Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Republican Racism Example #65: Laughing When Black People Die

Perhaps the broadcast bored Todd Kincannon.

This past February’s Super Bowl suffered from its slow moments, including a first half in which the game looked like a rout.  The faceoff between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers literally ground to a halt during a lengthy, second half electrical blackout.  The Super Bowl paused for a half hour while New Orleans Superdome crews scrambled to restore power. At bars and parties across the country, most Americans spent these boring moments complaining about the disappointing advertisements run during the games and the lame announcing from the booth.  Many chatted with friends, and others drank and ate too much.

Not Kincannon, the former executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party.  He spent game time tweeting hateful messages about black people and the poor.  

Todd Kincannon (above), the former executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party, thinks that the mass deaths caused by Hurricane Katrina, and the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, were hilarious.  He shared his “jokes” on these topics during this year’s Super Bowl between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers. (Photo from http://www.mediaite.com/online/former-sc-gop-exec-director-fires-off-racially-charged-tweets-during-the-super-bowl/).

Some of Kincannon's  comments represented standard-issue racist stupidity, such as this “joke” he tweeted during the third quarter blackout that insulted both African Americans and the poor: 

For those with short memories, and Republicans who didn’t think the tragedy was particularly important in the first place, Kincannon is making reference to Hurricane Katrina, a superstorm that struck the American Gulf Coast in late August 2005.  By August 29, floodwater covered about 80 percent of New Orleans.  About 1.7 million people lost power for days, or even weeks, and the storm inflicted $100 billion in property damage.  More than 3,500 people likely died in the cataclysm. 

In New Orleans, impoverished African Americans who lacked cars and were unable to evacuate, suffered most of the deaths.  Entire neighborhoods disappeared in the mostly black low-lying Ninth Ward.  Tens of thousands of African Americans fled to the Superdome, where they experienced days of thirst, hunger and overflowing toilets. 

Katrina has been a bad memory for Republicans ever since.  A Republican president, George W. Bush, refused for days to end one of his frequent vacations to oversee the federal government’s response to the hurricane.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency, led by Bush-appointed hack Scott Brown, approached surreal levels of ineptitude.  Anger over the Bush administration’s indifference and incompetence led to the party’s loss of the U.S. House and Senate for the first time in a dozen years in the 2006 elections.  It’s been a sore point for the GOP, with many Republicans blaming Katrina’s victims for their party’s misfortunes ever since.  

Republican talk show host and former Fox News star Glenn Beck soon called the Katrina evacuees "scumbags" and falsely accused them of sinking into an orgy of rape and murder at the Superdome while they awaited rescue.  (See my earlier post at http://republicanracism.blogspot.com/2012/03/republican-racism-example-45-glenn-beck.html).  This year, Kincannon revisited this theme.  Like Beck, he apparently seeks vengeance on Katrina’s African American targets by mocking them, even more than seven years later.  His memory of terrified and confused African Americans filling the Superdome’s seats inspired Kincannon’s sadistic quip about the Superdome being “dark” during the Super Bowl blackout just like it was after Katrina.  This line is about as funny as a Holocaust joke.  Kincannon's term “poors,” by the way, is apparently a new GOP slur aimed at underpaid workers.  It frequently appears in Republican tweets and Facebook posts. (For more, see http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/special-reports/katrina.html and http://www.chron.com/news/nation-world/article/5-years-after-Katrina-storm-s-death-toll-remains-1589464.php).  

Scenes from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that former South Carolina GOP Executive Director Todd Kincannon apparently found funny.  (Photos from http://junctionhill.k12.mo.us/denisknight/Severe%20Weather/Katrina%20Pictures.html).

