Happy Birthday, Jill Bader! The Communications Director for Wisconsin GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker got a one-of-a-kind b-day present last night: the top spot in Keith Olbermann‘s Worst Persons in the World. Beating out Glenn Beck and a bear that shatters the age-old “deuce-in-the-woods” stereotype, Bader drew the honor with what Olbermann called a “racially tinged” tweet, and subsequent deletion.
While a “Worsts” win can actually burnish a conservative’s street cred, I’m afraid Bader didn’t really earn this one.
Here’s the entire “Worst Persons” segment from last night, because the bottom two were amusing as hell:
Missed ZING! by Countdown’s writers: When reached for comment, a publicist for the bear said he was just stumping for “Mama Grizzly” Sarah Palin.
As for Bader, it’s true that her explanation doesn’t necessarily wash, but it’s not a ridiculous stretch to think that, at a glance, she mistook Brickman’s tweet for the Hot Air article that she posted later. It’s also possible that she didn’t click the link in Brickman’s tweet before she re-tweeted it, a common practice, and when she reaped crow over it, attempted a quick patch.
What’s really at issue here is the degree to which the original tweet, by Bader office-mate Michael Brickman, was “racially tinged.”
On its own, the song isn’t offensive, and in the realm of blog gamesmanship, the comment that started it all is pretty amusing. The cause of the offense is the accompanying video, a clip from Soul Train knockoff The New Dance Show. The combination of the song and the video of a Soul Train Dance® could be seen as intending to mock not only President Obama‘s high speed rail project, but his blackness as well.
Stephanie Findley, chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s Black Caucus, took that view in a statement yesterday:
“On the day President Obama visited Milwaukee, the spokeswoman for Scott Walker, the endorsed Republican candidate for governor, posted to Twitter a video meant to mock the ongoing high-speed rail plans of this administration. There are many humorous ways to get the point across. Instead, the Walker campaign reached way back to the 1990s to dredge up a video featuring primarily African-American dancers. It would be naive to suggest that there are no racial overtones in the timing and the content of this communication by the Walker campaign. At best, it is tasteless and needlessly provocative. At worst, it recalls the coded racial program of division that has been exploited in the past. In either case, Scott Walker must apologize.”
Fair enough, but the intent is important here, and it appears that the intent was simply to use the song. A YouTube search for “C’mon’n Ride it (the Train)” reveals that the New Dance Show clip is the first result, followed by a slew of results with inferior/incomplete audio. Many people in the middle tier of computer literacy use YouTube as a sort of de facto iPod, and if they wanted to reference the song, this would have been the first, best choice. For future reference, try blip.fm.
It appears, then, that the joke was made in good faith, that offense was taken in good faith, but that it was all a misunderstanding. Since racism is rarely overt these days, it is important to call it out when you see it, but equally important to be fair.
Sidenote: Did Ms. Findley really have to throw the Quad City DJ’s under the bus (or train) to make her point? “C’mon’n Ride it (the Train)” isn’t some obscure, underground ditty. It’s one of the best examples of the “Songs with Partially Parenthetical Titles (that you actually have to say)” genre. See also: “Whoomp! (There it is)”
Here’s the clip that Brickman tweeted, from “The New Dance Show.” The Soul Train Dance is one of the great egalitarian institutions of our great nation, a supportive environment in which everyone gets a moment to shine. Hopefully, we can all learn something from it.
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