Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Is Hillary Clinton the Worst Human Being in the Universe? Redux

Steve was wondering, on the tale of how Bill and Hillary Clinton used to run a slave plantation on the grounds of the governor's mansion in Little Rock:

I think I've got part of an answer to that. The person in Russia isn't Russian but British, I believe, and not in Russia, but in Singapore, where he goes (or they go) by @JeanetteJing with the computer-generated composite face of an Asian girl, but he's been annoying me since last May, and also annoying somebody called T. Fisher King, who did the research to put his identity together: a vicious botfeeder pretending to be a legitimate Sanders supporter.

It was Jeanette, anyway (formerly "Jeanette Sandernista", now calling himself "Jeanette Corbynista", I'm sorry to say, but still working for Putin) who started tweeting the slavery story at 6:00 in the morning New York time yesterday and kept retweeting it throughout the day, which is what made it trend. The material was lifted without credit from a quasi-legitimate American source, Superpredator: Bill Clinton's Use and Abuse of Black America (July 2016), by Nathan J. Robinson, a Harvard grad student in political science and the editor in chief of Current Affairs, which is coincidentally the publisher of his book, but when Robinson found out about it later yesterday rather than complain about the plagiarism he decided to go for the free publicity, and threw together his own online article on the subject, also presumably cribbed from his book.

The story is drawn entirely from a passage in Hillary Clinton's 1996 book It Takes a Village, in a discussion on the importance of developing emotional intelligence:

And concludes that the answer to that question involves emotional intelligence. Read it yourself.

For Nathan, there's a word for this unpaid labor, and it's "slavery". Which it's hard to disagree with on its face, except that the 13th Amendment explicitly says it isn't, within US law. Forced labor for felony convicts, as provided for in the Constitution this way, is also ubiquitous in the Southern states, and in this context, working in the governor's mansion (which is an old tradition not just in Arkansas, but also in Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, and I can't find out how many others) is one of the best options, because of the relative freedom, the interesting people you get to hang out with and the relatively interesting work you get to do, the marketable skills you may acquire, and the chance of a pardon or commutation, which apparently happens a lot. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas was severely criticized for having pardoned too many murderers who had worked in the Little Rock mansion, and something similar happened to Haley Barbour in Mississippi in 2011. Bill Clinton himself was thought to have issued too many pardons in his first term, 1979-80—it was one of the reasons he lost that first reelection bid—and I can't find direct evidence, but it seems obvious that those men Hillary Clinton made friends with in the kitchen must have been among the beneficiaries.

That's the other thing: it's easy to deplore Clinton for failing to notice that this "longstanding tradition" was, in fact, slavery in a moral sense, though I don't find any evidence that anybody else did, or wondered at all about the moral implications of the punishment clause of the 13th Amendment before around 2010, until prisoners began organizing themselves last year into the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (with the WWW!), and I don't know what good it would have done if she had—she certainly wouldn't have convinced the Arkansas legislature to get rid of it. But I wonder how many Southern First Ladies over the decades have taken time to sit down and chat with the murder convicts in their kitchens, listen to their stories and come to appreciate their good qualities, and put them in a book as an illustration of how somebody can be betrayed by a lack of emotional education into doing really bad things without becoming bad people. She may not always do the thing you want her to do, but she always pays attention, respectfully, and at this point in the Trump administration that seems like a really good quality.

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