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Daily Howler: Nine days later, Elizabeth Gates explained a large change in the weather
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UPPER-CLASS FAMILY VALUES! Nine days later, Elizabeth Gates explained a large change in the weather: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, AUGUST 4, 2009

A clarification regarding the Brothers O: We should have made it more clear yesterday: Keith Olbermann denies that he was part of any corporate truce, of the type described in that New York Times report (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/3/09). Times reporter Brian Stelter sourced his report to “four people who work at the companies and have direct knowledge of the deal.” Stelter quoted Olbermann’s denial—and still said the truce went down.

For ourselves, we’d rather believe that Olbermann did accept the truce. In our view, that would be better than believing that he’s really as dumb as he often seems when discussing O’Reilly. (Back on June 1, for example, when he explained why he’d war with BillO no more.) Last night, refreshed by vacance, Olbermann returned to his pitiful wars, journeying back to 2007 to offer the most pleasing claim of them all: O’Reilly is a “racist clown,” our own side’s sexist clown snarled.

We liberals lose points off our IQs every time we watch this man. Your country is sliding into the sea because of this culture of dumbness. Here—let Michelle Cottle prove it:

Here, let Cottle prove it: We let the analysts run around and laugh after watching Michelle Cottle this Sunday. On CNN’s Reliable Sources, Howard Kurtz mentioned Lou Dobbs’ name-call at Rachel Maddow. (Dobbs called Maddow a “tea-bagging queen.” See THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/30/09.) Like Maddow herself, Cottle played dumb. After that, she played dumber:

COTTLE (8/2/09): You know, I would like to ask, what in the heck was he talking about, anyway, a tea-bagging queen?

AMANDA CARPENTER: Well, she's the one that introduced that term into the media sphere when she was making fun of the Tea Party protesters. That started on her show, and so he slammed it back against her. And now she's offended. Maybe—I hope she understands why now the Tea Party protesters were offended when she said.

COTTLE: But she's not—I mean, understand— We're just calling names at this point.

Too funny! We’re just calling names at this point, Cottle said. But then, Cottle has always been like that.

Back in April, Maddow called a whole lot of people those names for an entire week. Dobbs returned the favor one time. But when Lou did it, it had to stop! We’re just calling names at this point, a consummate clown quickly said.

Your country is sliding into the sea behind people like Cottle. (And Dobbs.) Go ahead. Take a good look around.

UPPER-CLASS FAMILY VALUES: On Day One of the Gates/Crowley affair, we suggested that you apply a lens of social class, not just race, to the proceedings.

We didn’t suggest that so you could sneer at Officer Crowley, the working-class prole of the emerging tale. We did that after reading Professor Lawrence Bobo’s absurd op-ed piece in the Washington Post. In that piece, Professor Bobo told us, again and again, that Professor Gates (identified as Bobo’s best friend) was “wealthy,” “influential” and “famous”—and that Crowley was “working class.” (Bobo didn’t tell us that Professor Gates is a business associate of the Post.)

When such language is offered on Day One, there may a class framework driving a tale. And this is important: Wealth and fame—and their frequent down-sides—are not just for whites any more! On the one hand, that’s very good. On the other hand, it can be bad.

As we suggested to you that day: People who are wealthy, influential and famous have always tended to behave in certain ways. Today, we’d suggest this: To see the way such people sometimes behave, consider this most current post by Elizabeth Gates, Professor Gates’ daughter.

This post appeared at The Daily Beast last Friday. (We just saw it yesterday.) Simple story: Children of American upper classes have always tended to behave as Elizabeth Gates does in this post.

In the post, Elizabeth Gates offers a new way of viewing the Gates/Crowley case—a way which seems to collide rather grossly with her original Beast presentation. Does she feel obliged to explain her apparent flip? Keep watching to see her try. But just for the record, the wealthy and influential won’t always feel obliged to offer such explanations—and their enablers in the mainstream press are rarely inclined to challenge them.

Over the past twenty years, this has constituted a gigantic problem within America’s public discourse.

