Tag: Racism

Wrong Robert Lee

I have somewhat mixed feelings about the current debate over the removal of confederate statues. I see the point of the defenders that they reflect pride and history. And I am against vigilantes pulling them down on their own. But I also see the point of the critics: that these statues were mostly erected in the 1920’s and 1950’s, when America was undergoing spasms of racial strife. Some — like the Battle of Liberty Place Monument — were specifically erected as an act of defiance against the federal government by racists. I probably end up where Radley Balko is: preferring they be moved from places of honor to museums or parks where their context can be given. But I certainly see the other side of this debate and don’t think it is entirely defined by racist shitheads.

The question always gets asked: where do you draw the line? Should statues of Jefferson and Washington come down, too? But first of all, you’ve already drawn a line. I doubt that anyone would want statues of Che or Mao or Stalin or Hitler in a places of honor. If you favor keeping the current confederate statues up, you’re just drawing the line behind Jeff Davis rather than in front of him. Second, line-drawing is what we do in politics. We say that consensual sex is OK, but non-consensual is not. We say that killing someone in self-defense is OK, but murder is not. We draw lines constantly. And I see no reason why we can’t at least debate where the line gets drawn on statues. Agreeing with the Lefty Kooks on one thing does not mean you have to agree with them on everything. There’s no law of nature or politics requiring that we let this be a slippery slope.

For example

On Tuesday night, [ESPN] confirmed that its management moved an Asian-American announcer, Robert Lee, off the University of Virginia’s home opener football game “simply because of the coincidence of his name.”

Earlier Tuesday, a source had told CNN that Lee was abruptly switched to the Youngstown versus Pitt game. He had recently been promoted by ESPN, so the switch was a sensitive matter.

News of the decision follows the violence that broke out earlier this month at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, protesting plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The night before the deadly violence, white nationalists marched across the UVA campus, carrying torches and chanting racist slogans.

This is … ridiculous. And I’m sure the network realized it about ten seconds into the ensuing uproar. There is a valid debate to be had over Robert E. Lee’s character and legacy. I can see why some people might be offended by venerating the man who fought for slavery. But, Christ, his name is not kryptonite to black people. Just hearing that name, or someone with a similar name, is not going to make them weep. Removing him isn’t going to ease racial tension by one iota. And while the debate over the confederacy’s legacy is an interesting one, it is not the most important race issue we face right now.

Charlottesville

This is a bit personal for me. I went to graduate school at the University of Virginia. Charlottesville is a great college town. I spent six of the happiest years of my life there. I met my wife there. I made lifelong friends there. I started my career as an astronomer there. It’s one of the few cities I would consider moving to from my current digs.

So to see a bunch of alt-right white-supremacist clowns walking around with tiki torches and chanting racist and anti-Semitic slogans hurts. I absolutely support their right to free speech, of course. If people hold vile views, I want them to publicly own it. As fellow UVa Astronomy alum Phil Plait put it:

The proximate cause was Charlottesville’s decision to sell off some confederate monuments, part of a national movement to get rid of such monuments. While I am very attentive to history, I’m also aware that most of these monuments were erected as protests against the Civil Rights movement. So I’m not opposed to seeing them go.

Things got worse this afternoon. After counter-protests and some violent clashes caused the alt-right rally to break up, someone drove a car into the crowd. I won’t embed the video, but it’s easy to find. It looks deliberate to me. And if so, it was an act of terrorism. And I hope they throw the book at the piece of garbage who did it.

I suppose we should take some comfort in that The National Rally for Racist Pieces of Shit only managed to get a few hundred of these dopes. But that’s cold comfort when I see people being mowed down on a street I once walked down in a happy daze because a pretty girl had gone out on a date with me. Any Nazis are too many Nazis.

Update: A good and balanced first hand account.

Searching for Sexism, Finding Extremism

A couple of weeks ago, the Wonder Woman movie hit the theaters. The movie opened to good reviews and, having seen it opening day, I can attest that it’s quite good. It’s well-directed. Gal Gadot is very good and she has a great chemistry with Chris Pine. The characters are likable, it has a much-needed sprinkling of humor and the action scenes are thrilling. The third act does descend into the CGI destruction that seems to be a requirement these days. But it does it well with the hinge of the plot being not whether Diana can do something but whether she should. I’d rank it in the upper tier of superhero movies, a solid 8/10.

As far as feminism goes, I would compare it to Fury Road, another excellent movie. If you want some feminism in your movie, it’s there. But it doesn’t have to be. You can just watch it as an entertaining action flick without any problem.

