February 21, 2012

Reasonable men, redux

In response to my earlier post on the firing and suspension of ESPN employees over the use of a common idiom, deadrody — momentarily turning his indignation for my support of big government phony Santorum into indignation for my move into hermeneutics, consensus-questioning, and a rebuke of the political power vested institutionally in “interpretive communities” once we lend legitimacy to certain linguistic assumptions — writes:

[...] Normally I am right on the anti-PC bandwagon.

But in this case, the idea that a “headline writer” at ESPN wrote “Chink in the armor” about Jeremy Lin and it WASN’T supposed to be a joke – is ludicrous.

Furthermore, unless you KNOW that he didn’t then you are doing nothing more than guessing. And for that, ESPN must be attacked ? Please.

So. Per deadrody, then, here’s how we’re to look at the situation: Both the headline writer and the broadcaster are to be considered guilty until proven innocent — except that, of course, there is no need to investigate guilt or innocence now that the problem was rectified by a firing and a suspension.

And sure, both parties to the punishment deny they meant the use of this common idiom as an Asian slur. But, per deadrody, unless you can show me inside their heads and souls that they didn’t mean to intentionally disparage Asians, they must be punished — and this must happen, and is justified entirely, so that those who didn’t use that particular idiom in that particular context can get their OUTRAGE on, thereby showing themselves to be tolerant and pro-diversity and, hey, look at us: we’re better people than those bigots!

Again: I’m constantly astounded at the people who’ve read this site for some time who simply will not learn that once you allow the language to be taken from you this way, you’re all but done as an defender of individual liberty and autonomy.

Interestingly though, deadrody’s argument here doesn’t really bother my own on the linguistic level: note, he’s still talking about intent; but he’s saying that in the absence of any exculpatory evidence showing no ill intent (none of us being gods, we’re really just “guessing,” all of us equally, with liberty and relativism for all), the best thing to do is to err on the side of just firing the fucker.

After all: it’s better to take the easy way out than to defend the employee, particularly if doing so means having to deal with the PR headache from some ethnic grievance group looking for cheap publicity over a pretend outrage; while not doing so earns you praise for your very public show of tolerance and your very public obeisance before the altar of identity politics.

Which, hey, it’s the American way!

Posted by Jeff G. @ 1:56pm
76 comments | Trackback

Comments (76)

  1. Perhaps they can be appeased by letting them pick our candidates for us?

  2. Good thing we don’t build log cabins any more. Or at least we don’t talk about building log cabins any more.

  3. Har, a re-Orientation seems to be in order.

  4. Maybe it was Occidental?

  5. Good thing too deadrody warn’t bit by a blood-sucking chigger, is all, on account it’s a nasty combination of perturbations having to deal with verbal ambiguities and bein’ all be-itchy ta one and the same betimes.

  6. Pardon me while I whip this threadjack out:

    [L]ess affluent Americans are socially conservative because they bear the brunt of the social policies and cultural attitudes that prevail among affluent liberal elites.
    [....]
    [W]hile feminism and the sexual revolution have been great for high-status men … and for those women who place a high value on professional careers, things have not worked out so well for those who are less privileged.

    That is a truth so undeniable that it can even slip past the editorial filters at the New York Times. Over the weekend the paper published a news story with the shocking statistic that “more than half of births to American women under 30 occur outside marriage.” The article cites “the pill” as one of “the forces rearranging the family.” When Rick Santorum makes the same common-sense observation, the cultural left (which includes some on the center-right…) falsely denounces him as a religious nut looking to snatch your prophylactics.

    Now, nobody move while I back up out of here or the kraut gets it. I mean it. I’ll blow this kraut’s brains out all over the place!

    hilfe! hilfe!
    shut up!

  7. Here is a prediction: Even if Rick Santorum is not the next president, and even if Barack Obama crushes him in the general election (the latter, though not the former, is a big if), social conservatism will continue to grow in size and importance over the next couple of decades. That is to say, if Santorum loses, it will be in part because he is ahead of his time.

    “. . . his time.”?

    Hmmm. Is that G.W.F. we glimpse lurking there?

