Published: Aug. 31, 2012 Updated: 11:03 a.m.

Mark Steyn: Racist dog whistles and the men who hear them


Syndicated columnist

American racism is starting to remind me of American alcoholism. At the founding of the republic, in the days when beer was thought of as “liquid bread” and a healthy nutritional breakfast, Americans drank about three-to-four times as much as they do now. Today the United States has a lower per capita rate of alcohol consumption than almost any other developed nation, but it has more alcoholism support groups than any other developed nation – around 164 groups per million people. France, which drinks about 50 percent more per capita than America, has one-twentieth the number of support groups. The French and Italians enjoy drinking, the English and Irish enjoy getting drunk, and Americans enjoy getting drunk on ever more absurd stigmatizatory excess. At Walmart they card you if you “appear to be under” – what is it up to now? 43? 57? And the citizenry take this as a compliment: Well-preserved grandmothers return from failed attempts to purchase a bottle of wine with gay cries of, “I was carded at Costco! They’ve made my weekend!”

And so it goes with American racism: The less there is, the more extravagantly the racism-awareness lobby patrols its beat. The Walmart carding clerks of the media are ever more alert to those who “appear to be” racist. On MSNBC, Chris Matthews declared this week that Republicans use “Chicago” as a racist code word. Not to be outdone, his colleague Lawrence O’Donnell pronounced “golf” a racist code word. When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell observed that Obama was “working to earn a spot on the PGA tour,” O’Donnell brilliantly perceived that subliminally associating Obama with golf is racist, because the word “golf” is subliminally associated with “Tiger Woods,” and the word “Tiger” is not-so-subliminally associated with cocktail waitress Jamie Grubbs, nightclub hostess Rachel Uchitel, lingerie model Jamie Jungers, former porn star Holly Sampson, etc, etc. So by using the word “golf” you’re sending a racist dog whistle that Obama is a sex addict who reverses over fire hydrants.

Article Tab:  MSNBC news anchor/political commentator Chris Matthews attends the Compliance New York premiere at the IFC Center on August 14, 2012 in New York City. Matthews declared this week that Republicans use “Chicago” as a racist code word.
MSNBC news anchor/political commentator Chris Matthews attends the “Compliance” New York premiere at the IFC Center on August 14, 2012 in New York City. Matthews declared this week that Republicans use “Chicago” as a racist code word.

While we’re on the subject of GOP white supremacists, former Secretary of State Condi Rice spoke movingly of her rise to the top from a childhood in segregated Birmingham, Ala. But everyone knows that’s just more Republican racist dog-whistling for “when’s Bull Connor gonna whistle up those dogs and get me off stage?” Meanwhile, over at The Huffington Post, Geoffrey Dunn, author of “The Lies Of Sarah Palin” (St. Martin’s Press, 2011, in case you missed it), was scoffing at Clint Eastwood’s star turn at the convention – “better known as the Gathering of Pasty White People,” added Mr. Dunn, demonstrating the stylistic panache that set a-flutter the hearts of so many St. Martin’s Press commissioning editors. Warming to his theme, Mr. Dunn noted that Clint had been mayor of “the upscale and frighteningly white community” of Carmel, California.

To judge from his byline photo, Geoffrey Dunn is not only white but “pasty white.” So, too, is Lawrence O’Donnell. If I recall correctly from the last time I saw his show (1978 – the remote had jammed), Chris Matthews is not just “pasty white” but “frighteningly white.” I happen to be overseas right now, so perhaps that’s the reason that all these “upscale and frighteningly white” American liberals seem even crazier than usual in their more-anti-racist-than-thou obsessions. To me, the word “Clint” is racist dog-whistling for “Play ‘Misty’ For Me,” which is racist dog-whistling for “Erroll Garner,” which is racist dog-whistling for “black pianist way better than Liberace.” Clint took “The Bridges Of The Frighteningly White Madison County” and gave it a cool Johnny Hartman soundtrack. Clint introduced the world to Roberta Flack’s killer song “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.”

But, as Geoffrey Dunn can explain, that’s racial code for “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face I Was Pleasantly Reassured By How Pasty White It Was.” Also, Clint starred in “The Eiger Sanction,” a mountaineering thriller set on an Alp that was “upscale and frighteningly white.”

On the matter of those racist dog whistles all these middle-age white liberals keep hearing, the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto put it very well: “The thing we adore about these dog-whistle kerfuffles is that the people who react to the whistle always assume it’s intended for somebody else,” he wrote. “The whole point of the metaphor is that if you can hear the whistle, you’re the dog.” And a very rare breed at that. What frequency does a Mitch McConnell speech have to be ringing inside your head for even the most racially obsessed Caucasian NBC anchorman to hear the words “PGA tour” as “deep-rooted white insecurities about black male sexuality”? That’s way beyond dog-whistling, and somewhere between barking mad and frothing rabid.

Still, now that “golf” and “Chicago” – along with “Clint,” “Medicare,” “debt,” “jobs,” “foreign policy” and “quantitative easing” – are all racist code words, are there any words left that aren’t racist? Yes, here’s one:


Not familiar with it? New York Assembly candidate Ben Akselrod used it the other day in a campaign mailer to Brooklyn electors, arguing that his opponent “has allowed crime to go up over 50 percent in our negrohood so far this year.”

