Christian Schneider

Author, Columnist

Category: Media

Profiles in Civility

Today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel features a story about how “civility” has been lost in Wisconsin due to the conflict over collective bargaining rights.  The article goes out of its way to show that both sides are guilty of incivility, with UW-Madison political science professor Dennis Dresang declaring that “nobody’s got a monopoly on rhetoric and threats and incendiary language.”

Of course, this attempt to find equivalency between the actions of the Right and the Left in Wisconsin is pure nonsense.  The attempt to show “both sides do it” falls apart if the reader has any recollection at all of the events of the past eight months.  Let’s take a quick look at the Democrats’ “profiles in civility:”

  • Democratic state Rep. Gordon Hintz yelling at fellow Rep. Michelle Litjens “you’re f***ing dead.”
  • Sen. Spencer Coggs said Walker’s bill was “legalized slavery” and Rep. Joe Parisi said Walker was “calling the National Guard out on the people of Wisconsin.”
  • Fourteen state senators fled the state to block passage of Walker’s collective bargaining bill (including Tim Cullen, who decries the loss of civility in the MJS article.)
  • Hundreds of thousands of protesters marched on the Capitol, many with profane signs comparing Walker to Hitler, bin Laden, etc.  (Remember this lady?  (Language Warning.) See anything like this at Tea Party rallies?)
  • Aggressive, militant activists have been following lawmakers everywhere they go, filming them, verbally harassing them, and pouring beer on one.
  • The “solidarity singers” have been yelling every day in the capitol rotunda, forcing things such as blood drives to move to places other than the Capitol.
  • The chief justice of the Supreme Court likely leaked a story to the press accusing one of her colleagues of choking another justice – a story that was completely debunked, and the accused justice was eventually exonerated.
  • Committee hearings have been disrupted, with people being dragged out by their feet – one woman chained her head to the railing of the state senate parlor with a bike lock.
  • Illegal activity has been rampant, whether it is liberal activists providing  ribs for votes doctors providing fake sick notes notes, or otherwise.
  • Protesters disrupting every Walker public speaking event, including a Special Olympics ceremony.
  •  In the most toxic campaign ad of 2011,the Left tried to make it seem like Supreme Court Justice David Prosser was the best friend of pedophiles, digging up a case Prosser prosecuted as a district attorney 30 years ago.  (There were no similar ads run by any Republicans either in the Supreme Court race or the state senate recalls.)
  • Teachers pulling their kids out of school, shutting down Madison schools for 4 days, and bringing the kids to capitol rallies.
  • The desecration of the state capitol, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in cleanup costs.
  • Marching not only at Scott Walker’s home, but at the homes of individual legislators that don’t have any police protection.
  • And probably most uncivilly, Democrats refused to participate in this year’s staff versus legislator softball game.

I am really making an honest attempt to find anything from the Right that matches anything on this list.  At one point, a friend of former State Senator Dave Zien allegedly tried to punch a solidarity singer.  The reports of collecting signatures and shredding recall petitions is merely a rumor; there’s no evidence anyone on the Right caused the “cyberattack” that liberals are complaining about.

And honestly – let’s say some right-wing hacker caused this “cyberattack.”  What’s worse – that, or the Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court likely planting a fake story in the paper in an attempt to smear a fellow justice?

So the real story here isn’t that civility on both sides has been lost; it is that Walker supporters have maintained their composure amid an avalanche of poisonous actions by union loyalists.

Manhood in a Bottle

If you’re a sports fan, your weekends are likely wallpapered with television advertisements that purport to explain what being a “man” is all about.  One’s masculinity, according to ad writers, is currently derived from your choice of satellite television company, what kind of body wash you use, and most of all, what kind of beer you drink.  In fact, Miller Lite will actually declare you to be more of a man if you drink their beer from a “vortex” bottle, which is aerodynamically engineered to fire beer down your throat with the velocity of a Blunderbuss hand cannon.

Of course, nobody expects a beer commercial to be an Aesop-style morality tale.  Women have been insulted in beer ads for decades; men are simply catching up.  Miller just recently ended a slew of particularly obnoxious commercials that consistently featured men being jerks to pretty women – a puzzling situation to which no man can actually relate.