Elizabeth Gates wrote her post in the wake of the famous “beer summit.” How does she see the Gates/Crowley matter now? She starts by complaining about the way the original incident had devolved into a bit of a circus. We live in “a world in which the conversation on race has traditionally taken a back seat to both logic and reason,” she says as she starts, seeming to misstate what she means:

ELIZABETH GATES (7/31/09): In a world in which the conversation on race has traditionally taken a back seat to both logic and reason, it’s no wonder that yesterday’s so-called “Beer Summit” at the White House seemed to make little sense at all. It wasn’t because the president was wrong in offering up a few cold ones to my father, Henry Louis Gates, and the now infamous Sgt. James Crowley in an attempt to tame the media blitz around my father’s arrest—it was because like most issues that make their way to TMZ, the reference point had shifted. The debate over Red Stripe and Blue Moon had somehow overshadowed the fact that this story began with a black Harvard professor and a white cop from Natick, Mass.—and as CNN’s countdown clock to the event taunted viewers like a time bomb, it was clear that this day wasn’t going to be the beginning of a serious discussion on human relations but rather a circus-like ending of a misunderstanding between a couple of very decent men.

I can’t say that I was shocked.

Poor Gates! Though she certainly wasn’t shocked, she lamented the fact that “a misunderstanding between a couple of very decent men” had turned into a circus. TMZ and CNN were named, and inferentially blamed; somehow, the meaning of the original “misunderstanding” had gotten lost in the process. But is it possible that this circus had perhaps developed, in some small part, because someone named Elizabeth Gates had engaged in the following exchange about that “couple of very decent men” (one of whom is “now infamous,” she clumsily says)? And by the way: How does this exchange, from The Beast of July 22, comport with her current claim that Officer Crowley is a “very decent man” who got caught in “a misunderstanding?” In short: Since we love “logic and reason” so much around here, how do Elizabeth’s Gates’ two presentations cohere?

ELIZABETH GATES (7/22/09): Daddy, how did it feel to read in the police report that although you had been cooperative with Sgt. Crowley, while he was standing uninvited in your home, your behavior had been reduced to “loud and tumultuous” after asking to see to his badge? Were you surprised at the inaccuracy of the police report?

PROFESSOR GATES: Well, the police report was an act of pure fiction. One designed to protect him, Sgt. Crowley, from unethical behavior. I was astonished at the audacity of the lies in the police report, and almost the whole thing from start to finish was just pure fabrication. So yes, I felt violated all over again.

On July 22, that’s the way Elizabeth Gates and Professor Gates described the conduct of one of the “very decent men” caught up in this “misunderstanding.” Later in that same interview, this second man seemed little better:

ELIZABETH GATES (7/22/09): So you do think this was reduced to race? You do think this was purely racially motivated—that when he came into your home uninvited and didn’t read you your Miranda rights and he didn’t follow procedure?

PROFESSOR GATES: No, when I was arrested I was not read my Miranda rights. I clearly was arrested as a vindictive act, an act of spite. I think Sgt. Crowley was angry that I didn’t follow his initial orders—his demand—his order—to step outside my house because I was protected as long as I was in the house because he didn’t have a warrant. I think what he really wanted to do was throw me down and put handcuffs on me because he was terrified that I could be dangerous to him and that I was causing violence in my own home—though obviously he didn’t know it was my home.

If I had been white this incident never would have happened. He would have asked at the door, “Excuse me, are you okay? Because there are two black men around here try’na rob you [laughter] and I think he also violated the rules by not giving his name and badge number, and I think he would have given that to one of my white colleagues or one of my white neighbors. So race definitely played a role. Whether he’s an individual racist? I don’t know—I don’t know him. But I think he stereotyped me.