Sadly, that wasn’t Kincannon’s entire literary output during the Super Bowl.   He also tweeted a series of equally vile, unfunny comments about Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African American fatally shot by a self-appointed vigilante, 28-year-old George Zimmerman, in Sanford, Florida February 26, 2012.  Obsessed with male-on-male oral sex, Kincannon gleefully laughed about Martin’s violent death in a series of Super Bowl tweets.  Here, Kincannon slaps his knee over Martin's bloody death before his 18th birthday:

Kincannon seemed to particularly delight in the fact that Martin was a child at the time of his killing, prompting this nearly incomprehensible attempt at humor:

An example of a Todd Kincannon tweet during the last Super Bowl.  (These and other Kincannon Twitter screen captures are from http://www.mediaite.com/online/former-sc-gop-exec-director-fires-off-racially-charged-tweets-during-the-super-bowl/)

Again, let’s remember the context of this Kincannon jibe.  The target of this bile, Trayvon Martin, was returning to his father’s house after a visit to a nearby convenience store.  He carried nothing more dangerous than a bag of Skittles and a can of ice tea.  Zimmerman, who as a neighborhood watch coordinator had a history of harassing African American youths, spotted Zimmerman and excitedly phoned local police on a non-emergency number.  Zimmerman told the dispatcher, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something.  It’s raining, and he’s just walking around, looking about . . . looking at all the houses.” 

Zimmerman, armed with a gun, ignored the dispatcher’s instructions to wait for police.   He later made the unlikely claim that Martin lunged towards him. Zimmerman is notably taller and heavier than was Martin and his version of events contradict other eyewitness accounts.  The two got into a scuffle during which Zimmerman lethally shot the teenager.  Police searched Martin’s body and found no weapons.  They treated cuts on Zimmerman’s head and nose, but released him after five hours of questioning, initially accepting the shooter’s claim that he fired his weapon in self-defense.   A special prosecutor later filed second-degree murder charges.  Jury selection in the case recently began. 

The fact that Martin was not violating any law at the time he was gunned down other than "walking while black" elicited no sympathy from Kincannon last Super Bowl Sunday, as indicated in another tweet:

Kincannon's antipathy towards Martin is widespread.  Apparently, a surge of electric schandenfruede recharges the juices of many Republicans when young black men die.  The Republican right almost immediately embraced Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, as a rightwing hero, claiming that his partial Latino heritage made him immune from racism.  They smeared Martin as a gangster, a drug user and a probable criminal, even though the young man was unarmed at the time of his death and had never been charged with any criminal offense. 

As noted in a previous post at this blog, professional troll and right-wing columnist Michelle Malkin posted online a picture of the wrong Trayvon Martin – a different youth extending his middle finger on both hands, wearing a rag on his head, and sporting sagging pants street gang style – to make the shooting victim appear more menacing.   A photo of Martin smiling and showing a gold dental “grill ,” a style whites associate with gangbangers, became the favorite image of Martin on rightwing sites like The Daily Caller.  Such websites deliberately did not use widely available photos of Martin showing the child holding a birthday cake or posing in a formal suit right before a high school prom.   (See http://republicanracism.blogspot.com/2012/03/republican-racism-example-50-burnt.html).  

The child whose death inspired so much of Kincannon's mirth during the last Super Bowl.  (Image from Trayvon Martin's MySpace page at http://www.myspace.com/t_r_a_y_9/photos/17846860#%7B%22ImageId%22%3A17846860%7D). 

Right-wingers made much of the fact that Martin received a suspension from school after officials discovered he possessed an empty bag that once apparently contained marijuana, as if this had any relevance to whether  Zimmerman had cause to shoot the young man.  (Just for the record, police never arrested Martin for marijuana possession.  There was no autopsy evidence that Martin was under the influence of drugs at the time of his confrontation with Zimmerman.  Finally, marijuana tends to induce passivity, not aggression, in its users).  The racist stereotype of young black men as criminally violent drug abusers, however, serves to whitewash police crimes against people of color.  Promoting this stereotype also rationalizes the GOP’s Social Darwinist economic agenda that would slash already paltry social welfare programs as a way of punishing the dark-skinned “undeserving poor” such as Martin and his family.

In his Super Bowl tweets, Kincannon made an extraordinarily crude joke as he jumped on the unsubstantiated posthumous accusations that Martin was a raging drug addict.

