Acrimony is not action

I’m not much of a sports fan… fortunately when I go to atheist meetups the subject rarely comes up. There is one guy who regularly brings the subject up, but he’s not obnoxious about it and realizes his place in the atheist scheme of things. He’s a good guy.

That being said, I have found it hard to avoid news of the NBA race-tape scandal. If you don’t know what I’m talking about it shouldn’t be hard to google…

I was formulating a response as us patriarchal types are known to do… even when not asked to do so… But someone much more articulate beat me to the punch.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

I think he is Swedish or something.
But however strange his Nordic ancestry might be, you should read what he wrote.

A bit closer to home, some MRA types seem to be doing some real life trolling at the library. But you don’t mess with Toronto librarians… they will end you.

Jerry has the details.

While the prime example is the delicate feelings of Muslims, whose sentiments are so tender that their violation mandates the flogging of a teacher who names a teddy bear “Muhammad,” the “right to not be offended” has also entered the secular blogosphere, where many people seem to consider criticism as “harassment”. It isn’t.

And he does a decent job of articulating, as well.

53 thoughts on “Acrimony is not action

  1. I’m not sure the complaint about “Hop on Pop” was exactly trolling – it sounded to me more like a light hearted send-up of standard-issue politically correct mewling. The library’s response may well have been written in the same irreverent spirit.

    As for the “NBA race-type scandal”, Mark Steyn’s take on the issue is worth a look, as usual:

    http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2014/04/30/mark-steyn-donald-sterlings-remarks-were-bad-but-what-the-nba-is-doing-is-much-worse/

    As far as I’m concerned, Sterling and Silver deserve each other (as their names rather imply), and basketball is boring anyway.

    • Not a very good reference, this Steyn’s post. Not worth much of a look.

      He skips over the fact that players were mulling a boycott in response.

      Plus, you know the whole point-of-view is going down the wrong path probably thanks to ego-driven extreme short-sightedness, when it starts off with the same old tired question, utterly ignoring what we know as empiric historical fact, “why should we criminalize racism?”

      • I think questioning the need to “criminalize” attitudes as opposed to actions, in general, is entirely prudent and appropriate.

        • Speech is an action. An actionable action.

          • Yes, but you said “criminalize racism”, not “criminalize racist expression”. Racism is definitely not an action. However, I don’t think racist expression should be a crime either, unless it happens to incite violence or something, and I don’t think sports leagues have any business punishing people for expressing racist views on their own time.

          • Well of course I’m aware of the fine line. However, I also think that sport leagues NOT punishing people for racist expressions no matter how they surface is equivalent to providing a free pass and quite evidently asking for whole heaps of trouble, that history has shown us is no cakewalk to subdue.

          • Lots of people have outrageous ideas that would be incredibly destructive if they were translated into action on any large scale. I want the social contract to indeed give a free pass to expression, as opposed to implementation, of ideas in that category.

            While we’re at it, I should add that the idea of criminalising or otherwise penalising racist expression becomes increasingly draconian as the prevailing definition of racism expands, as it’s tended to do in recent decades. Also, getting back to the specific matter of Sterling, there’s almost certainly a lot going on behind the scenes that we’re not privy to. Silver may have had other reasons for wanting to marginalise Sterling, and seized on this sorry nonsense as an excuse.

          • Yet you shy away from defining the distinction between expression and implementation.

            This chap Sterling for example, seems to have been implementing a ban on blacks at his arena by means of his expression of the ban.

  2. There is actually a very big problem with Jabbar’s feelings of shame and guilt, and comparisons to the NSA.

    And that is, that there was nothing untoward here in the release of the tape.

    Yes, it was a private conversation between two people involved in a romantic relationship.

    But the tape was recorded by one of the people in the relationship, AND RELEASED by that very same person, ostensibly to support her own position.

    All we are, are the intended audience for a perfectly legal and intentional airing.

    • > And that is, that there was nothing untoward here in the release of the tape.

      Really?

      Would you feel the same way if he released a sex tape of the two of them, without her permission?

      I’d say at bare minimum it is a huge violation of his privacy.

      Add to that, she denies she released it. So there might be a third party involved.

      Violating someone’s trust and privacy is a douche thing to do, even if it is not illegal.

      • If she was beating him senseless and bloody against his will during the sex, then yes.

        Boy, you still have a long way to go in your understanding of patriarchal thought processes and apologisms in your rosy world, I see.

        You couldn’t think up that distinction between your example and this case on your little very own?????

        How about this, if she had a tape of him beating her, would you still be protecting his privacy?

        Or maybe you’ve just become so accustomed to associating racism with sex that your brain can no longer dissassociate the two.

        Ignoramus.

        • Well… beating someone is a crime.
          Being a racist jerk, or a troll like yourself, is not a crime.

          • And thank god banning people from establishments because of race is also a crime, as well as racial harrassment.

            I would work on your association of racial harassment to sexual gratification if I were you, however.

  3. Why is it whenever these kinds of stories come up, people completely lose their ability to tell the difference between “criminalizing” and “punishing”? Or the ability to tell the difference between the actions of governments or government-endorsed entities and private citizens? Or the ability to tell the difference between strict courtroom evidence standards and *REASONABLE* standards of evidence to be used in everyday life?

    The NBA is not the USA. Nor is it any part of any state or municipal government. Nor is it any kind of public institution at all! It is a private organization. The right to free expression means you are protected from *GOVERNMENT* persecution for your expressed opinions… it does not mean you are protected from all consequences.

    Private organizations are allowed to hire or not hire, or fire, on whatever grounds they damn so well please (in the US – in Canada, they can only fire for just cause, but *several* of Sterling’s actions would have *long* since crossed that threshold, and even if you *just* count the audio tape, being such a huge public relations liability would certainly be justification enough). They can choose not to hire you because they don’t like your face, and choose to fire you because annoy people by quoting Monty Python all the time (and in the US, with at-will employment, they can choose to fire you because it’s a Wednesday and they’re in bad mood and you happened to be nearby). The *ONLY* restrictions are the protected classes – you can’t make hiring or firing decisions based on race, creed, religion, etc. (unless you have a *DAMN* good justification for doing so). These classes of hiring/firing reasons are protected because and *ONLY* because there has been so much abuse of them in the past (and present). “Opinion” is not a protected class. “Racist opinion” is *CERTAINLY* not a protected class.

    No employee of *ANY* private organization *ANYWHERE* has a “right to free expression”. That is nonsense. That concept only applies to *PUBLIC* rights. You can call Obama a racist slur and face absolutely no legal repercussions or persecution of any kind by the state. That doesn’t mean you can call your boss (or the players who are your employees) by the same slur. How is that not patently obvious?

    And no, it doesn’t really matter that these were “private” remarks that were leaked without his knowledge or consent. Abdul-Jabbar’s comments about that are incoherent. (Though he does have a point that if Sterling’s racism was so well known for so long – and in fact had actually impacted his job – something should have been done about it years ago. The NBA did good to react as it did not… but they still have to answer questions about why they did not do something years ago.) Good grief, the standards for courtroom evidence do not apply to real life! The point is, he made the remarks, and we know he made them. That’s public knowledge now. We do not need to “strike it from the record” just because the way we found out wasn’t in line with proper procedures for the acquisition of evidence. The NBA is well within their rights to take action. (Whether we should take action against Stiviano for secretly recording and releasing the private conversation is another matter entirely, completely unrelated to whether or not we should take action now they we know what was said.)

    The bottom line is: yes, sure, you can be a racist in private, and say all the horrible and disgusting things you please. But if those comments become public knowledge – even accidentally, let alone by malicious intent – then you *do* have to face consequences for those words. *NOT* legal persecution, of course – you *do* have a right to free expression. You do not, however, have a right to live consequence-free – that’s just a ridiculous idea.

    I would suggest to all you closet racists out there that instead of ranting your shit in private and hoping it never gets out, you should make a choice. Either stop being a coward and state your beliefs in public instead of hiding them while pretending to be a decent person… or seek counselling to help change your beliefs.

    If neither of these two options appeal to you, then there is a third option: try to get racist opinion enshrined as a protected class in the Charter. Then you can be as racist as you want in private or in public, and never have to worry about losing your job.

