Monday, April 15, 2013

The Latest Manufactured "Controversy"

A few weeks ago, Georgia and the rest of the country were shocked to learn a dirty little secret  - Wilcox County High School has segregated proms. The events are not sponsored by the school system, but none the less, it is an ugly anachronism that should not be.

As the saying goes, the children shall lead and in this case they did. A group of students took it upon themselves to organize an integrated prom.

What should have been a story of the next generation overcoming the sins of the previous generation should have ended there. But we live in the days of zero sum politics where every incident must have a choosing of sides and clear winner and a clear loser.

Despite their claim to be non-partisan and independent, Better Georgia is well known as a progressive activist group. They are very aggressive in their pursuit to get Democrats elected in Georgia. Given the wet rag resistance of Democrats in Georgia for the past ten years, a little aggression is probably needed. But there is a line and Better Georgia quickly crossed the line from aggressive politics to naked exploitation.

Peach Pundit's Charlie Harper has a good breakdown of the timeline of the "controversy" but here's the bullets:

  • Wilcox County High School's segregated prom becomes a national story
  • Students of Wilcox County determine to organize their own integrated prom
  • Wilcox County Republican Melvin Elverson assists the students by promoting private donations for the event
  • On April 5th the students announced on Facebook they had met their financial goal and the prom would be held
The story should have ended here, but last week, many of us involved in politics started seeing posts all over social media from Bryan Long and Don Weigal asking Georgia Republicans to not only "support the students" but donate money so they prom could be held. Here's what happened next

  • Better Georgia starts trolling Republicans on social media demanding they support the Wilcox County students
  • Governor Deal's spokesmen responds to Better Georgia calling their actions a silly publicity stunt
  • Governor Deal also issues a statement saying he trusts local leaders to resolve the issue to protect the equal rights of all students (see below)
  • Better Georgia begins using social media to promote the idea Governor Deal refuses to endorse an integrated prom
Anyone who has been in the business for a hot second saw this coming. Better Georgia trolled the opposition looking for an inarticulate response. Once they got one, they pounced and used confirmation bias of Democrats in this state and elsewhere to subtly promote the idea the Governor of Georgia (and Republicans in general) supports segregation.

Here's Governor Deal's full statement on the Wilcox County situation.

Gov. Deal is focused on reviewing the legislation that was passed in the legislative session and bringing jobs to Georgia. In the Wilcox County case, the governor expects and trusts that local leaders will find a long-term solution that protects the equal rights of all students, regardless of race or ethnic background.

My goodness, he's practically a modern day George Wallace.

The bottom line is this was never about the kids in Wilcox County. This was about professional political operatives scoring a "victory" for their side. With the usual political jujitsu common in these ugly cage match mud fests, they exploited kids while claiming to support them; they decried the reputation of the south as racist while exploiting national liberals own perception the south is crammed full of card carrying members of the KKK.

Their actions may be justified in the political world but it should not pass that they also belie their very name. Nothing about this episode makes Georgia better.

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