MSNBC has full deck of race cards

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"Why do they seem so determined to also make it racial?"

So asks Joy-Ann Reid, the managing editor of The Grio, a web magazine owned by NBC News whose mission is to "focus on news and events that have a unique interest and/or pronounced impact within the national African Americans audience." The "they" in question are conservatives and journalists asking, among other things, why President Obama hasn't inserted himself into this case the way he did in the Trayvon Martin tragedy.

The irony-impaired Reid was asking that question about a heinous murder in Oklahoma, where, according to police, an Australian student was shot by a black youth with the help of two friends (one of whom was white) "for the fun of it." Police allege that the bored teens spotted Christopher Lane jogging and decided to follow him and shoot him in the back.

Reid asked the question while guest-hosting a show on MSNBC, a network that has mastered the art of making unracial things racial. Just two days earlier, Reid had insisted that there's a "neoconfederate thread" running through the gun-rights movement. Whatever that means.

Then there's MSNBC fixture Chris Matthews, who insists, with considerable regularity, that any criticism of Barack Obama is driven by "white supremacy." Critics of Obamacare, Matthews claims, believe that "the white race must rule."

Another MSNBC host, Martin Bashir, recently insisted that outrage over the ongoing scandal at the IRS is really nothing more than coded racism. The IRS is the new "n-word" according to Bashir. "So this afternoon, we welcomed the latest phrase in the lexicon of Republican attacks on this president: the IRS. Three letters that sound so innocent but we know what you mean."

Lawrence O'Donnell, another MSNBC host, assured viewers during the Republican National Convention last summer that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's joke about Obama playing too much golf was really a deliberate racist dog whistle. "These people," O'Donnell insisted, "reach for every single possible racial double entendre they can find in every one of these speeches."

And that of course leaves out Al Sharpton, an MSNBC host who can best be understood as the racial equivalent of an ambulance chaser.

Against this backdrop, Reid asking why anyone would bring race into the discussion is a bit like a pornographer asking, "Why make this about sex?"

But let's get back to her question. One high-minded response might be that conservatives are bringing race into this discussion because they are simply doing what has been asked of them by Reid and countless others, including the president and the attorney general: They're trying to have that coveted "national conversation about race." Of course, the conversation that the conversation-mongers want is entirely one-sided; they only want to talk about why their ideological enemies are racists. Any other discussion is an incomprehensible and unjustifiable tangent distracting us from what they want to hear and say.

But the truth is, that's not what is going on. To the extent that people are bringing up race it is to turn the tables, rhetorically at least, on people like Reid and her MSNBC colleagues for their relentless -- some might say shameless and disgusting -- effort to exploit the George Zimmerman murder trial.

Recall that there was no evidence Zimmerman was motivated by racial animus, a fact so inconvenient to NBC News that it unethically edited Zimmerman's 911 call to make it sound like he was racist. (NBC later apologized and Zimmerman is rightly suing.) This inconvenient truth was also why numerous news outlets insisted on describing Zimmerman as a "white Hispanic" -- to bend the facts to fit the preferred narrative.

Australian and British newspapers -- which do not care about imposing a monolithic liberal narrative on race -- are reporting that Lane's alleged murderers may have been driven by motives other than boredom. But even if the initial reporting proves accurate and these thugs were just trying to break the monotony of the dog days of summer, the lesson for the MSNBC crowd should be the same.

From Obama down to his cheerleaders in the press, liberals have declared unremitting war on their ideological opponents, cynically polarizing the country along racial -- and, when possible, gender -- lines. They, not conservatives, have been the ones dragging race into any and every political dispute they can. This disgusting strategy has worked well for them, galvanizing minority voters and tarring the Republican brand. I don't particularly welcome the fact that conservatives are fighting fire with fire, but you can hardly blame them given how liberals like Reid have been asking for it for so long.

(Jonah Goldberg is the author of "The Tyranny of Clichés," now on sale in paperback. You can write to him in care of this newspaper or by e-mail at goldbergcolumn@gmail.com, or via Twitter @JonahNRO.)

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