The Christian Science Monitor apparently thought it was doing the country a public service by laying out rules by which to judge whether or not a Mitt Romney ad is “racist,” but in its five questions to ask yourself about Mitt Romney’s ads, the magazine essentially laid out criteria that makes any ad Romney has done or even could do into a racist attack on Barack Obama.
In fact, the Monitor begins with the premise that racism must naturally be a prime Romney tactic against Obama. The campaign will be racist, the authors in the Monitor say. “It’s not a matter of whether racism will appear in campaign messaging, but when,” they write.
What the authors then do is indulge that famous left-wing practice of saying that everything Republicans do — this time in politics — is either outright racism, purposeful yet veiled racism, or subconscious racism. In other words, everything is racism no matter what.
For the Monitor, professors Charlton McIlwain and Stephen M. Caliendo also assume that Obama is never racist in his campaign efforts.
Here are the five questions:
1. Does the ad reference racial stereotypes?
2. Does the ad show a Obama’s image alongside a racial stereotype?
3. Are all the people surrounding a Romney white?
4. Does the ad create an ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ racial contrast?
5. Is the audience where the ad runs mostly white?
The first rule wonders if there are “racial stereotypes” in a Romney ad. Is Obama presented as having done something that could be considered “untrustworthy”? That’s racist. How about anything that smacks of a crime? Racist. Does the Romney ad say Obama is “misleading” or the president is saying things that are “not true”? You guessed it, racist. Is anyone criticizing Obama for golfing so much thereby hinting that he might be a “lazy” president? Racist all day long.
The second question asks ad watchers to note if Obama’s image appears “alongside racial stereotypes.”
I am not sure how this is different than rule one, because the professors again bring up “criminality,” but the pair go on to say that when Obama calls Romney a “felon,” that’s no big deal because whites have “no association with crime.”
Whites are never associated with crime? None? Really?
The third question asks if Romney has white people in his ads. Of course, it stands to reason that if Romney is shown among whites, then that is proof positive he must hate blacks.
Question four asks ad viewers to note if Romney is creating an “us vs. them racial contrast.”
In this one, the writers say that if Romney uses the words “we,” or “us,” or “them,” then he’s a racist. I’d find it a bit hard to make a political ad where the other party isn’t a “them,” and my supporters aren’t an “us” (see image from Obama ad, above)–but I guess they would label me a racist, as well.
Finally, the last question essentially posits that if a Romney ad about Obama runs in a predominantly white part of the country, guess what? The ad is surely racist. Does it matter what’s in the ad? Probably not to these two.
In essence, the pair seem to claim that any and every criticism of Obama must be a racist attack on the man. Using their criteria, Romney could not make an ad that isn’t racist by any rational interpreation, and as far as they are concerned, Romney likely intends a racist attack anyway.
And who should be surprised that these two professors see racism everywhere they look? After all, they have a book to sell based on the idea. At the end of the piece the Monitor notes that the two profs authored the book, Race Appeal: How Candidates Invoke Race in U.S. Political Campaigns. Thus, they have a vested interest to claim that racism infuses every ad–every Republican ad, anyway.