Ta-Nehisi on Wright.

Barack Obama’s angry denunciation of Rev. Jeremiah Wright yesterday caught a lot of people by surprise. But it hasn’t been as surprising as Wright’s Magical Media Tour (as Shani called it), which seemed to defy any sort of logic.

I asked someone who works for the Obama campaign what they thought Wright was trying to accomplish. “Clear his name?” she said. Uh, he’s taken a pretty interesting tack to that end.

The press is usually very slow to self-correct, so the idea that Wright is not an anti-white, anti-American nutjob — the popular narrative, even though there’s little evidence to support it and there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary — is gonna be one that’s hard for him to shake.


That said, I want to be clear that I thought Wright acted a fool on Monday. There’s a lot of chatter out there claiming that Wright was trying to sabotage Obama. I don’t buy it. Like I said yesterday, I think Wright just wanted to say whatever he felt. But he made a few mistakes. Chief among them, as my friend Jelani Cobb has said, was not recognizing the difference between his pulpit and the lion’s den. This press lives to expose these sort of performances, and Wright just gave them low-hanging fruit.

Why he would do that, given what he’s been through the past few months, just boggles the mind. You can’t, on the one hand, attack the press for distorting you, and then go right to the press to communicate who you are to the American people. The saddest part of this to me, is that I don’t think Wright understood what was going on. There’s a lot of reporting now suggesting that Bill Clinton’s biggest problem is that he simply doesn’t understand how much media has changed since his White House days. His gaffes are not the product of a decline in skills, as I’ve written before, but the result of a fundamental misunderstanding of what the press has become–a gaggle of cynics who sit around waiting for people say something stupid. Gotcha journalism rules the day. Wright’s mistake was much the same–he simply had no understanding of the press.



Gene "G.D." Demby is the founder and editor of PostBourgie. In his day job, he blogs and reports on race and ethnicity for NPR's Code Switch team.
  • Steve

    I mean .. he didn’t do a very good job of disproving he was a nutjob with his performances all weekend… especially like that whole “left brain right brain” thing… sigh..I was like WTF LOL

    But I think the whole point about not understanding the modern media in terms of Bill and Wright is something I definitely hadn’t thought of but makes alot of sense…

  • Big Word

    I wouldn’t say he doesn’t understand the media. He knows what they are about. I saw the whoe spectacle as a sort of act of defiance and a bit of that subliminal diss game rappers got so fond of after Pac and Big got shot. I think the guy believes Obama threw him under the bus after the first brouhaha and now he just doesn’t give a youknowwhat. As powerful as Obama’s speech was about race, he still let white people off pretty easy for letting this become an issue in the first place.

  • Dr. Wright miscalculated the pulse in Washington and therefore, he came to the National Press Club unscripted and unprepared and unpolished. It was unfortunate that he did not bring prepared remarks with documentation about the other preachers who other presidential candidates were aligned with. He should have also prepared to deliver historical facts to support his statements on his sermon and he should have taken the opportunity seriously instead of acting like a kook. I respect Dr. Wright but he did not hit a homerun on Monday in DC!

    I saw a lot of comments on the PBS blog on the night that Dr. Wright was giving his interview. I felt that he did a much better job of damage control on PBS.

    Thanks for letting me blow my trumpet!