Rushing To Limbo — Revisited

I’ve dealt with this before, of course, the Rush Limbaugh “Magic Negro” song that’s once again roiling the RNC waters.

From April 13, 2007 (on “Zug” the previous incarnation of his vorpal sword):

Today's Radio Mash
Right click and “save as”

1.4 megs, 2:57, FM quality stereo .mp3. Originally titled—with unintended irony—”Tolerance.” As usual, there are no easy answers, and you will have to think for yourself.

It was a simple “compare and contrast” of Don Imus’ “nappy headed ho’s” comment on his radio show, and Limbaugh’s blatantly racist stuff on HIS radio show at the same time. I wasn’t defending Imus, but asking, “How come Limbaugh gets a pass for far more offensive material?”

Robert E. Lee “Bob” Ewell from “To Kill a Mockingbird”

Well, as we all know, Republicans are foursquare against sin and sinners, unless the miscreants in question be themselves Republicans — as witnessed by the “get out of jail free” card Limbaugh was issued over his drug addiction (and the rationalization that Oxycontin™ wasn’t actually “hillbilly heroin” since it was a “prescription drug”).

You see, I happened to be LISTENING to the Limbaugh show on March 19, 2007, the day that he played the “Barack the Magic Negro” parody — to the tune of “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” which is, technically illegal on the part of the parodist, since you have to have the permission of the musician being parodied to sell or broadcast the parody: you have a right to the words, but the MUSIC is copyrighted, as “Weird” Al Yankovic has noted in the past. For instance, to do his parody of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” Yankovic had to have Michael Jackson’s permission.

Again, lawbreaking is very angry-making among “Rule of Law” Republicans, unless the lawbreaker IS a Republican.

Limbaugh played the “Barack the Magic Negro” parody by Paul Shanklin.

Here was Media Matters’ original report (with pertinent links):

On the March 19 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, host Rush Limbaugh highlighted a March 19 Los Angeles Times op-ed that described Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) as “running for an equally important unelected office, in the province of the popular imagination — the ‘Magic Negro'” — a term used by critics of pop culture to describe certain benevolent African-American characters. Limbaugh stated: “The term ‘Magic Negro’ has been thrown into the political presidential race in the mix for 2008. And the term ‘Magic Negro,’ as applied to Barack Obama has been done by an L.A. Times columnist, David Ehrenstein.” Limbaugh later asserted: “I’m going to keep referring to him as that because I want to make a bet that by the end of this week I will own that term,” adding, “If I refer to Obama the rest of the day as the ‘Magic Negro,’ there will be a number of people in the drive-by media and on left-wing blogs who will credit me for coming up with it and ignore the L.A. Times did it, simply because they can’t be critical of the L.A. Times, but they can, obviously, be critical of talk radio.” Limbaugh continued to refer to Obama as the “Magic Negro” throughout the broadcast — 27 times, to be exact — and at one point sang “Barack, the Magic Negro” to the tune of “Puff, the Magic Dragon.” Limbaugh defended his use of the song, stating, “Well, that’s what we always do here. We do parodies and satires on the idiocy and phoniness of the left.” […]

Leave it to racists to defend racism. In traditional GOP fashion, they’ve dredged up Kenneth Blackwell, former Secretary of State of Ohio, who managed one of the most vicious suppressions of black voters ever seen in the questionable (and, increasingly, criminal) Ohio state returns in 2004.*

[* the subject of the mysterious death and even more mysterious silence in the media of Mike Connell, Karl Rove’s IT guy —who was about to testify that week on the White House email scandal, after testifying about the Ohio shenanigans in 2004 — of his single-engine plane crash.]

It’s the Republican idea of affirmative action — find SOMEONE in Amerika who is Black and have them spout the party line, which means, of course, that Republicans aren’t racists. That is, if you don’t catch that their token approach is FUNDAMENTALLY racist. (Think of Clarence Thomas, or Ward Connerly.)

And here is the “proof” that “Barack the Magic Negro” isn’t fundamentally racist, creepy Ken Blackwell says it isn’t, and he’s a … BLACK man!

Oooh. From Politico:

December 27, 2008
Blackwell defends Saltsman

Ken Blackwell, the former Ohio secretary of state who appears to be leading in the race to become the next chairman of the Republican National Committee, is defending a rival who distributed a CD containing a song called “Barack the Magic Negro,” and dismissing criticism as a sign of media “hypersensitivity” to race.

The rival, former Huckabee aide Chip Saltsman, came under fire today from the sitting Republican Party chairman, Mike Duncan, who said he was “shocked and appalled” by the move, Mike Allen reported.

“Unfortunately, there is hypersensitivity in the press regarding matters of race. This is in large measure due to President-Elect Obama being the first African-American elected president,” said Blackwell, who would be the first black RNC chairman, in a statement forwarded to Politico by an aide. “I don’t think any of the concerns that have been expressed in the media about any of the other candidates for RNC chairman should disqualify them. When looked at in the proper context, these concerns are minimal. All of my competitors for this leadership post are fine people.” […]

No opportunism there, of course. Blackwell is leading in the RNC chair race because … well, if he’s BLACK, then the GOP can’t be a bunch of racist bigots who hate Blacks, Jews, Muslims, Hispanics and anybody who isn’t white and male.

Of course not. I mean, if you’ve got ONE exception in a gazillion bits of data, then that disproves the assertion — as the “Global Warming” debate shows us. (I call this “logick” to differentiate it from rationality, per se.)

