Joan Walsh Needs To Step Up To The Plate And Apologize

Anyone familiar with Joan Walsh knows that she’s an inveterate tweeter and San Francisco Giants fan. Anyone familiar with Joan Walsh will also know that she is no longer the Editor-in-Chief of, that she left that position more than a year ago in order to write a book, the publication of which we still await, and that she, instead, became the Editor-at-Large of Salon. Anyone familiar with Joan Walsh will know that about five months ago, Joan found herself in a little kerfuffle with some African American tweeters on Twitter, who took exception to some of the things Joan had said regarding some points she raised in an article written for Salon around the time the President announced his intention to run for re-election, something that seemed, particularly, to irritate Walsh.

You can read about the Twitter war here, but the ultimate result of the exchange between Joan and the blogger/tweeters was that she inadvertantly blurted out something that she’d obviously been feeling for a long time, possibly all her life – that she resented African Americans who say they are the Democratic Party’s base. Walsh tried in a subsequent blog, to backtrack her comments, even misrpresenting Ishmael Reed’s brilliant Op-Ed What Progressives Don’t Understand about Obama.

What’s particularly prescient, considering the kerfuffle concerning white liberals and racism coming from the Left, which erupted last week, was something Joan wrote in that infamously whiny blog of April 5th:-

I know some people are dreaming about a magical unicorn campaign by Russ Feingold or Howard Dean; I don’t see it. And let me be clearer about how I believe a primary challenge would hurt Democrats: I think many, maybe most, African American Democrats would stay with Obama, and the racial tension that made 2008 painful would be radioactive this time around.

On the other hand, let me say this: I deeply resent people who insist that white progressives who criticize Obama are deluding themselves that they’re his “base,” when his “base” is actually not white progressives, but people of color. Ishmael Reed laid out this pernicious line in December, in the New York Times, after many progressives, of every race, criticized Obama’s tax cut compromise. Reed compared “white progressives” who wanted more from Obama to spoiled children, compared with black and Latino voters “who are not used to getting it all.” I’ve been getting a similar message from some of my correspondents, and it’s depressingly divisive.

That’s actually not what Reed said at all, and if you bother to look at the above link, you’ll see that. You’ll also realize that Joan was willfully and more than a little bit maliciously misrepresenting Reed’s words and, in doing so, acting like a true concern troll. In other words, she’s not worried about divisiveness, she’s sowing it.

What a lot of people may not realize, however, is that Joan Walsh has been plagued by her perceived problems with race, since her days as a disgruntled Hillary supporter in the wake of Barack Obama’s historic nomination in 2008, nonetheless for her back-handed quasi-defense of Harriet Christian’s indefensible remarks about “an inadequate black male”, when Walsh wrote this:-

We saw the face of the angry white female backlash against Obama over the weekend, and it was hard not to turn away. On Friday, Geraldine Ferraro complained in a Boston Globe Op-Ed that she’s been demonized for saying that Obama’s presidential run benefited from his being black, and called her treatment “reverse racism.” On Saturday, Harriet Christian replaced Ferraro as the overwrought voice of white female resentment. There she was at the Democratic National Committee meeting, screaming at reporters that Democrats were about to nominate “an inadequate black male who would not have been running had it not been a white woman that was running for president.”

Beyond Christian’s deplorable reference to Obama as an “inadequate black male” was a wail worth hearing. She also said, “I’m proud to be an older American woman!” I can feel her pain. Reading the sexist attacks on Clinton and her white female supporters, as well as on female journalists and bloggers who’ve occasionally tried to defend her or critique Obama, has been, well, consciousness-raising. Prejudice against older women, apparently, is one of the last non-taboo biases. I’ve been stunned by the extent to which trashing Clinton supporters as washed up old white women is acceptable.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, however, in his Atlantic column, heard the dog whistles loud and clear:-

Walsh apparently thinks Harriet’s description of Obama as an inadequate black male, “was a wail worth hearing.” I’m physically sick reading that. I never much agreed with Walsh’s take on the Clinton’s, but for my money, she just fell into Pat Buchanan territory. Anyone who thinks there’s something to take from someone who says it’s fine to resent black people racially, who claims that there’s something worth hearing in describing the first black man to ever win a major party’s nomination as “an inadequate black male” is the moral equivalent of a racist to me.

So that’s that, then. There’s a history of Joan having a perceived problem with race – specifically, with a biracial man who identifies as African American, sitting in the Oval Office; and as we all know from the late Lee Atwater’s political strategy, perception is reality.

And now, earlier this week, when Melissa Harris-Perry’s seminal article appeared in the online version of The Nation, the only Professional Left voices to raise a cri de coeur against Harris-Perry’s theory that maybe, just maybe there might be a soupcon of racism mixed into the recipe of disillusionment, defeat and utter distaste emanating from the Progressive Left in their litany of complaints about all-things-Obama, came from, with Joan Walsh leading the way.

