I know it’s a hard lesson to learn, and we’ve only had a few hundred examples to disprove it by now, but just because someone superimposes a quote of something you really want to be true over a picture of someone’s face and posts it to the internet, that doesn’t make it real. You know what they say though, a picture may be worth a thousand words, but a picture with a quote on it is worth like a thousand and fifty words. That’s way more words!
Today’s lesson comes from the debunking of the widely spread disinformation that Mitt Romney’s campaign slogan “Keep America American” was the same motto used by the Ku Klux Klan back in 1922.
I mean, just look here: that one guy from the funny pictures said it. Only choice now is to share it with millions of people then wait for the congratulatory kudos for being a keen media critic roll in.
(Sort of related: Come on dude, you’re a professional comedian. Stop using that cliche phrasing for fuck’s sake. It’s just some shameful hack shit.)
Turns out it was much ado about nothing, as Snopes points out. The phrase can be traced back to the Klan, but it’s not actually something Romney himself said. The confusion arose when a Washington Post reporter misquoted a Romney speech. I love the fact that her piece begins thusly: “Someone didn’t do his research.”
Woopsie! Replace “someone” with “me” there. Actually replace it with “everyone on the internet.” The story comes with what is one of the most awe-inspiring corrections I’ve ever seen:
Editors’ note: This posting contains multiple, serious factual errors that undermine its premise. Mitt Romney is not using “Keep America American,” which was once a KKK slogan, as a catchphrase in stump speeches, as the posting and headline stated. In a YouTube video that the posting said showed Romney using the phrase, Romney actually used a different phrase, “Keep America America.” Further, the video that the blog posting labelled “Mitt Romney 2012 Campaign Ad” is not actually a Romney campaign ad. The video itself states “Mitt Romney does not actually support this ad.” The posting cited accounts of Romney saying “keep America American” at an appearance last week. Independent video from the event shows him saying “Keep America America.” The Post should have contacted the Romney campaign for comment before publication. Finally, we apologize that the posting began by saying “[s]omeone didn’t do his research” when, in fact, we had not done ours.
The writer later resigned. There was a lot of gloating over it at the time in blogosphere and conservative media, but the important take away was that, welp, see here, this isn’t a problem, because Romney didn’t say this thing that was associated with the Klan, so we’re all good, nothing to see here, let’s move on.
What Romney said, instead, was “Keep America America,” and that’s much better, I guess? But wait, what does that phrase mean exactly? Is it even any different from saying “Keep America American?” That’s investing the import of a pretty big alibi on that missing “n” isn’t it? It wasn’t the “n” that was doing the heavy lifting of the throwback code language for an imagined heyday of lilly-white American exceptionalism and “family values” there anyway; the other 18 letters in the phrase managed the job just fine on their own. But due to shoddy research and a rush to believe anything we’re told, we’ve once again let the focus shift from the content of the actual problematic message, to the sideshow of the reporting on the message itself.
On the plus side, it’s given me a pretty good excuse to go back and listen to one of my favorite nationalist racist anthems of all time. It’s a pretty short list admittedly. Too bad Romney couldn’t get away with adopting this one as a campaign theme. Probably lose a few points in the homophobic voting bloc.