Not hired for her wits

An amusing display of ignorance, as CNN talking head Soledad O’Brien argues with editor-in-chief Joel Pollak over the meaning of “critical race theory”:

POLLAK: Derrick Bell is the Jeremiah Wright of academia. He passed away last year, but during his lifetime, he developed a theory called critical race theory, which holds that the civil rights movement was a sham and that white supremacy is the order and it must be overthrown.

O’BRIEN [interrupting]: So, that is a complete misreading. I’ll stop you there for a second then I’m going to let you continue. But that is a complete misreading of critical race theory. As you know that’s an actual theory. You could Google it and some would give you a good definition of it. So that’s not correct. But keep going.

POLLAK: In what way is it a critical misreading? Can you explain to me? Do you know what critical … Explain to your readers critical race theory is.

O’BRIEN: I’m going to ask you to continue on. I’m just going to point out that that is inaccurate. Keep going. Tell me what the bombshell is. I haven’t seen it yet.

POLLAK: Well wait a minute. You’ve made a claim … You’ve made a claim that my characterization of critical race theory as the opposite of Martin Luther King is inaccurate, you’re telling your viewers that but you’re not telling them what it is.

ASIDE: This is in the context of the newly unearthed video showing that a young Barack Obama was an admirer of Derrick Bell.

You have to see the video to appreciate how patronizing O’Brien is being when she tells Pollak he’s wrong. But at the same time, she refuses to say what she thinks critical race theory means, presumably because she doesn’t know (at least not well enough to explain it). She tries to get Pollak to drop the subject, apparently too obtuse to realize that the substance of critical race theory is his central point!

At this point, O’Brien comes up with a definition:

Critical race theory looks into the intersection of race and politics and the law . . .

which looks very much like a paraphrase of the top hit on Google:

Critical race theory – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Critical Race Theory (CRT) is an academic discipline focused upon the application of critical theory to the intersection of race, law and power. Although no set of …

So while she is pompously insulting her guest for not knowing what critical race theory is, she needs her staff to Google it and whisper the answer into her earbud.

The epilogue to all this is Pollak is right and O’Brien is wrong, at least according to the very Wikipedia page that she used as her source. O’Brien and Pollak argue for several minutes about whether white supremacy is a key component of critical race theory. O’Brien says no, but her source says:

First, CRT has analyzed the way in which white supremacy and racial power are reproduced over time . . .

POSTSCRIPT: The epilogue to the epilogue is funny too: An edit war is ongoing at Wikipedia as people have been trying to alter the article to conform to O’Brien’s definition.

UPDATE: Tom Maguire finds that the New York Times, which “we can count on . . . to present critical race theory in as gauzy and flattering a focus as possible”, has consistently described critical race theory in terms of white supremacy. On the other hand, I agree with John Hinderaker that the revelation of one more radical in President Obama’s past is unlikely to change many minds about him.

UPDATE: Another point for Pollak.

UPDATE: Elena Kagan sides with Pollak.

UPDATE: We’ve reached the point where a smart person would give up. No sign of that from O’Brien.

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