  8. I’m afraid I don’t know what the initials stand for.

  9. Georg Friedrich Wilhelm

  10. it’s better take the easy way out than to defend the employee, particularly if doing so means having to deal with the PR headache from some ethnic grievance group looking for cheap publicity over a pretend outrage;

    ESPN is owned by Disney. In the earlier thread, Pablo repeated Glenn Beck’s observation that “It’s all about the mouse.”

    Which they will protect even if the world outside the Magic Kingdom crumbles to dust because of their efforts.

    Ack. And here I wanted to go back to Typhoon Lagoon one day.

  11. Oder, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. Entschuldigen Sie, bitte.

  12. I find it interesting that Santorum’s pronouncements on contraception have brought all kinds of socons out of the woodwork to refute the idea that social issues are loser issues in general elections.

    Preference cascade, anyone?

  13. His closest friends are allowed to call him “Willie.”

  14. I’m going to go against the grain a little, and say it was a pretty insensitive remark.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the dumb asses are racists, or that anything should happen except to point out they said something stupid, but it was pretty stupid.

    I mean, if I’m working with a black guy and at lunch he won’t share his cookies with me, I’m not going to tell him he’s niggardly. I’d be trying to explain definitions between ducking hay makers. Even if he knew what the word meant, he would wonder why I chose that particular word. I could explain, but he’d probably still wonder, and the rest of the crew would still think I was a dumb ass.

  15. …gawd, am I so oblivious that I didn’t get what was going on with all that (in my defence, I only read the headline in passing, and really didn’t pay attention at all to the mess, and so didn’t read squat) until I got here? (I been busy today, and v. non-newsy.)

    I read “a chink in the armour” (whatever), as, y’know, having a chink (bend, or missing bit) in the armor …and wondered why someone would get fired over it.

    And I missed a perfectly good pun as a result!

    …albeit one that apparently some have taken amiss as unkind to Asians. Sigh. First niggardly, now chinks in armour.

    What next? Do-wop singers castigated as culturally insensitive bigots?

  16. Preference cascade, anyone?

    I was up way past my bedtime lastnight reading William Manchester’s account of Churchill’s rise to Prime Minister on the eve of the Nazi invasion of the Low Countries. I could quote the apropos passages from Manchester’s conclusion, but then I’d be comparing Santorum to Churchill

    and that’s just crazy.

  17. I think there is growing evidence that Santorum is blossoming as he finds himself more free. This happens with good men now and then, and he may just be one such.

  18. Jeff, by your rationale in this instance, if I was to write about the ‘n****r in the woodpile’, say, when talking about Obama’s shadowy finances, I’d be innocent until proven guilty?

  19. “It means “some fact of considerable importance that is not disclosed – something suspicious or wrong”.”

    i think nigger/nigga/negro/niger is ok. but then i ain’t a communist using language to shut down my opponents.

  20. if I was to write about the ‘n****r in the woodpile’,

    Is that a non-racist way to use the N word that finds itself used frequently in common vernacular?

    Or is the N word used only as a racist slur anymore?

  21. Mizzu at home, wow, way to go ‘Cats. Nice.

  22. I hate that N word stuff, and all the other A-Z words that people won’t say because it’s offensive to someone and we’re all a bunch of three year olds who have to have things abridged for us lest we be one of those who are offended.

  23. First of all,
    I don’t like the name “deadrody” somehow, for reasons that elude me.

    Secondly, I think Im with Richard McEnroe and LB here. There are the merits of the speech and intentionalism issue, per JG, and those are 99% of the time quite valid.

    But there is also the “Unthinking Dumb Ass”angle. How dense do you have to be to pull a headline like that out of your ear and not recognize the risk you’re running.

    BTW, I worked at newspapers and magazines, including the NY Post, where “heds” are a religion. Headline writing is 100% designed, every step of the way, to connect back to the article or photo in the most immediate sense. I don’t care if his wife was the daughter of the prime minister of Singapore, the guy’s excuse is just BS.

  24. “How dense do you have to be to pull a headline like that out of your ear and not recognize the risk you’re running.”

    yea because the phrase “chink in the armor” pulls up in my mind fdr relocation of the “nip in the air”

  25. Who the hell even calls Chinese people chinks? I can vaguely remember Archie Bunker uttering that in the Mesozoic era, but it seems kind of anachronistic now.