Called on the tweets after the Super Bowl in an interview with HuffPost Live, Kincannon accused his critics of having no sense of humor.  Who couldn't see the laughs, after all, in a young person's death.  Who didn't find Hurricane Katrina, one of the largest natural disasters in recent American history, a rich source of mirth?  Kincannon told the Huffington Post:

"One of the things I like to do on Twitter is I'll tweet something inflammatory, kind of borderline crazy-sounding just for fun. And I enjoy watching people go nuts. One of the best things about it is if you say something that's borderline offensive or if it is offensive, the people that attack you and say just the awfulest [sic] things about you, they do the very thing that they accuse you of."

“I think it is time for a conversation in this country about why a conservative isn’t allowed to state an opinion that other people happen to disagree with, without having death threats and being threatened with all kinds of various ridiculous things.  This is real problem we have. People talk about political discourse in this country — you might think what I said was tasteless, you’re welcome to. But should I get death threats as a result of it?”  (See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/05/todd-kincannon-racist-twitter-south-carolina-republican-super-bowl_n_2622903.html).

It's the tired "I'm being persecuted for being politically incorrect" defense racists make when they pour hate on black and brown people.  It bears repeating that Kincannon is not just some random dumb redneck on the margins.  He’s a dumb redneck who used to run the South Carolina Republican Party. 

Kincannon served as “executive director, general counsel and parliamentarian” for the South Carolina Republican Party from 2004 to 2010,” holding the executive director position for only a few months before retiring to resume his career as an attorney.  He has been occasionally interviewed on-air  by a local Fox News affiliate  to speak on political issues. This is not Kincannon's first set of racist tweets.  According to Joy Reid on the website theGrio, “Two years ago, during the 2011 Super Bowl halftime show, when the group Black Eyed Peas performed, Kincannon tweeted that a black Democratic lawmaker who enjoyed ‘The BEPs’ is ‘why your party has no white people.’”  Of course, people like Kincannon are why the Republican Party has only white people in its constituency.  (See http://thegrio.com/2013/02/08/woman-says-former-south-carolina-gop-director-targeted-her-with-racially-charged-trolling/)  

Like a lot of Republicans, Kincannon also hates gay people and women.  During a November 2011 Republican Presidential debate in which former Godfather’s Pizza executive Herman Cain called former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “Princess Nancy,” Kincannon suggested even more violently misogynistic and homophobic nicknames for the San Francisco Democrat:

@ToddKincannon: “The Crabby Cunt from the California Coast”? #NancyPelosi

@ToddKincannon: Or how about “The Botox Bitch from Buggeryland”? That seems to work for Nancy Pelosi too.
@ToddKincannon: Would you prefer Nancy the Crooked Whore? More accurate, but also more words." (See http://2012.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/11/ex-sc-gop-official-calls-pelosi-c-word-on-twitter-tells-tpm-it-was-a-joke.php).  

In earlier tweets, South Carolina Republican activist and one-time leader Todd Kincannon made a racist joke about the band the Black Eyed Peas and called former United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a "cunt" and a "bitch."  (Photos from http://videokeman.com/black_eyed_peas/the-time-dirty-bit-black-eyed-peas/ and http://2012.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/11/ex-sc-gop-official-calls-pelosi-c-word-on-twitter-tells-tpm-it-was-a-joke.php). 

All this hate could hardly have been kept under the surface during Kincannon's six years as a major figure in the South Carolina Republican Party.  He obviously reflects the worldview of many in that state's GOP, as well as the larger Republican twitterverse.  The sophisticated political analysis cited above has earned Kincannon 36,468 followers on Twitter as of March 12, 2013.  In many ways, cavemen like Kincannon are not alone in the Republican Party.  It's a disturbing trend.  But increasingly Republicans take to the airwaves and post on the internet to openly mock and  celebrate the deaths and maiming of black people. 

