The Clare Spark Blog

September 25, 2012

Thought police on Fox?

You can’t say “savage” on Fox News Channel.

This morning, Jamie Colby, a Fox News anchor, explained to the audience that she could not bring herself to quote the ad, formulated by Pamela Geller, which, upon a judge’s orders, is now placed on subways in NYC and other venues.  For Ms. Colby, the words (later described as “fighting words” by her guests) were simply unmentionable in polite company. I gather from the ad that the word “savage” (along with “savages”?) takes its place with F-bombs and other evil expletives.

Here is the advertisement, part of which is a quotation from Ayn Rand:

Geller’s ad was responding to anti-Israel ads that had been placed in New York City subways for several years, and had to sue the MTA to get it posted. It was not that long ago that a Harvard professor as prestigious as F. O. Matthiessen could divide up humanity into the civilized and the savage, seeing this as a core conflict around which one could write literary history. But that was 1941, in his still read American Renaissance. And Matthiessen was no friend to American expansion.  (See

What is at issue here is the ongoing victory of the forces of political correctness. The ad in contention nowhere says that all Muslims are enemies of Israel; rather it singles out jihadists, about whose intentions to wipe Israel off the map, no one should be in doubt.

I first found out that the adjective or noun “savage” or “savages” was forbidden to the politically progressive when I read Richard Slotkin’s book Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, at the recommendation of my friend Michael Rogin, author of Fathers and Children, a controversial book on Andrew Jackson’s policies as genocidal toward native Americans, and that further maintained that all American institutions shared  Jackson’s  paternalistic and hierarchical military model.  (Rogin told me himself that he was very wounded when his colleague, political scientist John Schaar, also a famous New Leftist, had criticized Rogin for placing Indian removal at the heart of American history; perhaps the anti-expansionist line was too simplistic.) Professor Slotkin has continued his theme through decades of books and novels dedicated to his thesis, identical with Rogin’s and with other celebrities in American Studies. (For a rundown on the anti-American celebrities in academe, including Edward Said, see Cultural relativism demands that we erase the notion of “savagery” from our memory banks, and we are ordered to understand alien cultures on their own terms. One society is not better than any other: this is what liberals mean by “diversity.” (This notion was sharply criticized by Ralph Bunche while he was assisting Gunnar Myrdal in the preparation of An American Dilemma. What the libertarian-leaning Bunche wanted was an America that would live up to its founding creed.)

Jackson swats Amerindian

Fast forward to my years in graduate school, and a visiting professor who specialized in the history of native American warfare and politics. A silence spread over the room when the professor declared that American Indians were highly various in their social organization and that they constantly fought with each other. This would seem to be common sense, but it cut into the narrative propagated by the U.S. field at UCLA that “civilized” Europeans had literally invaded America and [savagely] destroyed the indigenous peoples all by themselves. I.e., Michael Rogin’s anti-American narrative had been complicated, too complicated for persons who preferred to tell a simple story of American [savagery] at its core.

One might ask: what is civilization? To Walter Lippmann, writing in The Good Society, the idea of the individual’s equality with other individuals before God was a turning point in the rejection of barbarism. (An assimilated Jew, Lippmann awarded that honor to Christianity; he might have mentioned Judaism See Before that, the Massachusetts Senator who was notorious for his aggressive arguments against slavery, Charles Sumner, defined the liberal state as protecting individual rights through equality before the law, and his notion of law was limited mostly to national security and the protection of individual welfare, inseparable from liberty.  Here was no coward, bending the knee to those forces demanding unquestioning obedience to those supporting chattel slavery. For his efforts on behalf of equality before the law he was suspected of carrying Jewish blood through his mother by his most important biographer, a Southerner by birth. (For details on David Herbert Donald’s bio of Sumner see

We now should have an idea of what “fair and balanced” means in the practice of Fox News Channel.  As I have argued previously, this cable news outlet, though it broadcasts some dissenting voices on the Right, is centrist, moderate, and progressive. Welcome to the world of 1984. The thought police are everywhere. The founders gave us a republic, and it is up in the air as to whether or not we can summon the will to keep it.


  1. You wrote that much over so little? Here’s a clue: Calling people you don’t like “savages,” is uncouth.

    Comment by oaksden — January 6, 2014 @ 7:27 am | Reply

    • I didn’t think that it was a question of politeness, but how we define the conflicts of past and present. There was a censorship issue too, relating to hate speech and how we define progress.

      Comment by clarelspark — January 6, 2014 @ 2:46 pm | Reply

  2. Thanks for your well-written and timely blog. More and more of ‘We the People’ must speak out on ALL fronts…or, we could lose our great nation, as we’ve known it! Keep up the good work.