Did the original “misunderstanding” turn into some sort of circus? That is a matter of judgment. But public reaction to this event was driven, in part, by this interview (and others like it)—an interview in which Elizabeth Gates and Professor Gates seemed to make extremely serious charges about Officer Crowley. Nine days later, Elizabeth Gates’ story seemed quite different—and Elizabeth Gates seemed to be saying that entities like TMZ and CNN were responsible for all the hubbub and turmoil. But one question plainly remains: How did Officer Crowley turn into a “very decent man?” If those claims from July 22 were accurate, what explains the perspective we were handed nine days later, on July 31?

Sorry. Children of the wealthy/famous/influential may not always be required to explain such changes of story.

As she continued, Elizabeth Gates described the White House meeting between the families of the two very decent men. Nine days earlier, Crowley had committed a serious crime. Nine days later, we were asked to marvel about how similar the two families are:

ELIZABETH GATES (7/31/09): As our family rounded the corner to the White House library and I first caught sight of Sgt. Crowley’s lovely daughter; she was wearing an appropriately heavy and charmingly untrained amount of green eyeliner on her lower lashes, and I saw my former self in her. We were instantly transported from the post-racial myth of America in 2008 to the reality of 2009. There they stood, a pleasant family of five, listening patiently to the overzealous tour guide boast about the fully functioning fireplace to the left of the doorframe.

As soon as my father’s foot crossed the threshold of the room, the storm of mediators immediately rushed to introduce us, but true to form, my father cut right through the thick tension of hurried salutations and offered the Sergeant his hand and joked, “You looked bigger the last time I saw you.” Crowley’s cheeks flushed red as a smile dashed across his lips, and his young son, whose cheeks had long since flushed the same muted crimson, looked up at his father and smiled. This wasn’t a family raised on hate. At that moment, right there in the library, they were just like us: a young family groomed to perfection, waiting to learn how to get those damn cameramen off their lawn and to put this sensationalized hell behind them. “I read an article where they called my father, ‘sexy cop.’ It was embarrassing,” his daughter said as we sat down for cookies and Coke. “Yeah,” I replied. He’s pretty cute.” We laughed, as Crowley’s wife rubbed her daughter’s back and reminded her son to mind the gift they had brought for the president. It was a grey Boston jersey, a fitting gift from a young boy to our commander-in-chief.

What a shame that someone went out and “sensationalized” the original “misunderstanding!” Some in the Crowley family may wear untrained amounts of eyeliner, but they were otherwise “just like us,” Elizabeth Gates could now instantly see. This family wasn’t raised on hate! Just look at how patient they are!

As she continues, Elizabeth Gates wonders what the four men at the beer summit “could possibly say to heal this situation and what the press was actually waiting for.” Soon, though, she’s on an airplane heading north, taking in her father’s current view of Officer Crowley:

ELIZABETH GATES (7/31/09): I asked my father what the President had said during their chat and as he slipped off his shoes and reclined his chair, he said: “The president and the vice president are great men, Liza. They did the right thing to invite us there to talk, but it's up to us now to extend this conversation. We have plans to meet in private and discuss things. You know, Crowley’s not a bad guy. He’s not a Joe the Plumber who wants to represent the Right. He would be horrified to be considered a racist.”

Professor Gates slips off his shoes and speaks with his daughter, saying that Obama and Biden are a pair of “great men.” He tells her that Crowley, while apparently less than great, isn’t a bad guy like Joe the Plumber, another working-class prole who happens to pop into mind. Indeed, Crowley would be horrified to be considered a racist. It’s hard not to think of Chevy Chase in the National Lampoon Vacation films, offering high-minded summaries of events to edify the kids—summaries which grossly contradict his earlier, frenzied behavior. And then, Elizabeth Gates offers her own summation. Finally, she explains how the Crowley described on July 22 has morphed into this New Very Decent Man:

ELIZABETH GATES (continuing directly): Discrimination is the single greatest wound in American history and could never be solved over a beer. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. There are more black men in prison than in college and literally thousands of black men are arrested across this country each day. And while I might agree with the president’s initial statement that the “Cambridge Police Department acted stupidly,” my father is not the first nor will he be the last black man to be arrested for no reason—in his own home or elsewhere—and Sergeant Crowley isn’t the first officer to fudge a police report. They are simply pawns in the rebirth of unfashionable intolerance in a world that likes to think our dashing brown-skinned 44th president has emerged to make nice with the past, present, and future. It’s an impossible task for the president and speaks more to our nation’s vulnerable value system than the unfortunately common situation my father and the Cambridge police found themselves embroiled in. As my father said on the plane yesterday morning on our way to the White House, “there are approximately 800,000 black men in prison and on July 16, 2009, I simply became one of them.”

