Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Cavalier Connection: Gene Lyons, Suck THIS Up!

When I was a small girl, growing up in rural Virginia, one of many things I learned from my mother was that overreaction to an accusation most generally always implied guilt. The person who cried loudest and longest at a funeral usually was the one person in the mourning congregation who wanted the deceased dead before they actually died. And the person who overreacted to a general criticism was usually guilty of the sin which the accusation entailed.

Lordy, the guilt is oozing from the pores of the Professional Left after Melissa Harris-Perry's observations of racism on the Left. seems to be at the forefront of this race row, with "Editor-at-Large" Joan Walsh challenging Dr Harris-Perry to prove her accusations and Walsh's latest bullyboy blogger, David Sirota, venturing as far to liken the professor's observations as tantamount to KKK tactics.

You can read Joan's disjointed rant here and Sirota's ad hominem-filled polemic, in which he accused Dr Harris-Perry of "arrogant elitism," here.

(Here's something for Sirota to contemplate: "arrogant elitism" is Northernspeak for "uppity.")

But the article which really made me absolutely, phsycically ill was Gene Lyon's despicably personal diatribe against everything Dr Harris-Perry discussed in her two articles.

Lyons is, first and foremost, a Clinton apologist. Before he blocked me from his Facebook page, for reckoning that subliminal racism was behind a lot of the Professional Left's disaffection with President Obama, he argued regularly that Bill Clinton suffered much, much worse criticism from the Right as President than our current President had. I mean, murder and drug-trafficking accusations are really just as personally reprehensible as being accused of being a fraudulent American, a Manchurian candidate intent on destroying America, someone who didn't deserve what he'd attained, simply because he was "different" and "not one of us."

Yes, Gene, Clinton was accused by the Right of being a Bubba and a poor white, but in Clintonland, the "poor whites" had something over African-Americans in the paleness of their natural melanin.

So now, Gene Lyons is exposed for being exactly what he is: a bitter, old white man, who's certainly a racist and, most definitely, a sexist. From the resonance of this article, Lyons has a problem with race, a bigger problem with educated African Americans, and a problem with educated women, in general.

The first four paragraphs of Lyons' article just ooze hatred, condescension and scorn:-

This just in: Not all the fools are Republicans. Recently, one Melissa Harris-Perry, a Tulane professor who moonlights on MSNBC political talk shows, wrote an article for the Nation titled "Black President, Double Standard: Why White Liberals Are Abandoning Obama."

See, nobody ever criticized Bill Clinton, another centrist Democrat who faced a hostile Republican congress. Indeed, he was "enthusiastically re-elected" in 1996. Therefore, "[t]he 2012 election is a test of whether Obama will be held to standards never before imposed on an incumbent. If he is, it may be possible to read that result as the triumph of a more subtle form of racism."

The professor actually wrote that. See, certain academics are prone to an odd fundamentalism of the subject of race. Because President Obama is black, under the stern gaze of professor Harris-Perry, nothing else about him matters. Not killing Osama bin Laden, not 9 percent unemployment, only blackness.

Furthermore, unless you're black, you can't possibly understand. Yada, yada, yada. This unfortunate obsession increasingly resembles a photo negative of KKK racial thought. It's useful for intimidating tenure committees staffed by Ph.D.s trained to find racist symbols in the passing clouds. Otherwise, Harris-Perry's becoming a left-wing Michele Bachmann, an attractive woman seeking fame and fortune by saying silly things on cable TV.

Another valuable lesson I learned from my liberal, Democratic and Southern parents is that if you move too far to the Left in your political outlook, you'll suddenly find yourself on the Right.

Gene Lyons, within those four paragraphs, planted his feet firmly in the putrid mud that is Teabaggerland. He has revealed himself to harbour the sort of thoughts and attitudes which would be easily recogniseable in one of those fearful, elderly gentlemen bused in to congregate with the Glenn Beck faithful on the Mall back in August 2010.

In four short paragraphs, he's called Dr Harris-Perry no less than a "fool;" he's accused her of attaining academic and professional credentials by intimidation via race; and he's accused her of being a dilettante and a Leftwing version of Michele Bachmann, who only receives what attention is given her by virtue of being an attractive woman.

This is maligning this woman's character, her gender, her intelligence and her race.

