The Ghosts of Mutiny Past

In 2006 I wrote the first of many posts here on SM about then would-be Virginia Senator George Allen and his use of the term “Macaca” to describe S.R. Sidarth, a young volunteer for the current Senator Webb’s campaign who followed and documented his opponent’s public gatherings (a very common practice now). All the main players involved are probably happy to bury the Macaca Incident. Allen certainly wants to forget about it given that he running again. The “macaca moment” is widely credited for sinking his first political career and haunts him in every article about him still. When I met S.R. Sidarth at the Democratic National Convention in 2008 I was told by others that he doesn’t like talking about the incident either and wanted to move on. Given that Webb is not running for re-election it doesn’t hurt him to move on either.

But George Allen is working hard to resurrect his career and win office again. We pick up the story at the annual Shad Planking in the Real Virginia:

As the front-runner in the GOP nominating contest to succeed retiring Sen. James Webb (D), former senator George Allen swamped his opponents at the annual Shad Planking festival, offering more of everything: signs, stickers, hats, volunteers and — crucially, given the hot, sticky weather — cold beer.

Jamie Radtke, Allen’s best-known foe and former head of the Virginia Federation of Tea Party Patriots, went to the Wakefield Ruritan Club southeast of Richmond with a smaller financial war chest but armed with an argument — that Allen isn’t conservative enough to deserve the Republican nomination — that she hopes will be enough to fuel an upset.

“People are looking for an alternative. They really are,” Radtke said.

Radtke’s booth at the gathering featured a large sign contrasting her views with Allen’s record in the Senate — including votes to raise the debt ceiling and for the No Child Left Behind law. [Link]

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p>The winner will meet Kaine. I still believe that if not for the Macaca moment the 2008 election would have been Allen vs. Obama and that contest would have been much closer. I also believe that times have changed and Allen might not be nutty enough for the Republican base this time around. But I also want to go back to the title of my post from five years ago. What did Allen think “macaca” meant when he used the term? We may never know for sure but Slate’s Chris Wilson pointed out on Tuesday that what we think he meant was largely influenced by Wikipedia:

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Before Allen said “macaca,” it had no entry on Wikipedia. That was corrected the day after the first stories were published, when a frequent contributor to the user-edited encyclopedia posted a short definition:

Macaca (also spelled Macaque) is a dismissive epithet used by Francophone colonials in Africa for native populations of North and Subsaharan Africans, similar to the British “wog”, or US “gook” or “haji”. Macaca is also a coded word used in the White Power Movement to refer to people of African descent.

The article was edited 37 times in the first day, but the closest anyone came to disputing the word’s use as a slur was to slap a “[citation needed]” stamp on the sentence above. Meanwhile, journalists and bloggers were desperately searching for evidence that it was in fact a slur and that Allen knew it, even subconsciously. (Allen’s mother was born to Jewish parents in Tunisia back when the country was a French protectorate.) There were some tantalizing hints, such as traces of the word on white supremacist websites and scattered references in Colonial African literature, but no smoking gun. George Allen had clearly crossed a line by implying that Sidarth was a new arrival to America. (Sidarth was born in Virginia.) Whether he had committed the far graver offense of using a racial epithet–or even knowingly calling him a monkey–was very difficult to determine. [Link]

I don’t doubt Allen’s dishonorable intent behind using what I still see as a slur and there were plenty of other solid anecdotes about his racial views. However, I am struck by this great example of reality being dictated by who controls the facts…first.

15 thoughts on “The Ghosts of Mutiny Past

  1. How long should a few second mistakes haunt a person? His whole life? What about forgetting and moving on?

    The guy who was drunk and who punched Snooki had to join military because he was fired from his previous job and no school/company would hire him: “Dan Ferro told the New York Post: ‘This kid has never been in any trouble – ever. Thanks to MTV, he got fired. Every other option he would’ve had got cut off. He still has college loans.’ His son even had to move in with his grandmother this winter after his unemployment insurance ran out.”

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1363795/Snookis-Jersey-Shore-attacker-Brad-Ferro-joins-Army.html#ixzz1KhY0p3Xn

    • Yes, its called Karma. And any guy who punched Snooki should have his life ruined. But please let’s stay on topic. This is not an MTV chat room.

    • What a crazy world we live in! A guy can’t deck a 4’11″ gal in the face and suffer zero consequences. This is not America!

      Anyways. S.R. Sidarth should be given a medal for saving us from a George Allen presidency. GA is like an extremely mean and nasty version of GWB. ::shudder::

    • What a crazy world we live in! A guy can’t deck a 4’11″ gal in the face and suffer zero consequences. This is not America!

      Anyways. S.R. Sidarth should be given a medal for saving us from a George Allen presidency. GA is like an extremely mean and nasty version of GWB. ::shudder::

  2. What do you mean? Snooki getting punched was the best boost her career ever got. She should be thanking Ferro, and giving him some of that 32G Rutgers paid her.

    On the topic, he’s not Michael Richards, he’s not going to say “look at that dark skinned guy there, lets welcome him to America because he’s obviously foreign, and we white people are real Americans” I agree that Allen vs Obama wouldve been a tighter match.

  3. So Abhi, let assumed you said something people find to be offensive, do you want that word to haunt you for life because it is “Karma”? Do you want your life/dreams to be ruined because of that?

    I brought the Snooki incident as an example to show how someone’s life was ruined for a mistake he did for a few seconds. It was meant as an example and not to diverge the discussion away from the topic.

  4. He was using it as a racial slur and I think he knew exactly what he was saying as is obvious from his tone. He had said and did far worse things against blacks so this was not an isolated incident. I think his biggest mistake was pissing off two of the most powerful ethnicities in the media today- Jews and Indians. He tried to hide his Jewish heritage and he called and Indian a monkey. So they went after him in the papers publishing daily articles on the subject so nobody forgot it. You cant afford to get on the wrong side of the media if you are running for election.

  5. Out of curiosity was it the Sepia Mutiny posts, which publicised the Macaca issue?

    • Yes, we were not the only ones but we were one of the firsts and definitely in the South Asian American community.

  6. Abhi, can you moderate the 1 in 5 thread? The hate-fest you guys allow is really quite sickening. Why call out this politicians for this inadvertent slur while your commenters make the most disgusting comments about Muslims? Hypocrisy much?

    • Fajita, Please login to comment. Also you are one of the worst offenders here in terms of engaging trolls. Do not respond to bigoted comments, especially when they are buried “anonymous” comments which many people won’t even open to read unless you engage them. After 7 years at this I know it is a pointless battle to go to war with every single idiotic comment. All the bloggers here do this as a hobby. I have an 11 hour a day, day job so you won’t be getting that instant satisfaction.

  7. Not sure why people think Allen would have done better vs. Obama–Allen is a pretty stereotypical southern republican; McCain is kind of cool, liked by media, etc.

  8. Whether or not Allen knew exactly what macaca meant, the way he used the word and the way he “welcomed” Sidarth to America tells me all I need to know about him. His political career should be ruined. There are other careers in the world.

  9. Abhi,

    People like Suki Dhillon is a proof that even registered commentator can make inflammatory remarks..

  10. “I did it all for the snooki, all for the snooki, so you can take that cookie and shove it up your…”

    “I brought the Snooki incident as an example to show how someone’s life was ruined for a mistake he did for a few seconds.”

    Hmm, slightly different context though. Dan Ferro was a drunk guido who made a thoughtless (yet funny, and ultimately career solidifying) action. Allen was someone running for political office, claiming to do what’s best for all Americans, and represent his constituency. In sum, the two events don’t warrant a comparison.