Many Republicans share Kincannon's obsessive hatred for Martin, posthumously defaming him for unproven criminality, attacking his parents, and openly celebrating his death.  Not a word of sympathy came from the right for Martin's grieving mother and father.  Shortly after the Martin shooting, the highly conservative Miami-Dade Fire and Rescue Department Captain Brian Beckmann took to his Facebook page to rage against young people like Martin, blasting their "failed, shitbag, ignorant, pathetic, welfare dependent excuses for parents" for raising such criminal "urban youths" (white racist code for "black kids.").  Beckman then ridiculed liberals who saw children like Martin as "misunderstood little church going angels" and for believing that "the ghetto hoodie look doesn't have anything to do with why people wonder whether they're about to be jacked by a thug."  

Beckman apparently thinks it's a capital offense for black and brown people to wear hoodies.  He made other dumb, lazy racist assumptions in his Facebook rant.  Martin's parents were not "welfare dependent."  As reported on the ThinkProgress website, at the time of Beckman's post, Martin's father was working as a truck driver and his mother was  a program coordinator for the Miami-Dade Housing Authority.   Beckman improbably claimed that his post was copied from someone else and did not reflect personal hatred towards black people. Unfortunately, Beckman only got demoted, not fired, for his racist diatribe, even though as a public safety official he must impartially perform his duties for the citizens of his county, regardless of race.    (See http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/04/16/464890/miami-captain-shitbag-parents/ and http://miami.cbslocal.com/2013/01/14/miami-dade-fire-captain-demoted-over-trayvon-martin-post-fights-for-old-job/.)  

Miami-Dade County Fire and Rescue Department officer Brian Beckmann (above) and his racist Facebook tweet about Trayvon Martin.  Beckman still works for the fire department, though he got demoted.  (Beckman photo from http://miami.cbslocal.com/2013/01/14/miami-dade-fire-captain-demoted-over-trayvon-martin-post-fights-for-old-job/ and the screen capture from http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/04/16/464890/miami-captain-shitbag-parents/).  

In the aftermath of the Martin shooting, other gun-loving racist whites (in other words, the Republican Party's core demographic)  bought targets meant to resemble Martin wearing a hoodie (the clothing the teenager wore when he was shot to death).  The targets appeared on the GunBroker.com website and sold out in two days.  The pack of 10 "Trayvon Martin Targets" featured crosshairs over a hoodie and sold for eight dollars.  The website placed this description of the product below a picture of the targets: 

"“Everyone knows the story of Zimmerman and Martin.  Obviously we support Zimmerman and believe he is innocent and that he shot a thug. Each target is printed on thick, high quality poster paper with a matte finish! The dimensions are 12″x18″ ( The same as Darkotic Zombie Targets) This is a Ten Pack of Targets.”  The seller was identified as being the Hiller Armament Company from Virginia Beach, Virginia.  The target ad was scrubbed from the GunBroker site after the rash of sales. 

This "Trayvon Martin Target" sold out in two days at the GunBroker.com website.  The website described the dead African American teenager as a "thug."  (See http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/05/11/trayvon-martin-gun-range-targets-sold-out-in-two-days/).  

Hurricane Katrina, and Martin's death,  at least touch on politics.  These events pertain to issues like federal government's competence, Bush-era cronyism, racist law enforcement, and gun control.  Crude bigots like Kincannon can at least pretend that they are engaging in edgy political satire. albeit a form that consistently demeans African Americans and questions the value of black lives. Even more frightening is that conservatives feel increasingly comfortable publicly dancing on the graves of black people when their deaths have no political implications at all. 

 This blog earlier documented how readers of the Fox News website unleashed the n-word and made crude anti-black jokes about Whitney Houston when the singer died of an apparent drug overdose February 11, 2012.  Fox fans reacted in droves to the online story about the singer's death, posting comments such as these:

“A tragedy is when someones passes away from a terminal disease or something else that no one saw coming.Whitney is just an inferior lo w life ni gg er that needed to go,no tragedy,no loss.”

