The word "macaca," used by outgoing Republican Sen. George Allen (news, bio, voting record) of Virginia to describe a Democratic activist of Indian descent who was trailing his campaign, was named the most politically incorrect word of the year on Friday by Global Language Monitor, a nonprofit group that studies word usage.
You want to know how offensive the word 'macaca' is? Consider:
Pundits, journalists and reporters had no qualms whatsoever about repeating the word ad naseam, on TV or in newspapers. Contrast that with the delicate way that, for example, the Washington Post covered a genuinely, offensive racial epithet: "the n-word".
Imagine replacing each such usage with the n-word. It's difficult to imagine the media or critics doing that, isn't it? And yet, critics and the media had no qualms at all about the word 'macaca'. Why?
Because, they never genuinely considered the word 'macaca' to be offensive. It was simply a useful construction around which they could feign great offense, despite using the word themselves with no regard for its alleged 'offensiveness'.
Let me pose a question. If in Bill Clinton's day, the Washington Post had run 100 articles and editorials on Juanita Broaddrick's allegation that she had been raped years before by our president, and every newspaper in the country had chimed in with similar stories, exploring every innuendo, giving ink to every crackpot who ever had a related tale to tell, analyzing the troubling implications of the dastardly act ad nauseum, etc., would the citizenry have turned against him? Of course. But the Post refrained. Something about journalistic integrity.
But the Post found it acceptable to run 100 articles and editorials on the subject of macaca and its implications of racism and bigotry.
The 'macaca' story illustrated one of the worst tendencies of journalism — a tabloid-like fascination with silly scandals, inconsequential controversies and media-manufactured 'stories'.
[Note: I worked on the Allen campaign after the 'macaca' incident]
Imagine replacing each such usage with the n-word. It’s difficult to imagine the media or critics doing that, isn’t it?
Yes it is, because though the words are interchangeable, Allen didn’t use the "n" word. So why on earth would you put words in his mouth?
Because, they never genuinely considered the word ’macaca’ to be offensive. It was simply a useful construction around which they could feign great offense, despite using the word themselves with no regard for its alleged ’offensiveness’.
And it seems everyone who saw the video knew exactly the point Allen was making.
Must be mass hysteria eh Jon?
Give it up. Your employer made a fool of himself on video. One needn’t ponder for long why he decided to play to the locals. Next time he decides to do so, it might be a good idea for someone to look out for cameras and microphones.
es it is, because though the words are interchangeable, Allen didn’t use the "n" word. So why on earth would you put words in his mouth?
No, Davebo, they aren’t interchangeable. If the words really were interchangeable, the Post would have the same level of anxiety over printing "macaca" as it has over printing "n*gg*r" (redacted to get through your filters). The fact that the Post routinely printed "macaca" shows that it doesn’t find it nearly as offensive as "n*gg*r", which it never prints.
If my friends and I went around referring to, say, caucasians as "serploos" and meant it in a derogatory manner,* is the Post not supposed to print it? Am I off the hook because no one thinks "serploo" is offensive or even has any idea what the hell it means? If I was a Senator and called a caucasian a "serploo" at a campaign event, what are reporters supposed to do?
*I’m not saying that Allen meant it as derogatory, but it sure made him look awful (as did his "Welcome to America" comment that followed it up).
I think the comparison with the "N-word" is a bit strong.
But let’s consider if Allen had used the term "Chink," which certainly is derogatory. Do we think that people would have referred to him as "Chink-boy"? Would you have had the word "Chink" thrown around as often?
Yes, folks understood what Allen was referring to—-but that’s not the point. The question is whether, under the circumstances, and especially given that folks knew what he was referring to, they would have treated other terms as cavalierly and repetitively?
And, to further Jon’s point, whether not only would it have been repeated in news stories, but in news analysis, commentary, etc., not just referring to the word/incident, but repeating the very word that caused the incident.
Jon, based on your experience with the Allen campaign, do you have any further thoughts on the subject of media bias? You’re touching on that area in this post, but I wonder if you have had occasion to reconsider your previous position.
