Easy answer to Fox’s “Chinaman” problem–Beckel begone; Why more than a half-hearted apology is needed


On Fox News’ “The Five,” there’s a move afoot to make it “The Four.”

That’s because the show’s co-host and token liberal Bob Beckel used the racial slur “Chinaman” while ranting about Chinese hackers, whom Beckel says are the “single biggest threat to the national security of the United States.”

Beckel: “We bring them over here and we teach a bunch of Chinamen, uh, Chinese people how to do computers, and they go back to China and they hack into us.”

Did you catch the faux pas?

Beckel, citing a New York Times story, says the Chinese have hacked into the Office of Management and Budget, where they’ve targeted everyone with a top security clearance.

To top off the point, Beckel doesn’t give China the finger, but the even more insulting bent arm salute.

You be the judge.

Today, Beckel responded to calls for his resignation by saying there are too many China apologists out there.

And he’s definitely not one of those. But he did say,”If you’re offended, I do apologize. I do not apologize to the Chinese government for their habits, their murders, or anything else.”

This from the former Mondale campaign manager, who probably made a better apology to Mondale for losing 49 of 50 states in the 1984 presidential race.

I initially was going to give Beckel a free pass on this, but why?

His slip is a revealing one–and sounds as if he harbors far worse in private about all sorts of ethnic people.

It’s also apparently not the first time.

The guy is in the media. And on or off the air, he bears some sense of responsibility in how he expresses his opinions.

Provocative and thoughtful is good. Provocative and racist is not.

The word “Chinaman” is a slur, on the level of calling a Muslim terrorist a “towel-head.”

But for some reason, Beck’s internal self-censor was a tad loose for “Chinaman.” To say “Chinese people” just wasn’t good enough. He had to go racist for emphasis.

Maybe Beckel did it because he thinks we won’t press him on this.

But we are, Bob. At the very least, for a more meaningful apology.

It wouldn’t be so bad if there were a sense of balance on that show. That would be nice. But where are the people of color on “The Five?”

Kimberly Guilfoyle, half Puerto Rican, sort of counts.

But how about an African American? How about an Asian American?

That would help counter a bit of Beckel’s hate-based, old fashioned, good-old-boy outrage.

Instead, with Beckel, the show is more of the same old Fox thing.

On the Asian American beat, it seems like these kinds of media slights never end.

They just recycle.

Another slur, another slight, another misrepresentation.

Just this week, there was yet another casting issue in a theatrical production of The Mikado in Seattle. Whites playing Asians. Yellowface?

It’s Miss Saigon all over again.

I’ve got my own answer for that kind of slight.

On Sunday in San Francisco, I’ll be taking the stage doing an excerpt from my own solo performance theatrical piece.

I have enough self-esteem to cast myself.

I’ve noticed more than a few Asian Americans gravitating to the solo performance space. It makes sense, as a way to tell our stories and be our own media images. Indian American, Vietnamese American, Japanese American, the number of performers I’m seeing is encouraging.

But with limited stages and small venues, it is the ethnic media version of theatre, and definitely on the fringe.

In that sense, it makes you appreciate the power of the traditional mass media–TV and radio–its mass reach and intimacy of communication.

I got a sense of how powerful that can be when I was reminded recently of how I led a slight diversity wave in 1975.

I was an Asian American DJ/announcer in Houston on a big 100,000 watt FM station. (If there was another Asian American on a white rock station within 1,500 miles of me playing records and doing the news, I didn’t know about him or her).

I’m sure when I told people I was Filipino, there was likely a blank stare, followed by, “Guillermo? Isn’t that a Mexican name?”

And then, of course, I used my pre-rap DJ name.

I went by Emil For Real.

Those were the days commercial music radio stations often skirted FCC rules by dumping the news on the graveyard shift, where I was there to compile and read it.

Ah, the graveyards. The place for the unwanted—in this case of commercial music radio, the news and minority DJs.

But in the ’70s, beyond disco and what we now call classic rock, there was this other kind of sound coming out of New York. It was some strange sound that seemed too blunt for the daylight hours.

Enter The Ramones.

In Houston, 1975, my station was one of the last of the free-form commercial rock stations. But even there, the Ramones were considered too odd and risque.

But I could play it at 3 a.m. And so I did.

“Beat on the Brat (with a baseball bat)” was the first Ramones song played on Houston commercial radio.

It was the “Take me out to the ball game,” of the punk generation.

This week, when the news broke that Tommy Ramone, the last living member and drummer of the band, had died, I heard from someone who had actually listened on the day I played the Ramones on the radio back in the ’70s.

“I can definitely say it was like nothing I’d ever heard before,” e-mailed listener Rick after he had tracked me down on the internet.

And then he wrote this: “I know you’re light years away from those radio days, but as you can tell, some of your work from those days still lives on deep in the minds of some of us who tuned you in back then.”

I was flattered of course. I was just the Asian American guy on the radio playing the records and reading the news.

But the note did make me realize there’s a lasting power in these kinds of communications.

And that’s ultimately why we have to speak out against Beckel. He’s no Tommy Ramone. But the audience got Beckel’s sound and message. And to them, if Fox’s liberal old punk said it, so-called natural allies of Beckel must be OK with it.

Well, no, it’s not OK.

Now Fox audience members need to hear from us to keep them from living under the influence of Beckel’s hateful rant forever.

Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.
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