Love the Machine, Hate the Noise
TV news is easier to watch with the sound turned off but sometimes that doesn’t keep me from wondering what the talking heads are trying to say.
Like the odd bit I saw on all the TV news broadcasts from Tony Snow’s premiere as George Bush’s presidential spokesman.
Snow (who’s from Cincinnati) looked like he was on the verge of tears. I turned the TV sound on for a minute and I listened, but nothing the announcers said explained it.
Snow appeared wet-eyed with a smirky half smile, managing to look equal parts George Bush and Pat Robertson. It made sense that Snow, a cancer survivor, could get emotional talking about his illness. But the cancer story and the images I saw on TV sent mixed messages: too happy and too sad, too staged and and too spontaneous. FOX TV personality Snow, who called himself a persuader (not a journalist, not an entertainer) in an interview with Rick Bird, might have been playing to his new audience’s emotions to ingratiate himself with them. Or he might have been trying to distract reporters from even more uncomfortable topics, such as Bush’s illegal domestic spying.
Asked about Bush’s illegal wiretapping and domestic surveillance, Snow used the phrase “hug the tar baby,” sending another mixed message. Snow said, “I don’t want to hug the tar baby of trying to comment on the program.” (Crooks and Liars has video) That can be interpreted to mean he wanted to avoid a sticky situation but it can also be interpreted as a racial slur.
In April, when a Stearns County Commissioner referred to the St. Cloud, Minn. human rights commission as “this tar baby,” the local NAACP president called his comments “bigoted and insulting,” according to FOX News. People have been fired for using the slur.
No one could expect Snow to be familiar with every racial incident FOX news reports. But still, given Snow’s Cincinnati background, he would have heard “tar baby” used as a racial slur. As a child, Snow lived in a Cincinnati housing project near Madisonville. He attended Princeton High School during the tumultuous era of Cincinnati Public School desegregation, experiencing firsthand the much feared merger between the Lincoln Heights and Princeton School districts. He had to know that him saying “tar baby” would offend.
People claim when right wing “entertainers” like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly use racist code words to gin up their audiences that it’s all for laughs, just part of the show. But when their former cohort Tony Snow, now presidential spokesman, reaches for offensive racial slurs in the name of the U.S. President, a person has to wonder if maybe George Bush really does hate Black people.
— Sam Robinson