Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Presumably his spiritual heirs have been too busy protesting gay marriage and spreading lies about Islam to note the death of James J. Kilpatrick at the age of 89.

A long-time spokesman for the lunatic right, he spent the forties and fifties toiling at various newspapers in the segregated south.  When the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Brown vs. The Board Of education, Kilpatrick thrust himself onto the national stage, becoming a go-to spokesman for segregation.  As late as 1963, when it must have been obvious to Kilpatrick that the tides of time and common sense were turning against him, he submitted an article to The Saturday Evening Post arguing that, in his words, "the Negro race, as a race, is in fact an inferior race."

That piece never ran, but the fact that a blandly mainstream publication like The Post even considered it proves that the hijacking of the media by right-wing extremists is nothing new.  Indeed, Kilpatrick parlayed his noxious celebrity into a sweet gig on 60 Minutes, on which he and the supposedly liberal Shana Alexander indulged in pointlessly argumentative back and forth of the exact kind so favored by news networks today.

60 Minutes producer Don Hewett would no doubt have claimed that he used Kilpatrick as a way of proving that his show had no agenda, that it aired all points of view.  But do all points of view need to be aired on a network forum, especially when those views are hateful and ill-informed?  Kilpatrick's run on CBS was an inspiration for CNN's Crossfire, which gave Pat Buchanan a forum for launching his hateful bile, which led, inevitably, to Fox News--ideology presented as fact.

And we are living with the results of all this.  When the views of hate-minded lunatics are given the patina of legitimacy by the mainstream press, they become part of the mainstream debate, and open hatred of other religions and races is made acceptable.