False equivalency and the performance of white power in Tracktown, USA

I know it can be difficult to receive criticism. So, I will try my best to be measured, while I also admit I’m fairly outraged from listening to your October 12, Eugene City Council meeting. I’ll admit, too, that while I was repulsed by what I heard from Mike Clark, I was disgusted too in what I didn’t hear from everyone else. Your lack of dissent, your lack of outrage, your lack of courage, tells me that our town is steeped in casual acceptance of white supremacy.

In the meeting, Council Member, Mike Clark draws a false equivalency between a brown face on a mural in downtown Eugene to the swastika and the confederate flag.

He equates a brown face on a mural to the flags (Confederate and Nazi) that symbolized the right of states to pursue self interested economic aims with genocide, generational enslavement, and torture with an outcome of millions and millions of deaths of fellow human beings.

Mike Clark says the “offense” felt by someone, namely the white police officers who killed a person from the BIPOC community, is equivalent to “some people” who would be offended by the symbols of the confederacy or the swastika, namely people who are part of the BIPOC community worldwide and all white people world wide who stand against racism and white supremacy.

Mike Clark equates the few white people in Eugene Oregon who continue to refuse to look at the predictable outcomes of systemic racism with billions of people worldwide who are disgusted with systemic racism and the violence and murder it has advanced in the past and continues to advance in the present day.

Two equals a Billion

In effect, Mike Clark calls as equivent the “feelings” of 2 white police officers who killed a member of the BIPOC community with the feelings of Billions in the BIPOC community who have been targetted generationally by white supremancist violence that has lead to Millions of their murders, deaths by way of slavery and the holocaust just the tip of the iceberg.

“False equivalency” is an argument that two things are much the same when in fact they are not.

False equivalency always involves two or more things that are “framed” in an argument, sometimes simply by juxtaposition. Sometime the two things are suggested to have a “false balance,” as is the case with Mike Clark’s argument.

Sometimes a language professional, as Mike Clark is, will frame a “false dichotomy” suggesting that two ideas are somehow antithetical, done for the purpose of attack. This was the case in the racist “All Lives Matter” campaign waged against the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

“False Analogy” suggests that two things are analogous in metaphor while ignoring the concrete facts of the individual parts.

An example of “false analogy” is Broken Windows Policing, which dominates modern police practices. “Broken Windows Theory” policing operates on a false analogy, suggesting by association that crime is like broken windows, and second by saying that the solution to people who commit “crime” is the same as the solution to “fixing” broken windows — replace the broken windows. “Broken Widows Theory” analogously advances genocide.

False Balance is like a seesaw, it rhetorically lightens one side and weights another.

Mike Clark suggests a “false balance.” He says that the “offense” felt by a very few white people in Eugene Oregon” is the same as the “offense” felt by a majority of the world’s population.

What is particularly noteworthy in the “false balance” is that for the two sides to have equal value, one side has inflated value while the other has diminished value.

Clark both elevate the “offense” of the brown face while he simultaneously diminish the “offense” of the swastika and confederate flag.

This ironic stance from Mike Clark, which serves as a performance of white supremacy, is what some call a “bamboozle, which creates a state of cognitive dissonance. The creation of states of cognitive dissonance is another rhetorical strategy designed to move audiences toward certain predetermined actions of violence, suppression, and intimidation.

According to Mike Clark, the feeling of offense of one, or a few, white people is equal to the feeling of offense of billions of black, brown, and indigenous people worldwide who have suffered generational enslavement, torture, rape, and murder under the banners of white supremacy that dehumanize their very lives.

Mike Clark suggests that the feelings of the surviving killer, arguably a tool of the racist state, should be considered as equal to the lives lost as victims of racist states throughout history.

This might be like saying, “We should not have a holocaust museum because it offends officers of the SS.”

Through this intentionally hyperbolic and purposely vague language, Mike Clark is trying to influence actions, in this case for censorship of minority voices. The suppression of marginalized, minority voices is a performance of white power.