But the current “MAN UP!” meme is particularly grating, given the ubiquity of the ads.  They generally feature some doofus engaging in an effeminate act, while simultaneously enjoying a drink that is not Miller Lite.  They are then publicly ridiculed for both transgressions by their a-hole friends, who also happen to have a comely woman draped on each arm.  According to the Miller ad people, Winston Churchill would be considered a pansy because he chose to shower his liver with God’s gift of Johnnie Walker Black his entire life – and not a more “masculine” lite beer.

Of course, challenging one’s manhood by calling them a girl isn’t exactly a new phenomenon.  During the Civil War, Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote a poem excoriating the “sweet little men” who dodged military duty:

“Bring him the buttonless garment of a woman!

Cover his face lest it freckle and tan;

Muster the Apron-string Guards on the Common,-

That is the corps for the sweet little man!”

In other words: “MAN UP!”

But within the world of television advertising, the only deed that matters is what product you use.  Men are almost uniformly depicted as simplistic baboons, barely able to function in society.  Mom leaves town?  Dad can’t do anything in the kitchen, so he better call for a pizza!  Need to clean the house because your husband is a pig?  Get a Roomba!  Be careful letting dad play with the kids – he might injure himself!  Things have to be so simple, even cavemen can do them.

One only needs to watch 15 minutes of the TLC Network show “Say Yes to the Dress” to be disavowed of any notion that women are more evolved than men.  The show involves a full hour of nothing but women trying on wedding dresses while their bridesmaids roll their eyes and cluck at their gaudy fashion transgressions.  And if watching that show doesn’t improve your relative impression of males, take comedian Adam Corolla’s advice and “go down to the patent office… and see all the innovations women didn’t come up with.”

Yet even if “manhood” is considered a desirable thing, your masculinity is now apparently dependent on your choice of booze.  You’ll never see an ad praising a man for doing truly manly things, like reading to his kids, or taking care of his elderly parents, or working tirelessly on a cure for Alzheimer’s.  If Einstein had been in college in 2011, his theory of relativity would instead read “Beer Before Liquor = Never Sicker.”

All I really want is to be able to watch inhuman amounts of sports on the weekend without being subjected to a commercial threatening to revoke my “man card” every seven minutes.  (Apparently you need one as identification to get into any d-bag convention held around the country.)  It’s gotten so bad, I actually brought it up at my Twilight discussion group last week.

State Capitol Protests, February 19, 2011

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

The Wisconsin Government Worker Protest Update

With history unfolding in Madison, Wisconsin over the past few days, I’ve written a number of articles describing the scene.

Here’s an op-ed I wrote for the New York Times giving a basic breakdown of the issue:

So far, Walker’s plans have been fiscally modest, but politically bold. Public employee unions will continue to protest, even though the governor is the first politician who has told them the truth in ages. If government workers continue to call his bluff, their protests will likely be much smaller in the future.

Here’s a column I wrote for the National Review Online discussing teachers’ use of their students in the protests:

In the meantime, the capitol was packed with thousands of government employees, many of whom had staged a “sleep-in” the night before. One sign-wielding protester approached a tie-wearing GOP staffer and sneered, “You must be a Republican.” He turned and asked, “Because I’m working?”

The raucous, drum-beating crowd was mostly made up of teachers, high-school kids, and University of Wisconsin students. On Thursday, school districts all over the state began canceling classes as their teachers called in sick en masse — government-employee strikes are illegal in Wisconsin — and teachers continued to bring their students to protest with them.

I wrote this column for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that ran on Thursday:

Yet if you tell Democratic legislators that a vote against Walker’s plan is a vote to cut government jobs, they likely will look at you as if you just tried to stuff a live halibut into their mouths. They will tell you that there are many options available to balance the budget – options that are so popular, they enacted exactly zero of them in the last budget, when they had full control of state government. Their deficit-reduction plan consisted of hoping the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl, so people didn’t notice the giant hole in the state’s finances. (They got half their wish.)

In the Isthmus last week, I wrote about Wisconsin union leaders’ tendency to call people “whores.”

So, for the record, it appears Beil’s hierarchy of insults runs the gamut between “whore” (the worst), “prostitute” (not quite as bad) and “purveyor of the world’s oldest profession.” Yet some might even be tempted to include “paid union lobbyist” in their “pyramid of prostitution.” It’s a wonder Charlie Sheen hasn’t given Beil a call to go party in a hotel room.

