Retroactive Outrage

9 comments April 16th, 2007at 11:30am Posted by Eli

Well, apparently Tom DeLay is terribly offended by Rosie O’Donnell’s “ching ching chong” parody of Chinese:

On the heels of Imus’ dismissal from CBS and MSNBC, the national debate on racist language has taken a very bizarre turn. Remember Rosie O’Donnell’s “ching chong” remarks?


All week, I have been wondering why Imus says only three words and becomes the target of national vile, while Rosie O’Donnell can repeatedly deny the concerns of the Asian American political community and receive 30 second spots on E! Entertainment News….

Well, surprisingly, the Asian American community may have an unlikely ally. Last week, in response to Imus’ firing, the Republicans were up in arms to try and declare the act a liberal bias in media. They have tried to draw a comparison between Imus’s racist and sexist comments with Rosie O’Donnell’s repeated harping about conspiracies surrounding 9/11. On Tom Delay’s blog, he wrote:

And for the contextual icing on the cake, where are the repercussions for Rosie O’Donnell’s hateful, idiotic accusations that President Bush was behind the 9/11 attacks? And her ignorant parody of the Chinese language? Or her comparison of conservative Christians to Islamo-fascist terrorists? Why has ABC not suspended her from The View? Why has she not been frog-marched up to some radio show to apologize to 9/11 victims/Chinese-American activists/evangelical Christians?


[C]ertainly Delay is not particularly interested in helping Asian Americans combat racism; he is just using the hullabaloo around Rosie’s “ching chong” remarks to help support his argument that conservatives are victimized in American and the liberal bias of the media is keeping Rosie on the air.

But, hey. If conservatives succeed in getting Rosie tossed from “The View”, I’m also not going to cry for her.

I agree with all of this, plus some additional thoughts:

The title of DeLay’s post (I’m still tickled by the idea that he has a blog) is “If The Left Takes Imus, We’ll Take Rosie.” That right there makes it clear that he’s not targeting Rosie out of any kind of genuine outrage, but simple score-settling, much like the Clinton impeachment was partly revenge for the fall of Nixon.

It also reminds me of the scene in Enemy Mine (the book; I haven’t seen the movie) where the human and alien fighter pilots exchange the Deeply Offensive religious insults that their Psyops people have given them, and the alien’s is “Ya stupid Mickey Mouse is.” (The human’s is probably equally lame, but I don’t think we ever find out for sure) The idea that losing Rosie would sting us liberals to the quick and make us rend our garments and wail, “My God, what have we done???” is almost quaint in its misguidedness (probably about as much so as expecting conservatives to mourn the loss of Imus). If Rosie had been fired for her ching-chongery, I would have applauded.

But it’s too late now. There are two enormous giveaways when it comes to outrage. One is timeliness: Did you have an immediate, visceral “Oh my God, that’s horrible!” reaction, or did you go fishing through media archives to find something to be outraged about? Admittedly, this can be a bit tricky, since it’s certainly possible for someone to be outraged and not speak up because they’re more focused on other issues (I’m as guilty of this as anyone, since my primary focus tends to be politics, news media and awful music videos).

Which brings me to the other giveaway: Is your outrage in character? Is it congruent with your overall ideological alignment? How many white conservatives crusade against bigotry? How many deliberately use it as a vote-getting and decision-making tool? How many bigoted conservative pundits and radio/TV hosts are there vs. liberal ones?

The only times I ever see conservatives speaking up against prejudice is when non-whites like Arab Muslims or gangsta rappers are trashing or oppressing women, or when liberals are attacking a female, minority or gay conservative for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with their gender, race, or sexual orientation (it’s usually something to do with the fact that they’re incompetent, corrupt, dishonest, full of hate, or some foul combination thereof). However, we do play into their hands whenever we bring their demographics into our critique of their words or actions, which gives us both a tactical and moral reason not to do so.

So, to sum up: If you and your party have a long history of indifference (at best) towards bigotry, and you suddenly find yourself outraged by something that progressives have been speaking out about for months or years, you’ll have to forgive me if I doubt your sincerity.

(h/t Sylvia)

Entry Filed under: Media,Racism,Republicans,Wankers


  • 1. dirk gently, sociopathetic  |  April 16th, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    ok, i’m with you on the chinese language parody. more or less. i, after all, do an over the top swedish chef that would no doubt have the entire norse penninsula up in arms, not to mention how gaulling my clousaeu impersonation can be. rosie’s crossed over some sort of line, but it’s not the same as if she’d been ranting about what bad drivers asians are. the language does sound odd to western ears – it isn’t a value judgement on the morals of an entire race of people.

    more importantly, comparing christian fundamental extremists to islamic terrorist is not racist. advancing conspiracy theories about a specific individual is not the same as tarninshing a whole race as “inscrutable.” the difference is extremely important, because if any criticism can be equated with racism, we must either eliminate all criticism or accept racism. which of course is exactly the choice which mr. delay is providing. we have to know the difference between calling delay “bug-man” and calling a random group of women “hos.”

