner or later.

          It may be time to check in with CHNN’s Harlan Harrington in Naples, for a special, New Year’s sweeps report on Silvio’s recovery from his chipped teeth and bloody nose.

          Harlan’s been holding back, in part because he hasn’t established whether the whole thing was a hoax or not. Plus, the CHNN flying boat’s been in the shop, and is a drain on the foreign assignment budget right now. Wait ’til you see December’s invoices!

          Silvio’s not answering the phone.

          • cocktailhag says:

            I rather hope HH comes up with something, as I’ll be attending a soiree down the hall here at CHNN, attended by folks who drink even more than I do…. Sounds like trouble to me, especially tomorrow morning.

    • dirigo says:

      Timothy, what Glenn says is definitely part of it: the strange demand to go down some rabbit hole opened up by this or that commenter. Is it an aspect of the passive/aggressive personality? Or the response of an insecure writer? Maybe someone who lost their Mitch Albom cheese book?

      There are so many unknowns, in terms of the age, educational level, ideological predilections, religious or dietary preferences of some commenters, it’s hard to know what to do when you’re blindsided.

      I’m not even sure if this stuff actually meets the standards of argument as I understand it (which is why I like to tell a joke; it can help take the air out of the balloon).

      I may get smacked for being sexist (Go ahead. I can take it! But I’m not. Oh well.) in comparing some e-mails and blogging exchanges I’ve had to some curious moments with women I’ve been trying to know better, where I thought I was being crystal clear about this or that (or spot-on in the humor or sensitivity categories), only to find myself in a strange place with the partner of the moment who seemed concerned about something I didn’t say, after I didn’t say it.

  5. rmp says:

    If Tom thinks he has problems with us, he should be watching a reality show on TLC that I am watching for the first time. This Dude has been living with two wives, one for 21 years and the other for 19 and now he has brought in a third wife. He has kids with the first two. Now he is thinking that it might be easier with no wives because the third wife has not been very welcome. Duhhh!!

  6. rmp says:

    Sad, strange time for San Fran:

    S.F.’s vanishing sea lions baffles experts

  7. retzilian says:

    Uhhh, Tom….where’s your blog?

    Until you maintain a real blog (and not just a site for links and recitation of talking points, which characterizes the majority of right-wing blogs these days) you have no standing to criticize anyone’s blog.

    And, based on your contributions here, I’d say you haven’t had an original thought in years. If ever.