Of course, it’s been a focal point of a lot of SJW discussion, given that it’s the first female-led superhero movie in a long time (and the first really good one) and was directed by a woman. I don’t mind this chatter. It’s always good to have superheroes you can identify with and my own little girl loved it. But what’s been funny is that the people who are obsessed with the sort of thing have been desperately scrounging around for a sexist take on the movie. And from what I can tell, they haven’t really found any. Reviews have made oblique vague references to “men not getting it” even though every man I know likes the movie and the worst take I’ve heard is that the movie was just OK. But I have not found the kidn of “OMG! FEMINISM!” takes everyone wants to find. The dumbest Right Wing take was a Fox News segment complaining that Wonder Woman wasn’t American enough. Oh, and there was some minor and overblown kerfuffle over Alamo Drafthouse having a woman-only screening.

What I have found, on the other hand, is idiot leftist takes. And not in some obscure corner of the internet, but in mainstream liberal publications. So here’s Slate, missing the point as always, claiming the movie isn’t feminist enough. Here’s Ms. Magazine, complaining that the movie isn’t PC enough (and falsely claiming it wouldn’t pass the Bechdel test after the first 15 minutes, because Etta Candy was apparently removed from their cut). You can even expand that view to dumb takes assuming boys don’t like the movie. Or dumb takes from people who should know better accusing the movie of racism based on early publicity stills.

But that’s peanuts. The real idiot take on this is about Gal Gadot herself. Gadot is a former IDF soldier, an Israeli citizen and a patriot. This does not sit well with many on the Left who see Israel as the quintessence of evil. The movie has been banned in a couple of Arab countries and celebrities praising the movie have been criticized. Criticism has particularly focused on this facebook post where Gadot posted a picture of herself and her daughter celebrating the Sabbath and praised the IDF for defending Israel against Hamas. This was during the Gaza War, which started when Hamas kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers. Israel drew a lot of criticism for a bombing campaign that killed thousands.

Look, I’ve criticized Israel for their settlements in the West Bank and for some of their actions. But there’s little doubt in my mind that between Israel and Hamas, Israel are the good guys. Muslims can practice their religion in Israel. They have holy sites all over some of Judaism’s most sacred areas and those sites are respected. Hamas, by contrast, is dedicated to destroying Israel and, presumably, all six million Jews therein. This is not even close. And while one could criticize Israel’s actions in the Gaza War, expecting Gal Gadot — an Israeli and a veteran — to do so is insane.

And frankly, this is not a can of worms the SJWs want opened. Because if we start judging celebrities by their politics, it’s the liberal celebrities who will suffer the most. We’ve seen Hollywood celebrities voice support for brutal dictatorships in Iran, Cuba and Venezuela. They spent decades worshipping horrific Communist dictators like Stalin, Khrushchev and Mao. They’ve devoted enormous effort to trying to free murderers like Mumia Abu-Jamal. Right now, they’re up in Minnesota, wondering if female genital mutilation should be outlawed.

So spare me the gasps of horror over Gadot supporting her country when they were in the middle of a damned war.

The Baltimore Mess

As you may have read, the final charges were dismissed in the Freddie Gray case a few weeks ago, after the first four trials ended in acquittal. What strikes me about the Freddie Gray case is the staggering incompetence of the prosecutor, Marilyn Mosby. In Freddie Gray, we had a man who had not committed a crime, was bound up and tossed in the back of the van and emerged with his neck fatally broken. You would think you could at least get something out of that. But through a series of blunders — concealing exculpatory evidence, overcharging (murder instead of negligent homicide or manslaughter) and other incompetent idiocies, Mosby got nothing. Well, she got her face on TV, which seems to be what mattered most to her.

Mosby is running around insisting that if she’d only had a jury trial, she would have won (ignoring that the first jury deadlocked). She’s wrong:

A prosecutor who evaluates cases based on evidence and appropriately applied laws is actually charged with seeking convictions over justice, not the other way around. Mosby admitted to the nation she was not looking for convictions. The only other explanation was that she was looking to appease the angry citizens of Baltimore.

That would seem noble, except it’s not. Prosecutors have a serious job that comes with serious power. And the way they wield that power is extremely important. Politics and criminal law don’t mix well. That’s been on full display as Mosby’s prosecutors keep spinning wilder legal theories and, not surprisingly, keep getting handed acquittals.