    • >>The right to free expression means you are protected from *GOVERNMENT* persecution for your expressed opinions…

      I have seen a number of secular types trot this out as obvious… but it is simply not true.

      http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml

      Article 19.
      Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

      Why is this important?

      Because corporations have a governance structure, financial power, and can abuse that power just as easily as governments. Trying to control employees in their private lives… is oppression.

      Some employers in the USA, for example, are also trying to dictate things like what their employee health insurance can cover… because they disagree with birth control. This is financial bullying. One of the reasons unions exist is because of abuse by corporations… because individuals generally have less power than corporations.

      Freedom of expression means nothing if the rich can just beat it out of the poor.

      I’ll admit that a billionaire is not going to be the best poster child for this example, but that doesn’t make it any less wrong, when a corporation goes after an individual.

      >>Good grief, the standards for courtroom evidence do not apply to real life!

      They never apply to lynch mobs. But they are a good guide for ethical behaviour, and are the basis of our modern JUSTICE system. We abandon that at our peril.

      >>We do not need to “strike it from the record” just because the way we found out wasn’t in line with proper procedures for the acquisition of evidence.

      Who called for striking anything? This is a strawman.

      >>The NBA is well within their rights to take action.

      And he has every right to sue the shit out of the NBA. A right he seems to be exercising.

      >>You do not, however, have a right to live consequence-free – that’s just a ridiculous idea.

      I agree. Everyone should have the right to express their opinion. But there is difference between:

      – He is a racist prick.
      – We’re going to use our financial muscle to take revenge/bully him for what he said.

      There are all kinds of ways of freely expressing one’s disapproval that don’t involve petty revenge tactics and extra-legal punishment.

      • There are all kinds of ways of freely expressing one’s disapproval that don’t involve petty revenge tactics and extra-legal punishment

        You mean the kind of tactics that it seems Sterling was employing as a billionaire owner of a multi-billion franchise and property landowner?

        Somehow, I think here, these tactics-in-response are at a somewhat higher level than those.

        • You mean to hold him up as an example of ethics and justice?

          I would not.

          Universal human rights are… for everyone.
          Even bloated racists.

  4. The right to free expression means you are protected from *GOVERNMENT* persecution for your expressed opinions… it does not mean you are protected from all consequences.

    So… ah… what consequences do you think you should suffer for expressing casual tolerance of employers that treat their staff as intellectually neutered serfs, to be dismissed the moment they say anything that might be perceived as controversial? Your paean to the totalitarian power of “job creators” over those they employ strikes me as at least as socially corrosive as a little low-grade racism. After all, “race, creed, religion, etc.” are hardly the only criteria for hiring and firing that have been roundly abused, except perhaps for very high values of “etc.”

    I think freedom of thought and expression is a beautiful and valuable thing that ought to be defended and indeed fostered by organisations of all kinds, not just governments. As you point out, America’s legal guarantees of free speech (which look so good on paper!) don’t do anything to protect people from the whims of their employers. The vaunted First Amendment is nice, but not really sufficient to ensure that men and women can behave like citizens as opposed to conformist worker bees.

    I don’t care that much about arrangements in the United States, but a law against firing (or refusing to hire) staff based on their opinions might not be such a bad idea on Her Majesty’s side of the border. There could be some reasonable exceptions for things like publicly disparaging coworkers and company products, perhaps. An approach that would be less formal and legalistic – and therefore preferable, in my view – would be to push back against the notion that it’s fine to kick people to the curb for their opinions, so that employers come to see having staff with colourful and controversial views as a more palatable option than getting rid of those staff members and being perceived as petty totalitarians.

  5. So… ah… what consequences do you think you should suffer for expressing casual tolerance of employers that treat their staff as intellectually neutered serfs, to be dismissed the moment they say anything that might be perceived as controversial? Your paean to the totalitarian power of “job creators” over those they employ strikes me as at least as socially corrosive as a little low-grade racism.

    Of course, it’s inevitable that someone would have to build a straw man to discredit what is a perfectly reasonable argument.

    I was the one who specifically pointed out that Canada does not have at-will employment like the US, but nowhere in anything i wrote above did i make any value judgement as to which system is superior (because i was writing about a case in the US, there was no point talking about the Canadian system, or why it’s better – i only mentioned the difference at all for clarity for the average Canadian reader), so i can’t imagine why you would *assume* i prefer the US style. If you must know, i have always been a critic of US-style at-will employment. Once an employment contract is formed – on paper or implicitly – an employer should *not* have the right to fire people on a whim; just cause should always be provided. Nothing i have written has contradicted this idea.

    However, “low-grade racism” is – and you admit this yourself – “socially corrosive”. “Low-grade racism” is not just “controversial”. *ALL* racism is an attack on the value and identity of *actual people* – which includes both the other employees and customers. No organization can possibly be cohesive and harmonious if there is someone there who has demonstrated they think some group of their coworkers are lesser beings. And “well, uh, what if they just keep it to themselves/don’t let it come up at work?”… if someone is getting fired over it, they clearly haven’t kept it to themselves – self-evidently, it has come up at the workplace somehow (if the boss found out, somebody else either did or could have). It is not just unfair, it is morally reprehensible to tell someone to suck it up and just pretend they don’t know the person working next to them thinks they’re some kind of subspecies – *that* is more dehumanizing to “serfs” than anything i have suggested. Thus, “low-grade racism” *is* just cause for firing.

    And that’s just one half of the equation. Have you not heard what was about to happen if the NBA *didn’t* take action? There were talks of player walk-outs, of fan boycotts, of all kinds stuff that would *certainly* have affected the bottom line of the league. Even without all the other points, *that* alone should be just cause enough for termination (unless, of course, the NBA felt they had to take a stand to *stand up* for Sterling’s racism – which they could have chosen to do; it’s a free country).

    These ridiculous slippery slope arguments comparing *racism* – *especially* the shit Sterling has said – to merely “controversial opinions” are utterly ridiculous. Saying people of a certain colour have less value as human beings is not the same as saying “Star Wars sucks” or “New Coke was the best thing ever”. Of course *mere* controversial opinion is not just cause for firing. Even for extremely controversial opinions, like say if one employee campaigned on the weekends to bring “stand your ground” laws to Canada while another campaigned for making all private gun ownership illegal. Those two employees could have *HOT* debates about that topic on the weekends, and then be told – if the debates were disrupting work – to leave their opinions at home and forget the topic during work hours (and if they can’t, they should be fired). Nothing wrong there.

    But telling an employee to leave their *race* – their *identity* – at home, and forget about the fact that their coworker spends their weekends calling people like them “monkeys”… come on, man. That’s not “controversy”. That’s unacceptable in a diverse workplace – no employer can allow that atmosphere to exist, and the person causing it has got to go.

    • So… what if someone is loudly protesting on their weekends for a woman’s right to kill her fetus, and some good christian pro-life co-workers with children, believe that is abortion is an attack on their identity as christian parents? Would you want to work with someone you believed to be a child murderer? Good work atmosphere?

      Identity politics is complex. Easy commonsense answers are generally screwing someone over.

    • I was the one who specifically pointed out that Canada does not have at-will employment like the US, but nowhere in anything i wrote above did i make any value judgement as to which system is superior…

      That’s why I said “casual tolerance”, and not something like “endorsement”.

      Of course *mere* controversial opinion is not just cause for firing.

      At least we agree on that much.

      But telling an employee to leave their *race* – their *identity* – at home, and forget about the fact that their coworker spends their weekends calling people like them “monkeys”… come on, man.

      For one thing, I don’t believe Sterling called anyone a monkey, or said anything expressing that level of contempt for people of a certain race. Neither did Jeremy Clarkson, or Justine Sacco. So, speaking of strawmen (or straw-monkeys), a lot of what gets called racism and invoked as a potential or actual reason for terminating people’s employment doesn’t rise to anywhere near the threshold you’re suggesting.

