Jeff Jacoby | Media Matters for America

Jeff Jacoby

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  • Boston Globe Columnist Invokes Jim Crow To Attack Marriage Equality

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    Boston Globe columnist compared anti-gay groups fighting against marriage equality to activists who fought against Jim Crow-era racism, attacking marriage equality supporters for trying to "redefine" marriage.

    In a June 18 op-ed, Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby touted the upcoming March for Marriage in Washington, DC - an event sponsored by the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM). The march is likely to be a largely astroturfed event and will be attended by some of the most extreme anti-gay voices in America.

    According to Jacoby, however, the anti-gay activists attending the march should be compared to the civil rights heroes who fought against Jim Crow era discrimination:

    It would certainly be easier to make peace with the new order, especially considering the aggressiveness and hostility that many "marriage equality" activists deploy against those who oppose gay marriage. 

    Then again, much the same could have been said a century ago to those who insisted -- in the depths of Jim Crow -- that the cause of civil rights and racial fairness was worth fighting for. They too must have heard with regularity that they were on the "wrong side of history." The promise of Reconstruction was long gone. In much of the country, black enfranchisement was a dead letter. The Supreme Court had ruled 7-1 in Plessy v. Ferguson that racial segregation -- "separate but equal" -- was constitutional. The president of the United States was a white supremacist on whose watch black employees were fired from government positions, and public facilities in Washington were segregated.

    Honorable voices argued that blacks had no realistic option but to make the best of a bad situation. But there were others who insisted that the lost spirit of abolitionism could be revived, that Jim Crow could be fought and eventually overturned, that "separate but equal" was based on a falsehood and would ultimately prove untenable. They founded the NAACP in 1909, launching a movement that would eventually transform America. [emphasis added]

  • Stealing Kennedy: Conservatives Try To Hijack The JFK Legacy

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    As the nation mourns the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, conservative media figures have attempted to appropriate his legacy and attribute to the beloved former president their conservative ideas and positions. This effort runs counter to Kennedy's stated positions, speeches, and other historical facts surrounding his presidency.

  • Boston Globe's Jacoby Pretends The Free Market Already Solved Anti-LGBT Employment Discrimination

    Blog ››› ››› LUKE BRINKER

    Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby argued that LGBT workers don't need the protections afforded by the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), falsely asserting that the free market already provides an adequate check on workplace discrimination. 

    In his November 17 column, Jacoby noted that many Fortune 500 companies and prominent business leaders including Apple CEO Tim Cook have spoken out against LGBT employment discrimination. Reprising a common argument against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Jacoby contended that businesses should be free to decide whether to discriminate against LGBT people. In Jacoby's view, the fact that many businesses don't do so is sufficient to obviate the need for ENDA (emphasis added):

    APPLE CEO Tim Cook, writing recently in The Wall Street Journal, urged Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, which would make it illegal under federal law for employers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Prejudice, Cook insisted, is bad for business. Indeed it is -- as defenders of free markets have pointed out for years, irrational discrimination tends to reduce an employer's profits. Far from strengthening the case for a new federal law, however, it seems to me that Cook's observation cuts the other way.

    Thanks to the changes already produced by the marketplace, a significant addition to the Civil Rights Act is superfluous. According to the Human Rights Campaign, the influential gay-rights organization and a prominent supporter of ENDA, nearly 90 percent of companies in the Fortune 500 have explicitly banned employment discrimination against gays and lesbians. As of April, only about 60 companies on Fortune's list had not yet formally adopted such policies, and very few have actually voted against doing so.


    Clearly there has been a sea change in the way Americans have come to think about employment discrimination against gays and lesbians. It would be surprising if that change weren't reflected on payday -- and sure enough, that's what the data show. Economists Geoffrey Clarke and Purvi Sevak, in a study just published in the journal Economic Letters, note that gay men in the 1980s and early 1990s had less earning power than straight men of comparable age, race, and education. By the mid-1990s that "gay wage penalty" had disappeared; in the years since 2000 it has turned into a wage premium. As far back as 2002, for example, gay men were outearning their nongay peers by 2.45 percent.

