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Once Again, PC Eats Itself

So this week, Comedy Central announced their replacement for Jon Stewart on The Daily Show: South African comedian Trevor Noah. Noah, known for a somewhat edgy standup routine and a couple of correspondent reports on The Daily Show was immediately praised a great choice.

Wait for it….

A few hours after Comedy Central announced that the South African comic would replace Jon Stewart, Salon’s TV critic predicted a surge of “right-wing rage” because “conservative critics have a practiced, doublespeaking method of piling on the heat on figures who stand out because of their race or gender or sexuality,” and obviously their guns would turn on Noah.

Not 24 hours later, Salon published a piece about how Noah’s old tweets—not conservatives—might “kill The Daily Show.” As Sonny Bunch helpfully recounts, the Internet discovered that Noah, who’d grown phenomenally popular in the rest of the Anglosphere, had a bit of a clunker problem.

You can click through to read the offending humor, which consists of tweets that include some Jewish jokes and some fat-girl jokes.

This has all led to some whipsawing in progressive media, from a Trevor Noah welcome wagon to a caravan of pitchfork-wielding villagers. On Monday, Vox’s Max Fisher introduced Noah to readers with “seven of his funniest clips,” and predicted that the host would make his show “a fresh and perhaps invaluable contribution to how we talk—and joke—about race and nationality.” He proved it, with a dive into Noah’s popular videos, pulling out solid routines about how bad Africans looked in famine relief ads and how mixed-race people get “upgraded to black” when they’re famous.

Yet within a day, there was dissent within Vox; writer Kelsey McKinney was explaining why Noah might be unfit to lead TDS. “A Daily Show host should be held to a higher standard than other comedians,” she wrote in regard to the tweets. “These jokes are offensive because they are reflections of cultures that are oppressive and privileged—and rather than being critical of those societal constructions, the jokes instead reinforce them.”

It’s Patricia Arquette all over again. It was fine for Noah to make black jokes, white jokes or anti-American jokes. But he can’t make fun of fat women because he’s above them in the N-dimensional matrix of the perpetually offended. (Weigel reminds us of the Suey Park-Colbert incident, where a bunch of hashtagivists insisted that Colbert’s satire of racism was, in itself, racist).

So what do I think? Chris Rock, a few months ago, gave an interesting interview where he talked about our culture of perpetual offense as it applies to comedians:

It is scary, because the thing about comedians is that you’re the only ones who practice in front of a crowd. Prince doesn’t run a demo on the radio. But in stand-up, the demo gets out. There are a few guys good enough to write a perfect act and get onstage, but everybody else workshops it and workshops it, and it can get real messy. It can get downright offensive. Before everyone had a recording device and was wired like fucking Sammy the Bull, you’d say something that went too far, and you’d go, “Oh, I went too far,” and you would just brush it off. But if you think you don’t have room to make mistakes, it’s going to lead to safer, gooier stand-up. You can’t think the thoughts you want to think if you think you’re being watched.

Exactly. Comedians who live on the edge of offense, as Rock sometimes does, have to work their material to go up to but not over the line. And the only way to know you’ve gone over the line is when people get offended and stop laughing. Think about Rock’s routine on black people vs. the n-word and how much work he must have done to make sure it was funny without being offensive. That’s something that can only come from experience, from trial and error.

For comedians (and really, for everyone), Twitter is a test audience of 284 million. We’ve seen a lot comedians — Patton Oswalt and Louis CK, for example — tweet jokes that went over the line (sometimes way over it). Hell, we’ve seen random people like Justine Sacco have their lives turned upside down because a dumb joke went viral.

I didn’t like Noah’s tweets (which are, granted, a small selection from over 8000 tweets). But I did find his stand-up material good. Not George-Carlin-in-his-prime good, but reasonable. I do think his tweets went over the line and the Jewish jokes did bother me. But I’m willing to give Noah a chance at The Daily Show. If he starts making offensive jokes, I’ll turn it off. But as someone who has occasionally tweeted stupid things, I’m not willing to line up the firing squad just yet.

