In Context

I am listening to the most recent Bill Moyers podcast and just had to share one very poignant segment from the show with you. It was a great example of the kind of critical thinking we desperately need to be having in America. Listening to Moyers is beginning to restore my belief in the power of journalism to effect positive change.

BILL MOYERS: This week, speakers at McCain rallies were consistently using Barack Obama's full name, Barack Hussein Obama. Now, that is a fact. That is his name. What takes that into the realm of dirty politics?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: I worry whenever someone stands up and treats the name Hussein as if somehow that's illegitimate, as if that constitutes an indictment. We've really failed when a name that many, many, many Americans have, a perfectly legitimate name, is somehow now automatically associated with terrorism. Why should it? Why does it?

BILL MOYERS: Well, it shouldn't. No, I agree with-

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: It means there's something so wrong-

BILL MOYERS: What's wrong with being a Muslim, for example?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: That, well, that's the other problem. I mean, look, every time someone says, "Senator Obama is not a Muslim." You know, how dare you say that he might be a Muslim? How do you hear that if you're a Muslim? We ought to be able to say Senator Obama is Christian without making being a Muslim something that is something we've tagged as being a negative identification.

We've taken all these categories and we've let people use them to prompt inferences to tie to 9/11, tie to terrorism. And we've taken a whole part of our own community as a result, people around the world who identify with us as well, and we've labeled them on arbitrary grounds to be something that we ought to despise and worry about and oppose and react viscerally to. The failure in this discourse is that we even let these kinds of inferences sit out there unexamined when they first started percolating to the surface. I'd like to be able to use anybody's name and not evoke 9/11 without a problem.

note: This interview takes place on the second half of this weeks podcast. You'll have to skip past an earlier interview with George Soros to hear Kathleen Hall Jamieson speak.


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