Indiscriminate Charges

I see Dan McLaughlin got into a brief row with the New York Times’s Jamelle Bouie on Twitter a few days ago. Dan is a thoughtful and interesting writer, and Bouie is for the most part neither; he is in fact a very weird pundit, simultaneously a vociferous, belligerent keyboard warrior who seems constitutionally incapable of handling even the mildest criticism with any grace. Engaging with him is rarely a worthwhile endeavor.

Partly at issue during this recent fight was the claim that Bouie’s written work “consists of calling people racist.” Bouie himself has publicly challenged anyone to produce “one example” of him doing this. As Dan has pointed out, Bouie has purged countless tweets from his Twitter timeline, so he’s being a bit disingenuous in asking people to find material that he himself has crammed down the memory hole. Yet it’s still possible to locate plenty of examples of Bouie’s preferred hat trick: accusing people of being racist.

One of his favorite ways to do this is to accuse his opponents of thinking black people are “uppity.” That word has a sordid, ugly history in American racist thought: White supremacists used it in years past to justify lynchings, claiming the blacks they murdered had been “uppity” toward whites. To accuse someone of such reprehensible thought is a serious charge, functionally equivalent to calling them racist. Bouie knows this.

He has accused National Review of trucking in this hateful trope. He claimed Seth Mandel thought he, Bouie, was “uppity.” He said Mark Levin felt the same way about Barack Obama. He said the same thing about Dan McLaughlin. At another time he also said Dan believed Bouie, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Jane Coaston were all “uppity.” He accused Trump of “yelling about uppity negroes.” He wrote that Trump voters were motivated by a dislike of “that uppity black guy [Obama].” He accused a Federalist article of using the “uppity” trope. During the Kavanaugh controversy, he claimed people were “danc[ing] around calling booker and harris uppity for their tough questioning” of the judge. He accused Ben Shapiro of “desperately, desperately, want[ing] to call obama ‘uppity’.”

It’s not just on Twitter. In a Slate column, Bouie wrote that Trump had “built his whole political brand” on attacking black people perceived as “uppity.” (He wrote that in another Slate column, too.) He also argued elsewhere in Slate that the term “thug,” when applied to President Obama by “the [Rush] Limbaughs of the world,” was an “accepted way of calling somebody the N-word.” He accused Limbaugh, Michelle Bachmann, and Karl Rove of utilizing the purportedly racist trope.

These examples were not hard to find. Assuredly there are plenty more. Bouie writes a lot and tweets a lot, and he’s written and tweeted about plenty of things other than calling people racist. Still, he does it — quite a bit. It’s not clear why he would pretend otherwise.

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