    Is it logical to conclude from all this that the American workplace is so poisoned with bigotry against gays and lesbians that only a drastic change in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 can end the oppression? Or would it be fairer to say that the vast majority of American workers have no desire to see colleagues hired or fired because of their sexual orientation -- and that the vast majority of US companies have no interest in letting sexual orientation become an issue? For years opinion surveys have documented near-universal support for gay rights in the workplace. The market is doing what markets have always sought to do: break down unreasonable discrimination by making it unhealthy for a business's bottom line.

    New federal laws should be a last resort, when there is no other means of solving an urgent national problem. In a country of 300 million people, there will always be occasional incidents of bigotry and unfairness directed at people where they work, but plainly there is no urgent crisis in the treatment of gay and lesbian employees that Congress alone can fix. As it is, 21 states and nearly 200 cities and counties have followed the market's lead and enacted legislation barring employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Washington has more than enough on its plate. It doesn't need to add yet another protected category to the list of groups legally protected from private discrimination. That will only make federal cases out of even more disputes.

  • Jeff Jacoby Pollutes Debate With Climate Fallacies

    Blog ››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

    In a Boston Globe column titled "Cooler heads prevail against climate panic," Jeff Jacoby denounces what he deems to be "climate fearmongering" about the dangers posed by unchecked greenhouse gas emissions. I agree that hyperbole is often damaging to public discourse, however Jacoby should acknowledge that misleading and fallacious claims are of equal concern.

    We could start with his own suggestion that those concerned about global warming engage in "end-of-the-world doomsaying" akin to Harold Camping's apocalypse prophesies. As a side note, Rush Limbaugh, who's known for his thoughtful and moderate rhetoric, said the same thing a couple weeks ago.

    In his column, Jacoby forwards the claim that "rising carbon-dioxide levels" are not "anything to fear," citing physicist William Happer's assertion that "carbon is the stuff of life." Jacoby also quotes from Happer's statement that "about fifty million years ago" CO2 levels were "much higher than now. And life flourished abundantly." (For his part, Happer thinks that those concerned about climate change are far worse than Harold Camping -- they're more like Nazis.)

    Jacoby's argument misrepresents the anxieties that so many, including the national science academies of 13 nations and the U.S. military, have about climate change. The existence of Earth or of life itself is not in question. Indeed, if that's the standard for taking action, then I can't think of any tragedy or injustice that would merit concern.

    Rather, as scientists contacted through the Climate Science Rapid Response Team explained, climate change demands attention because it is altering the environments in which our societies operate faster than we are adapting, and the transition may be difficult, expensive, and painful in many cases -- all the more so if nothing is done to slow the changes and mitigate our vulnerabilities.

    Happer's comparison to the Eocene epoch (56 - 34 million years ago) contributes little to the debate over whether global warming is a serious problem. As Purdue University's Matthew Huber explained via email, the world 50 million years ago was quite a bit different from the one we know, with "crocodiles, palm trees, and ginger plants near the North Pole," temperatures in continental North America that were 10-15°C warmer, and sea level "about 100m higher." Needless to say, these are not the assumptions upon which we have built our cities, economies, or food and water systems, and any rapid shift in the climate toward these conditions would cause major disruptions.

  • Zombie Lie: Right Still Clinging To Decade-Old Fabrication About Radicalized Mosques


    Recently, The Laura Ingraham Show hosted Rep. Peter King (R-NY) to make his oft-repeated claim that "80 percent of the mosques in this country are controlled by radical Imams." This claim has been repeated in various iterations by numerous right-wing media figures and anti-Islam activists for more than a decade, and the statistic appears to be entirely based on a single, unsubstantiated claim made by a Californian Muslim cleric in 1999. The cleric later admitted that his criteria of an "extremist mosque" was one that was "focus[ed] on the Palestinian struggle."