      More importantly, there are lots of reasons why coworkers might disapprove of each other. That Baptist in the next cubicle might not call anyone a monkey on her weekends, but if she thinks half her colleagues are going to burn in hell, is that really any better? Then there’s the vegan who thinks anyone who eats the occasional steak is disgusting and immoral, the fresh graduate who considers people over 40 to be hopelessly old and useless, the 43-year-old who sees fresh graduates as inept young whippersnappers, the Liberal who hates Conservatives, the Conservative who hates NDP members, the moody nihilist who hates everybody, the Leafs fan who hates Senators fans, the guy from Ottawa who hates Torontonians, and (to complete the circle) the smug, know-it-all atheist who thinks Baptists and other religious people are dumb. Obviously, one can be a Baptist without thinking anyone is going to burn in hell, a Leafs fan without hating Senators fans, and so forth – but one can also be a racist, in some meaningful senses of the word, without calling anyone a monkey. It’s the intensity of the disdain that counts, not the reason for it. And even when the disdain is pretty intense, I’d argue that what really counts is how people actually behave towards each other in the workplace. As long as the prevailing “atmosphere” is one that fosters basic cordiality and prioritises getting the job done, I don’t really mind if one of my coworkers happens to think of me as a hellbound meat-eating almost-old-and-useless white monkey.

      • As long as the prevailing “atmosphere” is one that fosters basic cordiality and prioritises getting the job done, I don’t really mind if one of my coworkers happens to think of me as a hellbound meat-eating almost-old-and-useless white monkey.

        And if your boss tells you not to bring any white people into the office?

        For one thing, I don’t believe Sterling called anyone a monkey, or said anything expressing that level of contempt for people of a certain race.

        Actually he did.

        • And if your boss tells you not to bring any white people into the office?

          Hard to see how a rule like that would work, considering I’m distinctly pasty myself. My presence in the office is acceptable, but I mustn’t bring others of my untrustworthy and possibly diabolical kind, lest we take courage from our numbers and launch some dastardly action? And why am I bringing people into the office anyway?

          As for Sterling, no comments of his that I’ve seen reported rise to the level of calling people monkeys. If you’ve seen something I haven’t, feel free to enlighten me.

          • Hard to see how a rule like that would work, considering I’m distinctly pasty myself.

            Wow. A dismissal is certainly NOT an answer, my friend. And not even a good dismissal at that, since historically it has been par for the course for people to ask others, whose presence was deemed necessary, not to bring others of their racial kind to an establishment. In fact it is part and parcel of the matter at hand.

            Duly noted.

            I will also note that you seem woefully oblivious to your wholly abrupt permutation of terms.

            You started out not being bothered about people’s expressions. Now you have just completed a rather protracted paragraph (2 posts up) freely expounding on peoples’ right to…ahem…. THINK ….whatever they want.

            I don’t really mind if one of my coworkers happens to think of me as a hellbound meat-eating almost-old-and-useless white monkey.

            My good man, no one here has repudiated anybody’s right to think whatever they want. In fact I categorically doubt anyone’s ability to proscribe peoples’ thoughts, at least all of them, short of inflicting traumatic brain injury.

            And let me say it loud and clear for everyone, publicly:

            I am 100% and unreservedly AGAINST criminalizing people’s thoughts.

            Let me, then, correct your example and let you reconstruct it suitably:

            Would you mind terribly much if somebody at your workplace was constantly expressing to you, let’s say, verbally, that you are a “hellbound meat-eating almost-old-and-useless white monkey?”

            (And of course, you were made aware that these comments are being made, mostly, outside of jest)

          • Let me also add, it may be a perfect example of what people call “privilege”, that is behind your complete incognizance at your own abrupt term switch-up.

          • Donald Sterling to pay $2.725 million to settle housing discrimination lawsuit [Updated]

            I think what’s going on here is that the NBA just had enough of old Mr. Sterling. Seems there was just no more room left for him.

          • I will also note that you seem woefully oblivious to your wholly abrupt permutation of terms.

            I was assuming that my hypothetical coworker had indeed expressed his or her earnest view that I was hellbound and so forth, and that I’d found out about it through one channel or another. Sorry about not making this clear. If we’re talking about “constantly expressing”, that would be more detrimental to my ability to get along with the person on constructive and cordial terms, so yes, that would be a problem. But the difficulty lies in the constancy, in not being prepared to shut up about it and get on with the job.

            I think what’s going on here is that the NBA just had enough of old Mr. Sterling.

            Yes, and I’d note that his disparaging views about blacks and Hispanics might well be only part of the problem. He sounds like a nasty, cantankerous piece of work, the kind of person who can be difficult to get along with and be around, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if movers and shakers within the league had just, as you say, had enough.

            If the league was indeed responding to a long-term pattern of behaviour, that’s far more understandable than a sudden freakout over the contents of that infamous audio recording. However, they handled the issue in a way that gave the impression it was indeed all or mostly about the recording, and that’s unfortunate. It sets one more precedent, in the public mind, for the insufferable sensitivity police to use as leverage.

            Thanks for linking to the Complete Quotable Guide. Sterling clearly has more of a track record of saying prejudiced things than I’d realised. I still don’t think any of them rise to the level of “monkeys”, which is literally dehumanising, but I suppose that’s a matter of judgement. The link in the Guide to an old ESPN Magazine story about Sterling is especially illuminating, because it gives some sense of his overall character (not pleasant) and puts some of the quotes from the Guide in context. It sounds like he fully bought into negative stereotypes about blacks and Hispanics, and was determined to discourage them from renting apartments in his buildings because he thought they would cause more problems than those tidy and well-behaved Koreans.

            That article also describes a lengthy record of general obnoxiousness and dysfunction, much of it having nothing to do with racial issues, and makes it clear that the Clippers on Sterling’s watch have been a badly managed disaster. All this reinforces my suspicion that the NBA’s problems with Sterling go way beyond that one recording, even if (as the article suggests) the other team owners “don’t mind” him.

          • It sets one more precedent, in the public mind, for the insufferable sensitivity police to use as leverage.

            I have to admit I’m always confused whenever anybody brings up these dreadfully mystical and irreverent ‘sensitivity police’.

            I’ve never actually personally seen them, or experienced their doctrinaire manhandlings.

            Are you talking about mainstream television news and “talk-shows”?   I don’t watch them much, so really can’t attest to any of their frenzied cutthroat feasts when it comes to racial improprieties and sundry random slip-ups. However, from what I have seen, the responses to the cases like those you cite seem suitably appropriate and solemn.

            As for our bodacious, not-even-allowed-to-be-a-member-of-the-ku-klux-klan-though-possibly-of-some-neo-nazi-group-somehwere, plucky Mr. Sterling, I’d say being found *solely* guilty (well actually his wife was found guilty as well) in the….ahem…..

            largest housing discrimination lawsuit payout ever,

            says whole heaping heaps of towering mounds about his dehumanising expressions, literal or not. Not to mention his other varied quotables, which seem to be literally dehumanizing depending on your definition, not of monkey, but of a human being.

            Which all brings me back (or forward as the case may be) to the fuzzy distinction between expression and implementation.

            Let’s say Sterling didn’t have to actually tell any of his employees to ban blacks from various locations. Let’s say, as a tremendously monied and thereby presumably influential and connected entity, our dear Mr. Sterling was well aware that he had simply to express his dislike of blacks (or whichever race du jour) at the appropriate moments, and whichever suitably vested employee who was there would understand what that meant and go forth to liberally implement a ban according to however wide an interpretation of Mr. Sterling’s expressions he’d like to take.

            It’s a long-winded description, but certainly a common scenario, well within the realm of “realpolitik”, with or without the race component. One might even say, common practice.

            So who should be punished? The shrewdly cautious Mr. Sterling or the implementarian vested employee?

            Or are you against punishment generally, as a principle?

          • Correction: Mr. Sterling and his wife were NOT found guilty. Instead they settled for an amount of money which was “largest ever obtained by the Justice Department in a housing discrimination case involving apartment rentals.”

  6. >>The right to free expression means you are protected from *GOVERNMENT* persecution for your expressed opinions…

    I have seen a number of secular types trot this out as obvious… but it is simply not true.

    http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml

    Article 19.
    Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

    Why is this important?

    Why indeed. ^_^; I had to quote this in its entirety because it was just that silly.

    First of all, i started out here by pointing out that some people seem patently unable to tell the difference between governments and private entities. And, like clockwork, here you are quoting the UHDR. I wasn’t aware the NBA was a signatory.