Exit Reid, Enter Schumer

Harry Reid announced his retirement from the Senate last week. You may think this is a step in the right direction. The problem is that the guy likely to replace him is one of my least favorite Senators: Chuck E. Schumer, one of the biggest nannies this side of Michael Bloomberg:

Here’s a list of quickly ginned-up headlines of what our next illustrious Senate leader has been up to over his time in Washington. Add your own in the comments.

U.S. is urged to investigate cereal prices
Chuck Schumer rips e-cigarette makers
Sen. Schumer calls for ban on ubiquitous yoga mat chemical
Chuck Schumer races to extend ban on “undetectable” 3D-printed guns
Senator Charles Schumer Condemns Delicious-Looking Detergent
Schumer wants to ban high-powered green laser pointers
Sen. Charles Schumer Calls for a Ban on Powdered Alcohol
Schumer calls on FDA to ban powdered caffeine
Schumer Calls for Ban on Alcoholic Energy Drinks
Schumer Pushes to Shut Down Online Drug Marketplace
Senator Schumer Says Bitcoin Is Money Laundering
Charles Schumer wants federal probe into airline fare prices
Chuck Schumer Takes On The FAA Over Drone Rules
High-Frequency Trading Faces Challenge from Schumer
Fast-Food Bread a Concern, Schumer Calls for a Ban
Chuck Schumer: No Four Loko for You, New York
Senator Calls for 25 to Life [Video Game] Ban
Schumer wants to ban home-made bombs
Sen. Schumer wants to ban internationally produced Olympics uniforms
Senators Call For An End To Payday Lending By Banks
Chuck Schumer Engineers USDA Greek Yogurt Subsidy
Sen. Chuck Schumer to introduce bill 10 banning flame retardants from kids’ products
Sen. Schumer: Ban Cadmium in Kids’ Jewelry

All kidding aside, as a country we have a lot to be thankful for, a lot to be proud of, and a lot to be ashamed of.

And we have even more to be embarrassed by. Which brings us back to Chuck Schumer, our next Senate Minority Leader and a demonstrated foe of just about every possible innovation or reality that for whatever furshlugginer reason drives a bug up his ass. Including that time he called a flight attendant “a bitch” because she was enforcing a cell phone ban that I’m sure he’s totally in favor of for everyone else.

If we have become an increasingly trivial country incapable of dealing with serious issues at all, much less in a rational and deliberate way, then we’ve really found our guy.

I would add something else. Chuck Schumer fights for average Americans … unless they happen to be religious nuts. During the Senate hearings on the Waco disaster, his behavior was appalling, constantly saying that the government did nothing wrong and delving into the behavior of the Davidians instead of the disastrous tactics authorized by Janet Reno. If you watch video of him during the hearings and know anything about what happened at Waco, it’s infuriating.

I’ve never liked Harry Reid. But I wouldn’t vote for Chuck Schumer for prom queen.

Surviving the New Cold War

As you have probably heard, Yemen has collapsed into chaos. The President we were backing had fled the country and Iran-backed Shia rebels appear to be establishing control. Saudi Arabia is intervening and it looks like Egypt may get involved as well.

All this is a sign of Obama’s failed foreign policy according to … holy crap … Vox?:

Read more… »

They Lie Because They Can

I am Hal’s total lack of surprise:

Hillary Clinton permanently deleted all the emails on the private server she used to do official business as secretary of state, the Republican lawmaker who subpoenaed the emails said late Friday.

Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, chairman of the House committee investigating the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, said Clinton’s lawyer informed him of the news.

“Secretary Clinton unilaterally decided to wipe her server clean and permanently delete all emails from her personal server,” Gowdy said in a statement.

Gowdy had also asked that Clinton turn over her server to the State Department inspector general for an independent review.

