It’s Sunday evening, a fairly quiet time in the autoblogosphere. Tomorrow morning though, I expect the car world, or at least that part of the car world that is controlled by Gawker’s Nick Denton, Jalopnik, to be abuzz with news of First Lady Michelle Obama (and Second Lady, Dr. Jill Biden) being booed when they were introduced to the crowd at today’s season ending NASCAR race in Homestead, Florida. Frankly, I don’t have a problem with people booing politicians or their spouses, it’s a free country but this was a ceremonial, not political event. Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden participated in the race to promote the Joining Forces charity which provides support to military veterans and their families. The ladies were joined as Grand Marshalls for the event by retired US Army sniper Sgt Andrew Barry. At a pre-race drivers’ meeting, the politicians’ wives received a standing ovation for their work with veterans.
From my perspective the brief, almost perfunctory booing was just barely audible over the rest of the crowd, and it sounded to me like those who booed waited after Sgt Barry was introduced and specifically booed the First Lady, so at least they were patriotic and respect true service to our country. Still, there were some kids that had joined the sergeant and the ladies on the podium, and all of them were there to promote Joining Forces so it wasn’t the classiest thing to do. But, like I said, this is a free country.
In any case, Denton and Jalopnik editor Ray Wert know their audience and Jalopnik rarely fails to take potshots at NASCAR fans nor fails to take a fairly predictably “progressive” political slant when it can. I predict that the temptation to paint NASCAR fans as boorish racists will be too great and that there will be at least one post on Mrs. Obama’s treatment by the crowd up tomorrow morning on Jalopnik, most likely crossposted to other Denton owned Gawker sites. Many of the comment threads will be filled with smug stereotypes of stock car fans, Southerners, and those whom the commenters think are their moral inferiors.
NASCAR is considered a soft target for accusations of bigotry by those on the cultural left (while they show their own prejudices against Southerners and folks who like NASCAR). You can find intoxicated people at just about any sporting event but when someone snapped a photo of a sick drunk NASCAR fan, it went right up on Jalopnik. It’s not just new media. Five years ago, for a piece on anti-Muslim bias, NBC News’ Dateline television show made arrangements to film the reaction of race-goers at a NASCAR race at Martinsville, VA to Muslim men walking around the event in beards and traditional Muslim headgear. NASCAR was outraged but NBC defended the practice. According to the motorsports sanctioning body, none of the NASCAR fans harassed the Muslim men.
ABC News attributed the booing of Mrs. Obama to “the nation’s polarized political climate”. Mediaite went further and called it an “ugly reminder” of political divisions in this country. Though Mediaite said that the “loud booing” could be heard above the others cheering, ABC News quoted a source within the First Lady’s entourage as saying the there was lots of noise with no discernible booing.