Amanda Marcotte has an interesting piece where she says that the recent Megyn Kelly episode explodes the common myth that exists among the intelligentsia that the elites are too sophisticated to really buy into racist ideologies and that when they do indulge in race-baiting, it is part of a cynical but conscious political strategy that does not reflect their real views. Such people can often point to ‘friends’ to dispute the characterization. It is this kind of thinking that may have prompted NBC to hire Kelly despite her past history of race-baiting at Fox News where the willingness and ability to do so is practically a job requirement. But even though she was no longer working at Fox, she still went there.
It was just a matter of time before Kelly said something obnoxiously racist on the “Today” show, even if her ostensible role there was to be a chipper morning-show lark rather than the inflammatory demagogue that she was on Fox News. Yet somehow the executives at NBC were dumb enough not to see the inevitability of what happened.
Kelly benefited from the pernicious myth that racism is an ideology of the trailer park and the rural diner and that college-educated elite white people, especially those that live in coastal cities, are somehow immune. According to this theory, elite-group racism is a pandering act staged to bamboozle Cletus, and someone like Kelly, whose educational background and current lifestyle mirrors the cosmopolitan liberal whites she made a living bashing on Fox News, can’t really be that hysterical and ignorant.
Sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva has dubbed this the “racism without racists” phenomenon, in which squeamishness about diagnosing what’s in the heart of a white person — at least an elite, educated white person — leads people to fear applying the R-word even to people like Kelly, who constantly say and do overtly racist things. It’s been an interesting feature of much of the journalist class’ reaction to Tucker Carlson, who has turned the 8 p.m. slot on Fox News to the White Nationalist News Hour. This is almost invariably framed as a cynical stunt meant to exploit the network’s troglodyte viewers, not a reflection of Carlson’s sincerely held beliefs.
By the same token, Trump’s racism, misogyny and general slithering evil was also dismissed as a performance by members of the media class who assumed he couldn’t really be that odious, and would “pivot” to something approximating a normal president.
As Marcus Ranum repeatedly advises, pay attention to what people do and say, and don’t waste time on futile speculations on what they may be thinking or what they ‘really’ believe. A simple rule would be: If someone says racist things and commits racist acts, they are racists, plain and simple.