Clinton’s lawyer, David Kendall, said no.

Clinton has turned over some hard copies of e-mails. But she apparently had the server wiped when the State Department asked her to turn her e-mails over to them.

I know this is a complete non-scandal that I’m only bringing up because I’m a misogynist dinosaur who can’t stand the idea of a woman being President. But, as Conor reminds us, the Clintons and their acolytes have a long history of this, from Sandy Berger smuggling classified information out of the 9/11 investigation to her law firm billing records. This is what the Clintons do: they lie, they cover-up, they conceal, they obfuscate and then they blame everyone else. It’s a game to them. They lie about things that they have no need whatsoever to lie about. It’s almost as if they get off on lying.

And they do it also because they get away with it. No matter how many untruths they hurl about, there are never any consequences. No charges will come from this incident. It is unlikely to hurt Clinton at the polls. The MSM is doing their damndest to ignore it, having to be goaded into even asking softball questions about it.

This is why I have said that I am dreading blogging the 2016 election. The Democrats seem to have unanimously decided that Clinton is the nominee. And the press doesn’t seem interested in peeking behind the curtain. So 2016 is likely to unfold exactly this way: Clinton is found to have done something wrong, the press ignores it and it doesn’t hurt her inevitable ascent.

Look, I have a grudging respect for Clinton as Secretary of State. The disaster that has unfolded since Kerry took over tells me that Clinton must have been better than I thought to keep this gang of idiots from starting from World War III. At least she kept us from fighting with and against Iran at the same time.

But I’m tired of the Clintons. I’m utterly sick of the sight of them. They have been in politics since 1977. They have been in national politics since 1992. We’ve had them in our faces for almost a quarter of a century. Enough. I’d vote for Elizabeth Warren before I’d vote for another chapter or two of the Clinton Chronicles. We don’t need a campaign full of this kind of garbage. And we certainly don’t need four or, God help us, eight years of scandal.

Please, Republicans, get it together. We do not need this.

Bergdahl To Be Charged

Well, knock me over with a feather:

On Wednesday, the Army announced that it was charging Sergeant Bergdahl with misbehavior before the enemy and desertion, raising the possibility that he could be imprisoned again, this time for life.

In announcing the charges against Sergeant Bergdahl, the military reignited the political firestorm that took place last summer after the sergeant was released in a swap for five Taliban detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

For President Obama, it reopens the contentious political question of whether the United States should have agreed to the exchange. Administration officials have steadfastly maintained that even if Sergeant Berdahl did voluntarily walk off his remote base in Afghanistan, it was the duty of the United States to take all appropriate steps to free him.

The president’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, was harshly criticized when she said last summer that Sergeant Bergdahl had served “with honor and distinction” at the same time that his former platoon members were appearing on television accusing him of deliberately leaving the base, an act that they said put in danger the lives of the American military members who searched for him.

Sergeant Bergdahl is charged with misbehavior before the enemy, which carries a maximum sentence of up to life in prison, and with desertion, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. He could also face a dishonorable discharge, reduction in rank and forfeiture of the pay he was owed while in captivity if he is tried and convicted, Army officials said during a news conference in Fort Bragg, N.C.

A few things to unpack here:

First, getting Bergdahl back was justified. We don’t leave men behind and the idea, currently promulgating in liberal circles, that Republicans would rather he have been left to rot, is garbage. The criticism that Obama faced was for the way this went down — releasing five Taliban detainees in exchange for Bergdahl, not informing Congress of the deal, trying to pretend that Bergdahl served with honor and, in the case of one Administration official, branding his accusers as psychopaths.

Second, it’s amazing to watch the pretzels the sufferers of Obama Defense Derangement Syndrome are twisting themselves into. When Bergdahl was first released and the criticisms of his conduct emerged, the Left took the “how dare you!” narrative. When he was returned to active duty, they pilloried Republicans for having had the temerity to have questioned his honor. Republican criticism of the deal was labelled as placing party above country (even though many Democrats agreed that Obama broke the law in brokering the deal). Now that he’s been charged, we’re back to, “we don’t leave a man behind.”

