On Thursday, Slate’s Mickey Kaus posted an e-mail thread from the off-the-record e-mail list serve JournoList, in which various left-leaning bloggers and journalists (including Matt Yglesias and the Wonk Room’s Matt Duss) discussed whether New Republic editor-in-chief Marty Peretz is “a Crazy-A** Racist.” The thread was a reaction to a blog post by Peretz that labeled Mexico as having the “characteristic deficiencies” of “Latin society”:
Well, I am extremely pessimistic about Mexican-American relations, not because the U.S. had done anything specifically wrong to our southern neighbor but because a (now not quite so) wealthy country has as its abutter a Latin society with all of its characteristic deficiencies: congenital corruption, authoritarian government, anarchic politics, near-tropical work habits, stifling social mores, Catholic dogma with the usual unacknowledged compromises, an anarchic counter-culture and increasingly violent modes of conflict. Then, there is the Mexican diaspora in America, hard-working and patriotic but mired in its untold numbers of illegals, about whom no one can talk with candor.
National Review’s Jonah Goldberg responded to Kaus’s post yesterday by asking “why will no one defend Marty Peretz?” and claiming that he is “quite surprised no one will defend the man from the charge that he’s a ‘f***ing racist.'” Goldberg accuses Peretz critics of using racism “as a branding tool against heretics“:
The “near-tropical work habits” line is unfortunate. But is this whole thing really so beyond the pale? If it is, no wonder it’s hard to have that long-overdue conversation about race people keep talking about.
But it’s pretty clear that racism — real or alleged — isn’t the real issue. These guys hate Marty, hate TNR (no doubt in part because some of them couldn’t get jobs there), and are willing to use racism against their own the same way they use it against conservatives: as a branding tool against heretics.
Though Goldberg slightly acknowledges the offensive nature of Peretz’s line about “near-tropical work habits” by calling it “unfortunate,” he never addresses the fact that Peretz also asserted that “Latin society” is plagued with “congenital corruption.” The dictionary definition of “congenital” is “being such by nature.” In other words, Peretz is claiming that Latinos are born corrupt. That’s racist.
Later in the day yesterday, Goldberg posted a comment from an e-mailer who pointed out the offensiveness of Peretz’s “congenital corruption” line, noting that Peretz is known to say similarly offensive things in private as well.