Civil Rights

"It’s like the damn planet of the apes!"

My father was born in Oregon and his father and grandfather in Arkansas, although the working class family fought for the Union side in the Civil War.  For years, in work and other activities, I’ve had much opportunity to interact with Americans. The differences are so broad that we cannot visualize one collective individual representing an average citizen of the USA.

Stand on a hilltop with a Montana rancher proudly showing his spread, talk with a South Los Angeles cabbie, an orthodox rabbi in Brooklyn or a server in a New Orleans jazz club. They are from different worlds so we are usually mistaken to generalize aspects of particular Americans. Nevertheless, one segment of predictable strangeness seems rightly personified by Glenn Beck. I realize he is an actor playing a role lifted from a Paddy Chayefsky screenplay, a theatrical character designed for dispossessed, irrational souls who operate on gut emotions. However, to many hopeless viewers, he is real.

One online journalist gained a sense of race-baiter Beck’s desired view of society when he noted that Beck’s Twitter page identified a “White Nationalist message board” as a favorite, a link that disappeared soon after it was reported. Salon writer Joan Walsh did a double take when Beck compared Obama’s administration to the Planet of the Apes. More than one of Walsh’s readers shared this reaction in comments:

When up to one-third of your fellow citizens are kindred souls with Glenn Beck, and the plutocrats who own Congress and the media and everything else play them like puppet masters, what do you do other than pour yourself a stiff drink and watch as your country goes slowly but surely down the drain?

To understand the ape reference, we need a little historical context and, believe me, this review could be much longer:

  • FL commentator Howard Cosell referred to African-American wide receiver Alvin Garrett as a “little monkey.” Cossell was widely denounced and he claimed his words had no racial meaning.
  • Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker called black teammate Randall Simon a “fat monkey” in a Sports Illustrated interview. Simon was not amused. Rocker was ordered by Major League Baseball to undergo psychological testing.
  • New York Post was roundly criticized and forced to apologize for a cartoon referencing the racist notion that African-Americans are synonymous with monkeys. The editorial item followed President Obama’s first legislative victory when his stimulus package was passed by Congress.
  • A Sarah Palin tea-partier in Pennsylvania was clearly aware of the charming association between a black man and a monkey.
  • A Utah company introduced the Obama Sock Monkey, no offense intended, of course.
  • Republican Senator George Allen, campaigning in Virginia, referred to a non-white Democratic campaign worker as ‘Macaca’, a racial epithet derived from African macaque monkeys.
  • Republican Congressman Roy Blunt, describing Obama’s Washington DC, “You have to play the ball where the monkey throws it. And that is the rule in Washington all the time.”

Against this background, comes the modern day urban nut cake, Glenn Beck, raging about Obama’s America as Planet of the Apes.  This is not an accidental association and this contention is demonstrated by an academic paper, Subconscious mental connection between blacks, apes may reinforce subtle discrimination:

“Historical racist images and books dehumanizing African Americans in the 19th and early 20th century relied heavily on the Negro-ape metaphor, which was used to stereotype Blacks as lazy, dim and aggressive,” said lead author Phillip Atiba Goff, assistant professor of psychology at Penn State.

“Such dehumanization and animal imagery have been used for centuries to justify violence against many oppressed groups.”

“The images have disappeared from popular culture and from most people’s memory,” he added. “However, after completing six studies, we found strong evidence that Black-ape linkages still influence people subconsciously and impact their judgment particularly in the case of African American suspects and defendants.”

It’s like the damn planet of the apes!


4 replies »

  1. The fact that Glenn Beck has been given a podium to preach from says it all. FOX has a following large enough to stay on air. Whenever I see Beck at work I am astounded at the ignorance of his ideaalogy and the tea party voice that has evolved lately.

    I truly believe that they are on track for a civil war.


  2. One of the 'journalists' you cite, in fact Salon's editor in chief, has this to say about one of the scalps hanging in Becks studio:
    “…the admirable but indisputably dweeby Van Jones…”
    Admirable? An admitted communist?! The author finds this admirable? No doubt she felt another Obama appointee finding Mao Zedong inspirational also admirable. Another scalp, Anita somebody.
    The racist ex-“Green Czar” voiced beliefs that included, among other things, white people deliberately poisoned black neighborhoods.
    Beck nailed him to the wall, deservedly so.
    Oh and anonymous, ask yourself why it is that Fox News Channel has an audience that outperforms (and viewership = advertising dollars) all the other [completely unbiased] news organs. Combined.


  3. Dana, we would disagree about the significance of your last point. It is part of what frightens me about America, you probably think it is wonderful.

    By the way, I see you learned the standard response of a debater made uncomfortable by an irrefutable position. Change the subject. Well played.


  4. Had we even begun to debate I could see you leveling such a charge as changing the subject, but no, I am not uncomfortable. Your concern is appreciated however your position is refutable.


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