August, 2010

Spinning The N-Word

Dr. Laura Schlessinger has announced that she will not be returning to her syndicated self help  radio talk show.  Her  exit was precipitated by an ill-conceived attempt to spin the repeated use of the “n-word”  to make what in her mind was a “philosophical point” on  hypersensitivity about race.

“”Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO and listen to a black comic, and all you hear is n****r, n****r, n****r. I don’t get it. If anybody without enough melanin says it, it’s a horrible thing. But when black people say it, it’s affectionate. It’s very confusing.”  When the caller was offended, Dr. Laura went on to state:

Oh, then I guess you don’t watch HBO or listen to any black comedians. My dear, the point I am trying to make … [is that] we’ve got a black man as president and we’ve got more complaining about racism than ever. I think that’s hilarious.”

You can listen to the actual rant here.

This controversy illustrates how  dangerous  it is to attempt to spin racial epithets in a public forum.  Some words, especially the n-word, are so historically soaked in negativity and hate that just the word itself in any context draws on the worst feelings and perceptions in people.  There is no spin to be had.  There is no upside.  Even if we give her some benefit of the doubt and say that there was a point to be made, there is no question that she used the word in a very aggressive and angry tone that left it open to every negative interpretation that the mind can envision(as if the word does not do that all on its own).

Dr. Laura compounded her mistake by engaging in racial stereotyping in using an out of context example that African-Americans throw the n-word around among each other indiscriminately. I do not know if  she is right or not but it is extremely hostile territory to venture when you are not part of that class of people and making a generalization based on intermittent observations of the class. The final nail in her racial meltdown was to sarcastically suggest that people sensitive about the N-word should not marry out of their race. This was the most indefensible statement in her rant,  not open to any legitimate interpretation.

Why did she go there?  I do not believe she is a racist. She is no Mel Gibson.  If anything, her mistake was arrogance of perceived  stature.  The belief that you are so above the fray that you can make a point in any manner you see fit.  A Bill O’Reilly like belief that anything you say can be force fed to mainstream acceptance regardless of the negativity.

Dr. Laura is now attempting to portray herself as a victim of political correctness.  She claims she is leaving her show so she can “re-claim” her 1st Amendment rights.  While the 1st Amendment does not apply to her situation, she is right about one thing.  She can go to her blog and use the n-word as much as she wants to make whatever point she wants.  No one is going to fire her.  No worry about advertisers.  I am sure that was her long term plan all along….(sarcasm)

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Cutting The Onion Of Anti-Semitism

Sometimes the satiric/parody news site The Onion can be pretty darn funny.  Sometimes they miss the mark. Sometimes they are downright offensive in a very non-funny way.  This is one of those times.  It appears the powers that be at the Onion have not gotten the societal message that there is nothing funny about Antisemitism.  One of their latest parody endeavors raised my eyebrows in the use of a virulently anti-Semitic graphic combined with antisemitic financial stereotypes.  The  premise of the segment is that you can “Overcome Stress By Visualizing It As A Greedy, Hook-Nosed Race Of Creatures”

I and others raised a similar issue not long ago with NBC in the use of similar imagery in conjunction with their popular Parks And Recreation Series.  NBC was nice enough to respond and provide context for the use of the anti-Semitic image.  Their explanation was reasonable within the context of the show.  I have a hard time imagining any similar context for The Onion.  Anyone there care to respond?

Grabbler image via and thanks to @criticalanalyst on Twitter for alerting me to it.

Overcome Stress By Visualizing It As A Greedy, Hook-Nosed Race Of Creatures

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The Ground Zero Mosque And The Constitution

It  bothers me when I see attorneys attempt to hide intolerance under the cloak legal authority. It’s nothing new.  We have a long history of the courts being used to achieve discriminatory objectives. The latest attempt is a legally misplaced opinion piece by columnist/attorney Peter Ferrara who claims that the government can constitutionally regulate the location of the Ground Zero Mosque using time, place and manner restrictions. He writes:

If the authorities believe a particular location would be offensive to some segment of the public, the time, place and manner doctrine gives them the power to prevent construction of a church, or a mosque, at the offensive location.

It is true that Court has held that the 1st Amendment’s Free-Exercise Clause, the right of citizens for free exercise of their religion, is not absolute. A citizen’s free-exercise right must be weighed against the public interest and a state can regulate to ensure that it is practiced in a reasonable time, place, and manner.

What Ferrara does not tell you is that in the case of religion, these types of restrictions are looked upon skeptically and rarely upheld by the courts.

What Ferrara is really endorsing and calling it something else is content based, viewpoint discrimination.  That viewpoint is the practice of Islam.  For those unfamiliar, for a law to be content based, it discriminates based on the content of the message AS OPPOSED to the, time, place and manner in which the message is made, or the reactions it incites in people. These types of laws are presumptively unconstitutional.  What Ferrara is really saying is that the Ground Zero Mosque should not be built because he finds Islam offensive. Regardless of the validity of his viewpoint on that subject or anyone else’s view, this is content based.  It fits into no legal exception for regulation and is unconstitutional. 

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