And, of course, there are the updates I’ve written for WPRI – my column on Monday here and a blog post from last Friday here.

Stay tuned for more – should be more exciting developments to come.  And we’ll be there.

Lending Sheridan a Hand

So it seems the entirety of Wisconsin’s press corps (pronounced “core” for aspiring presidential candidates) is interested in where Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan has been privately introducing his motions.  When initially asked by reporters whether he was dating a lobbyist with pending interests before the Legislature, Sheridan denied it, saying the two were just “friends.”  A day later, Sheridan conceded that, in fact, the two were dating – but the damage had been done.  He lied to the media – and once you do that, you’re like a mouse dropped into a snake pit.  Reporters around the state are now digging around Sheridan’s campaign finance reports to see whether he was wining and dining his ladyfriend with his campaign funds.  Had he come clean at the time, this would be a two day story – instead, he’s hemorrhaging political capital.

I haven’t written anything about this yet, because I just figured Sheridan’s dating habits weren’t really my business.  Generally, these workplace rules about who two grown adults can or can’t date are nonsense.  They essentially just mean “don’t get caught.”  (Incidentally, there could have been a state law mandating someone from my workplace date me, and I wouldn’t have been able to find someone to go out with.)

Furthermore, I guess I was just willing to give the Legislature the benefit of the doubt and say they weren’t passing this payday loan bill because it’s a terrible bill.  (After all, Shanna Wycoff’s love couldn’t have been so powerful that it kept the Democrat-controlled Senate from passing a bill, too?  OR COULD IT?)

But it is interesting how the issue has been portrayed in the press since Sheridan came clean about the relationship.  Here there was a bill to regulate businesses – that actually occasionally throw a lifeline to people with credit so bad they can’t even get a checking account.  (Full disclosure: I actually used one of these payday loan places during college, when my credit was abysmal. Banks would actually send goons out front to tackle me before I even walked in the front door.)

But, of course, here comes a bill to stop people from freely engaging in contracts to which they happily agreed.  And because the bill was stopped cold, reporters and good government groups immediately blamed it on Sheridan’s conflict of interest.  Our favorite good government lefty immediately chimed in:

“There’s no way the public will ever buy his argument that his relationship will have no effect on his handling of the payday loan legislation,” said Mike McCabe, executive director of government watchdog Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

Now, however, because of Sheridan’s conflict of interest, the Assembly feels like they have to pass the bill, to counter allegations that they’re corrupt.  Assembly Democrats claim that it’s pure coincidence that this bill is now moving like a cheetah on ice skates, after being a corpse two weeks ago.  (Again, pronounced “corpse.”)  Now, suddenly, the will of the people is being served – and forget about why that may be.  Nothing to see here.

So in case you’re keeping track at home: Holding up a liberal bill because the Speaker of the Assembly has a girlfriend is corruption.  Passing the same liberal bill because the Speaker of the Assembly has a girlfriend is just GOOD GOVERNMENT.

Naturally, now that the bill is moving, you won’t hear a word from any of these co-called “corruption watchdogs,” despite the bill only seeing action for the same reason it didn’t see any action before.  Their level of outrage is directly commensurate to the amount they agree with the legislation being held up.  Today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article on the bill passing through a committee is curiously lacking any good government group quotes.

So while I generally give Sheridan a pass, it is worth noting that he tends to be the kiss of death wherever he goes.  He was a union leader at the General Motors plant in Janesville, which is now defunct.  Then he took over the speakership of the Assembly, which immediately took a bad budget and made it worse.  And if he stays on as Speaker, it almost seems likely that the Assembly will flip back into Republican hands under his watch.  So while this “scandal” may not be that big of a deal to some, it could end up costing him his political career if reporters start to come back with actionable intelligence on his nationwide trysts.

Do They Teach “Cut” and “Paste”in J-School?

Granted, in the grand scheme of things, this is a minor quibble.  But, just for the record:

On December 16th, I received a tip from a friend to go check out what was going on at the UW-Fox Valley with regard to “green” parking spots.  As I wrote in this post, the students were organizing a cyber-backlash against campus dean Dr. James Perry, who suggested the campus should institute more “green” parking spots, which could only be used if students drove a low-emitting vehicle.