Berdahl is innocent until proven guilty, obviously. But let’s not pretend the Republicans are the only ones who used his release as a political football. And let’s not pretend that this was a great deal. As David Burge noted on Twitter the other day, it’s becoming clear that this Administration couldn’t negotiate a 99-cent deal with a dollar store.

Generation Eggshell

Judith Shulevitz has a great article up at the NYT about how our colleges and universities have gone to absurd lengths to coddle students’ delicate psyches.

KATHERINE BYRON, a senior at Brown University and a member of its Sexual Assault Task Force, considers it her duty to make Brown a safe place for rape victims, free from anything that might prompt memories of trauma.

So when she heard last fall that a student group had organized a debate about campus sexual assault between Jessica Valenti, the founder of feministing.com, and Wendy McElroy, a libertarian, and that Ms. McElroy was likely to criticize the term “rape culture,” Ms. Byron was alarmed. “Bringing in a speaker like that could serve to invalidate people’s experiences,” she told me. It could be “damaging.”

Ms. Byron and some fellow task force members secured a meeting with administrators. Not long after, Brown’s president, Christina H. Paxson, announced that the university would hold a simultaneous, competing talk to provide “research and facts” about “the role of culture in sexual assault.” Meanwhile, student volunteers put up posters advertising that a “safe space” would be available for anyone who found the debate too upsetting.

The “safe space” was basically a toddler room:

The room was equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma.

You really should really the whole thing. It gets into the increasing culture of creating “safe spaces” where students can be sheltered from ideas that might challenge their beliefs or offend them. Only some ideas, of course. If a Muslim student complained that miniskirts made him uncomfortable or a Christian complained that gays “triggered” him, I doubt they would get much sympathy.

As an academic, I want to make one point: most students aren’t like this. Most of the students I deal with are hard-working rational people who don’t really care about political correctness. The problem is that the whiners — the product of increasing helicopter parenting and schools obsessed with promoting “self-esteem” — have the floor. Moreover, the government is aggressively using Title VIII and IX to push schools into compliance with politically correct agendas. And it’s affecting how our schools operate.

I’m old enough to remember a time when college students objected to providing a platform to certain speakers because they were deemed politically unacceptable. Now students worry whether acts of speech or pieces of writing may put them in emotional peril. Two weeks ago, students at Northwestern University marched to protest an article by Laura Kipnis, a professor in the university’s School of Communication. Professor Kipnis had criticized — O.K., ridiculed — what she called the sexual paranoia pervading campus life

Last fall, the president of Smith College, Kathleen McCartney, apologized for causing students and faculty to be “hurt” when she failed to object to a racial epithet uttered by a fellow panel member at an alumnae event in New York. The offender was the free-speech advocate Wendy Kaminer, who had been arguing against the use of the euphemism “the n-word” when teaching American history or “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” In the uproar that followed, the Student Government Association wrote a letter declaring that “if Smith is unsafe for one student, it is unsafe for all students.”

“It’s amazing to me that they can’t distinguish between racist speech and speech about racist speech, between racism and discussions of racism,” Ms. Kaminer said in an email.

Professors are guiding their course work away from anything controversial as well. For example, law professors are shying away from discussing rape law, lest they trigger someone. Entire hordes of administrators are hired to make sure everyone is being sensitive and caring (and then student wonder why college costs so much).

So how can we stop this rising Cult of the Victim? Pushback on the campuses themselves is a big part. But another big help would be for the federal government to affirm its supposed commitment to free expression. A complaint that a university is “unsafe” can trigger a potentially damaging federal investigation. In the past, the government has respected free speech but that commitment has weakened in recent years as universities and the government embrace the Left-wing notion that some speech isn’t really speech, but hostile action.