If there were anything said at all by the editors/bloggers of Huffington Post, Firedoglake or Daily Kos, it was nothing significant. Everyone was talking, initially, about Joan’s disjointed and meanderingly instantaneous response to her “professional friend” Harris-Perry, which sounded an awful lot like what it was – a screed from a woman who used her professional association with a woman of colour as a shield whilst she used this “friendship” to hammer home the pithy excuse that friends are “entitled” to criticize one another.

Now, if you’re familiar with Joan in anyway from Twitter to her Facebook page, you’ll know that Walsh, like so many celebrity talking heads treat with disdain any disagreement emanating from the hoi-polloi. She punches down, not mincing words. Plebs whose opinions differ from Joan’s are told, in no uncertain terms, to “get help.” She punched down on her “friend” Melissa, not expecting that her “friend” might punch back, and preciptously. In response to Joan’s demand that Harris-Perry name and shame the people she thought were dropping by the wayside in supporting the President on the basis of race, the professor replied:-

I believe we must be careful and judicious in our conversations about racism. But I also believe that those who demand proof of interpersonal intention to create a racist outcome are missing the point about how racism works. Racism is not exclusively about hooded Klansmen; it is also about the structures of bias and culture of privilege that infect the left as well.

Which brings us to a second common strategy of argument about one’s racial innocence: the “I have black friends” claim. I was shocked and angered when Salon’s Joan Walsh used this strategy in her criticism of my piece. Although I disagree with her, I have no problem with Walsh’s decision to take on the claims in my piece. I consider it a sign of respect to publicly engage those with whom you disagree. I was taken aback that Walsh emphasized the extent of our friendship. Walsh and I have been professionally friendly. We’ve eaten a few meals. I invited her to speak at Princeton and I introduced her to my literary agent. We are not friends. Friendship is a deep and lasting relationship based on shared sacrifice and joys. We are not intimates in that way. Watching Walsh deploy our professional familiarity as a shield against claims of her own bias is very troubling. In fact, it is one of the very real barriers to true interracial friendship and intimacy.

Joan’s response wasn’t the only reaction from Salon to Harris-Perry. Salon’s latest bullyboy blogger, David Sirota wrote a response to Harris-Perry’s original argument, which was dripping with condescension and ad hominem. Whilst he saw “no evidence” of white liberal racism in their abandonment of the President – he wouldn’t, would he? – he did see enough to reckon that Melissa Harris-Perry was an “arrogant elitist,” and he even made a KKK analogy.

I would really like to take this opportunity to inform Mr Sirota, another eminent bigmouth from the Progressive end of the political spectrum who can accept no other opinion differing to his own, that “arrogant elitism” is very much Northernspeak for “uppity.” So, yes, David, you just inadvertantly proved the professor’s point.

But the piece de resistance was actually the third Salon article, Gene Lyons’s “Obama’s Bridge Too Far.” I’d provide the link, but it appears that Salon or Lyons has removed the article. Ne’mind. I deconstructed the essence of it here.

Once again, Harris-Perry’s premise was proven, and, yet again, by a Salon writer. Lyons, a noted liberal writer and former academic, wrote one of the most distastefully racist and sexist polemics against another professional that I’ve ever to read in my life.

Immediately, his blog hit the cybersphere, it went viral, with many people from the Left, of all races, demanding an instant apology from Salon – either from the publication’s returning CEO, its current editor-in-chief, Kerry Lauerman, or its better-known Editor-at-Large, Joan Walsh.

Now, on Facebook, Lyons is using the Palin tactic of hunkering down, assuming the victim posture and misrepresenting the facts for his own benefit. In response to messages from support (all of which seem to come from white, affluent, fiftysomething males), Lyons replies:-

It appears the article could cost me the Salon gig. They posted a rebuttal by a pal of hers whose idea of an argument was to call me a motherfucker, invited a reply, but haven’t used it.

Totally wrong. Lyons is referring to a piece written in response to his blog by Elon James White (link here), which was published in Salon on Friday. White is an African-American broadcaster and sometime contributor to Salon, who, ironically, had Joan on his program, “Blacking It Up,” only days after her initial run-in on Twitter with the African American commentators. In fact, at that time, James was supportive of Walsh in that incident and defended her on air.

But not this time, I gather. White writes:-

You can like Dr. Harris-Perry’s theory or not, but 1) its a theory not an etched in stone condemnation and 2) it’s based in reality. It’s based in feelings many in the Black community have wondered when hearing attacks from White liberals. It’s based in issues that have been previously pointed out within the progressive movement. You could make the argument that race has nothing to do with White liberals issues with Obama and I wouldn’t have an issue with that. But to dismiss one of the great Black public intellectuals of our time because it made you feel uncomfortable is completely ridiculous.

And that’s the problem. Dr. Harris-Perry made folks feel uncomfortable.

White liberals enjoy the concept that they are immune to accusations of racism. They’re LIBERALS. They obviously are totally and completely not racist so how could you ever dare even pose the possibility of such a thing? Matter of fact? Since White liberals are so “obvi” not racist they can dismiss this feeling amongst Black folks as silly and tell them to stop it.