Elizabeth Gates still believes that her father was arrested “in his own home.” Crowley has still arrested her father “for no reason”—and he has still “fudged a police report.” Yes, that’s a big step down from the (sensationalized?) language of July 22—but it still may describe a crime. How then has Officer Crowley become so “very decent?”

Finally, Elizabeth Gates pretends to explain, as children of the wealthy and famous have pretended to explain throughout history. Back in the day, Officer Crowley falsified a police report—submitted a work of “pure fiction.” In fact, his official report was such “pure fabrication” that her father was “astonished at the audacity of the lies.” One might think this was, in fact, a serious crime—and a gross offense against civic decency. But that was then—and this is now! People! It’s nine days later! Nine days later, Crowley has only “fudged a police report,” as part of a “misunderatanding.” And finally, the wealthy young lady explains it away, allowing herself to tell her new story. Yes, Officer Crowley has still fudged a report; more strikingly, he has still “arrested a black man in his own home for no reason!” But so what? People, try to listen! When Officer Crowley produced that pure fiction and arrested that man in his home for no reason, he was “simply a pawn in the rebirth of unfashionable intolerance in a world that likes to think our dashing brown-skinned 44th president has emerged to make nice with the past, present, and future.”

Do you have the slightest idea what collection of verbiage means? We have no idea either. Crowley was “a pawn” of whom? In what way could that excuse his described behavior? Is it now OK to arrest people for no reason—as long as you’re a pawn in some unexplained game? Is it OK to arrest someone for no reason and to falsify the report? Apparently! You can do that and, within a few weeks, be praised as a “very decent man!” At least you’re not like Joe the Plumber!

As children of the wealthy have always done, Elizabeth Gates doesn’t bother explaining this baffling gabble. And her editors, respecters of wealth and fame, don’t require such “logic and reason.”

So two more cheers for Colbert King, who dared suggest—very tangentially—that something may not make perfect sense about Professor Gates’ new stance toward his new friend (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/3/09). Why in the world is Professor Gates prepared to be friends with a man who behaved in the way he described? Professor Gates may have a good answer. But your “mainstream journalists,” respecters of upper-class fame, are very unlikely to ask him.

Your discourse has worked this way for decades, as we’ve described since 1998. When your “press corps” decides they’re on somebody’s side, that person’s claims will be subjected to amazingly little “logic and reason.” And when they decide they’re against some person, George Bush will end up in the White House! (Your army will go to Iraq.) High-minded “liberals” who pimped for this outcome will never be asked why they did so—sometimes in outrageous ways. People! They’re influential! We liberals don’t challenge such gods!

How did Crowley become a “very decent man?” How did that ugly “arrest in his own home for no reason” turn into “a misunderstanding?” Children of the influential are rarely asked to explain such things. And very important: Wealth and fame and influence aren’t just for white people now!

Your country is sliding into the sea because of the tendencies displayed in this episode. (The deference is normally extended to whites.) And yes—it’s sliding fast and hard. Go ahead! Use logic and reason! Go take a good look around.

By the way: What actually happened between Crowley and Gates? At THE HOWLER, we simply don’t know.

For the record: “Elizabeth Gates is a graduate of The New School University, where she cultivated her love for fashion and writing. A former intern at Vogue Magazine, her interest in image, art and fashion has driven her desire to contribute to the vast narrative of modern culture in America and abroad.”

So wrote the Daily Beast. Not that there’s anything “wrong” with it!