Juan Williams, Lawn Jockeys, and the Clarence Thomas Rule


Slate's Will Saletan echoes Matt Welch, and also makes a convincing argument that the Juan Williams fiasco bears a resemblance to the Shirley Sherrod debacle—as with Sherrod, partisans took video of Williams talking about overcoming his own biases deliberately out of context to make him look like a bigot.*

Meanwhile, over at the "glibertarian"-baiting Balloon Juice blog, in a post defending NPR for firing Williams over insensitive comments, "business and economics editor" DougJ calls Williams a lawn jockey,with no apparent sense of irony. He later added a strike-through and changed the insult to stooge, but it's clear from his responses in the comments thread (at least as of this writing) that he isn't particularly apologetic about his initial choice of words.

More interesting, DougJ's post defends NPR's actions not just because of Williams' comments about Muslims, but because in DougJ's opinion, Williams' political views are too conservative for Williams' race and NPR affiliation, thus giving black-guy-from-NPR-approved cover for the Fox News hate machine.* Hence, "lawn jockey."

Which brings me to the Clarence Thomas Rule.* It goes something like this: When a black person expresses views that liberal elites have deemed unacceptable for black people to hold, it is permissible for good liberals to respond by implying that said black person is either too stupid or too corrupt to think for himself, and to then call that black person racist names. In fact, not only are both responses permissible and not racist, they are a recommended way of displaying your open-mindedness.

(*Obligatory disclaimers: I defended Shirley Sherrod from what I thought was a shameless smear. I find much of Fox News unwatchable (and MSNBC, for that matter). I think the Williams firing was ridiculous, but I also disagree with Williams on a host of issues, including some of the opinions he expressed on that particular episode of O'Reilly. I think Clarence Thomas has ruled correctly on some issues in his time as a Supreme Court justice, incorrectly on others. I do not think that he is stupid.)