White nails the problem succinctly in the highlighted paragraph. In fact, several times when I’ve raised the possibility of racism on the Left, I’ve had many noted Progressives tell me, in no uncertain terms, that as Progressives, as Democrats, there is no racism on the Left. We. Simply. Are. Not. Racists.


The purge of the rural Southern working class, an action which propelled them directly into the clutches of the Republican party, plus the propagation of the myth popular on the Progressive Left that all Southerners are racist, neo-Confederates, may have removed one overt type of racism from the old Democratic party; but it was simply papered over, tarted up and replaced with a more subtle, more patronizing and more insidious type. The smiling cobra brand. The huckster-shuckster jokes of Michael Moore and Bill Maher. The “I’ve got black friends” wail of a Joan Walsh. The “don’t-be-silly-go-and-sit-down” placebo. The unconscious use of epithets to describe the President which emasculate him in the way traditionally originating during and after the slavery era – promulgating the image of the morally weak and intellectually inferior black man. A coward. The incessant need of bloggers, pundits and critics from the Left to weigh in on what the President should say in a speech, even to the point of constructing a makeshift Oval Office in order to instruct him how on how to say it.

The President can never make an issue about his race. He has to be above that, and he’s shown that he is; but that doesn’t mean that the issue of race can’t be discussed; and, specifically, we have to tackle the problem as it exists on the Left. The Right, we can deal with – we know who and what they are.

And this begs the initial step of requiring Salon, or someone representing Salon in an official way, to write an apology for Lyons’s disturbing article.

First of all, Lyons won’t – although the article appears to have been removed. He’s impervious to its effect, as evidenced in an interview he gave to Joy-Ann Reid of The Grio, still insisting that Harris-Perry sees everything as a question of race.

In this case, everybody who’s angry about [the Salon column] is African-American, and everybody who’s favorable to it is not. I think there’s a perception problem, but both sides have a perception problem. Don’t accuse people of racism and expect them to curl up in a ball or expect them to frantically try to prove their innocence. You’ve got
to be more careful about symbols than I was, but don’t expect me to prove that I’m ‘ipso-facto guilty.

Well, Lyons is wrong. I’m not African American, and I thought his article atrocious; furthermore, I know several other non-African Americans who thought the same; so Lyons is still seeing things as they were some forty-odd to fifty years ago.

Life has changed.

And certainly, Reid has a way of eliciting a rather different response from Joan “It’s-All-About-Me” Walsh too, regarding this:-

“I kind of won back my friends by defending the president [against right wing attacks] and calling out others’ racism,” said Walsh.”But because I disagree slightly on the role of the race [in critiques of the president,] I’m now an enemy too.”

Saying she is often unfairly lumped in with relentless Obama critics like Sirota and fellow Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald, Walsh conceded that many liberals, including her, may have placed too-high expectations on candidate Obama.

“I’ve said that on some level I probably was expecting a ‘savior hero’ rather than a transactional Chicago pol who is going to make me happy one day and unhappy the next,” Walsh said. “What I have a problem with is the extent to which people associate racism with fair criticism of a president who hasn’t done what some of us hoped he would do.”

More of the self-victimisation which seems to pervade both political extremes these days, but Joan admits that, like others who purport to be noted political commentators, she seems to have regressed past political immaturity to veritable adolescence in the Progressives’ interminable search for the Magic Negro.

Message to Joan: The President ain’t Bagger Vance.

But now Joan’s being assailed, yet again, on Twitter, by all those pesky Obama supporters, asking that she, at least, apologize to Harris-Perry, on behalf of Salon for the atrocious Lyons article.

It’s clear that Lyons won’t, himself. Although he’s been invited to respond to Elon James White, he made it clear on his Facebook page that he won’t.

Joan, on the other hand, is doing an apt impersonation of a snarky ostritch on Twitter, fending off demands that she apologize, by reminding people again and again that Salon was nothing to do with her anymore, that she was no longer the editor. Couldn’t they read?

Well, it’s true she’s not the editor; however, she is the Editor-at-Large, and every definition I’ve read of that vague position states that its holder does have certain input into editorial content and the responses to it. And Joan Walsh is the one person with whom the public openly associates with Salon. In her capacity as political contributor to MSNBC, she’s always introduced as “Salon’s Joan Walsh.” And whilst Lyons now asserts that he’s a syndicated columnist, Salon never asserted as such.

Unless Joan either encouraged or tacitly approved Lyons racist and sexist hitpiece on Melissa Harris-Perry, Joan is well within her rights by virtue of the position she still holds at Salon, to write a formal apology to Harris-Perry for the smear on her character which the magazine published.

But at the end of the day, somehow, such a piece would only devolve into a pity party for Joan Walsh, oppressed, affluent and mau-mau’d white woman.

Edited by Wendy Gittleson