Justice triumphs, stupidity loses: CNN dumps Santorum for obliterating Native American culture

Good riddance to bad rightwing Christian warrior rubbish that should have been dumped years ago.

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We can, amidst this mayhem of mendacity, take solace that words matter to cable TV culture warriors when qualifying as unforced, offensive, and witless blunders. Displaying fourth-grade obliviousness to the over ten thousand year lineage of “American history,” Santorum was buried in criticism a month ago, inspiring even hard-bitten pundits to wonder, “Are all Republicans, even those not awash in the worst extremism, that badly educated, getting dumber and dumber by just staying Republican”? The answer: apparently so.

So, here’s shocking good news: this prominent, retired Republican blowhard bursting with willful ignorance gets his full comeuppance. Fifteen minutes online checking sources would have saved his well-paid employment for this once-time frequent, ex-CNN contributor. Instead, he poured out revisionist nonsense that Puritans, and Puritans alone are responsible for what makes America great. Though I claim no influence on CNN, I did cover the Santorum outrage weeks ago, “Clueless Santorum perpetrates ‘second genocide’ of Native Americans.”

Though CNN tolerates its ration of rightwing know-nothing idiocy, to foist notions of phony balance (does truth “balance” bold-faced lies?), ex-senator and newly-minted white supremacist Rick Sanctorum couldn’t help sticking his foot in his imprudent mouth. He was making an independent speech to an association of young people aligned with Mike Pence. Now Santorum is gagging on his own words, likely off TV for a good long time. He may have to go to work, though he’s not electable in a Pennsylvania to any imaginable office.

Invisibility, as bad as racism

Santorum didn’t just belittle Native Americans for being “noble savages” or belligerent, soulless killers of invading pioneers (like the movies), or religiously irredeemable primitives whose culture was so defective their children had to be forcibly kidnapped and “rescued” by government schools. Nope, nothing so mundane for the Christian soldier Santorum, in some ways even worse. Without context, Santorum felt obliged to defend the religious fundamentalists called Puritans by making it sound like they arrived in a unpopulated wasteland. There were an estimated 100 million Native Americans doing just fine in the “new” world. The ex-senator just had to elevate Protestants (who would have harshly scorned Santorum’s Catholicism) by putting down the inhabitants that Anglo-Saxons then proceeded to shoot down, sicken, elbow aside and plunder. Yep, a real testament to Anglo-Saxon virtue and morality.

As a tiresomely pious Christian warrior, Santorum had to distort history with a vengeance: not only were Puritans responsible for everything good about America but Native Americans were quashed as nothing burgers – as if they only existed to face genocidal extermination. Tell westerners, or Gold Rush miners, or Custer that “there was nothing here.” How can an adult declare in public,”there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture”? For Republicans, urged to blame all of Covid-19 woes on China, that speaks to profoundly-racist cultural exclusion – so serious that Santorum rightly got fired for sounding like the racist Puritans who “discovered” America. Perhaps this could start a trend to banish backward racists – and not a few names come to mind.

Of course, the joke redounds on Santorum’s Catholic heritage. When Santorum presumptuously boasted, “We birthed a nation from nothing,” he was dead wrong about the “nothing” and amazingly uninformed about the “we.” Fundamentalist Puritans saw the Vatican as even worse than the Anglo-Catholic Church of England they shunned by going where no Protestants had gone before: New England. “We” is a joke because Santorum’s religion was often denigrated as the “whore of Babylon,” a hotbed of superstition that for Protestants betrayed legitimate Christianity. The only “we” in Santorum’s pocket was the mouse squeaking, “No, no, don’t go there.”

Reporting first on Saturday’s termination, Huffpost’s Jennifer Bendery had in April called his remarks “as offensive as they are inaccurate.” Indigenous peoples “had their own rich cultures and traditions. European settlers tried to erase all of that by forcibly removing Indigenous people from their lands, slaughtering them, infecting them with new diseases, rounding them up and putting them on reservations.” Then the holier-than-thou white man broke treaties with them and took “their children from them,” installing  “them into boarding schools to try to assimilate them into white culture.”

This gaffe, par for the course

Though once a Trump critic, then a belated supporter, Santorum’s career since the 1990s often relied on distortions fueling the culture wars, a lead player in pushing rightwing Christian wedge politics. A defining, early offense was apologetically attacking the LGBTQ community. His followup cultural agenda was so tin-ear he lost his 2006 Senate re-election bid, waiting in the wings for 11 years before CNN hired him in 2017.

According to the Advocate’s Neal Broverman, “Many were bewildered that CNN even hired Santorum in the first place, since the former politician built a career demonizing LGBTQ+ people. As recently as 2019, Santorum, utilizing CNN’s platform, compared Pete Buttigieg’s homosexuality with Donald Trump’s infidelities . . . [taking] many other anti-LGBTQ+ stances, including his infamous 2003 comment that if the Supreme Court recognized a right to any type of consensual sex, it could find a right to “man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be.”

According to the Rolling Stone’s Peter Wade, even days afterwards the latest uproar “CNN remained quiet on the matter, even after Santorum refused to apologize during an appearance on a CNN primetime show when he was asked about the blowback. According to Variety’s Brian Steinberg, the network’s executives “were not pleased” by Santorum’s lack of an apology during the segment, but they should not have been surprised. The network knew all about the right-wing extremist and hired in 2017 him anyway.”

In a phrase, good riddance to bad rubbish that should have been dumped years ago—certainly delivering a major taint on CNN’s reputation. Now Santorum’s notoriety as a divisive, ignorant religious bigot is confirmed for a century, or as long as the sexually-loaded word connected with his last name stays in memory. Look it up if you want but it’s not my idea of wit.

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Robert S. Becker
For over a decade, Robert S. Becker's independent, rebel-rousing essays on politics and culture analyze overall trends, history, implications, messaging and frameworks. He has been published widely, aside from Nation of Change and RSN, with extensive credits from OpEdNews (as senior editor), Alternet, Salon, Truthdig, Smirking Chimp, Dandelion Salad, Beyond Chron, and the SF Chronicle. Educated at Rutgers College, N.J. (B.A. English) and U.C. Berkeley (Ph.D. English), Becker left university teaching (Northwestern, then U. Chicago) for business, founding SOTA Industries, a top American high end audio company he ran from '80 to '92. From '92-02, he was an anti-gravel mining activist while doing marketing, business and writing consulting. Since then, he seeks out insight, even wit in the shadows, without ideology or righteousness across the current mayhem of American politics.

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