David B.




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October 27, 2008

Heartbreak for Conservatives: Ashley Todd’s Lie Fails to Produce a Scary ‘Them’


It was a horrifying story: A young white woman, traversing the “bad” side of a major city, is mugged, as she uses an automatic teller machine, by a powerfully built black man. Upon learning of her support for John McCain from a bumper sticker on her car, her assailant becomes frenzied, slashing a crude letter “B” – presumably for Barack – into her face.


That it was only a story, a work of fiction concocted in its entirety by one evidently disturbed young woman, was not enough to prevent its immediate representation as fact throughout the national news media, most notably Fox News, with the explicit and enthusiastic encouragement of the McCain campaign. Within minutes, Ashley Todd had achieved her 15 minutes of fame. Within hours, her admission of the story’s falsehood would earn her a lifetime of dishonor.


There are millions of Ashley Todds scattered across America – small, anonymous people, leading small, anonymous lives, hungry for a few fleeting moments of recognition as someone at least slightly special – sad, confused specimens of humanity in whom sorrow, bitterness, resentment and an impulse to manipulate congeal into a poisonous personal presence that has a way of affecting and infecting every group or social setting of which they find themselves a part. Think of the boastful, gossiping, trash-talking co-worker, or the loudmouthed crank who shouts his complaints at every city council meeting. Generally, these individuals succeed only in alienating everyone they come into contact with, living out their lives in dismal solitude.


Once in a while, though, circumstances allow the crank a few shining moments in the sun. Thus it was for Ashley Todd, whose depraved narrative played neatly into a centuries-old American mythos concerning the “threat” posed to the lives and virtue of white women by African-American men. Earlier variants of Todd’s story had provided sufficient justification for the lynching of black men by white mobs (see Emmett Till). In the 2000s, the story’s diminished potency is good for only a few news cycles on Fox. In both cases, however, they served their larger social function – reinforcing the fears and prejudices that serve as the foundation for conservatism.


By definition, there must always be a powerful external threat of some kind or other for conservatism to remain a viable political philosophy. The type of enemy matters little: Communist infiltrators, Islamist fanatics, “liberals” or depraved African-American thugs all serve the narrative nicely, serving as the “them” for “us” to fear, to vilify and to rally against. Deprived of its enemies, over-hyped and imaginary though they may be, the conservative is left with nothing. The perennial railing against threats to hearth and home begin to sound pretty ridiculous when it becomes apparent that the marauding hordes of witches, Soviet infiltrators, Black Panthers or Jihadists aren’t actually going to materialize. New Grave Threats must constantly be invented, or old ones recycled, in order to keep the proles on their toes and marching in formation.


Enter Ashley Todd with her fevered imagining of a knife-toting ghetto Obama supporter – a concept absurd on its face, but nonetheless sufficiently believable to spread like wildfire across the web and the airwaves. Yes, America, they are coming – not only to redistribute your wealth, but for your women. Horrors. And the poisonous sewer that passes for popular American political discourse yawned open to receive the clumsy, crude, incoherent, screamingly racist lie, all too ready to swallow it whole.


Had the alleged “victim” not been stupid enough to carve the “B” backwards into her face as she looked in the mirror, and had the area in which the alleged “attack” occurred not been in full view of security cameras that recorded no such event, Ashley Todd would be getting interviewed by every news organization in the country at this moment, even as somber-voiced commentators decried the savagery of the heinous assault of one stereotype upon another, whipping the rightist rabble into a fear-filled frenzy. Thanks to the phenomenal stupidity of the self-anointed victim, it was not to be – and no one can be more disappointed than the American right. The Commies never came, the legions of Islamist terrorists failed to materialize, and now even their latter-day Willie Hortons have let them down.


“John McCain just can’t get a break,” said one disappointed conservative pundit in the wake of the Todd fiasco. Based upon the conduct of his colleagues and Todd’s cheerleaders in the McCain campaign, America can’t either.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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