The recent SAE incident was a perfect opportunity for this. The Department of Education could have made it clear that, as students at a public university, the students had free speech rights. But they let that opportunity pass by. And I don’t see this Administration ever standing up the campus politeness police.

The War on Food Continues

Whenever the governments give you money, it comes with government control. To wit:

FROM urban ghettos to declining inner-ring suburbs to destitute rural areas, Americans with little money live in “food deserts” where it is hard to find fresh fruits and vegetables

Stop right there. We’re one sentence in and we’ve already got a problem. Food deserts are a myth. They’ve long been known to be a myth. The writers try to revive this myth with two bizarre measures. One is the number of grocery stores per zip code, which basically means nothing. The population per zip code varies wildly in the United States. My zip code has 40,000 people in it. My uncle’s, living a major city, has 9000. The population of New York City’s zip codes vary by tens of thousands, which is to say nothing of how business zoning varies. This smells like a metric picked for the conclusion. You can contrast it against the study in the link above, which actually looked at 8000 poor children to see how many grocery stores they had in their neighborhoods.

The second number is the amount of shelf space devoted to junk food vs. fresh food. But junk food has more shelf space because 1) they’re including convenience stores, which are supposed to be for a quick grab of something, not grocery shopping; 2) junk food keeps in a way that fresh food doesn’t; and 3) there are four million varieties of soda and chips; most stores carry maybe one or two brands of apples. Moreover, location is important: fresh food shelf space tends to be the first thing you encounter in a store.

Justified by these distortions, they then go on to argue that the food stamp program should be used as a cudgel to force poor people to eat good food:

Food stamps can’t be used to buy cigarettes or alcohol — why not simply add junk food to that ban? In 2011, the Agriculture Department turned down a proposal to restrict the use of food stamps in New York City to buy sugary drinks. Officials said the proposal was too complicated for retailers. But in the background was fierce resistance to the proposal from the beverage industry and its friends in the grocery industry.

The department should give financial incentives to food stamp users to buy healthy food, and should also reconsider its hesitation about restricting the use of food stamps to buy junk food.

They also recommend coercing the stores:

To participate in SNAP, stores must meet certain federal standards. Under the current standards, a store can qualify by stocking a small number of offerings of bread, canned vegetables, meat, milk and cheese, even if they are hidden away in a dusty corner.

The Agriculture Department should simply require that stores that accept food stamps use more of their shelf space — say, a minimum of 20 feet — for healthy foods. And it should set a limit on the use of shelf space for displaying junk food, perhaps with a simple rule of no more space for junk than for fruits and vegetables. This plan would put nutritious food within sight and reach.

They point to some studies that claim this would increase consumption of health foods. Given the junk stats they use on food deserts and their failure to link the aforementioned studies, I will assume that they have misinterpreted these studies. I also say that because the one study they do link to, they misquote. They claim that people consumed more healthy food after WIC implemented a similar requirement for participation. But that study only looks at store inventory, not consumption. It comes to the unsurprising conclusion that when you force stores to stock more healthy food, they stock more healthy food. If you are a behaviorist Nanny Stater who thinks people are empty vessels whose dining habits are controlled by the amount of shelf space devoted to fresh food, the difference between those concept might evade you.

Keep in mind also: there’s a history here. LA tried to ban new fast food stores from low income areas. Obesity actually increased after this. So people in poor areas were denied jobs working in fast food joints to no discernible benefit. Now these clowns want to hit convenience stores and bodegas — often stores run by working poor and operating on the margin — to stock food that no one is going to eat.

And we wonder why poverty remains entrenched.

I always keep in mind what Ta-Nehisi Coates had to say about this (the Atlantic is timing out on me; I’ll update with a link when I can find it). If you’re poor and especially if you are working poor, junk food is one of the few vices you can afford. It’s one of the few that won’t wreck your life in the process (at least not right away). For a couple of well-off liberals to swan in and try to take that away with an ill-advised and ill-informed effort at “public health” is … well … you know the Left talks about privilege? That’s what this is.