    Second, let’s assume you *actually* believe the UHDR should apply to the NBA and other private organizations like corporations, and that’s not just an idea you pulled out of your pants because you thought it was clever. So then explain to me how Article 21 – the article that gives everyone a right to take part in governance (ie, the democracy clause) – applies to a corporation… doesn’t that mean that the employees should be running the company and choosing the board and their bosses, and not the shareholders? What about Article 23 – equal pay for equal work… doesn’t that mean that if the janitor busts their ass for 40 hours a week they should get the same (or more) pay as the CEO who takes afternoons off to play golf? What about Article 11 – anyone charged with an offence has the right to a public trial – doesn’t that mean that hiring and firing should not be handled within the corporation at all, but by external tribunals? What about Article 4 – the slavery/servitude article – because a corporation only allows continued membership so long as its employees work to its benefit (and if they don’t like it, the employee’s membership and benefits are all terminated)… within the context of the corporation, isn’t that straight up slavery?

    Third, while i’m impressed by your sudden interest in human rights instruments, i’m frankly a little disturbed by how selectively you apply them. Why does Sterling’s right to consequence-free expression (which doesn’t really exist, by the way, but i’m humouring you) trump the rights of the players – his employees? I direct your attention to Article freaking number 1. And that’s not the only one. Let’s put aside all the ones about servitude or due process that would apply to all employees of all corporations. What about Article 5? Having to grind your teeth and work to enrich a man who thinks you’re a lesser being is pretty damn degrading treatment. What about Article 7? If the UHDR applies to the Clippers as you imply (or do you mean it should only apply to the NBA, not the Clippers?), then Sterling is “the government” and his rules are “the law”, and pretty clearly discrimination exists. I don’t believe i need to go on, though there’s about 5 more that would be relevant. Why are you so insistent on protecting Sterling’s “right” (the imaginary right you think he has), yet completely ignoring all of the rights of all of the players and other employees of his organization?

    Because corporations have a governance structure, financial power, and can abuse that power just as easily as governments. Trying to control employees in their private lives… is oppression.

    Some employers in the USA, for example, are also trying to dictate things like what their employee health insurance can cover… because they disagree with birth control. This is financial bullying. One of the reasons unions exist is because of abuse by corporations… because individuals generally have less power than corporations.

    There are two reasons why this is all bullshit.

    The first is that no one is “oppressing” Sterling, or “dictating” the things he can do in his private life. If Sterling wanted to, he could say racist stuff again. In fact, i’m sure the media would just love it if he did. He can walk around his home all day and rant about the people he doesn’t like and why he doesn’t want to have anything to do with them – and yes, he has freedom of association so he can choose to avoid them and keep them off his Instagram if he likes. He can even start up a talk show where he can rant about race (assuming he could find someone who wanted to put him on the air). He is absolutely free. Even if Silver and the NBA *wanted* to stop him from expressing his racist opinions, they couldn’t.

    The second reason is that you’re trying to make comparisons to *real* cases of discrimination, and only making yourself look like an ignorant, intolerant fool in the process. Can really not see the difference between (for example) Hobby Lobby refusing to cover *medical services* to its employees because it doesn’t like the fact that they have non-procreative sex (at home, on their own time, which has *absolutely no effect* on the company)… and the NBA refusing to continue Sterling’s employment because he has been caught making statements that degrade and dehumanize the *vast* majority of its members and employees, *and* its fans and supporters (let alone the litany of other offences)? Can you *really* not see the difference?

    You use the word “bullying” a couple times, but you are clearly completely ignorant about what it means. It is not “bullying” to punish someone who has done something to harm you, and *clearly* Sterling’s racism has done *enormous* harm to the NBA, not to mention to all the players, employees, and fans who were hurt by it. What is bullying, incidentally, is using your power to harm people who have *not* harmed you… for example, Hobby Lobby refusing to cover medical services because it thinks its employees’ private behaviour (which does no harm to the company) is immoral, or, in fact, Sterling refusing equal pay to his black GM (while lavishing big money on his white head coach).

    Freedom of expression means nothing if the rich can just beat it out of the poor.

    I’ll admit that a billionaire is not going to be the best poster child for this example, but that doesn’t make it any less wrong, when a corporation goes after an individual.

    I’m morbidly curious about how serious you when it comes to treating rich and poor people equally. Let’s do a test.

    Sterling’s comments have fostered divisiveness both within his team and the NBA in general, to the point his players refused to wear the team’s logo (until league rules made it clear they had to), sponsors are pulling out, fans are threatening boycotts… basically, the idiot cost the league millions already, not to mention the loss of goodwill that could burn for a long, long time. Even though what he did was perfectly legal, the plain fact is that as one of the key public faces and representatives for the league, he has to be held to a higher standard than, say, the guy who polishes the floorboards. It doesn’t really matter that it was legal, the bottom line is that it did enormous harm to the league and he should have known comments like that would if they ever got out. He may have acted legally, but it is beyond dispute that he acted carelessly and foolishly, and the league is facing enormous consequences because of it. So clearly, all else aside, the league has to take some kind of action.

    So if Sterling *weren’t* rich – if he were just an average Joe, financially – what do you think would be a fair punishment for being *that* stupid and doing *that* much damage to the league? $50? $100? Even $500 seems very fair – it’s a week’s pay for someone making minimum wage, but for all the damage he’s done, that seems quite reasonable.

    Do you realize that although Sterling’s fine sounds enormous, when you take into account that he’s one of the richest people in the world, his fine – scaled to the net worth of the average Joe – amounts to about $30? (Not to mention that if he has to sell the Clippers, he’ll probably make *at least* a half-billion dollar profit.) Does that sound fair?

    So if you really are serious about treating rich and poor alike, and if you really are serious that while Sterling may have the right to express those opinions it doesn’t mean he has a right to absolutely no consequences – especially when real harm has been done like the enormous losses to both the NBA and the Clippers – then shouldn’t you be arguing that his fine should be at least ten times bigger? (If not even a *hundred* times bigger or a *thousand* times bigger or more – a $3000 or even $30,000 fine for a person making minimum wage would *hurt*, but then look at all the damage he’s done, and you do have to take into account the enormous profit he would make selling the Clippers.)

    They never apply to lynch mobs.

    Are you *trying* to be as offensive as possible?

    But they are a good guide for ethical behaviour, and are the basis of our modern JUSTICE system. We abandon that at our peril.

    No, they are not a good guide for ethical behaviour, and the fact that they’re the basis of our justice system is irrelevant. They are not the basis for a lot of very important things, like science for example. Do you realize what the world would be like if they were applied to engineering? You would have planes falling out of the sky because while the engineers *suspected* there was a problem, the fact that they weren’t able to produce a documented chain of evidence proving beyond reasonable doubt that there was a problem means they had to let the problem off the hook.

    They are used specifically for the justice system because of the enormously cost disparity between a type 1 error (convicting an innocent person) and a type 2 error (letting a guilty person go free), and because of the ease with which governments can use the justice system for abusing and punishing dissidents or others it does not like… not because they’re magical and perfect and should be applied everywhere. Indeed, the fact they’re not that great is obvious to just about everyone else in the world; there have been plenty of cases where obviously guilty people have walked free because some low-ranking beat cop tagged a bit of evidence wrong, or failed to read the offender their rights.

    Which is actually relevant to this case, because the fact that the tape was recorded and released surreptitiously is exactly why you and so many other people are arguing that it shouldn’t be taken seriously. That’s courtroom evidence standards, and it’s ridiculous to apply them to this situation. It doesn’t matter that due process was not followed getting the evidence – the fact is that Sterling *did* say those things (he has admitted it), he *does* stand by those statements (he has come out in the media condemning Stiviano), and the statements *did* hurt a lot of people and cause enormous damage to the team and league. It is absurd to argue there should be no punishment at all just because this case wouldn’t fly in court.

    Who called for striking anything? This is a strawman.

    No it isn’t, and if you really don’t think so then your position is even more incoherent than even i thought it was.

    Let’s review the facts. What Sterling said has caused enormous damage to the Clippers and the NBA. That’s beyond dispute. While Sterling may have the right to hold and express those opinions, it doesn’t mean that he is immune to any consequences that arise when he expresses them. There were (and are) big consequences. Something has to be done.

    There are three options.

