Kissing Up to Biggots; Next, Cyberbums

| 16 Feb 2015 | 04:52

    When the prominent Southern Republican is questioned about his speech before a white supremacist audience, he at first denies he appeared before the group, and when shown photographs of himself with the group's senior leadership, he squirms away with a non-denial denial, that he "has no firsthand knowledge of the group's views."

    Sound like George W. Bush after his appearance before the student body of Bob Jones University, a white-supremacist diploma mill in South Carolina? Wrong. It's a description of the long association with and rapid retreat from the avowedly white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. It's getting to be a regular pattern in the Republican Party for politicians from Southern states. Hold your tongue around the national media swarming Washington, DC, or attached to your political campaign, but when you get back down home, you can let it all hang out with the jowly good ol' boys who are your natural-born constituency.

    The history of Republican Southerners cozying up to racists is a long one?Strom Thurmond springs immediately to mind. But it was only last year that Lott and Georgia Rep. Bob Barr, the former House manager during the Clinton impeachment, not to mention North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms, Mississippi Gov. Kirk Fordice and a sprinkling of lesser lights in the Deep South were found in the comfy embrace of the Council of Conservative Citizens and its CEO, Gordon Lee Baum. Have a listen to the views of a columnist for Citizens Informer, the CCC's tabloid newspaper:

    "Take 10 bottles of milk to represent all humans on earth. Nine of them will be chocolate and only one white. Now mix all those bottles together and you have gotten rid of that troublesome bottle of white milk. There too is a way to get rid of the world of whites?genocide via the bedroom chamber."

    What did Trent Lott's pal Gordon Lee Baum have to say about the Citizens Informer column on milk bottles? "Now I can live with that," he told a reporter for The Washington Post. Baum founded the Council of Conservative Citizens on the ash heap of the long-discredited White Citizens Council of Mississippi, which was the "legitimate" arm of the Klan during the Civil Rights era. Among other accomplishments of the White Citizens Council uncovered in recently released documents in Mississippi was the fact that the Council sought to influence the two juries that acquitted Byron de la Beckwith, the killer of Medgar Evers.

    Of course it would be wrong to tar the very moderate compassionate conservative George W. Bush with the brush of the CCC. But maybe not.

    The CCC website ( is positively awash in "news" defending the Confederate flag currently being flown atop the dome of the South Carolina Capitol building. And who refused to denounce the racist symbolism of the Confederate flag recently in South Carolina? Yep. George W. Bush.

    Bush's attempt to squirm away from his Bob Jones University appearance isn't the only instance of Republicans getting all lovey-dovey with right-wing loons. Arizona Sen. John McCain handpicked as his chief political organizer in South Carolina one Richard W. Quinn. Who is Mr. Quinn? None other than the editor of Southern Partisan magazine, a cute little quarterly published in South Carolina. Southern Partisan regularly denounces Abraham Lincoln as a "traitor" in articles such as "Who Was the Real Snake? Lincoln vs. Vallandigham and the Copperheads," and has published articles advocating the South rising up once again to secede from the Union.

    The run-to-the-right campaign George W. Bush ran in South Carolina is currently being regretted by head-in-the-sand "moderates" in the Republican Party, who have apparently been napping while their party leaders have been kissing up to bigots in recent years. What is at stake with Bush and others who cozy up to white supremacists is not the reputation of the Republican Party or even the relative health of Bush's campaign to become president.

    Everything said about race in the South is now said in code. Appearances by Trent Lott and George W. Bush before gatherings of the Council of Conservative Citizens or Bob Jones University have the insidious effect of conveying upon racist loons the mantle of legitimacy. It's a way of sending a coded message that "I'm one of you."

    Then again, there is always the possibility that the whiff of racism emanating from the leading lights of the Republican Party isn't cologne, but body odor.

    Lucian K. Truscott IV is finishing up The Boys of St. Julien and sorting through his hate mail from white supremacists.