Fifteen days later, on New Year’s Eve, the Wisconsin State Journal issued this story – many parts which could have been cut and pasted directly from the WPRI post.  It contained no recognition,and no attribution for WPRI originally breaking the story.

Obviously, we wrote the post because we thought it was newsworthy – and it’s cool that larger media outlets picked up the story.  But a little courtesy would be welcome.

Your Official “Public Enemies” Review

For months, people around Wisconsin have been anticipating the opening of the summer blockbuster “Public Enemies.” A large chunk of the movie was shot here in the Dairy State, and our tax dollars subsidized filming it to the tune of about $5 million.

Seeing as how we are a full service free market think tank here at WPRI, I used this specious connection to go see the movie to determine whether it was tax money well spent.  I feel I am doing a public service to the taxpayers to report on the fruits of their generosity (and, I admit, I was excited to see if I knew anyone in the movie, and I have an unnatural man-crush on Christian Bale.)

I was actually surprised that they made me pay for a ticket, seeing as how my tax money has made me a co-producer of this film.  In fact, I’m still waiting for my director’s chair and bullhorn, and anticipate they will show up at my house any day now.

So here’s the quick synopsis of the movie:

It’s bad.  Really, really bad.  Closing in on awful.

It is apparent that about 20 bucks of our $5 million was spent on a script.  The movie meanders along, without any interesting dialogue or insight.  At 2 hours, 15 minutes, it’s about 45 minutes too long.  Johnny Depp, who plays John Dillinger, seems almost to be embarrassed to be in the movie at all.  Characters talk to each other with canned speeches that don’t even approach plausibility.  By the time the inevitable end came, I had checked my watch about 10 times.

Perhaps the most grating aspect of the movie is Oscar winning French actress Marion Cotillard, who attempts to speak English without a heavy French accent.  It comes and goes, which is interesting, considering she’s playing a character who’s half Indian and who grew up in Wisconsin.

In fact, isn’t there a big movement up at the Capitol to prevent the state from contracting with foreigners for government business?  There were a hundred American actresses that could have played that part – we should crack down on the OUTSOURCING OF OUR ACTRESSES! (Holding hand over heart while the Star Spangled Banner plays in the background.)

For me, the only cool parts of the movie were the ones that took place in the Capitol, where I worked for 8 years.  I immediately picked out the North Hearing Room, where a lot of the partisan caucuses used to take place.  And I got the chills when the characters walk around the inside the Capitol.

I certainly don’t mean to dissuade anyone in Wisconsin from going to see the movie, especially if you recognize some of the sets in Columbus, Oshkosh and elsewhere.  But it really is a crushing disappointment.  I am amazed that big budget movies this bad can actually get made.  But who cares if Wisconsin taxpayers are out $5 million for a terrible movie?  SOME PEOPLE GOT TO WAVE TO JOHNNY DEPP!

In fact, conservatives have an opportunity here – if government-subsidized movies are this bad, imagine how bad government health care will be.  If people draw the connection, single-payer government health plans will be dead within a week.

In this most recent budget, Governor Doyle scaled back the film tax credit to $500,000.  It’s a good thing for supporters of the credit that he did so before seeing “Public Enemies.”  If had seen the movie in advance, he may have actually started charging movies to film here.

Perhaps most importantly, why didn’t anyone tell me that this guy from “Dazed and Confused” was in Wisconsin filming the movie?

John Nichols’ Shameful Opportunism

When revered members of the public pass away, some use the time to mourn.  Some use the time to reflect on that individual’s good deeds.  Liberal writer John Nichols, on the other hand, sees the death as a perfect time to take cheap shots at his political opponents.

In his column “Jack Kemp vs. the Party of No,” Nichols wastes no time cashing in on Kemp’s death:

Among the many tragedies of the contemporary Republican party is that the partisans who will honor the memory of former Congressman, cabinet member and 1996 vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp have refused so consistently and belligerantly [sic] to embrace the man’s wisest political insight.

“The only way to oppose a bad idea is to replace it with a good idea,” said Kemp, who worked harder than anyone else to make the GOP a positive force rather than the “party of no.”