    Option 1: Punish Sterling for what he did. This is what the NBA actually did. But you are saying they were wrong to do so (because it violates Sterling’s human rights or some some hogwash).

    Option 2: Punish the players and employees who were hurt and angered by Sterling’s comments for taking action against the Clippers and the league. (Obviously they can’t also punish the fans and sponsors, but taking this option would imply the league should if they could.) If punishing Sterling for the damages the team and league have incurred due to the protest actions of players and employees is so morally wrong, then perhaps you would recommend punishing the ones doing the actual protest actions? After all, while Sterling’s comments were made at home, in private, the protest actions were done on the job.

    I’m going go out on a limb here and presume you’re more of an empathetic human being than you’re pretending to be, and wouldn’t be cool with punishing the victims of Sterling’s racism while letting Sterling off the hook. Which brings us to…

    Option 3: Do nothing and move on.

    But in order for that to happen, you have to face the fact that the players and employees are quite understandably hurt and and angered by hearing that one of the coworkers feels that way about them. There are only two possible ways to do that.

    Option 3a: Tell all the black people offended by Sterling’s comments to just suck it up and move on. Tell them the offence to their dignity and personhood is not that big a deal, so stop whining and get back to work. Tell them “stick and stones”. Tell them racist comments are just words and they shouldn’t let them affect them. I fucking *dare* you to choose this option.

    Which leaves:

    Option 3b: Take the stand that nothing can be done about Sterling’s comments because they were made in private. Yes, if he had made those comments in public or at work, the players and employees would have had ever right to be offended. But they were made in private so we shouldn’t have heard them, therefore… we didn’t hear them. Strike them from your memory. Never happened. Players and employees, you would have every right to be offended… if only he’d said that stuff at work. Oh well, too bad. Just soldier on and forget you ever heard it.

    Now because i know you love to cite the names of logical fallacies without actually explaining why they apply, the one you’re looking for here would be “false dichotomy”. But then, what other option would you recommend? Either Sterling, the victims of his racism (the players and employees), or nobody have to face the consequences for Sterling’s comments – and you seem to think Sterling shouldn’t face the consequences. I’m presuming you wouldn’t want to punish the victims. That leaves “nobody”, but in order for that to happen, something has to be done about the hurt and anger Sterling’s comments caused. Either the victims have to be told that their hurt and anger isn’t justified (i *dare* you), or they have to be told that while it is justified nothing can be done because the comments were made outside of the workplace – so that evidence has to be struck from the record. But now you say that’s a “straw man”. Alright, offer another option.

    There are all kinds of ways of freely expressing one’s disapproval that don’t involve petty revenge tactics and extra-legal punishment.

    Oh please, do tell. Such as?

    I was the one who specifically pointed out that Canada does not have at-will employment like the US, but nowhere in anything i wrote above did i make any value judgement as to which system is superior… That’s why I said “casual tolerance”, and not something like “endorsement”.

    Which is also unwarranted, and wrong. Neglecting to make a value judgement on the US’s system of employment because there are more pressing issues to discuss is not “casual tolerance”, any more than my neglecting to comment on its health-care system, the religiosity of its politicians, or the obscene amount of money it spends on its military are “casual tolerance” of those things.

    But telling an employee to leave their *race* – their *identity* – at home, and forget about the fact that their coworker spends their weekends calling people like them “monkeys”… come on, man. For one thing, I don’t believe Sterling called anyone a monkey, or said anything expressing that level of contempt for people of a certain race.

    The reason i used the term “monkey” is because i didn’t want to use the “actual” term Sterling uses – i don’t like to type it even starred out, and i don’t like referring to it as “the ‘n-word'”. I think you can guess what that term is. (“Monkey” was also a reference to the Dani Alves case.)

    However, your facts are lacking, unless you think “they smell and attract vermin” and “i don’t even want to see them” are not expressing that level of contempt. (Actually, i would say those are even *worse*. “Monkey” is merely putting people below one’s level without necessarily implying contempt or digust… what Sterling said is *literal* contempt and disgust.)

    Neither did Jeremy Clarkson, or Justine Sacco. So, speaking of strawmen (or straw-monkeys), a lot of what gets called racism and invoked as a potential or actual reason for terminating people’s employment doesn’t rise to anywhere near the threshold you’re suggesting.

    I don’t know what they have to do with this. But while i know nothing about Sacco, i am *very* familiar with Clarkson – my sister’s boyfriend is a huge Top Gear fanatic. While the things he said (yes, plural) may not have been *nearly* as nasty as what Sterling said, the fact that he used that kind of flippant, casual racism *ON-AIR*… *IN THE SHOW*… to get *LAUGHS* makes it absolutely unacceptable. It doesn’t matter what Clarkson’s opinions are, or whether they’re as bad as Sterling’s. For that behaviour *while doing his job*, clearly the dude deserves some kind of punishment for being *that* stupid.

    As for the Sacco case, as near as i can tell you have the *global >>head<>PR<< firm* making a racist joke on the Twitter account *she used for professional purposes*. Please don't tell me that you think *her* firing was unjustified.

    Regardless, i don't see what point you think you're making. I am not claiming there is some "threshold" on some racism scale that if you cross it, you're fired. I am not claiming that everyone who has ever been terminated has been terminated for a good reason. I can't even make sense of what you think you're trying to say. Are you saying that (you think) Sterling's comments weren't so bad (are you unaware of what he actually said and did… for *years*)? Are you saying that all the people who work for him – the players and employees – were wrong to be so angry and hurt by them?

    More importantly, there are lots of reasons why coworkers might disapprove of each other.

    “Disapprove”? Seriously? You think Sterling’s attitudes are on the same level as “well, i really don’t like the way you’ve laid out your desk” or “i don’t like the way you whistle when you work”? You think devaluing the humanity and personhood of an entire segment of the population is mere “disapproval”?

    That Baptist in the next cubicle might not call anyone a monkey on her weekends, but if she thinks half her colleagues are going to burn in hell, is that really any better?

    That depends on why she thinks they are going to burn in hell. If it is because they don’t believe in her gods, that’s fine. Ignorant and bigoted, to be sure, but it does not devalue my worth and value as a human being to be told that the gods i don’t believe in are pissed off at me. However, if she thinks i am going to burn in hell because of my race, or something similar… that’s a problem. We can’t work as supposedly equal coworkers if she thinks i’m a lower-level being. I would *refuse* to work under those conditions, as any person whose dignity and worth as an individual is being attacked would.

    The same goes for all the other examples. Most of them are silly – conflating mere disagreement with actual intolerance – but there are a few that are relevant, like the ones about ageism. Yes, if the other employees discover that one of their number thinks of them as lower-level beings because they’re below or above a certain age, that employee has got to go. Nobody should be forced to work with or for someone who does not respect their dignity and worth as persons… and no, merely disagreeing about hockey does not devalue or disrespect a person’s identity.

    Racism is not mere “disapproval”. It is a denial of the basic worth, dignity, and equality of a person because of who they are. You *cannot* have an organization that claims to respect equality and the dignity and rights of every member, and at the same time tolerate those kinds of attitudes in the organization. That just don’t work. One or the other has got to go – either you have got to remove those people who have shown that they don’t respect the others, or you have to remove the pretence that you care about equality and human dignity. It wasn’t always the case historically, but thankfully in the 21st century we’re finally starting to be more serious about ruling out option b.

    Obviously, one can be a Baptist without thinking anyone is going to burn in hell, a Leafs fan without hating Senators fans, and so forth – but one can also be a racist, in some meaningful senses of the word, without calling anyone a monkey.

    Uh, so what? The point of issue is that Sterling *did* call his players and employees (and black people in general) by slurs and other extremely horrible language. The fact that other racists could get by without doing so is utterly irrelevant (frankly, that’s what we’d want them to do, if they want be a member of a non-discriminatory organization).

    It doesn’t even matter whether Sterling is *actually* a racist or not. Some would even say the term is meaningless. Even if Sterling *weren’t* a racist, saying the things he said would still be unacceptable, and he’d still have to pay the consequences for the harm they cause. (Just as happened to Sacco, apparently. She probably doesn’t actually hate black people or find it funny that they get AIDS more often than white people in Africa. But so what. Even if it was just a “goof”, or a joke – which she probably thought it was – it’s still utterly unacceptable for someone in her position.) I honestly can’t figure out what your point is.