If this isn't enough, he brings in yet another analogy to the Ku Klux Klan - the second in as many days, and yet another levelled against Dr Harris-Perry by an affluent, educated, allegedly liberal white male working for

Reading the Lyons analogy reminded me of how I've been watching the Progressive Alabama blogger Matt Osborne duke it out with Sirota in a Twitter war, where the latter proves he's little more than pithy, little spoiled prince-like bully, who blocks anyone in disagreement with his final word and pushes back by declaring that he's going to label anyone who criticizes him as anti-Semitic, just like MHP's labeled any Progressive who criticizes the President as "racist."

It occurred to me, in observing that Twitter war, that a fair few of the President's staunchest defenders in the blogosphere and their commentators, seem to be white Southerners - Osborne and Smartypants and the Blue Virginia bunch, as well as plebs like me and other Facebook commentators like Maria McGowen, Bill Dodson and Linda Donnell.

Maybe Shirley Sherrod is right. Maybe the late Joe Bageant is being vindicated at last. Maybe we, who support the President, whatever race we might be, really see people in terms of "haves" and "have nots" and not as all-knowing, faux-altruistic, patronising Progressives in search of the Magic Negro, who'll govern like Shaft.

If Gene Lyons considers this wake-up call to the real cause of divisiveness in the Left's ranks to be an inversion of racism on Dr Harris-Perry's part and something totally unjustified and insulting to such responsible Progressive voices as his, Sirota's and that of his "Editor-at-Large," then I reserve the right to call time on the incipient inverted Confederacy of dunces, originating in the North and residing primarily in the trendy-wendy cities of the "Left" side of the US - the sort of people who are elected Democratic Party officials in California and who want, effectively to secede the South as a lost cause to Progressive politics.

On the other hand - and consider this - the Southern anti-racism campaigner, Tim Wise, wrote an extensive essay concerning racism and white privilege amongst the Progressive Left, which pretty much covered much of the same ground as Melissa Harris-Perry's articles, but - unrestricted in length - in greater detail. This essay appeared a year ago and Wise has certainly lectured on this subject since, but none of the big Left voices have indicated they are offended by Wise's opinions and words in anyway.

But then again, Wise is a white man.

So whilst Wise's words are food for thought amongst liberals, Harris-Perry's induce resentment, rancor and abject ad hominem.

Well, if the shoe fits ...

But earlier today, when I read AngryBlackLady's excellent riposte to Lyons's invective, entitled Gene Lyons of Cavalierly Dismisses Racism and Calls Melissa Harris-Perry a Fool, one word jumped off the screen and smacked me in the face.


I don't know if ABL intended to use that word or not, but if she didn't, her use of it is sublimely ironic.

You see, ABL, Gene Lyons and I have something in common. We are all graduates of the University of Virginia, whose athletic teams go under the moniker "The Fighting Cavaliers." I took my undergraduate and masters' degrees there, ABL got her law degree from Virginia and Lyons his PhD.

The difference is this, and it might explain his attitude.

Lyons was a student in Charlottesville during the 1960s, when the University was all-white, all-male and all-rich. When students had to show up for class, dressed in a jacket and tie. When the only people of colour on Grounds (we don't call it "campus") were the maids who made your dormitory beds and the people who served in the dining hall. The only women to be found were nursing students, but they were off-limits. The WaHoos liked to "roll" down the road to various and sundry female colleges which dotted Virginia's landscape at the time and where women studied for their MRS degree; or the fellas imported their women from such places for the weekends. Either way, you didn't have to run the risk of running into your one-night stand on the way to class on a Monday morning.

As a college song of the time went:

Come all you girls from Mary Wash
Never let a Cavalier an inch above your knee
He'll fill you full of liquor
And he'll fill you full of beer
And you'll soon be the mother
Of a bastard Cavalier.

(This was in the days before Roe v Wade, mind.)

Lyons's days at Virginia were the last days of "the country club of the South," or - as William Faulkner described it, "the last vestibule of Southern decadence," where it was highly permissable, indeed, de rigueur to strive for "the Gentleman's C."

But then, Lyons left and the 1970s came in and ushered in a bunch of pesky people of colour and women, and things changed. I would imagine Lyons thinks they changed for the worse. And during that decade, the first Dean of African-American Studies arrived at the University, one Dr William S Harris. He brought with him, as you do, his family, which included his youngest child, Melissa.

Yes, Virginia, we're all WaHoos now - ABL, Melissa Harris-Perry (by virtue of being a child of an esteemed faculty member), yours truly ... and Gene Lyons, of course, who's just taken up residence in the University's Hall of Shame, alongside such disreputables as Ken Cuccinelli, Laura Ingraham, and Adam Green and his cronies Aaron Swartz and Mark Smoot. Call that a tea party!

