THE CONFEDERATE FLAG took the checkered flag.
Just 14 days after self-proclaimed white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine black congregants in an historically African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, the national fallout with the Confederate battle flag, with which Roof closely associated, arrived at PC overreach faster than perhaps any major issue ever.
The issue’s official jumping of the shark took place with TV Land’s hysterical cancellation of Dukes of Hazzard reruns on July 1. In a span of exactly two weeks from the June 17 mass shooting that touched off the controversy, America went from a place where the Confederate Flag was allowed to fly on official state property to one where it wasn’t even allowed to be painted on a car in a sitcom that hasn’t made a new episode in 30 years.
Prior to the Duke boys driving off into the Southern sunset, the Confederate Flag backlash had been going well enough. The fact that the battle flag of a rebellious, self-proclaimed nation was allowed to fly on government property—federal, state, municipal or otherwise—is, in and of itself, suspect, especially in a land that claims to be as patriotic as ours. Once we factor in one of the primary purposes for which that short-lived country revolted—namely, the right to own slaves—and note that, in the years since, the flag has been tied to white supremacy groups including the Ku Klux Klan, the idea of that symbol flying proudly on statehouse grounds is utterly preposterous. Of course it should be taken down, if only out of respect for the nearly 30% of South Carolinians who are African-American and, often, descendants of the same slaves its state once fought to keep in bondage. Every flap of that flag was a slap in the face to black Americans.
The predictable corporate distancing soon followed, one which, though driven by bottom lines rather than conscience, was appropriate nonetheless. Somewhere an airplane hangar-sized warehouse in the middle of nowhere is steadily filling up with Stars and Bars caps, keychains, neckties, and probably prophylactics via a steady stream of trucks from Walmart, Target, and other huge retailers that have rightly removed Confederate Flag merchandise from its store shelves. Good riddance.
But of course, we couldn’t leave well enough alone, so Hazzard paid the PC price. And this time, this sort of laughingstock overreaction was so quick in coming as to breed confusion over what’s right and what’s ridiculous.
The controversy over the Confederate Flag—one that raged for a century and a half before being seemingly settled in a week and a half—is just the latest, and perhaps starkest, example of our culture’s inability to find a Goldilocks zone between too lenient and too strict—in this case, between bigotry and buffoonery. How can we take ourselves seriously—or teach our children the virtue of measured responses—when we go from statehouse sanctioned to rerun revoked in a mere fortnight? Even Bo and Luke Duke couldn’t get us there that fast.
Put into proper context, though, perhaps the Dukes’ demise was foreseeable. Though certainly a measure far beyond those of stores ceasing sales of items emblazoned with the Stars and Bars, TV Land’s decision to pull the show was more pre-emptive than reactive. Executives at the station were insuring themselves against a feared Southern-style slut-shaming, as if a channel that runs decades-old programming were directly responsible for Bo and Luke rolling around in a four-wheeled symbol of hatred.
Namely, TV Land execs were protecting themselves against liberal media—and they were probably smart to do so. Because unfortunately, some of the main culprits in hijacking constructive national conversations and driving them into this sort of counterproductive craziness are so-called progressive media outlets.
(And yes, this is coming from a liberal – a progressive, a socialist even. Put it this way: I’m voting for Bernie Sanders.)
Case in point: On July 6, liberal website and social media mainstay Think Progress ran an article headlined “U.S. Women Win World Cup, Get Stiffed by FIFA.” Through its title alone, the article suggests sexism as the reason the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team received $2 million from the sport’s international governing body for winning the tournament, whereas men’s teams got $8 million for advancing only as far as the first round.
Here are the facts: The men’s World Cup is the most watched sporting event on earth. The last men’s tournament, in 2014, generated some $4 billion for FIFA alone, and more than $10 billion for the host country, Brazil. Numbers aren’t yet available for the 2016 women’s tournament in Canada, but if it’s even ten percent of those figures, that would be astonishing.
Athletes’ pay reflects the revenues their respective leagues earn from their play. Take tennis, for example. Men’s and women’s tennis are similarly popular and, as a result, both the men’s and women’s champion of this year’s Wimbledon Tournament earned exactly £1.88 million. This isn’t about gender. It’s about money.
Like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh or any of the other conservative clowns we all know are too smart to be that stupid, the writer, Judd Legum, is guilty of an overreach whose bias is rooted either in lack of research of lack of honesty. In other words, Legum was either being lazy in his reporting or simply lying for the sake of sensationalism.
What’s next? An exposé blasting the Chicago Bears as sexist for not having a woman at middle linebacker? Though it may be stylish—and, for media outlets, profitable—to shout sexism or racism or any other form of bigotry at every minor perceived slight, doing so often doesn’t jive with facts and journalistic integrity. Nor does it further progressive causes.
Progressives aren’t doing ourselves any favor when we hand an outlet as far-right as the Breitbart News, which blasted Legum’s silly assessment, a victory on an issue—the admirable cause of equal pay for equal work—that can be fought and won with facts rather than fraudulence.
I’m proud to be a progressive because, as one, I know that the truth is on my side—that my team doesn’t have to rely on gimmicks. Progressive positions from the economy and the environment to foreign policy and social issues can be explained effectively by communicating facts. Perhaps certain progressive media outlets should try harder to stick to them.. because not doing so leaves holes both in our national dialogue and TV Land’s programming schedule.
The Duke boys aren’t the only casualties of leftist PC overreach; the issues themselves are as well.