And it’s a picnic compared to what’s coming when our government will be giving you “free” healthcare.

(H/T: Thaddeus Russell)

Tunisia Attack

Here we go again:

At least 17 people — most of them tourists — were killed in an attack Wednesday at the Bardo museum in Tunisia’s capital, Tunisian Prime Minister Habid Essid said.

Two attackers were also killed, while three attackers are at large, according to Essid.

Tunisia hasn’t been as chaotic as Libya but ISIS has been getting a toehold there. I would be surprised if there wasn’t a connection.

That Thing That Wasn’t Supposed to Happen

For years, the Left Wing has been agitating for hikes in the minimum wage. When conservative and libertarian critics have pointed out that raising the minimum wage increases unemployment, they respond that “studies” prove this not to be the case (said studies usually being deeply flawed and having little connection to reality). As I’ve said before: you’re going to have to go a long way to convince me that the law of supply and demand is magically suspended when it comes to wages.

Last year, Seattle raised their minimum wage to $15 an hour. How’s that working out?

Seattle’s $15 minimum wage law goes into effect on April 1, 2015. As that date approaches, restaurants across the city are making the financial decision to close shop. The Washington Policy Center writes that “closings have occurred across the city, from Grub in the upscale Queen Anne Hill neighborhood, to Little Uncle in gritty Pioneer Square, to the Boat Street Cafe on Western Avenue near the waterfront.”

Of course, restaurants close for a variety of reasons. But, according to Seattle Magazine, the “impending minimum wage hike to $15 per hour” is playing a “major factor.” That’s not surprising, considering “about 36% of restaurant earnings go to paying labor costs.” Seattle Magazine,

According to the Washington Restaurant Association, restaurants currently spend 36% of their income on labor. This hike could send that as high as 47%. Very few businesses operate with that massive a profit margin. They either have to fire employees or raise prices to compensate.

Restaurant owners, expecting to operate on thinner margins, have tried to adapt in several ways including “higher menu prices, cheaper, lower-quality ingredients, reduced opening times, and cutting work hours and firing workers,” according to The Seattle Times and Seattle Eater magazine. As the Washington Policy Center points out, when these strategies are not enough, businesses close, “workers lose their jobs and the neighborhood loses a prized amenity.”

Right now, this “grand experiment” is producing panic. We’ll see how things look in a year. Keep in mind that increased prices will move many of the poor out of the city completely, which may dim the impact of this on paper. But even with that cushion, this is looking very bad.

Told ya so.

There Should Always Be Freedom in OU

Over the weekend, you may have seen the video of the SAE fraternity at the University Oklahoma singing a racist song about how there would never be black SAE. Well, they were right about that. There never will be a black SAE. This is because the University responded to the video by dissolving the chapter of the frat and expelling two of the students.

The former decision is right and proper, I think. However, I’m having serious problems with the latter. And so are a lot of people:

The University of Oklahoma’s decision to expel two fraternity members who led a racist chant on a bus provoked criticism Wednesday from several legal experts who said that the students’ words, however odious, were protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech.

“The courts are very clear that hateful, racist speech is protected by the First Amendment,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional scholar and dean of the law school at the University of California, Irvine.

Official punishment for speech could be legal if the students’ chant constituted a direct threat, leading a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety, or if it seemed likely to provoke an immediate violent response, according to Mr. Chemerinsky and several other legal scholars, liberal and conservative alike.

But in this case, these experts said, there is no evidence of any direct threat or provocation, and as a publicly financed institution, the university is subject to constitutional boundaries.