  • 2. Eli  |  April 16th, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    rosies crossed over some sort of line, but its not the same as if shed been ranting about what bad drivers asians are. the language does sound odd to western ears – it isnt a value judgement on the morals of an entire race of people.

    I think it’s more akin to blackface-style racial caricature, and equally icky.

    As for the other DeLay accusations, I hope you realize I wasn’t agreeing with those – her attacks on Bush and fundies are arguable, but not racist, unless you want to say that comparing Muslim terrorists to fundies is unflattering to Muslims.

  • 3. LJ/Aquaria  |  April 16th, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    Okay, Eli, love you lots, you know that, but… The text portions of the site are really hard on my eyes, via Safari.

    The photos look fab, though. Then again, I always liked your photography. The GOTV literature is a really good one. I’m not smart about those things, so I can’t say why, but I liked it a lot. Maybe all the shadows…

  • 4. Eli  |  April 16th, 2007 at 4:33 pm

    Thanks, LJ! Funny, I really like that one a lot too, but I don’t know why either.

    Also, please note the “Choose a color scheme” drop-down near the top of the sidebar. I would hate to have anyone shun my blog over readability.

  • 5. LJ/Aquaria  |  April 16th, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    Thank you. I couldn’t see much because my eyes couldn’t focus on much here. The Inverse works much better for my tired old eyes. Now that Atrios theme… You joker, you. :)

  • 6. Eli  |  April 16th, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    I personally think the inverse scheme looks like ass, but at least it’s readable.

    The Atrios one is a response to his “Why Your Blog Sucks” post, where he listed unreadable color scheme as one of the reasons for suckage.

  • 7. Donna  |  April 16th, 2007 at 5:40 pm

    Dirk, I’m assuming you would find a parody of black Africans going, “oogah boogah” to be racist. What’s the difference between that and “ching chong”? A better comparison would be if while making fun of Europeans you said, “grunt grunt snort” or something like that, to make them sound less than human.

  • 8. dirk gently, sociopathetic  |  April 17th, 2007 at 11:22 am

    Dirk, Im assuming you would find a parody of black Africans going, oogah boogah to be racist. Whats the difference between that and ching chong?

    well, i certainly understand the point, although “oogah-boogah” is not alliterave of any african language that i am familiar with. and again, i think rosie went beyond the line of language parody but that may also be because she simply is no good at it. sid caesar did a hilarious (to me – so shoot me) faux chinese which in no way (to me – so shoot me) reflected on the individuals who make up the group sho spoke it. and peter sellers “do you have a rhume?” neither implied that all fench people are cowards nor that they are great lovers. when jay leno impersonates the gov of california, he is making no slur on the people of austria.

    the same with blackface, eli. pulling the corners of your eyes to make them slant while waiting for your laundry to dry would (to me – so shoot me) be more similar to painiting your face black then singing and dancing.

    i suspect that (to me – so shoot me) the difference is that i don’t have a problem with parody aimed at one person, or which is not aimed at arbitrary individuals. i have a bigger problem with humor that denigrates (look it up) a group based on perceived group attributes that paint all individuals that make up the group. i don’t have a problem with parody aimed at language or religion, because those are assumed attributes, and anyone can have them. white people can speak chinese, black people can convert to judaism.

    tommy thompson just missed it – he referred to jews having an inherent ability to make money, then tried to excuse it by pretending it was a religious doctrine. if he’d made a cicumcision joke, i suspect some of the audience would laugh along. but it’s risky for someone not part of the group. or perceived group.

    one more example: chris rock is always funny talking about crack houses. jay leno sometimes is. but if bill bennet said something about them, it would probably be considered racist. why, i wonder? see, to me, it is racist to assume that crack houses indicate african american.

    humor is funny. not ha-ha, strange. parody is dangerous. satire can be deadly.

    that’s why the pirahna brothers used it.

  • 9. Eli  |  April 17th, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    the same with blackface, eli. pulling the corners of your eyes to make them slant while waiting for your laundry to dry would (to me – so shoot me) be more similar to painiting your face black then singing and dancing.

    It may not be an exact visual equivalent, but it still comes across very similarly, especially since it has a long history of bein accompanied by precisely those visuals.

    Ethnic parody is dangerous territory, and it’s probably not coincidental that the parodying of caucasian foreign languages are less offensive. Power imbalance may be a factor as well, since I find Eddie Murphy’s impressions of white people to be, frankly, pretty damn funny.

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