This am I was surprised to see that the highest rated morning news and talk show Today ran a story around 7:30am about Rush Limbaugh and the “Barack the Magic Negro” controversy. The meme of “Barack the Magic Negro” all by itself that illustrates the new media landscape where a blog post that I wrote Jan 17 can end up possibly inspiring a newspaper column on Mar 19 (that also appeared online) that crossed back over to a different set of blogs and then to conservative talk radio (see the video/hear the song). Back to the left-leaning blogs and then into TV news.

Or something like that.

Watch the Today show segment here. I think they did a good job of describing the story’s arc, ending the segment with the question: “Legitimate political satire…or something darker?”

The conservative site Newsbusters is peeved that this is a two month old story and they are right about Today being a bit slow on the ball. I’m glad that more people are hearing about Rush’s racism and that NBC courageously asked about the lack of outcry from Rush’s audience. They also ask if this is just what his audience expects from him. Rush refused to give a statement on the Today show but does feel the sting. Racist Rush has an elaborate and growing defense on his website that is now distancing himself from the Paul Shanklin video.

In fact, in this piece, this guy refers to “the video that Paul Shanklin and I put together” of Barack, the Magic Negro — and I just want to warn you at NBC like we had to warn these people at Channel 13 in Sacramento. If you purport to say that any video with this parody song has anything to do with me, you are in for some trouble, because we don’t do videos here at the EIB Network. It’s a radio show.

Cuz there’s such a huge difference apparently?

Oh and also Clarence Page, a black guy, likes it so it must be OK:

there’s a Chicago Tribune column also that we have linked, the Clarence Page piece where he says (paraphrased), “Limbaugh’s parody is funny. It’s good. It’s true. I don’t particularly like it, but this is not an Imus situation.”

The Today show segment mostly left out the blog activity though Michael Okwu did interview David Ehrenstein who wrote the Barack the Magic Negro story for the L.A. Times and a rep from Media Matters who compared Limbaugh’s so-called parody to old-time minstrel shows (which is right on target — their coverage has been great).

Ehrenstein pointed out the roots of the term “magic negro” and explained over NBC’s airing of a clip from “Bagger Vance” (groan) that it refers to a black character who appears out of nowhere to save white characters. He stated: “I was trying to start a conversation.”

So was I when I first wrote my post. But I was trying to start that conversation mainly among black people. To see Racist Rush mis-appropriate the term with no reference at all to the original basis of the term was troubling to say the least. Limbaugh continues to invoke the Imus Defense: “Well, They said it first. Why is it off-limits for me?” Yet, just as that didn’t fly for Don Imus, it falls flat for Racist Rush because he twists the term magic negro into something different than either Ehrenstein or I actually discussed or intended. In the song Limbaugh airs on his show, a white man parodying Al Sharpton sings:

Oh, Barack the Magic Negro, lives in D.C.
The L.A. Times, they called him that
‘Cause he’s black, but not authentically.

Authenticity as a black man or woman is essential to the believability of the “magic negro” literary trope. And interestingly, Limbaugh has failed to address the Amos ‘n Andy style complete with full Ebonics imitation of Al Sharpton by a white guy to date as featured. As DiversityInc Magazine notes, the original title of Paul Shanklin’s video for Rush was entitled: “U Da Real Negro Al, Screw Obama”. Hmmm.

Racist Rush is off-base and ahem, off-color — again. Like Imus, he has a long history of racism and misogyny, but unlike the former shock jock, rarely eats his words. It’s time to rein Rush in. Media Matters has no less than 412 listings to date on Racist Rush’s Rap Sheet. Check it out for yourself.

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