Posted on | December 31, 2010 | 66 Comments
Yes, she really said that. When I heard the audio Steve Foley posted at the Minority Report, I could scarcely believe it. How could anyone — even Katie Couric — be so incredibly stupid as to say this aloud?
“Maybe we need a Muslim version of ‘The Cosby Show.’ . . . I know it sounds crazy, but ‘The Cosby Show’ did so much to change attitudes about African-Americans in this country and I think sometimes people are afraid of things they don’t understand.”
Of the many layers of stupid in Couric’s comment, the first that comes to mind is this: Is the real problem America’s attitudes toward Muslims, or rather is the real problem Muslims’ attitude toward America?
But I’m sure the commenters will be able to point out many other nuances of stupidity here. Meanwhile, go to The Minority Report and listen to the whole two-minute audio clip.
UPDATE: OK, let’s peel back another layer or two of Katie Couric’s onion of stupidity. Could her analogy of (a) black Americans circa 1984 and (b) Muslims in 2010 possibly be more insultingly unfair to black people?
Couric expresses almost perfectly the horrible condescension of white liberals: “Oh, look at you poor helpless black people! You’re victims of the prejudice of bad white people who — unlike my enlightened self — are ignorant and hateful. Here, let me prove my moral superiority by throwing a pity party on your behalf.”
The sad thing is, liberals like Katie Couric really think that’s what black people need most: Guilt-ridden sympathy from a bunch of smug white do-gooders.
And it is from such a perspective that Couric brings forth the idea that the greatest benefit — perhaps even the essential purpose — of The Cosby Show was that it changed white people’s attitudes about black people.
What Couric is saying is that, prior to the 1984 debut of Bill Cosby’s hit sitcom, the biggest problem affecting the black community was the bad attitudes of whites — essentially, that black Americans were suffering from a public-relations problem, which Cosby undertook to remedy.
From this stems Couric’s idea that maybe what Muslims need is their own prime-time P.R. project. Not to put too fine a point on it, this idea is nucking futz.
Someone should find an interview in which Bill Cosby explains what he had in mind in conceiving The Cosby Show.
As a professional comedian and actor, of course, Cosby’s first consideration was to produce successful entertainment. Insofar as Cosby had any notion of racial consciousness-raising, however, I’m pretty sure his primary idea was to exemplify a model of bourgeois decency for the black community.
Here was a top-quality program by black people, about black people, for black people — a weekly show that held out to black Americans the same kind of corny old-fashioned middle-class family ideal once embodied by shows like Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver.
The Huxtables weren’t living in the projects and they weren’t speaking ghetto-inflected jive-talk. In fact, although this is sometimes forgotten, many liberals at the time criticized The Cosby Show as inauthentic and insufficiently relevant in addressing Serious Social Problems.
Yet the Huxtable family were about something very different than the kind of didactic issues-based “relevance” beloved by intellectuals. The Huxtables were reflecting the basic American values that Cosby cherishes, values that he dearly wants other black people to embrace, so as to get their own share of the American dream.
The fact that the show instantly became a mass-market success is, first and foremost, a tribute to Bill Cosby’s genius. But that success in itself undermines the idea that white people’s attitudes toward black people were, in 1984, the principle hindrance to black success. If white people were so ignorant and bigoted, why were they tuning in by the millions each week to watch Cosby?
Beyond the comedic brilliance of Cosby himself, some of the best parts of The Cosby Show were his periodic struggles — especially with son Theo — to get his kids to stay on the right path, and not to be lured into the “street” culture by peer pressure or trying to be “cool.”
This was, and remains, a particular problem that black parents have to deal with. Even though all parents have to deal with rebellious teens getting into trouble, the white suburban middle-class parent does not live in a world where the “troubled teen” routinely goes to prison or ends up shot dead. But these possibilities are a serious worry for many black parents. (To quote a black friend, concerned about gang activity in small-town schools: “We got out of the ghetto and we’re not going back. We sure as hell don’t want the ghetto coming here to get us.”)
Whatever “message” The Cosby Show conveyed to white America, then, was incidental to the message Bill Cosby was trying to convey to black viewers. And, as far as Couric’s idiotic idea of the show as helping black America with its “image problem” is concerned, what does she make of the fact that the Rodney King beating and the L.A. riots occurred in 1992 — the final season of The Cosby Show, eight years into its successful primetime run?
Well, never mind the disconcerting facts. Katie Couric is a liberal, sharing her moral and intellectual superiority with the rest of us. If you’re scratching your head trying to figure out how black Americans are analogous to Muslims — hello, 9/11? — this just goes to show your own bigoted inferiority.
Katie Couric . . . and this guy Mo Rocca also think they should teach Islam in the public schools! Yes, the same people whose heads explode any time Christian beliefs are mentioned in the public square.
Because they’re so tolerant! And better than you.