Furthermore, there's one thing that Gene Lyons admits in his screed, at the beginning of his fourth paragraph, which by far and large, the meanest one. (It's the one where he makes the totally unfounded comparison with Michele Bachmann).

Furthermore, unless you're black, you can't possibly understand. Yada, yada, yada.

The tone of that sentence and its epithet is one of abject and disdainful boredom with the subject of race and what he interprets as a whiny complaint from someone who is far below Lyons's exalted status of both race and sex, a second-class citizen, doubly-over; but the truth is, Gene, you've nailed it.

Neither you nor I, Gene, are black, and we can't possibly understand. I've been beleagured by Gene Lyons types as one of the few women at Virginia in what was really a hostile environment in the first years for coeds. But it was in no way, shape or form as bad as anything any person of colour has to accept and withstand for most of their lives.

Gene Lyons, wrongly and insultingly, likens Melissa Harris-Perry to Michele Bachmann, going as far to say she's little more than an attractive lady, whose prettiness allows her to say batshit things on cable television. That is an insult to both women, but his introductory sentence (above) makes it even more insulting for Harris-Perry.

Yesterday, in a blog, I compared an ignorant and openly racist remark Katrina vanden Heuvel cracked as a poor joke, to some of the foot-in-mouth race-baiting practiced by Sarah Palin, as evidence of the Progressive Left's totally oblivious attitude toward people of colour, but in a pejorative way.

Every reference to the President as a "pussy" or as "spineless," every childish wish for a "gangsta" or a whine of "voting for the black man and getting a white man," is indicative of vanden Heuvel's white privilege and ignorance.

No, Gene, you can't begin to understand, but here's someone who can explain to you, exactly what it's like to have all the necessary qualifications, backed up by the intelligence, and then get blown off by your so-called liberal sponsors/supporters/faux friends, because of the colour of your skin.

A lady called Majii, who is, roughly, about my age, responded to my essay with the following comment, which I include in full:-

It's as if it's socially acceptable in the minds of some like vanden Heuvel to say some things about black people that they wouldn't dare say to a white person. I look at how they seem to have the ultimate respect for someone like the lying Sarah Palin, but have NO restraint when speaking of PBO. Since I'm black and lived under segregation and during our nation's Civil Rights Era, I know that for some, blacks are invisible and we don't have feelings. PBO has attained a level of education and accomplishment that many who speak disparagingly of him can never hope to reach, but because he identifies as a black man, he is not accorded the same level of respect as our other presidents. It is a stain on America when a POTUS is revered by people in many foreign nations and not respected in his own country, because it makes a lie of "American Exceptionalism." If we were really an exceptional nation of the sort we try to sell to other nations, PBO would be treated like all of his 43 predecessors.

I recall reading about the work of Gunner Myrdal in college. Myrdal did research on American ideals and racism and concluded that our ideals don't match our actions when it comes to affording POC the same privileges and respect as whites. He was right. I'm a retired teacher and graduate of UGA. I had colleagues who were also UGA graduates, but they never considered my degree as good as theirs. They let me know by their not so subtle references to affirmative action and/or with the phrase "when you were admitted to UGA, they were letting anybody in at that time" (1971.) I was given no credit for being smart enough on my own to gain admission to the university, the fact that my parents gave me financial assistance, or the fact that I graduated in 3 years instead of 4. All that mattered to them was making sure that somehow their degree from the same institution was better than mine because I was black. This is what is going on with the constant questioning and criticism of PBO's every move and decision by the vanden Heuvels, Adam Greens, Cenks Ugyars, and Greenwalds, and anyone who says this is not what underlies this constant nitpicking is not being honest with him/self. Even the actions of PBO's black detractors like Cornel West, Maxine Waters, and Tavis Smiley have their bases in race and racism.

One of the University of Virginia's trademarks is its football team, which is consistent in its losing. That is a tradition, but it is by no means guaranteed. One day the WaHoos might win a big one, but Gene Lyons's invective against Melissa Harris-Perry has ensured that he will always and eternally be a loser.

Wa-Hoo-Wah, Gene.


  1. Bravo. I didn't have time today to do this epic deconstruction myself; I'm glad you did.

  2. That's an outstanding piece. Well done, Whoo, well done.

  3. Out of the ballpark, you hit that grand slam. Excellent post.

  4. Spot on post, Emilia!

    I am so tweeting this because it is a must read. When ABL chose the term "cavalierly," she was definitely making a point. Only someone who has a feeling of superiority could have responded to MHP's article with such disdain.