Clearly, Nichols has been dutifully reading his Twitters (tweets?) from Harry Reid.  I’ve been searching for the article where Nichols chastises Democrats for being the “party of no” when opposing Republican initiatives during the recent era of full GOP control.  Surely, Nichols was bothered by the Democratic party being the “party of no” when opposing President Bush’s tax cuts or the War in Iraq.  Someone let me know when they find that article – I’ll be here, holding my breath.

Nichols goes on to wax rhapsodic about what chums he and Kemp were, in order to convince us that this article isn’t just an opportunistic hit job.  (Clearly, he fails in this endeavor.)  He tells us that Kemp was an ideal Republican because he played with black players in the NFL and was opposed to apartheid.  (Breaking dramatically from the strong pro-apartheid wing of today’s GOP, apparently.)  Nichols makes sure that we know he once “traveled with Mandela,” and looks up some instances where Kemp spoke on behalf of racial equality.  Wonderful.

I hereby challenge anyone to find anything positive about Jack Kemp uttered by John Nichols prior to his death.  In fact, on economics, Kemp disagrees with everything Nichols stands for and attacks in the modern Republican party.  Yet he would have us believe that his admiration for Kemp was so strong that he secretly pulled the voting lever for Dole/Kemp in 1996.  In fact, a Lexis-Nexis search shows Nichols mentioned Kemp in 25 pieces he wrote for the Madison Capital Times in 1995 and 1996, and in not once instance did he reference him favorably.  He once mockingly referred to Kemp as the “pied piper of supply-side economics.”  

When Kemp was alive, Nichols didn’t have much use for him.  But Kemp DEAD is a whole other story.

Of course, this is a common Nichols trick.  He picks his GOP favorites only when it allows him to level a cheap shot against the powers that be.  In 2002, he suddenly became a big fan of Republican Wisconsin State Senator Bob Welch when he found out Welch was thinking of challenging incumbent Scott McCallum in a primary.  Naturally, Welch’s candidacy would have weakened McCallum significantly, which is all the Cap Times really cared about.

In 2006, Nichols bemoaned Republican Scott Walker’s exit from the GOP gubernatorial primary, praising his “moderation” on ethics issues, health care issues, and taxation.  Naturally, this was merely an attempt to paint the remaining GOP candidate, Congressman Mark Green, as a bloodthirsty partisan.  But just ONE YEAR earlier, Nichols shredded Walker in a column, calling him a “bigot” who wanted to make it harder for people to vote, and his candidacy for governor  “very bad news for Wisconsin.” For the record, Walker never backed off his support of the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, his support of carrying concealed weapons, or the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights (TABOR), for which Nichols rips him.

But since the left’s’ strategy became contrasting Walker with Green, suddenly Walker became an ACLU card carrying member, Grateful Dead fan progressive. When he was in the race, he was a “pretty typical Wisconsin Republican,” but the second he left the race, he became “palatable even to moderate voters.”

Fortunately, in this case, Nichols corrected this mistake.  He decided to use a dead guy as a political prop, to be sure Kemp couldn’t speak for himself.  Some day (and I hope it’s a long, long, time from now), the John Nichols obituaries will be written.  Hopefully, at that point, someone will use his death as an example of how much more integrity liberal writers have than they did in 2009.

The Daily Me

In our podcast last week, Marc Eisen and I discussed what would happen to political discourse when newspapers eventually fade away – specifically, how people will talk to one another about politics when all the news they read is news that they have hand-selected to suit their ideology.

This phenomenon has been dubbed “The Daily Me” by M.I.T.’s Nicholas Negroponte, via New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof:

When we go online, each of us is our own editor, our own gatekeeper. We select the kind of news and opinions that we care most about.

Nicholas Negroponte of M.I.T. has called this emerging news product The Daily Me. And if that’s the trend, God save us from ourselves.

That’s because there’s pretty good evidence that we generally don’t truly want good information – but rather information that confirms our prejudices. We may believe intellectually in the clash of opinions, but in practice we like to embed ourselves in the reassuring womb of an echo chamber.

One classic study sent mailings to Republicans and Democrats, offering them various kinds of political research, ostensibly from a neutral source. Both groups were most eager to receive intelligent arguments that strongly corroborated their pre-existing views.