Sure, Mike Clark is an overtly racist white supremacist ideologue, and he doesn’t care what he says to advance the cause of white supremacy. He is using his rhetoric to frame the “conversation,” and lead actions of suppressive violence against minority communities.

For me, the greater issue is that you, Council and Mayor, as a group, should not express outrage at this manipulation. That itself, suggests to me, that you, whether you call yourself Democrat or Progressive are absorbed into a context of “white power.”

The suppression of marginalized, minority voices is a performance of white power.

Absorbed in a context and culture of white power, you can’t perceive the alternate point of view. Or if you do, you see no need to protect its right to exist.

Granted, breaking down the illogic of a false equivalency is a lot of work. However, that does not explain having no feeling. That can only be explained by a lack of perception and a lack of empathy for people other than yourselves. Because of our limitations of your white bias, you don’t feel that the equation of a brown face and a swastika is false. Either that, or you are too afraid to speak out, which means you lack moral courage.

Eugene City Council and Mayor Vinis don’t see that the equation of a brown face on a mural and a swastika as false.

Officers next to calla lily some detractors saw as a “pig.”

Yes, Mike Clark shows a profound (and I’d say, sociopathic) disrespect for all those millions and millions of our fellow human beings systematically kidnapped, tortured unspeakably, and murdered in the millions and through generations, in America from 1619 onward, as well as Jewish people, systematically kidnapped, tortured, and murdered under the banners of the swastika and the confederate flag. But you also show that same disrespect by allowing Mike Clark a plateform to advance this white supremacist rhetoric.

Recognize that through your silence, you are complicit and there by defend the mechanism of white power. You advance its cause in your public performance of its essential tenet, the eradication of alternate, non-white, points of view.

Mike Clark can say whatever repulsive self-serving thing he wants, apparently. However, I’m deeply offended that I should, with my tax dollars, pay for his platform. By paying for his platform, and yours, I am also complicit in this immoral performance. Watching you all nod your heads in approval sickened me.

Each of you has your own work to do. But I hope each of you will see your role in the performance of white power. Pehaps you share Mike Clark’s ideology or you are willfully obtuse. Perhaps you are unable understand alternate points of view. Maybe you just want Mike Clark to like you or you are afraid of him. Whatever it is — please figure it out. Know that your tacit acceptance condones and advances the mechanism of violence, and if you should, find that you condone violence, then please examine your apparent sadistic tendency.

Clark’s rhetoric communicates the aims of white power but so does your lack of challenge. I call on you to bear witness to yourselves and act with courage. Know our every action and inaction communicates our heart.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Council Person Mike Clark’s comment, October 12th, 2020 on the subject of a mural in an alley:

Do we have as any part of administrative policy or council policy any standard in regard to symbolism used in publicly subsidized art?

In response to a friend’s email to the city, I don’t know who it was that sent the response. . . but someone in the city sent the response that the folks who developed the murals’ content were using Mr. Landeros face as a representation, as a SYMBOL, of activism. And that’s fine but I think I would encourage us to consider the idea that some symbols are more controversial, some symbols are more. . . a. . . .hurtful than others. Um.

If we were to invest in a mural, with a traitor flag, a confederate flag on it, or . . . SWASTIKA on it, Some People would find great offense at that symbolism. And I think this particular symbol, the rest of the mural, I don’t understand the use of the officer there entirely but I don’t think that’s necessary either. But I hope we are going to correct that as opposed to leave a symbol that is offensive to someone.

Would you like to comment on where we are with that Sarah?




Stegner Fellow, Stanford University; Spivey and Chancellor Fellow, University of Tennessee. PhD, MFA www.storytheory.org

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Otis Haschemeyer

Otis Haschemeyer

Stegner Fellow, Stanford University; Spivey and Chancellor Fellow, University of Tennessee. PhD, MFA www.storytheory.org

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