    Next, Cyberbums by James Taranto There's only one good reason to vote for Hillary: her victory in the Senate race would give us an extra year of Rudy Giuliani as mayor. It's hard to remember now, but New York was not always America's pleasantest big city. Not long ago whole sections of Manhattan had a sex shop on every block and a panhandler on every corner. Giuliani hasn't completely eliminated these scourges of urban life, nor can any mayor. Activist judges have deemed it constitutionally protected "speech" when a bum gets in your face and demands money or a woman makes money by putting her bum in your face. Nonetheless, through the legal expedient of "reasonable time, place and manner" regulations, Giuliani has made these problems manageable.

    Sex shops might not come back even under Mayor Mark Green. After all, such businesses continue to thrive, in a less obtrusive way, even in Rudy's New York. Phone-sex and outcall services are free from the expense of storefront rentals, and their customers surely prefer the relative anonymity they make possible.

    Technology, too, helps push sex businesses off the streets. Just as the advent of videocassettes sounded the death knell for X-rated movie theaters, the Internet brings all manner of smut straight to the consumer's desktop. There's no need for furtive visits to the local porn palace; today a pervert's home is his castle.

    Internet porn raises its own problems. Toddlers can watch live sex shows at the public library, cheered on by the lunatics at the American Library Association, who adamantly oppose filtering software. But no one can deny that the effect on street life is salutary.

    If only we could get panhandlers off the street and onto the Internet, too. Isn't that a ridiculous thought? Well, not so fast. The Public Broadcasting Service has set up a website called NeedCom, which offers?I'm not making this up?"market research for panhandlers." (The site is found at weblab/needcom.) Leftists used to denounce advertising on the grounds that it manufactured desires for things consumers didn't really need and would never think to want absent the manipulations of marketers. What would they have made of PBS' NeedCom? Here we have a government-subsidized noncommercial tv network proposing to bring sophisticated marketing techniques to people who are eager to separate you from your money but have no product or service to offer in return. Sign on to NeedCom, and you're presented with a series of six screens. On each, a bum is photographed and his pitch quoted, with a link to an audio recording. You are asked to decide how much you'd give to the beggar, zero to $1, in 25-cent increments. This is a rather simplistic survey. You don't have the option of a glower or a firm, loud "no." You can't say, "Get a job," or refer the beggar to a soup kitchen. (Try that last approach sometime with a real panhandler, especially one claiming to be hungry. In my experience it has never drawn anything but a hostile response.) Even so, users who explore NeedCom will find ample opportunities to express their distaste for panhandling.

    The site features "quick polls" that ask users their opinions on various panhandling-related questions. These are unscientific surveys, but you'd think people who find the notion of "market research for panhandlers" intriguing enough to log in would tend to have a sympathetic view of beggars. Yet 80 percent of respondents say panhandlers are usually lying when they tell you why they want money, 60 percent say they wouldn't give more if they were richer and 83 percent prefer to give to charities rather than panhandlers.

    Some of the questions are bizarre, like the one that asks users whether they would rather give money to "Samuel, a black man" or "Andrew, a white man." (Samuel wins overwhelmingly, with 69 percent.) Imagine the uproar that would ensue?and justifiably so?if a real market-research firm working for, say, an automaker asked customers: "Would you rather buy a car from Jim, a white dealer, or Leroy, a black dealer?"

    The purpose of all this is hard to fathom, even for Cathy Davies and Drew Gorry, who created the site. In an online statement of purpose, they explain: "The goal of NeedCom is not to encourage or discourage you to give to panhandlers more. Instead it is to provide you with data and context to examine your own perceptions of panhandling and how these perceptions form responses to panhandlers." The whole thing seems about as well thought-out as a much-ridiculed proposal last year to give San Francisco panhandlers credit-card machines.

    Still, maybe there's something here, and perhaps porn sites are the model. They have developed online marketing techniques as obnoxious as those used by the most aggressive panhandlers, like opening endlessly multiplying windows on a user's screen so he can't escape without rebooting.

    Perhaps NeedCom should merge with an Internet smut merchant so that Web surfers can enjoy one-stop shopping for urban blight. They could call it

    James Taranto is deputy features editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page.