    Comment by Elaine Dumont — October 1, 2012 @ 3:06 pm | Reply

  3. […] Thought police on Fox? « YDS: The Clare Spark Blog. Share […]

    Pingback by Thought police on Fox? « YDS: The Clare Spark Blog | The New Jersey Patriot — October 1, 2012 @ 1:48 pm | Reply

  4. […] Read the rest. […]

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  5. A correction? “Cultural relativism” means “to comprehend another, see it from their, not your, point of view.” (Indians revere cows, how stupid, except they believe in transmigration of souls, aha logical thus…) “Moral relativism” means “all values, people, cultures, are ethically etc. equal.” Too often we confuse the two or omit the distinction…

    Of course some groups and cultures can be ranked lesser and better–but only via this or that lens.

    Comment by Infovoyeur — September 30, 2012 @ 1:25 pm | Reply

    • I think that is a fair distinction, but moral relativism is often implied (by leftists) in the practice of cultural anthropology, with its emphasis on “the participant observer” who is invariably prejudiced against the alien culture (more German Idealism). Also, with the premise that it is not for a Westerner to judge such practices as clitoroidectomy or any other measures that subordinate women. At the very outset of the second wave of feminism, some left feminists demanded that anti-imperialism trumped feminism in Third World countries. One anthropologist, Judith Friedlander, demurred in the first issue of HERESIES. I wonder what happened to her and her claim (she was dealing with Mexico). I admired her guts and the fact that I remember her name is significant.

      Comment by clarespark — September 30, 2012 @ 3:58 pm | Reply

  6. Thanks for a great blog!

    Comment by mrstarry — September 28, 2012 @ 11:15 am | Reply

  7. ouch, my head hurts. Reading this blog is making me think….

    Comment by Terry — September 26, 2012 @ 2:29 pm | Reply

  8. Societies are not moral or immoral. People are (individuals are). If a society is stable, sure, you can expect that it’s people act morally. When a person from a “civilized” society meets a person from a “savage” society, their interactions should be judged independent of the society they come from. Going to an unstable society and committing immoral acts against its inhabitants does not make your society moral (or immoral), it makes you immoral. Believing you make moral or immoral acts on behalf of your society, state, or religion is the quickest path towards collectivism-which is why I find the quote from Rand ironic. I agree that the violence of native Americans is overlooked when it is being taught from their perspective looking at the European, but in my opinion I have a sneaky suspicion that Rand’s distinction between “civilized” and “savage” is an aesthetic one and not moral. I think both cultural relativism and the idea that some cultures are superior to others are a nonsensical notions because cultures are not moral or immoral, people are when they enact or fail to enact absolute moral laws. What doesn’t change from culture to culture are morals themselves. Comparing cultures is like comparing a bicycle to a lawn mower. You may like one better than the other for whatever reason, but the underlying physics which allows them operate is the same. Breakdowns occur when there is a contradiction with the underlying physics.

    Comment by Greg — September 25, 2012 @ 10:58 pm | Reply

    • 1. I can’t imagine that anyone who has read We The Living can imagine that Rand was making an aesthetic distinction between civilization and savagery. Mass death and the stunting of the majority was very much on her mind. 2. I have no idea what you mean by underlying physics. The subject of the blog was political correctness and the history of the now taboo word “savage”–at least in some quarters. Click on the image of Jamie Colby and see the word Dove. Puns key to secret order in the universe, as I have previously stated here.

      Comment by clarespark — September 25, 2012 @ 11:05 pm | Reply

    • This is gobbledegook, especially the last part.

      The idea that it is impossible to morally judge a culture is absurd. A culture is the essential set of ideas defining a particular society or era. These ideas can be good or bad, true or false. It is perfectly legitimate to say, “Nazi culture was evil,” and “Enlightenment culture was good.” Similarly, the culture of the West, whatever its faults, is morally superior to the culture of the Muslim Middle East. By what standard, you ask? By the standard of human life and its requirements. (Read Ayn Rand if you want elaboration.)

      Comment by DH — October 1, 2012 @ 8:28 pm | Reply

      • I assume that DH is referring to my account of New Left political correctness, not to any claim of mine.

        Comment by clarespark — October 1, 2012 @ 10:17 pm

      • “I assume that DH is referring to my account of New Left political correctness, not to any claim of mine.”

        No, I was referring to Greg’s incomprehensible comment. (Note that that is what I replied to.)

        Comment by DH — October 8, 2012 @ 10:43 pm

  9. I saw the program and felt as you do, later they broadcast the eulogy a Seal’s wife gave in honor of her husband and she use the word savages to discribe his killlers


    Comment by Debbie Bendele — September 25, 2012 @ 10:55 pm | Reply

  10. Strange that you raise this issue. The textbook I use in an art appreciation course goes to great lengths to project the idea that all cultures are equal, and that the definition of civilization is technology and social order alone. Gone are architecture and writing. The term has become useless. And the term “savage” is now reduced only to the red flag of bigotry.

    I like FOX as an antidote to more mainstream news outlets, but I would never hold them as sole authority.


    Comment by Jeffery — September 25, 2012 @ 9:09 pm | Reply

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