    It’s the intensity of the disdain that counts, not the reason for it.

    What? That doesn’t even make any sense. It’s not the “intensity” of Sterling’s disdain that matters. He could be entirely casual and even flippant about telling black people that they stink and attract vermin (as Clarkson was with his racist jokes)… how would that make it any more okay?

    And even when the disdain is pretty intense, I’d argue that what really counts is how people actually behave towards each other in the workplace. As long as the prevailing “atmosphere” is one that fosters basic cordiality and prioritises getting the job done, I don’t really mind if one of my coworkers happens to think of me as a hellbound meat-eating almost-old-and-useless white monkey.

    Really? So you think that all the black people that work for Sterling shouldn’t care that he finds them so offensive that he doesn’t even want to *see* them in his girlfriend’s Instagram feed? You think that so long as he talks the talk and walks the walk about team-building and equality during work hours (which, by the way, he didn’t), they should just turn their brains off and forget what they know about the way he *really* feels about them? That they should continue to cheerfully work for and enrich a man they know thinks of them as smelly vermin magnets because he doesn’t use that language at work?

    Weren’t you the one who was concerned about employees being “intellectually neutered serfs”? Or was that just a pretence? Because now you seem to want them to effectively have a lobotomy to excise any knowledge that they might have picked up outside of business hours.

    Yes, Sterling has a right to his opinions, and a right to express them any way he so pleases. He does not have a right to be free of any consequences of doing so. If his racism had stayed behind closed doors, or at least if none of his players or coworkers had ever learned about it, then there would be no grounds for his punishment. But it didn’t. Obviously. And now it’s a work problem. It doesn’t matter if it *accidentally* became a work problem, or that Sterling didn’t *intend* for it to become a work problem. A work problem it is, now. The players and employees know now, and that knowledge has ruined the cohesion of the workplace – and clearly it is Sterling’s intolerant and disrespectful comments which are at fault (unless you want to blame the people who where hurt and offended by them). Which means it can and *should* be dealt with at the workplace. QED

    I would say that the lesson here is that you are free to be a racist, and free to make racist statements… but you have to take some fucking responsibility. Only an idiot wouldn’t know that if those racist comments became knowledge at the workplace there would be a problem – that’s why racists tend to keep their racism behind closed doors or at least far from work these days. You can believe and say what you please, but you have to accept the responsibility of making sure that when you express beliefs or opinions that might cause harm, you do so very carefully to avoid any harm. And if you fuck up, and those comments do end up causing harm… own your responsibility for doing so. That’s all there is to it.

    There is no way Sterling did not know that his comments would cause *extreme* harm if they ever became knowledge in his organization. He should have taken responsibility to ensure they never did. He failed. And it doesn’t matter to his organization whether his failure was due to his incompetence or whether someone is out to get him. Bottom line is, he made the comments, he knew they would hurt the organization if they became knowledge there, they did become knowledge there, so he has to take responsibility for that.

  7. @Bubba Kincaid

    I have to admit I’m always confused whenever anybody brings up these dreadfully mystical and irreverent ‘sensitivity police’.

    I’m using the term as shorthand for people who are quick to react to breaches of politically correct convention by working themselves into a lather of outrage and yelling through their preferred channels of communication about “punishment” and “consequences”.

    Let’s say, as a tremendously monied and thereby presumably influential and connected entity, our dear Mr. Sterling was well aware that he had simply to express his dislike of blacks (or whichever race du jour) at the appropriate moments, and whichever suitably vested employee who was there would understand what that meant and go forth to liberally implement a ban according to however wide an interpretation of Mr. Sterling’s expressions he’d like to take…

    So who should be punished? The shrewdly cautious Mr. Sterling or the implementarian vested employee?

    Or are you against punishment generally, as a principle?

    I’m not absolutely against punishment, but you and Indi both seem to have a rather overdeveloped appetite for inflicting it. Anyway, it’s hard to pronounce judgement on the scenario you describe without more particulars, and without knowing whether you’re talking about punishment in a legal sense or in the “social/professional consequences” sense we’ve been discussing. Either way, it surely depends to some extent on the level of nodding and winking, the degree to which the employee was acting on his own initiative as opposed to genuinely receiving implicit as opposed to explicit instructions.

    @Indi

    I’m not sure either of us needs another multi-kiloword trip around the mulberry bush, so I’ll try to focus on a few key points.

    First, the “casual tolerance” thing. In much of your original post you weren’t distinguishing very clearly between What Indi Thinks Should Happen and What Happens In America, although I appreciate that you threw in explicit caveats here and there. I clearly read more “tolerance” into your remarks than you intended.

    In your comments to Joe, you were banging the “harm to the league” drum pretty loudly, but a link in a post Bubba linked to makes it pretty clear that Sterling’s mismanagement turned the Clippers into a bit of a joke a long time ago. (I’ve watched maybe 20 minutes of NBA basketball in my entire life, so I wouldn’t know otherwise.) Having a team in a major city remain useless for decades is probably more damaging to the league’s credibility and bottom line, in the long run, than some Twitter-fueled boycott that will blow over in due course.

    More importantly, though, I wonder how you’d be reacting if Sterling had elicited equal outrage by saying something you strongly agreed with. Protesting players, threats of a boycott, massive hostile coverage in the media, the whole nine yards. Would you still be saying “harm to the league, throw him under the bus”? If so, you’re embracing a kind of general heckler’s veto over employment, or at least high-profile employment. If not, your respect for the NBA’s interest in defending its bottom line even from short-term disruptions that will fade away after a few news cycles is perhaps a bit selective.

    Weren’t you the one who was concerned about employees being “intellectually neutered serfs”? Or was that just a pretence? Because now you seem to want them to effectively have a lobotomy to excise any knowledge that they might have picked up outside of business hours.

    This is the best point you’ve made in the whole discussion, I think, and one I do take seriously. If Clippers players and employees – as opposed to journalists, Twitter users, and other external actors – were up in arms, I’d be sympathetic. Have you seen any reports that discuss what the players and employees actually think of all this?

    In general, though, you may have gathered that I’m more on the side of “freedom to” than “freedom from”. My primary concern about employment is that it shouldn’t involve constraints that go much beyond the obligation to do one’s work and be cordial to one’s boss, subordinates and colleagues. Anything more seems intrusive and unwarranted. If the NBA had declined to impose any consequences on Sterling, they wouldn’t have been standing up for his statements and attitudes – they’d have been standing up for his autonomy and civil liberties, his freedom to have a life separate from his role as owner of the Clippers. However, cordiality does entail a willingness to listen to people and take their concerns on board. If I’d been Emperor of the NBA when the recording first came out, I would probably have insisted that Sterling sit down with any employees who were upset in order to discuss the situation, like adults. If he couldn’t or wouldn’t convincingly reassure them that he would at least do right by them as owner of the Clippers, then yes, maybe he’d have to go. A good admiral wouldn’t leave a captain in charge of a mutinous ship (a clipper, say) – but also wouldn’t relieve the captain of duty until reasonable efforts to assuage the mutineers had failed.

    It doesn’t even matter whether Sterling is *actually* a racist or not. Some would even say the term is meaningless.

    My take would be that the term has been rendered almost meaningless by hopelessly broad and vague usage. I do think looking at the actual content of someone’s statements, and deciding whether they might be justified, is more constructive than worrying about whether they’re “racist”.

    Racism is not mere “disapproval”. It is a denial of the basic worth, dignity, and equality of a person because of who they are.

    The question of how we’re defining racism rears its head again here. But let’s take the case of a Singaporean landlord who would rather not have Indian or mainland Chinese tenants because of stereotypes about poor housekeeping within those groups. Would you call that racist? If not, fair enough, but I’d be interested to know what kind of racism you think necessarily involves “denial of the basic worth, dignity, and equality of a person”. If so, it’s a form of racism that focusses on specific, definable characteristics, and saying that it’s about “basic worth” and so on would seem a bit excessive.

    The reason i used the term “monkey” is because i didn’t want to use the “actual” term Sterling uses – i don’t like to type it even starred out, and i don’t like referring to it as “the ‘n-word’”. I think you can guess what that term is.