  26. “Who the hell even calls Chinese people chinks?”

    mostly chicomms

  27. If you borrow a tool from your Native American neighbor, don’t tell him he’s an indian giver when he asks for it back, least you be thought a boor.

    Is my take on the thing.

  28. One of the Japanese city officials from San Franscisco was on the news this weekend getting his panties in a bunch about the “chink” remark. I thought the same thing, Abe. My dad could give Archie Bunker a run for his money, sad to say, but I’ve never heard him call anyone a Chink.

  29. But there is also the “Unthinking Dumb Ass”angle.

    Note the “unthinking”.

    How dense do you have to be to pull a headline like that out of your ear and not recognize the risk you’re running.

    Well, you could be dense enough that you’ve never heard “chink” used to describe Chinese people. As others have pointed out, it’s not something you hear much of these days.

  30. I miss the old-fashioned ethnic slurs though. Wop was a classic. Paddy. Jigaboo. And Polish jokes were priceless. I had a book of them.

    But you don’t mess with the Chinks. I did an ad some years ago that had a joke about Chinese restaurants serving stray stray cats and dogs, and between the protests and death threats it was as unsettling as it was amusing. I had to write an apology to be run in all the NY dailies and my first draft of it essentially told the Chinese community to go fuck themselves. My boss thought it was more important to placate the angry yellow fuckers though. The client thought so too.

  31. What did you have them serving the cats and dogs, Abe? Like, egg-roll? Foo-young, maybe?

  32. “Well, you could be dense enough that you’ve never heard “chink” used to describe Chinese people. As others have pointed out, it’s not something you hear much of these days.”

    I’d be willing to bet the fellow in question has heard it in a derogatory fashion a time or two, just since he’s been in the NBA even.

    It could be the ESPN guys never knew it was an insulting term when used to describe a Asian man, but fat, drunk and ignorant is no way to go through life.

  33. Stupid bosses, anyway.

    It seems to me that the only people allowed to throw around ethnic insults any more are blacks.

  34. OT, but Abe, you likely know this left-wing advertising hack from NYC?

    Also, someone tell bh to keep his credit card in his pants.

  35. Jeff, by your rationale in this instance, if I was to write about the ‘n****r in the woodpile’, say, when talking about Obama’s shadowy finances, I’d be innocent until proven guilty?

    That’s not my rationale. In your instance, “nigger” is referring to a black man; in mine, chink is referring to a small crack or gap or crevice, and the idiom is very widely known and used in situations not at all racially directed.

    Now, the interesting question: If a black man used “nigger in the woodpile” the way you just did, is it racist? Why or why not?

  36. “I miss the old-fashioned ethnic slurs though”

    beck was going on about crackers today on gbtv. how dare ritz?

  37. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the dumb asses are racists, or that anything should happen except to point out they said something stupid, but it was pretty stupid.

    Like, for instance, calling “boy” near an old black dude?

  38. Don’t say to the boy that you haven’t seen him in a coon’s age, either.

  39. ‘n****r in the woodpile”

    hiding something nefarious. and baracky is sortof what? good allan the demoncrats are on top of this bs propoganda.

  40. There’s a chink in the fence and my Boy got loose again.

  41. i like how niggers are like condoms with demonrats same with chinks

  42. OT, but Abe, you likely know this left-wing advertising hack from NYC?

    I haven’t bothered to look at that guy’s blog in ages, but as I recall he’s furiously protective of his anonymity. And rightfully so, since no one I know even believes he’s in the same business as we are. He comes across like an ignorant bitter fool who works at some schlocky local agency and is just bluffing his way through critiques. People used to make fun of him all the time in his comments section, but I think they all got as bored with it like I did.

  43. “Like, for instance, calling “boy” near an old black dude?”

    Well, except that it was actually a Asian guy they were talking about, not a dog.

  44. It could be the ESPN guys never knew it was an insulting term when used to describe a Asian man, but fat, drunk and ignorant is no way to go through life.

    I’d hate to see you trying to garden with an African American. A bit of advice? Go with “tiny hand shovel” rather than “spade.”

    The left used this same thing to go after the late Tony Snow with “tar baby”: even if he didn’t make the association, someone might, and for that he should be scolded, and learn all the potential ways he may offend so as to avoid offense in the future.

