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FATTENING WALL STREET — Mike Whitney reports on the rapid metamorphosis of new Fed Chair Janet Yallin into a lackey for the bankers, bond traders and brokers. The New Religious Wars Over the Environment: Joyce Nelson charts the looming confrontation between the Catholic Church and fundamentalists over climate change, extinction and GMOs; A People’s History of Mexican Constitutions: Andrew Smolski on the 200 year-long struggle of Mexico’s peasants, indigenous people and workers to secure legal rights and liberties; Spying on Black Writers: Ron Jacobs uncovers the FBI’s 50 year-long obsession with black poets, novelists and essayists; O Elephant! JoAnn Wypijewski on the grim history of circus elephants; PLUS: Jeffrey St. Clair on birds and climate change; Chris Floyd on the US as nuclear bully; Seth Sandronsky on Van Jones’s blind spot; Lee Ballinger on musicians and the State Department; and Kim Nicolini on the films of JC Chandor.
Seth McFarland's Bigoted Banter

Joking About Slavery at the Oscars

by LEE BALLINGER

During the last night’s tedious Oscar telecast, host Seth McFarland was talking about portrayals of Abraham Lincoln in film. He first noted Daniel Day Lewis in Steven Speilburg’s Lincolnand then Raymond Massey in the 1940 film Abe Lincoln in Illinois. “Of course,” McFarland said, “the actor who really got into Lincoln’s head best was John Wilkes Booth.” The crowd gasped and groaned, to which McFarland smirked in reply: “I guess 150 years isn’t long enough to get over it yet.”

John Wilkes Booth shot Abraham Lincoln because Lincoln ultimately implemented John Brown’s strategy: Arm the slaves to destroy slavery. John Wilkes Booth shot Abraham Lincoln because Lincoln planned to give the vote to a section of African-Americans. There will never, in this year or any other, be any humor in any of that.

This is not some dusty old history. At the February 11 State of the Union address, a United States Senator brought as his special guest musician Ted Nugent, who openly proclaims that the South should have won the Civil War. Nugent has been embraced and defended by Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is a close friend of actor Russell Crowe, who appeared on stage at the Oscars this evening and whose band has often played at functions for Governor Perry.

This is not a case of white against black. At the Oscars, Daniel Day Lewis won as Best Actor for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln in a film which has been well-received by tens of millions of Americans of all colors.

This is a case of the vast majority of decent Americans versus a relatively small group of powerful men and women who want to drag America back to the 19th century South when the majority of Southern whites, despite certain petty privileges (often not including the right to vote), were hurled into the ditch of the slave and sharecropping systems right on top of the blacks. Today the one per cent intends to push everyone there except themselves.

It was hardly a coincidence that Seth McFarland went on from his joke about killing Lincoln to make fun of the homeless and of people who speak Spanish.

Lee Ballinger, CounterPunch’s music columnist, is co-editor of Rock and Rap Confidential author of the forthcoming book Love and War: My First Thirty Years of Writing, interviewed Honkala for CounterPunch. He can be reached at: Rockrap@aol.com