I’ve seen similar commentary all over the blogosphere. First Amendment badass Mark Randazza:

I’m not going to get into a discussion of whether I approve of it or not. (I don’t, but that’s all I’ll say about it). You have the right to be racist. I want that freedom. But, somewhere along the way, we decided that eliminating bad thoughts is more important than freedom.

Like it or not, these kids were expressing a political and social opinion. I do not care if you agree with it or not. They have a First Amendment right to freedom of association – that means they can be in a private club that says “no niggers allowed.” I can’t say that I would want to belong to such a club, but the KKK and the American Nazi Party not only have a right to exist, but serve a valuable function — even if that function is only to serve as a negative example.

Further, they have a right to express themselves — even with views that you might find abhorrent. That’s what freedom is.

Several scholars have argued that the song constitute an action and “threat”. I’ll let Scott Greenfield take that one, referencing the famous Skokie cases where the ACLU defended the free speech rights of Nazis:

These SAE boys don’t deserve the protection of the First Amendment, any more than the neo-Nazis in Skokie did. But we don’t do it for them. We do it for us. We do it because speech is either protected for all or protected for none.

There are no wiggly lines that allow us to find some sneaky back-door around the protections of the First Amendment. There is no combination of words expressing our feelings about the relative worth of rights, the relative horror of flagrantly racist speech, the unworthiness of expression, that allows us to shed the protection of the First Amendment when we feel so strongly that it should not be provided. This is precisely when the protections of the Constitution must kick in, must apply, must be upheld in the face of our strongest feelings that we don’t want it to.

You can read more from Eugene Volokh and Doug Mataconis, who get into the Constitutional issues. As a public university, the University of Oklahoma is bound to respect the free speech rights of their students. And the attempt to end-around the First Amendment by claiming a racist song constitutes an “action” is offensive. Greenwald had this to say, albeit in a different context:

We’ve said it a million times: free speech isn’t just for speech we like. It’s for speech we hate. It’s for speech that offends us. It’s for speech that shocks the senses. But more than that: I want the bigots of the world1 to feel like they can say what they want. Which do you think is better? A society in which racists go underground? Or a society in which the ugliness be out and open for everyone to see? When I was a kid, some anti-semitic bigots burned a cross on the lawn of my synagogue. That was much scarier and more dangerous than a bunch of KKK jerks marching along the highway.

It’s become common to refer to incidents like this as “teachable moments”. Maybe. But if it is, the lesson being taught is the wrong one. The lesson is that we will punish speech we don’t like.

The other day, the ACLU took another unpopular stand: defending the free speech rights of the Washington Redskins. In doing so, they quoted the great sage Jeffrey Lebowski: “you’re not wrong; you’re just an asshole”:

The ACLU has a history of defending the speech rights of groups we disagree with, because the First Amendment doesn’t protect only popular ideas. The Washington team’s choice of name is unfortunate. They should be – and are being – pressured to change it. But it isn’t government’s role to pick and choose which viewpoints are acceptable and which are not.

Readmit the students, OU. Make this a teachable moment. And the lesson to teach is that free speech applies to everyone, including assholes.


1. Putting aside whether these students are actual bigots or are just drunken idiots singing a dumbass song.

Update: Jamelle Bouie

As far as the University of Oklahoma is concerned, I should say I’m not thrilled with the punishment. Disbanding the fraternity might be justified, but expelling students for hate speech is an extreme response that runs afoul of free-speech norms, if not the First Amendment.

Education would be better. The University of Oklahoma is two hours away from Tulsa, which in 1921 was the site of one of the worst anti-black race riots in American history. More than a thousand whites stormed the black district of Tulsa and razed it to the ground, killing hundreds and leaving thousands homeless and destitute. Black Tulsa never recovered, but memories of the attack live on among descendants of the victims.

Don’t expel the boys. Bring them to Tulsa. Have them see the memorials and talk to the children of survivors. Give them a chance to see what their words actually mean, and whether they want to be the kinds of people who sing about lynching for fun.

Indeed.