    The fact of the matter is, “chink in the armor” is a very common phrase suggesting vulnerability. You’re dealing with sportscasters here: cliches are their bread and butter. And honestly, had they used “Achilles heel” to discuss Kosta” Koufos’s troubles with getting stripped in the paint, would we be hearing this kind of OUTRAGE?

  45. What did you have them serving the cats and dogs, Abe? Like, egg-roll? Foo-young, maybe?

    Rim shot.

  46. Well, except that it was actually a Asian guy they were talking about, not a dog.

    The expression “chink in the armor” is about a crack or crevice, not an Asian.

  47. By the way, the provenance of chink — as in “a chink in someone’s armor” — is 16th century. And has nothing whatever to do with Asians.

  48. I haven’t followed the kid all that closely, but understand that despite his successes thus far, he’s a kind of turnover machine, no? That is, the projections of his per/game turnovers extrapolated to full season breadth are downright scary, maybe even warranting a more strenuous descriptor than some minor fault in his battle-dress? Oh, and the spaces between timbers in a log-house? Chinked.

  49. Like I said in the other thread, a copy of “A Hog on Ice” will lift the veil of mystery off most expressions.

  50. I agree with your larger point Jeff, but I also think there’s room for being sensitive to the people around you. You don’t make dead baby jokes around your sister who just experienced a miscarriage, and yes, when gardening with a black person(which I actually do regularly) I avoid using the expression “calling a spade a spade”.

    It’s just good manners…

  51. “It’s just good manners…”

    who decides dat? the citizens of detroit or sharptonville? or the proggs in academia? to heck with the “cry babies” or is this wrong too?

  52. Suddenly you’re worried about manners, Lee? That’s rich.

  53. i like how the commies always point to this culture, but have nothing to say about muslim culture against christian culture see sudan egypt. it is like commies and islamofacists are kinda buds.

  54. It’s just good manners…

    I can see where you’re coming from to an extent. Certainly it’s a bit awkward when you catch yourself saying something derogatory about fat chicks when a fat chick that you’re friends with is five feet away from you. But, really, there’s being sensitive and then there’s living your life under the presumption that the people around you are complete fucking hypersensitive morons.

  55. “then there’s living your life under the presumption that the people around you are complete fucking hypersensitive morons.”

    gee who did that? ask the black/women/asian/transgendered /et al depts. of various ivy league u’s

  56. “Suddenly you’re worried about manners, Lee? That’s rich.”

    I’m trying to grow as a person.

  57. Well, good for you! I mean that sincerely. Truce?

    Lent starts tomorrow so imo be nice to everyone.

  58. If I understood what Roddy was getting at here, this hypersensitivity to insensitivity is Pharisitical behavior on the part of ESPN (in the they do what they do so as to be seen doing it sense). It’s okay for management to tolerate a culture in which their employees drink and shag and maybe even get high on the job —so long as their thoughts towards certified victims are pure while they’re doing it.

    I seem to recall a certain partisan of the Junior Anti-Sex League who had a theory about that.

  59. the ivy league and their progeny are the titanic. hit by the ice berg of reality. off to the distance is cornel west waving bye bye to a hip hop beat. get reaaaaaal—–

  60. That’s hilarious, Darleen.

  61. James Taranto @jamestaranto
    Follow

    Weird religion: Satan is against America. Normal religion: “God damn America.”

    link

  62. Far worse, in terms of the effects on the nation’s politics, I think, than the games people have played with the ESPN headline writers, are the games other liars have been playing by decontextualizing Rick Santorum’s recent criticisms of Obama’s retarded environmentalism.

  63. And Polish jokes were priceless.

    I remember as a kid when I learned that people from Poland were called “Polocks” that they must hate being called the same name as the stupid people in the jokes.

    Had no idea the Polock jokes referenced a nationality.

  64. I think what is really telling is how many people can’t seem to think of Jeremy Lin without his race being foremost in their minds.

    Yet they are the ones accusing others of being racist.

  65. Those niggardly bastards shitcanned that guy to save a few pennies.

    Oh, and I grew up in a neighborhood called Fishtown which was right next to Polocktown and the best place to get a steak was a place called “Chinks” and if you needed smokes your Dad gave you eighty-five cents and sent you to the “Jukies” up the street.

