In honor of L.A. Clippers owner-cum-stain on humanity Don Sterling's lifetime ban from the NBA, All In with Chris Hayes host Chris Hayes booked the whitest possible asshole to chew over the day's events, and Bill Maher did not disappoint. Among the many shitty things he said in the ten minute segment were his assessment that the most "creepy" part of the whole story was that Don Sterling was taped in his own home, and his rebuke of Clippers players who "kept taking the checks."
You can watch the whole segment, in which Maher also said that ESPN had "found their Malaysian plane" in the Sterling scandal (because why should a sports channel harp on a guy getting banned for life?), at the All In website, but the part that really got me was Maher's repeated insistence that the "creepy" part of the whole story is the fact that Sterling was recorded. He even managed to bring things round to the NSA scandal, which, like racism, isn't quite as big a deal as Sterling being taped, but "which I am concerned about, too."
As Hayes pointed out, no one knows, yet, how it was that Sterling wound up on tape, but that's the deeply creepy part to Maher, not the racism.
Another disturbing media subtext that was on display here was the disproportionate effort to find black villains in this story of sick white racism. Aside from Sterling's mixed-race girlfriend, the media has spent a lot of time and effort reporting on Sterling's relationship with the local NAACP chapter, which, to be fair, is an irresistible sidenote to the story, but not to the degree it was covered. Maher brought it up too, but not before taking a shot at the Clippers players, who "must have known that he had been sued, he had many instances before this that showed his true colors," and yet "they still kept taking the checks."
For his part, Hayes fed into Maher's racism-minimizing routine by discussing "outrage brush fires" and asking Maher if this was a "situation that's so far over the line that it doesn't strike you as a liberal PC lynch mob," essentially validating the view that Maher espouses, that things that don't rise to this level are the stuff of oversensitive nuisances. The "outrage brush fires" line was also astute, as Hayes said, in an aside, that he "makes my living chronicling these outrage brush fires."
There's probably a lot of truth to that, that much of the liberal media's focus on issues like this, or Paul Ryan's "inner city" remarks, is about exploiting outrage for eyeballs, or clicks, or political advantage, in addition to legitimate concern about racism. The analogy to brush fires, though, seems to indicate it's more the former than the latter.
Hayes and Maher similarly err by posing racist remarks as not as substantive or important as Sterling's housing discrimination settlement, because while they see something that "captures the imagination," they are two equal cogs in the racism machine. When comments like Sterling's, or Paul Ryan's, or Cliven Bundy's, go out into the world, they become the air that practiced discrimination breathes. These are not brush fires, they are the fuel rods in a reactor that continues to irradiate the lives of disempowered people.
I know this was not Hayes' intent, but it is beginning to feel like some liberals are attracted to racism only to the extent that it can help them win arguments, and have recently gotten nervous that maybe it isn't working out
On the other hand, the media obsession with the NSA scandal, particularly on the left, seems entirely heartfelt. It's not surprising that when he hears this story, Bill Maher relates to the asshole being taped. Chris Hayes shouldn't be humoring him.