    Substituting “monkey” was simply misleading – that word has different connotations, as you probably understand. And if you can’t bring yourself to type out “nigger” even when directly quoting someone else, surely you’re investing those six letters with a power they don’t really deserve.

    • I’m using the term as shorthand for people who are quick to react to breaches of politically correct convention by working themselves into a lather of outrage and yelling through their preferred channels of communication about “punishment” and “consequences”.

      Ouch, there you go again. More of the same compounded upon the previous. Don’t you realize that all you’re doing is leading me to conclude that the entirety of your worldview is based on an overestimation of the breadth of acceptance of a term, based on your perceived position within a more than arbitrarily defined assortment, equally dubious in estimation?

      • What term? What assortment? You’re being a little cryptic here. I can assure you that my worldview is pretty complicated and multifaceted, though.

        Regarding your other comment, you didn’t make it clear when you posed the question that you were talking about what Sterling should do. I agree with you that taking responsibility is always a good idea, and I don’t really see how one could accept responsibility but not culpability in any credible way.

        • “political correctness”

          By the way, which sense of the word are you using anyway?

          The early-to-mid 20th century sense? Or the 1960s/70s sense? the 1990s sense? The 2000s sense? Or the new 2010s sense?

          Because I think it is now not ‘politically incorrect’ to use the term ‘politically correct’ anymore. Just to keep you up-to-date.

          I could be wrong though and you probably know better than me.

          • Again, thanks for the link, which is interesting. Based on that Wikipedia article, though, there’s actually been a high degree of consistency in the usage of the term “politically correct” over the decades: it has always (or at least, with very rare exceptions) referred to myopic adherence to some party line or dogmatic set of political axioms as a substitute for original, critical and fair-minded thought. Currently, the dogmatism that is most widely described as “politically correct” is a kind of distorted egalitarianism that assigns victimhood to particular demographic groups and proceeds to devote itself to single-minded advocacy on their behalf, even at the expense of logic and intellectual honesty. So whether the term “poltically correct” is itself “politically correct” or “politically incorrect”, I think it describes something perfectly real and rather pernicious.

          • Hmmm….
            maybe not so much unanimity as you might have thought?

            Wikipedia:

            Practical application[edit]
            The principal applications of political correctness concern the practices of awareness and toleration of the sociologic differences among people of different races and genders; of physical and mental disabilities; of ethnic group and sexual orientation; of religious background, and of ideological worldview. Specifically, the praxis of political correctness is in the descriptive vocabulary that the speaker and the writer use in effort to eliminate the prejudices inherent to cultural, sexual and racist stereotypes with culturally neutral terms.

            I think this might be the version you are really going on about:

            (Again, wikipedia)

            Mainstream usages of the term politically correct, and its derivatives – “political correctness” and “PC” – began in the 1990s, when right-wing politicians adopted the phrase as a pejorative descriptor of their ideologic enemies – especially in context of the Culture Wars about language and the content of public-school curricula. Generally, any policy, behavior, and speech code that the speaker or the writer regards as the imposition of a liberal orthodoxy about people and things, can be described and criticized as “politically correct”.[16] Jan Narveson has written that “that phrase was born to live between scare-quotes: it suggests that the operative considerations in the area so called are merely political, steamrollering the genuine reasons of principle for which we ought to be acting…”[17]

            Liberal commentators have argued that the conservatives and reactionaries who used the term did so in effort to divert political discussion away from the substantive matters of resolving societal discrimination – such as racial, social class, gender, and legal inequality – against people whom the right-wing do not consider part of the social mainstream.

            That’s the one *I* remember.

            However it does seem to differ somewhat from the 1970s one:

            1970s[edit]
            The French philosopher Michel Foucault wrote : « a political thought can be politically correct (“politiquement correcte”) only if it is scientifically painstaking

            And Wiki seems to disagree with you?

            Whilst the label “politically correct” has its particular origins and history, it only partially overlaps with the history of the phenomenon to which the label is now applied.

            My gosh!

            In light of all this it seems that I must demand that you henceforth either accompany each and every use of the term “politically correct” and its derivatives with a disclaimer specifying which version of the term you are specifically engaging or else cease and desist your rather inappropriately larcenous and pilfering pretension of the term as your very own.

            (Or at least acknowledge the term “political correctness” is still in political play, no matter how much we’ve all tired of it so)

          • Wait just a minute!

            You couldn’t be referring to the version of “political correctness” that stemmed from Bill Clinton releasing that black guy named Willy or something from death row for his presidential run, could you?

            Or maybe you are referring to the O.J. Simpson version of “Political Correctness”, where everybody was complaining that they weren’t allowed to complain about The Juice’s verdict (though I hear now they know that though Juiceman was there, it was actually a white vagrant he hired who did the actual stabbings, potentially accounting for the discrepancies in the evidence?)

            In any case, I’m quite sure you couldn’t be using the version of “Political Correctness” that decries the banning of creationism and other God teachin’s in them there public schools.    I hope?

        • And I didn’t mention the word “should” anywhere.
          And one can take responsibility for/and mete out culpability.

    • Anyway, it’s hard to pronounce judgement on the scenario you describe without more particulars, and without knowing whether you’re talking about punishment in a legal sense or in the “social/professional consequences” sense we’ve been discussing. Either way, it surely depends to some extent on the level of nodding and winking, the degree to which the employee was acting on his own initiative as opposed to genuinely receiving implicit as opposed to explicit instructions.

      Wrong answer. The correct answer is:

      As boss, he has 1 of 2 choices:

      1) Take responsibility and culpability for actions done by employees in the name of the corporation.

      2) Take responsibility but offload culpability on the employee, in the process risking treachery from what once might have been a loyal and dutiful subordinate.

  8. @Bubba Kincaid

    To properly explain what I mean by “political correctness”, why I view it as a serious blight on Canadian society, and what I think rational free thinkers can and should do to counteract it, would take at least a couple of thousand words. That might make a good Canadian Atheist post, but I probably won’t get to it for a while.

    For now, I’ll try to lay out my position in a nutshell. For the record, I have no idea whom Bill Clinton might or might not have released during his presidential run. I saw some news stories about the O. J. Simpson trial at the time it was happening, but never followed it closely. Neither Bill Clinton nor O. J. Simpson has anything to do with my conception of political correctness.

    Creationism is essentially an unsupported hypothesis that contradicts a couple of centuries’ worth (roughly speaking) of data and justified theory regarding the natural world. The problem with creationism is its scientific implausibility, not its supposed political incorrectness.

    The mention of Foucault’s view in that Wikipedia article was the main reason I felt compelled to insert a caveat about “very rare exceptions”. I’d have to see the quote in context, though, to form a strong opinion about what Foucault really meant. Given his postmodern predilections, he may not have intended “scientifically painstaking” as a compliment.

    To me, the defining characteristic of political correctness is a determination to align language, art, and/or interpretation of empirical data with some politically charged worldview, which need not be liberal in character. For example, I remember coming across an article some time ago that accused the Harper Conservatives of trying to institute a “new political correctness” of patriotism and militarism, and I certainly saw the writer’s point. However, I would say that the predominant purveyors of political correctness over the past couple of decades have been self-described liberals, egalitarians and progressives. This doesn’t do much, in my opinion, for the credibility of liberal, egalitarian and progressive positions (even though I agree with some of them myself).

    If the term “politically correct” bothers you, just mentally substitute “politically driven dogmatism and tendency to mess with language” whenever I use it. That really is close enough.

    • Simple question.

      Can you give me an example of one of these determinations to “align language, art, and/or interpretation of empirical data with some politically charged worldview…,” predominantly purveyed over the last couple of decades by “self-described liberals, egalitarians and progressives?”

      • I’m not sure whether you’re asking for an example of a specific incident or a pattern that has played itself out over the past couple of decades, but a good example of the latter (in the “interpretation of empirical data” category) is the discussion in the social sciences about whether genetic factors might partially explain some cognitive and behavioural differences among demographic groups.

        Some egalitarians seem to consider even entertaining such a possibility to be tantamount to bigotry, as has been evident in some reactions to Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein’s book The Bell Curve. The book, of course, entertained the idea that there might be genetic differences in average intelligence among racial groups. I’ve never read it, but I’ve read plenty of articles discussing its arguments and conclusions from one perspective or another.