Like Messrs Dunn, Matthews and O’Donnell, Ben Akselrod is frighteningly pasty white, and a Democrat, and so presumably has highly refined racial antennae. Had a campaign staffer suggested that Mr. Akselrod’s opponent was wont to wear “plus-fours” and had a “niblick,” obviously such naked racism would have been deleted in the first draft. But the more subtly allusive “negrohood” apparently just slipped through.

Mr. Akselrod now says it was a “typo.” Could happen to anyone. You’re typing “neighborhood,” and you leave out the “i,” and the “h” and “b,” and the “o” and “r” get mysteriously inverted. Either that, or your desktop came with Al Sharpton’s spellcheck. And then nobody at the campaign office reading through the mailer spotted it. Odd.

It’s only the beginning of September. So we’ve got two more months of this. I don’t know how it will play in the negrohoods of Chicago – whoops, sorry, I apologize for saying “Chicago” – but let me make a modest observation from having spent much of the past few months traveling round foreign parts. When you don’t have frighteningly white upscale liberals obsessing about the racist subtext of golf, it’s amazing how much time it frees up to talk about other stuff. For example, as dysfunctional as Greece undoubtedly is, if you criticize the government’s plans for public pensions, there are no Chris Matthews-types with such a highly evolved state of racial consciousness that they reflexively hear “watermelon” instead of the word “pensions.” So, instead, everyone discusses the actual text rather than the imaginary subtext. Which may be why political discourse in the eurozone is marginally less unreal than ours right now: At least they’re talking about “austerity”; over here, we’re still spending, and more than ever.

Time’s Mark Halperin wrote this week that “Obama can’t win if he can’t swing the conversation away from the economy.” That’s a pretty amazing admission. The economy is the No. 1 issue on the minds of voters, and, beyond that, the central reality of Obama’s America. But to win the President has to steer clear. That doesn’t leave a lot else. Hence, the racism of golf, the war on women, the carcinogenic properties of Mitt Romney. Democrat strategy 1992: It’s the economy, stupid. Democrat strategy 2012: It’s the stupidity, economists.


Add a comment…
  • Matt Bracken · Top Commenter · University of Virginia· 101 subscribers

    Classic Steyn! If a Republican wrote “Negrohood” in a campaign pamphlet, he would be skinned alive by the MSM commissars.
    • Watson N Tonya Prunier · Top Commenter · Indianapolis, Indiana

      True because the MSM commisars are the illegitimate advocates for the black community who can’t speak out because the ‘need’ Sharpton and Jackson to keep them as victims. Meanwhile, what about the slums of white America where there are American citizens struggling to make ends meet there as well. What about the challenges of education and employment in the Appalachian communities. The problem of poverty is not systemic to one ethnic group, it’s pandemic in this nation and does not care for the color of its victim’s skin.Unfortunately, our “Caucasianally-Challenged” Commander in Chief has made the reality of success that less attainable because of his horrible leadership skills and pro-Marxist agenda.
      Reply · 15·· 19 hours ago
    • David Thornton · Central, Texas

      MSM as still living on the PLANTATION!
      Reply · 4·· 18 hours ago
    • Tom Halleck · Top Commenter · Longwood, Florida

      Watson N Tonya Prunier I thin your photo is racist.
      Reply·· 4 hours ago
  • Watson N Tonya Prunier · Top Commenter · Indianapolis, Indiana

    You know Mark, according to the truth you so eloquently presented, you’re a racist. Sorry, it’s clear in the following instructional video about classic racism ( you are done laughing: Consider this, Burgess Owens has done a decent job in showing why such an atrocity can continue in ( The black community has been on intellectual and physical welfare for far too long to understand that they are enslaved to their Democratic Party. “Masser can call me whatever he wants because he will provide for me ‘someday’.” They do not realize that they are living cotton field mentality again and they are trapped.Welfare was the perfect integration of communal ignorance. Look how blacks have held onto the hope that the Democratic …See More

  • John Frary· Top Commenter

    And druring the reign of Reagan the Merciless, Charlie Rangerl advised us that “tax cuts” were a code word for racism. “Tax evasion” however is merely a code word for Charlie Rangel.
  • Randy Bock · Yale University

    think of our progress over the decades, now that “PGA Tour” ‘dog-whistle’ scans directly into the word “black”.
  • Lisa Jennings · Realtor at Keller Williams Realty Kirkwood, MO

    Mark, great piece. Going forward I think we should all qualify everything we say about Obama, the dems, the libs, the media, etc. with “Ooops. I’m so racist.” And leave it at that. They love it when we’re self-effacing! For instance, if in a conversation you say “I think everyone who wants to vote should have a photo I.D.” and then say “ooops, I’m so racist” everyone listening will know exactly where you’re coming from. I suppose that also applies to any praise we give to Romney, Ryan and all conservatives. “Romney/Ryan are a CLASS ACT! Ooops, I’m so racist.” See where I’m going with this? Let’s just all admit to something they’re sure we’re guilty of. By the way, how long will it be before the PETA crowd says that dog-whistling is code for animal abuse? Haha! Have a great weekend.

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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