Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Frenzy in the Times (spoiler: there isn't much)

Speaking of narratives about regnant white supremacy and misogyny among the Right, this year's White House interns. Via DiversityInc.

Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute welcomes the Heritage Foundation's naming of a new president, Kay Coles James, after the turmoil ending the reign of Jim DeMint:
If the new Heritage president had been a white male, the Times would likely have gone into bean-counting frenzy, tallying up all the other conservative think tanks headed by white males. But not only is James female, she is black. The Times [article here] buries this fact in its ninth paragraph, after characterizing James as a “safe choice.” A conservative organization opting for a black female as its “safety” candidate does not fit the Times’ narrative about regnant white supremacy and misogyny among the Right.
I'd like to point out that when DeMint was named to head the foundation in December 2012 the Times did not mention his race or gender at all. They did mention that DeMint was one of the least wealthy members of the Senate and could look forward to a significant boost in his standard of living. The only reference to race in the story was in mentioning that Governor Nikki Haley might pick South Carolina's first black congressman since Reconstruction, Tim Scott, to replace DeMint as Senator (which she subsequently did). Nor did Andrew Rosenthal's op-ed give any attention to DeMint's race and gender.

The most recent appointment of a new head to a conservative think tank I can find out about, when Thomas W. Gilligan became director of the Hoover Institution in 2015, was not covered in the Times at all, in spite of his white and male identities. The same goes for Arthur Brooks, who is also white and male, being named president of the American Enterprise Institute in 2009. Heather Mac's shop, the Manhattan Institute, has been headed by white guy Lawrence J. Mone since 1995, whose only mention in the Times, in 1997, also left the race question blank.

So the evidence is that when a white man is appointed to head a conservative think tank the Times never goes into frenzy, bean-counting or otherwise.

You know what Heather Mac doesn't mention?
  • The fact that James, a former official in the Reagan, Bush, and Bush administrations and adviser on the Trump transition team, currently head of the Gloucester Institute, which aims to "Provide a safe environment for African Americans of divergent views to work to resolve social, economic and political issues in the African American community", is well-qualified for the job, as DeMint wasn't.
  • The fact that she herself thinks of her race and gender as an "afterthought" in her naming to the post, as mentioned in the Washington Post story (“You know what I’m so excited about? The fact that I’m a woman and African American? I don’t think anybody on the board cared. It is absolutely not in their DNA, and I think we did it the right way. I think that they were looking for the best and the most qualified person, and you know, it’s like it was an afterthought.”):
  • The fact that she was expecting a job in the Trump administration and mysteriously didn't get one, also in the Post (“I am told that I was blocked,” Politico reported she said Tuesday. “I was extremely disappointed that I didn't have the opportunity to serve there.”)
The Wapo piece represents that "narrative" a lot more explicitly than the Times does, right from the astonished headline,

Powerful pro-Trump think tank names first black female president

but Heather Mac doesn't cite that, because it kind of shows the narrative is true.

Sincere congratulations to the Heritage Foundation for finding Kay Coles James, by the way! I think it's an unambiguously good thing (I don't expect anybody at Heritage to agree with me about anything, so I'm not disappointed there), and I hope she manages to bring a little dignity to the place.

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