A Misleading Comparison of Ryan

August 15, 2012 Topic: Elections Blog Brand: The Buzz

A Misleading Comparison of Ryan

Written by three people who somehow all found the idea worthy, a recent New York Times post, “Paul Ryan, Black Panther?”, hits a new low in campaign reporting.

The authors claim that Paul Ryan quoted a famous 1960s Black Panther Party slogan in the speech announcing his vice presidential candidacy for the GOP on Saturday. Regarding his father, Congressman Ryan said at the rally: “I still remember a couple of things he would say that have really stuck with me. ‘Son, you’re either a part of the problem or part of the solution.’”

The piece expounds on one particular Panther with a “long criminal record” who’d “done time for a series of rapes” and was fond of employing the same slogan. What the authors leave until the very end (presumably because it would ruin their false parallel) is that the first usage of this common slogan was in 1967 ads promoting LBJ’s VISTA anti-poverty program as part of his Great Society initiatives and had nothing to do with the Black Panthers at all. It’s probably safe to assume that Ryan wouldn’t knowingly borrow language from a federal aid project.

The characterization of both Ryan and the Black Panthers—who employed militant rhetoric but were not all rapists—is misleading and poorly reported. At the least, one can easily argue that once a political catchphrase has worked its way down the chain of societal lingo to suburban dads doling out life advice to their young sons, it has clearly lost its original context.

Ryan isn’t quoting the Black Panthers. He’s telling the public what he believes. The objective of this flawed piece is conniving at worst and muddled at best.