Which takes us back to Limbaugh’s fundamental excuse for using the term 27 times in one broadcast:

Well, somebody else said it first.

Yeah. Right. Sure.

Better rationalizing through masked bigotry. That ought to be the RNC slogan in this Chairman election. (I’d say “chairperson” but there aren’t any women in the running, and who the hell are we kidding anyway?)

It’s the fundamentally racist equation: Clarence Thomas = Black man; Thurgood Marshall = Black man. Therefore Clarence Thomas = Thurgood Marshall.


[Few will recall that it was, significantly, Clarence Thomas who was trotted out by the Supreme Court’s majority to “explain” — to STUDENTS — the Bush v. Gore decision stealing the election for Dubya, based on that same racist formulation: Racial exploitation “R” us.]

It’s the “minstrel show” that the Republicans trotted out in Philadelphia at the Republican National Convention in 2000. It’s recruiting Colin Powell as Secretary of State and then never listening to a thing he had to say.

It’s Rush Limbaugh “preempting” criticism by saying:

“If I refer to Obama the rest of the day as the ‘Magic Negro,’ there will be a number of people in the drive-by media and on left-wing blogs who will credit me for coming up with it and ignore the L.A. Times did it, simply because they can’t be critical of the L.A. Times, but they can, obviously, be critical of talk radio.”

Yeah. Except that the L.A. Times‘ piece used the term in an entirely different manner than did Limbaugh. As the Washington Post reports:

“Liberal Democrats and their allies in the media didn’t utter a word about David Ehrenstein’s irresponsible column in the Los Angeles Times last March. But now, of course, they’re shocked and appalled by its parody on ‘The Rush Limbaugh Show,’ ” Saltsman said in a statement, referring to the op-ed article that reportedly inspired the song lyrics. (“RNC Rivals Discuss Racial Song — Would-Be Chairman Who Sent CD With Parody Blames Media“)

Begging the question, on the one hand, but, more importantly, showing that Saltsman cribbed his line of racist attack ENTIRELY from Rush Limbaugh.

A Chip off the old blockhead, fer sure, fer sure.

There’s no justification for this gaffe, but, worse, there’s no justification for media silence on this when the Don Imus case was screamed by the rooftops by evidently gutless journalists. Why?

Let’s turn the argument on its ear: nothing was said about Limbaugh. Imus was crucified. Where then is Limbaugh’s howl that it was OK to criticize Talk Radio but not the L.A. Times?

As with most of Limbaugh’s assertions, it’s just another demonic bit of sophistry. More cone pone Klannishness. Another lie in a broad boulevard of mendacity.

With some effort, we could stand up and say: This shall not PASS!

They can exhume all the token haters who can toe the party line, and still they should be challenged. As I wrote in “To Mock The Killing Birds” (30 July 2008):

But you do what works, and in a changed America, the same catcalls, the same low, gutter slander, the same vile vituperation and bigoted rumor-mongering (e.g. Obama is a Muslim — as if religious bigotry was any more tolerable than racial bigotry, but religious bigotry runs rampant on the Rightie side, and NOBODY says a goddam word about it, LEAST of all the bloviating class!) DOESN’T cut the cheese anymore. Or so we hope.

The old hate has got to go. And the haters need to pay for their vile utterances, if only by social ostracization, and lots and lots of sniggering in their general direction (hopefully, downwind).

Or we could go for truth in advertising, with very little effort. Instead of “Republican,” we can more accurately portray the party — that likes to invoke Lincoln even though it’s now run by Southerners — as the “RepubliKlan” party.


At least it would be accurate.


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About Hart Williams

Mr. Williams grew up in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico. He lived in Hollywood, California for many years. He has been published in The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, The Santa Fe Sun, The Los Angeles Free Press, Oui Magazine, New West, and many, many more. A published novelist and a filmed screenwriter, Mr. Williams eschews the decadence of Hollywood for the simple, wholesome goodness of the plain, honest people of the land. He enjoys Luis Buñuel documentaries immensely.
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2 Responses to Rushing To Limbo — Revisited

  1. DizzyDezzi says:

    Good post.

    I’ve been shuffling around in the blogroll today and noted that the original (Puff, the Magic Dragon) was written by stalwarts of the Civil Rights movement of the 50s/60s. The parody is essentially not just an insult to our President-Elect, those who voted for him and the country as a whole, but it is a slap in the face; an insult to the original writers of this hopeful and uplifting, little ditty and not in the least bit funny (something that Republicans are well-known for not being capable of succeeding at).

    Having played a politician in another life, I remember how painful it was to realize that in too many instances, fellow politicians were using my race as a shield against themselves being accused of being racists when they said things that would be construed by potential voters as racist in nature. To my shame, I played along for a time until I got fed up and walked away. It’s been several years, but those wounds are still wide open. I get angry when I see career politicians (Blackwell, placing themselves on the spot as the token that proves “that racisim doesn’t exist”.

    I had hoped that after the election we had heard the last of that awful racist parody. But, I fear, this is only the beginning.

  2. Well said, Dez.

    As you say, Puff was written by Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary and a friend.* (I was told a very different story by someone who was there, and ought to know.)

    Which brings up the other, forgotten point in all of this: Rush’s “bit guy” quite illegally stole that song without permission.

    So, immoral AND illegal. (Not to mention racist.)

    [* Leonard Lipton, according to Wikipedia.]