    Every single person in that neighborhood is a registered Democrat.

  66. [..]and if you needed smokes your Dad gave you eighty-five cents and sent you to the “Jukies” up the street.

    What’s the etymology of “jukies”? From the Jukies of Hazard? Help a guy out.

  67. Jeff,
    The entire fucking nation had been obsessing for 10 days about the “Asian American” phenom who brought such deep and abiding pride to Chinese/Taiwanese people. ESPN, which tracks the Deadspin blog pretty closely, was clearly following the occasional semi-racial flubs that had been occuring for a week already then.

    ESPN is a collection point for every meme, trope and saying known to man. It’s what they do. There is a zero percent chance that the headline writer didn’t know that “Chink” was a derogatory reference to Chinese ancestry. ESPN only hires those socially aware types (Think: Abe Froman.)

    For the record, I think ESPN way over did it. They were very obviously forced into this by the NBA, which has nine figures–and maybe more–in licensing riding on this longer term.

    Money talks, period and full stop.

  68. Jukie is a Juke Joint, originally a black roadhouse.

    Where Juke Box came from. According to Wiki: ” The term “juke” is believed to derive from the Gullah word joog, meaning rowdy or disorderly.”

    Gullah is a mix of African and other languages spoken around the coastal Carolina areas.

  69. God help us all if I’m the blog’s archetype of a socially aware individual.

  70. Thanks, B Moe.

  71. http://www.twitlonger.com/show/g2gn26

    I wrote the headline in reference to the tone of the column and not to Jeremy Lin’s race. It was a lapse in judgment and not a racist pun. It was an awful editorial omission and it cost me my job.

    I owe an apology to Jeremy Lin and all people offended. I am truly sorry.

    Actions speak louder than words. My words may have hurt people in that moment but my actions have always helped people. If those who vilify me would take a deeper look at my life they would see that I am the exact opposite of how some are portraying me.

    They would see that on the day of the incident I got a call from a friend – who happens to be homeless – and rushed to his aid. He was collapsed on the side of the road due to exposure and hunger. They would see how I picked him up and got him a hotel room and fed him. They would see I used my vacation time last year to volunteer in the orphanages of Haiti. They would see how I ‘adopted’ an elderly Alzheimer’s patient and visited him every week for a year. They would see that every winter I organize a coat drive for those less fortunate in New Haven. They would see how I raised $10,000 for a friend in need when his kids were born four months premature. They would see how I have worked in soup kitchens and convalescent homes since I was a kid. They would see my actions speak louder than my words. They would see that these acts were not done for my glory, but for God’s. They would see that each day I live and will continue to live a life of joy and service…

    I wrote thousands and thousands and thousands of headlines in my five years at ESPN. There never was a problem with any of them and I was consistently praised as an employee – both personally and professionally. Two weeks prior to the incident I had my first column published on espnW.com. My career was taking off. Why would I throw that all away with a racist pun? This was an honest mistake.

    In which case it wasn’t a mistake at all, unless failing to bow and scrape before and live in fear of the PC gods is a mistake. Or, he’s a lying prick who just couldn’t help but making the most nonsensical pun ever, just so he could throw a racial elbow at a fellow Christian.

    I’ve gotta say, I can’t remember the last time I heard the term Chink used in reference to an Asian. It’s been a really long time. Probably about as long as it had been since I’d heard Guinea used to refer to an Italian.

  72. Well Pablo, you can’t have a show trial without the voluntary confessions, can you?

  73. Has anyone asked to see John King’s miniature pocket edition of The Audacity of Hope, y’know, just to check how dog-eared it is?

  74. I wrote the headline in reference to the tone of the column and not to Jeremy Lin’s race. It was a lapse in judgment and not a racist pun. It was an awful editorial omission and it cost me my job.

    I’m sorry you lost your job. That shouldn’t have happened. It truly was an awful editorial omission, and very unfortunate it was such an apt pun, if one did go for cheap shots that is.

    Recognition of your faux pas, and admission of an honest mistake should have been enough. Unfortunately we live in dangerous times.

    Square your shoulders, and have a talk with Hank Williams. You guys have something in common.

  75. It was a completely crap pun, if one were reaching for such a thing.

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