 “SHe couldn’t even sell issues of ‘the national enquirer’ anymore. Everyone was tired of the TNB. Niqqer flaps her lips and screeches, niqqer becomes rich. Niqqer ends up nearly broke after spending all of her money. Niqqer in constant fights and drug binges. Niqqer ODs when she learns she’s nearly broke and she is so wasted physically she can’t make another album. Niqqer hit the end of the road, niqqer thinking and niqqer behavior led her to where she had nothing. She couldn’t face life without the ‘bling bling’, she knew she would never have any more ‘kaching kaching’”

“I am now patiently waiting for the grand messiah Obama to have a blk fundraiser in honor of Whitley with Kevin Costner as guest of honor with all the Hollywood elites invited along with Alan Colmes, Al Sharpton, Jeremia Wright, Charles Rangel, etc. with a menu featuring blk eyed peas, grits, Imported Kobe steak, Dom Perignon, sweet potato pie and a mus lll im scarf as a momento of this great occasion.

Of course the door prize will be an all expense paid trip to Kenya to visit the Obama tribe and birthplace of his ancestors while the American people still look for this imposter’s birth certificate in Hawaii !!!”

Before they laughed at Trayvon Martin's death, right-wingers giggled upon hearing of singer Whitney Houston's premature death, whom they labeled a ."low-life nigger."  (Photo from http://www.whitneyhouston.com/us/home).  

Note: some of the racial slurs above were deliberately misspelled so the comments would slip past automatic word filters.  (See http://republicanracism.blogspot.com/2012/02/republican-racism-example-19-fox-news.html).   Of course, an entire party cannot be held accountable for what anonymous  losers type on computer keyboards in the basements of their mothers' homes.  This tone, however, has slipped into the the daily discourse of what former George W. Bush speechwrter David Frum has called "the conservative entertainment complex."  (See http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1112/83679.html).   Shortly after Houston’s death, right-wing radio talk show hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou, whose show on KFI-AM in Los Angeles boasted a regular audience of 1 million listeners in early 2012, yucked it up about the singer’s demise, describing her, in minstrel show dialect, a “crack ho.”  The hosts celebrated her death by proclaiming:

"At some point you're just sick of it all, and so is everybody else in the industry. All her friends and hangers on, everybody who knew had to deal with her. It's like, 'Ah Jesus...here comes the crack ho again, what's she gonna do? Ah look at that, she's doin' handstands next to the pool. Very good, crack ho...' After a while everybody's exhausted. And then you find out she's dead. It's like, 'Really? Took this long?’”

John and Ken got a harsher punishment than usually received in the hate radio industry for saying something racist and moronic.  They briefly got suspended.

Another pair of dumb white guys who find the deaths of black people entertaining: predictably right wing radio talk show hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou of KFI-AM in Los Angeles. (Photo from http://blogs.laweekly.com/informer/2012/02/kfi_radio_suspends_john_ken_for_calling_whitney_houston_crack_ho.php). 

Republicans have one defense if they want to pretend that their pathological glee at tragedies suffered by black people is racist.  They occasionally exhibit similar demented joy when their white political opponents suffer unspeakably cruel fates.   Consider these tweets responding to the appearance of Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives shot in the head by a deranged gunman on January 8, 2011, when TV networks showed her sitting next to her husband in the gallery of the House during President Barack Obama's 2013 State of the Union Address:

(Image from Twitter.) 

Yes, Republicans, the mental illness that increasingly characterizes your party is not always grounded in white supremacism.  Sometimes the hate is biracial.  That makes it no less frightening.  The 2001 edition of the college textbook Abnormal Psychology: An Integrative Approach by David H. Barlow and V. Mark Durand defines narcissistic personality disorder as a condition in which individuals "are so preoccupied with themselves that they lack sensitivity and compassion for other people." (See Abnormal Psychology, page 396).   This sounds like Todd Kincannon.  And Glenn Beck.  And Brian Beckmann.  And John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou.  And countless right-wing internet posters on Twitter and Facebook.  Increasingly, the Republican Party is not just feeding racism.  It is enabling psychosis.

Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001.  (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013).

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

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