From a right-wing perspective, President Obama’s brief introduction to the fiftieth anniversary screening of To Kill a Mockingbird, airing tonight on USA Network, is a dirty trick. They think Obama’s using the 1962 film to pose as an Atticus Finch–type hero, though all he and the liberal media really want is to divide the country along racial lines. And blame whitey.
The elements for such a paranoid vision are all there: the country and the media are passionately torn over the Trayvon Martin case—Fox’s Bill O’Reilly has argued that the liberal media wouldn’t mind “inciting racial violence” against accused shooter George Zimmerman, while MSNBC host Al Sharpton has led protest rallies in Sanford, Florida, where Martin was shot dead. Further, NBC made a grievous error by editing a tape of Zimmerman’s 911 call that made it sound as if he had volunteered that Martin was black, when in fact he was asked Martin’s race by the dispatcher. NBC has fired the producer in charge of that tape. (Sure, Fox News has misleadingly edited tapes and promoted lies—for Fox, it’s a minor error and almost no one ever gets fired—but when mainstream media do that, it’s evidence of a hidden bias against conservatives. Fox’s bias is anything but hidden.)
And conspiracy theorists take note, the big-deal White House screening of Mockingbird—endorsed by Harper Lee, author of the 1960 book on which the film is based—is “also tied to the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Universal film studio. The studio and USA Network are both owned by NBC Universal,” as the New York Times writes.
That is, by the right’s lights, liberals and NBC are cynically using the venerable film to further Obama’s reelection chances. They believe Obama is posing as the reincarnation of the beloved, beyond-reproach Atticus Finch, the small-town attorney who defends Tom Robinson, an innocent black man who is accused of raping a white woman. And by extension, many conservatives say, Obama is making Trayvon Martin out to be Tom Robinson, who was later killed. Some commenters on the Breitbart.com site Big Hollywood feel sure about what’s really going down. WALTER90 writes:
Obama will stand or sit there and compare the Travon martin [SIC] situation to what transpires in To Kill a Mockingbird. He will ask America why we haven’t moved on. Why we are still a violent racist society. Of course, he won’t lay any of the racism charges on blacks, or latinos or anyone except white people.