(It is somewhat ironic that I am linking to a free online editorial that demonstrates exactly why newspapers are going under, and creating this self-selection process that I then decry. )

The irony is also not lost on me that someone that works for WPRI, a think tank with a conservative point of view, is complaining about people being able to get conservative information.  But we are in the persuasion business, and the newspapers are in a different business altogether – at some point, someone has to be the arbiter of what’s newsworthy, whether it fits our ideology or not.  We can all certainly work together – WPRI and and active media don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Identifying James T.

I got back from being on the road for four days on Sunday, and began combing through the week’s news to see what I had missed. Naturally, the big story in Wisconsin was Milwaukee talk show host and blogger James T. Harris’ admonition to John McCain to “take it to” Barack Obama – which made national news.

Now, I recognize that this story has pretty much run its course, as it is five days old now. Stories in campaign season have the shelf life of mayonnaise in the sun – I might as well be writing about how the Bee Gees are bringing back the urban beard. But there is one aspect of this story that remains interesting to me.

As I scanned the web, I noticed this account of Harris’ confrontation with McCain as reported by the Washington Post:

“It is absolutely vital that you take it to Obama, that you hit him where it hits, there’s a soft spot,” said James T. Harris, a local radio talk show host, who urged the Republican nominee to use Barack Obama’s controversial former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., and others against him.

“We have the good Reverend Wright. We have [the Rev. Michael L.] Pfleger. We have all of these shady characters that have surrounded him,” Harris bellowed. “We have corruption here in Wisconsin and voting across the nation. I am begging you, sir. I am begging you. Take it to him.”

Is anything missing in that account? Maybe, maybe not. On this, I am torn.

You see, as Milwaukeeans know, James T. Harris is black. (Or, as he prefers, he is an “American of African descent.”) But the article doesn’t mention that fact. Should it have?

On the one hand, I think that in most cases the race of people identified in news articles is irrelevant. One of the first steps we can take to de-emphaisizing race in America is to wean ourselves off of constant racial identification.

On the other hand, race is often relevant to the crux of the story. This is especially true when crime suspects are still at large, and a description is needed. That’s why they provide a racial description in police reports – so when a gangland-style murder occurs at 27th and North in Milwaukee, the cops aren’t wasting their time chasing down the Osmond family. (Although it could be argued that the Osmonds have murdered good taste for a good 30 years now.)

But in this case, it would seem that Harris’ race was relevant. Clearly, the article was written to give the impression that this was an angry mob of Republicans, who tend to be white and older. Did they leave Harris’ race out of the story because that may have conflicted with the story they were trying to tell? Were they afraid of portraying an African-American as angry and bitter? Or were they purposely witholding a description of Harris because they didn’t want to send a message than an African-American could actually oppose Barack Obama?

So in some instances, I think it’s admirable for newspapers to move to less racial identification of the people they identify. As more and more members of diverse races procreate together, tagging an ethnic classification based on sight is likely getting to be more of a challenge anyway. But in the case of James T. Harris, it seems as though there was a systematic decision to withold a fact that would have added more complexity and depth to the story. And I guess we’ll never know why.

Ebert: Conservatives Racist?

Roger Ebert is really hit or miss as a movie reviewer, but his TV show is reasonably entertaining. He has never made a secret of his liberal views, but I believe his review of the movie “Crash” has gone a little too far.

The movie (which, incidentally is very good), is about racial tensions in Los Angeles. Of course, you can’t have a movie about race in L.A. without a couple of good racist white cop beatdowns, and they are provided in the film. Matt Dillon plays the aforementioned racist officer, who pulls over a black couple and assaults the wife during the pat downs. Ryan Phillippe, who plays Dillon’s partner, of course finds this reprehensible and asks to be reassigned from partnering with Dillon.

Fair enough. But in Ebert’s review, he describes Phillippe’s character as a “liberal young cop,” which drew me to a couple of conclusions. First, there are no speeches about Social Security reform or drilling for oil in Alaska in the movie, so I can only assume Ebert thought the young cop was “liberal” because he objected to his racist partner’s activities. If this is the case, Ebert thinks the more accepting of racist behavior you are, the less “liberal” and more “conservative” you are.

I’m certain that during the movie, Ebert felt the same anger towards Dillon’s character that the young cop did. Since Ebert considers himself a liberal, he probably drew that connection without really thinking about what the flip side of that equation would mean.