The last time that I saw your position on that (back in the spring, probably), I believe your position was that the media’s behavior reflected sloppiness but not genuine bias. My own position was that they exhibit both, and that there are clear metrics showing bias. (There have been some interesting studies that used metrics such as cited think tank reports. My own metric is the number of stories that make conservatives, the military, or big business look bad, but later have to be retracted as false. There are plenty of those, but I can’t find any equivalents for liberals, union leaders, etc.)
Nice try Jon, nice try. But as usual, things are a bit more complicated than you make them out to be.
First, "Macaca" is a slur in other countries. Not here. Thus it doesn’t carry the same historical baggage as the "N" word does here.
Second, and more importantly, to the extent that many on the left used it to ridicule the racist you decided to work for, I liken its use to the use of the word "queer" to refer to gays. "Queer" can be a derogatory term. But it has been "reclaimed" from the homophobes, and turned on its head. It is now quite often used as a term of empowerment.
A similar observation applies to "macaca." Those who used it used to ridicule Allen’s racism and Allen more generally. It was immediately reclaimed. And because the term lacks the historical baggage, those outside the group to whom Allen meant to apply it could use it to.
Jon, Allen was a racist. Macaca had cache because it confirmed what everyone suspected about Allen. You worked for a racist. A bigot. He lost to a better man. Good riddance.
And this is all news to you, Jon? After watching the Washington Post spread God knows how many tons of ink on Whitewater? Or the repeated stories in the press about how the Clinton’s had Web Hubbell hit? Or Howard Dean’s scream? Or spreading Rove’s story about McCain’s "Negra" child?
Your guy stepped in it big time and couldn’t figure a way to get it off his shoes. Although it would have been easier were it not for the noose in his office and the Confederate flags. The guy ran a crappy campaign and lost. It isn’t the media’s fault.
Pundits, journalists and reporters had no qualms whatsoever about repeating the word ad naseam, on TV or in newspapers.
Ad nauseam? Well, no doubt you got tired of hearing it, as I’m sure Allen did as well. That’s not the media’s fault, that’s Allen’s fault. He said it. Comparing the "N" word to macaca is ludicrous. Macaca does not have the charge that the "N" word has. So let’s toss that right in the garbage bin where it belongs. Like Lurking Observer observed, "chink" or something similar would be a better comparison... Kikes, Wops, Greasers, etc... But the "N" word. Not a chance. The MSM would never repeat that, no matter who said it. I believe that "chink" or something similar would definitely be repeated. Probably even more so.
Macaca may have put Webb over the top. Maybe it was just the icing on the Allen sh*t cake for some voters. But the fact is, Allen lost not because of racism charges, but because he was just another panting dog for the Bush administration’s foreign policy bungling. Allen could have won by a large margin had he offered some criticism for the Iraq war. Allen may have said, "macaca" only once in public, but how many times did he say "stay the course" or the like?
Maybe your right on another point. Maybe "macaca" wasn’t an offensive word, at least to most Americans, until the story broke and the racial history of the word surfaced. But even then, it maybe wouldn’t have been a big deal unless it was coupled with Allen’s own shaky history on the subject of racism. "Macaca" alone wouldn’t have destroyed Allen’s career. It was "macaca" and this, and "macaca" and that, and this, and oh yeah... remember this.
From On High blog...
Yeah - high on crack, maybe,
Let me pose a question. If in Bill Clinton’s day, the Washington Post had run 100 articles and editorials on Juanita Broaddrick’s allegation that she had been raped years before by our president, and every newspaper in the country had chimed in with similar stories, exploring every innuendo, giving ink to every crackpot who ever had a related tale to tell, analyzing the troubling implications of the dastardly act ad nauseum, etc., would the citizenry have turned against him? Of course. But the Post refrained. Something about journalistic integrity.
Oh.. My.. God. What an utter ridiculous comparison. This is unbelievably laughable.
I tell you what. Why don’t you go out and find some video of Clinton raping Broaddrick, then come talk to me. I’m sure the Post as well as many others would run countless stories on it and the youtube hits would cause the site to crash.
But until then, that comparison can p*ss right the f*ck off. Pleeeeze.
Jon, you know I love you, man But...
The ’macaca’ story illustrated one of the worst tendencies of journalism — a tabloid-like fascination with silly scandals, inconsequential controversies and media-manufactured ’stories’.