Pat Sajak tweet goes viral

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Game show host Pat Sajak won a tidal wave of cheap publicity Monday with an inflammatory attack on climate science — but public backlash has largely ignored his comment’s pernicious claim about racism.

“I now believe global warming alarmists are unpatriotic racists knowingly misleading for their own ends,” he tweeted.

Sajak’s comment is just the latest salvo in a persistent campaign among Republicans to delegitimize the problem of racism. By dismissing all accusations of racism as necessarily ridiculous and disingenuous, Republicans are waging war on our ability to even talk about the problem.

Call it “eracism”. By erasing racism from our political vocabulary, Republicans are assaulting our ability to do anything about it.

A pattern of ridicule

Sajak insists that the comment “was intended to parody the name-calling directed at climate skeptics. Hyperbole.”

No need to dispute that. There’s every reason to believe that Sajak thinks his empty eye-rolling qualifies as some kind of incisive commentary.

But consider the premise: accusations of racism against climate science deniers are necessarily “hyperbole” and “name-calling”. Sajak isn’t trying to “parody” specific allegations of racism on the merits; the allegation itself is self-evidently preposterous in general, regardless of the rationale.

And regardless of the issue. Sajak on Obamacare: “If you express opposition to the bill, you’re a racist”. On the 2008 elections: “All criticisms of Obama and Company will be regarded as thinly veiled racial attacks.” As a rule, when Pat Sajak sarcastically ridicules something without articulating any kind of actual criticism, he’s probably dismissing hypothetical allegations of racism.

No such thing

Sajak isn’t alone – he’s just at the vanguard of an explicit and deliberate Republican effort to silence conversations about racism.

“There will be no conversation in which you call me a racist, and I explain why I’m not a racist. That’s a conversation for idiots,” Ben Shapiro writes in How To Debate Leftists and Destroy Them.*

The rhetoric is identical. Shapiro doesn’t simply neglect the merits of the accusation — he dismisses them categorically, insisting that no conversation about racism can be legitimate.

And like Sajak, Shapiro mobilizes his argument as a pre-emptive strike: “don’t wait for your opponent to call you a racist before going on the offensive,” he writes.

Racists have always denied accusations of racism. And partisans have always dismissed criticism as cynical and disingenuous. None of this is particularly new, or unique to today’s GOP.

But eracism is a step beyond standard defense. It’s an attempt to wipe out conversations about racism altogether, to destroy that conversation before it destroys Republicans. It’s offensive, as Shapiro puts it – in every sense of the word.

* Two word review of How To Debate Leftists: unintentionally hilarious.