The Right Plays to its Nativist Base

So Republican candidates were busy finding better things to do this week than appear at a forum where they could debate minority issues. Rudy's excuse was the best: he had to go off and hobnob with Bo Derek.

Digby's right, as usual: It's not just that the no-show reveals the undercurrent of racism that runs through the conservative movement like an ancient underground sewer -- the snub also played an important role in sending a signal to the conservative base.

We've known for some time that the GOP's fake inclusiveness -- hosting black children onstage at campaign events, trotting out big-name minorities in key public positions -- isn't actual minority outreach. It's part of its strategic appeal to fence-sitting white voters as somehow racially sensitive, while continuing to empower and indulge in wink-and-nudge racial politics that sends coded messages to the more naked racists in their base. It also gives them cover even as they pursue policies that reduce civil-rights enforcement on a broad scale.

A big part of playing that game is to keep the signals going to the base. Sometimes it's plain old race- and gay-baiting, couched in ways that let them erect flimsy facades of deniability. At others, it's making subtle snubs like this week's to make sure no one's deluded into thinking that defending white privilege isn't the first and most important job on the right's agenda.

So in the meantime you get a broad range of right-wingers, from Rush Limbaugh to Glenn Beck to Bill O'Reilly,, and all points in between, finding themselves increasingly comfortable coming out and saying things that no one in their right mind would have found acceptable or reasonable as recent as a decade ago. And the troops are taking note; they're even openly frothing along with their icons at the very thought of an African American running for the presidency.

The big opening for this shift in the dialogue towards near-open acceptance of old-fashioned bigotry is the immigration debate:

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Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

What you can do:
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