        Over the years since The Bell Curve came out, I’ve seen some critiques of the book’s arguments that are quite solid, substantive and persuasive. I’ve seen many more, like the two I linked to in the previous paragraph, that mix in a sensible point or two with numerous ad hominem arguments, attempts to assign guilt by association, and implicit suggestions that the book’s conclusions are necessarily wrong because they’re “racist”.

        In other words, some people have treated the question of whether the book’s conclusions were justified by data and analysis as secondary to, or at least inseparable from, the question of whether they were consistent with egalitarian political (or moral or social, if you like – I see those realms as deeply entwined with the political one) axioms. That’s political correctness for you, and it’s harmful to the extent that it discourages and interferes with serious debate around legitimate and rather important questions in the social sciences. It’s not just The Bell Curve, of course – the work of J. Philippe Rushton, for example, tended to elicit similar reactions.

        • Yeah, that’s pretty much the only example I’ve ever heard also.

          (Other than the Clinton death row pardon, the OJ Simpson one, God teachins, and generally anything to do with Blacks and Crime, or Blacks and Intelligence)

          I believe you’re error is that you very obviously mistake what is clearly a rational and reasoned reaction coming out of a quite long long very long history of similar (even identical) arguments that have underpinned hugely bad mistakes and inefficiencies, you mistake that, for irrational, emotion driven, illogical pertinacity.

          • But if there are “bad mistakes and inefficiencies” in the work of Murray, Herrnstein, Rushton, and their fellow travellers (and I agree that there are at least some), it should be possible to discuss those problems without veering into criticism that’s essentially political and moralistic in character. I just want the “is” and “ought” parts of the discussion to be more rigorously separated, an approach that would actually make the various critiques more credible.

            Debates over differences among demographic groups (not just racially defined ones, but also men vs. women, homosexuals vs. heterosexuals, and so forth) are surely a broad category of examples rather than a single example. We haven’t even got into art and language, and I should also mention that thinking about examples made me realise that my initial definition of political correctness was too narrow. I should have included at least one more category, namely humour, and acknowledged that the mindset has spread well beyond liberals, progressives and egalitarians.

          • But you’ll find the “is” is not so easily come upon as the “ought”.

            Though it may seem, in some ways, counterintuitive, the “is” takes long, deep thought and criticism, painstaking review and analysis, in order to find problems and develop consensus.

            Of course the “ought” always fills in the time-gaps, the discontinuities, while the “is” is being debated and scrutinized. That’s nowhere near an irrational state of affairs, however, as long as the “ought” is based on a clear understanding of similarities and of the “bad mistakes and inefficiencies” of the past.

          • I would say that the “ought” is “easily come upon” only because it’s fundamentally subjective. Moral questions have no correct answers, only compelling ones.

            Even if you don’t agree with my moral scepticism, though, that’s no reason to veer into the Moralistic Fallacy and decide that it’s somehow reasonable to discuss an empirical question (in the realm of “is”) as if it could be adjudicated based on moral imperatives (in the realm of “ought”).

          • And I would say that though the “ought” may be fundamentally subjective, there remain shared concerns which make it something more than categorically subjective. We do not, at least as far as we know, live as isolated beings without contact or interaction.

            Be careful, i said the “ought” is more easily come upon than the “is”, not merely easily.

            As far as your moral skepticism, I wasn’t aware that we were talking about it. Simply your distaste for what you perceive as “oughts” interfering with “is’s”. And I don’t think you’ve yet demonstrated that in the link you provided, so I’ll wait for a better example from you. The links you provided only show what seem to be valid criticisms of the “is” that you personally interpret as stemming from an “ought”. I don’t see it. Can you show me an example of something purporting to be a scientific/empiric criticism in the link you provided that does not have scientific merit?

            It may, ironically, be *you* who is mixing up your perceptions of “is’s” and “oughts” and blaming it on others, likely because of stubbornly quixotic notions you entertain of doing away with “oughts” altogether?
            I think that’s neither feasible nor necessary.

            And I don’t see where I’ve veered into any sort of Moralistic Fallacy, care to elaborate?

  9. @Bubba Kincaid

    To be clear, what I mean by “moral scepticism” is my inability to believe in any kind of objective moral truth that exists in the same way as logical or mathematical truth, let alone empirical truth. I don’t want to do away with “oughts”, but I do think it’s necessary to acknowledge that conflicting “oughts” promoted by different people with diverging interests and priorities may be equally valid from a logical standpoint.

    Can you show me an example of something purporting to be a scientific/empiric criticism in the link you provided that does not have scientific merit?

    The problem is that there’s actually very little criticism in the links (yes, plural – the words “some” and “reactions” in the relevant comment link to different articles) that purports to be scientific or empirical. It’s mostly about associates, funding sources, and the scandalousness of even daring to suggest that statistical differences in cognition might exist among ethnic groups, and the intent is clearly to discredit the research while mostly avoiding the harder work of engaging with its claims.

    To me, this approach (and your unwillingness to acknowledge that there’s anything wrong with it) seems Morally Fallacious in that it entails attacking claims about empirical reality on grounds that are moral and political as opposed to scientific. If you don’t see that, we may have to agree to disagree for the moment. However, I’ll get around to writing a proper post – probably a few of them, since I’ll have a lot to say – about political correctness sooner or later. Stay tuned!

    • Absolutely not. It’s very obvious that I distinguished between scientifically based criticism, and criticism, not necessarily based on a morality, but also on how one should determine how one should proceed based on that scientifically arrived at information.

      The “FAIR: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting” article you linked certainly does NOT claim to make any scientifically/empirically based criticisms (nor do the other links). It does however provide a wealth of background information that may or may not be important to someone trying to delve into the topic.

      I think wikipedia is rather a better source for beginning to find scientifically based criticisms.

      Maybe you’ve been concentrating on certain kinds of thoughts on the matter for so long that you’ve forgotten that there are actual scientific criticisms, as opposed to what you’ve been coming across?

      To the lists mentioned on wiki, I’ll add one of my own criticisms, which has bothered me for a while about that particular research:

      The models presented in The Bell Curve don’t seem to address how there are way to many extreme values in the data, outside of the predictive capacity of the model. This indicates to me a missing variable.

      • I’ve acknowledged all along that there are pretty good scientific critiques of Murray and his fellow travellers. My point is that there are also a lot of bad critiques that basically try to impugn their associates, funding sources and even results as politically or morally unacceptable, which is beside the point in a discussion of empirical reality. What you’re calling “background information” is seriously slanted, of course, in that direction. I’m not saying that it shouldn’t be reported, but putting it front and centre distorts the whole discussion in ways that are seriously unfruitful.

        When a researcher like Murray shows up with a hatful of data, however flawed and misinterpreted, and people respond by accusing him of being a racist who is funded and supported by other racists, they’re quite transparently trying “to align… interpretation of empirical data with some politically charged worldview”, as I put it above – or at least, to shout down an interpretation that seems incompatible with their egalitarian worldview rather than engaging with its substance. So I maintain that I’ve provided a pretty good example of what you asked for. There are plenty of others – they practically grow on trees these days – but I really think the discussion will go better if I use a full blog post to present them in context and lay out some interpretations that you can then agree with or not.

        Anyway, I’m glad you’re acknowledging the importance of separating scientifically based criticism from other kinds. As for your point about there being “too many extreme values in the data”, I’m not sure what you mean. Extreme values of what? If you mean IQ, I don’t think anyone disputes that it’s widely variable within any given population.

        • they’re quite transparently trying “to align… interpretation of empirical data with some politically charged worldview”, as I put it above – or at least, to shout down an interpretation that seems incompatible with their egalitarian worldview rather than engaging with its substance.

          I could agree with you if there were not any major science based criticisms, or if the authors of The Bell Curve had submitted it for peer review before publishing. None of those cases hold.

          So I’m glad to entertain people who noticed important aspects of the research outside of the pure science, because a) we can’t expect EVERYBODY to have the tools to put forth a science based criticism, and b) they don’t characterize their criticisms as science based.

          • And let me add a c) there is well established and long history of actual scientists putting out what they knew was unscientific horse-hockey, and pawning it off as science, including in this particular area.

            One cannot be so arrogant as to believe that our scientists are infallible saints whom all must blindly obey.

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