The larger pity of this is that the acquittal overshadows some very serious problems in the Baltimore PD. The Justice Department recently issued the results of its investigation in the BPD. Balko, who calls the DOJ report “the worst I’ve ever seen” goes through it point-by-point. BPD has been told to make large numbers of stops and arrests, regardless of whether someone is committing a crime or not. Unsurprisingly, these arrests are concentrated in a handful of poor black neighborhoods. People are frequently detained, questioned and searched without probable cause (95% of them turn out to have no contraband or outstanding warrants). People have been strip-searched in public without probable cause, arrested without probable cause, made to “justify” their presence in public areas. Of thousands of complaint of excessive force, only a tiny number were investigated and only one resulted in discipline. BPD officers are routinely instructed to use excessive force, including being told to point their guns at people in non-violent situations to exert control.

This passage in particular is just jaw-dropping.

During a ride-along with Justice Department officials, a BPD sergeant instructed a patrol officer to stop a group of young African-American males on a street corner, question them, and order them to disperse. When the patrol officer protested that he had no valid reason to stop the group, the sergeant replied “Then make something up.”

Just so we’re clear, the sergeant not only instructed a subordinate to violate the men’s constitutional rights by concocting a lie, he did so while knowingly in the presence of DOJ monitors. That’s some serious cultural and institutional rot. In another incident, the report describes how several officers detained a man whose only offense was to be in a “high-crime area” with his hands in his pockets. (The DOJ report notes that it happened to be a cold January morning.) After repeated questioning, the officers found a (perfectly legal) kitchen knife in his possession. They then illegally arrested him. When he resisted, they beat and Tased him to the point that he needed medical care. He was never charged with a crime. In his report, the supervising sergeant praised the officers for their “great restraint and professionalism.”

Notorious police-state bootlicker Heather MacDonald posted a response that basically ignored everything in the report. It amounts to, “well, most crimes are committed by black people.” That’s true, but it does not justify routinely detaining, searching, arresting and harassing black people. It does not make standing on a corner being black probable cause. It does not justify ignoring almost all complaints of police brutality and misconduct. This is not either-or. It is perfectly reasonable to note that black people commit an astonishingly high proportion of crimes and that the BPD is engaging in astonishing unconstitutional practices that are tinged with racial bias.

One of the things we have seen is that when riots erupt, there is often a history. That does not justify the riots, obviously, since the riots only do more damage to the community and discredit the cause. But the Rodney King riots erupted after years of complaints about Darryl Gates’ LAPD. The Ferguson riots erupted after years of the city sustaining its unsustainable budget by fining and ticketing the shit out of its black citizenry. This report shows that the Baltimore riots erupted in a city engaging in incredibly aggressive policing that makes its citizens feel under siege.

Balko:

I can’t imagine what it must be like to get stopped by the police 20 or more times every year — to be arrested and jailed for nothing at all, to be stripped nude and searched in public for a traffic offense, or to be told it’s basically illegal for me to merely exist in public. I can’t imagine trying to have a life under those conditions, to raise kids, to just function as a human being — much less rise above my surroundings. I suppose defenders of these tactics will say that black neighborhoods are disproportionately targeted because that’s where most of the crime takes place. I don’t doubt that may be true. But your constitutional rights aren’t determined by the behavior of people who look like you, or by the behavior of the people who live in your neighborhood. Neither should the dignity and humanity afforded to you by the people who are supposed to be protecting you.

This, of course, only makes the riots all the more tragic. Peaceful demonstrations would have done a better job of highlighting these problems without alienating everyone*. But the violence doesn’t change the reality that BPD has a serious problem in its policing.

(*Possibly. The might also, as we’ve seen in several cities, provoked a militarized response anyway.)

A Scalia Smear

The Supreme Court, earlier this week, heard arguments in a case of whether affirmative action should be allowed in Texas Law schools. You may have heard about this because the entire Left Wing exploded into outrage over Scalia’s alleged racism:

Demonstrating once again that his reputation for cheap demagoguery has been well-earned, Senator Harry Reid this morning took a wild shot at Justice Antonin Scalia. “It is deeply disturbing,” Reid suggested, “to hear a Supreme Court justice endorse racist ideas from the bench of the nation’s highest court.”

What did Scalia say, precisely?

“There are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less­ advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well,” he said. “One of the briefs pointed out that most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas.”

That’s it. Scalia didn’t even advance the theory that admitting blacks to schools they are underqualified for only makes them struggle. He threw it out there as a discussion point to hear what the lawyers thought about it. You wouldn’t know this from the screaming headlines (the New York Daily News, which has completed its descent into pure Left Wing hysteria, had a screaming headline branding Scalia a racist).

Now there are reason to think that this theory is wrong. Recent studies have shown that black students admitted on affirmative action catch up quickly and have graduation rates similar to white students. However, others have argued that it keeps black students out of the more difficult subjects like science, where catching up is particularly difficult. This theory — not Scalia’s, but a common theory — is not far out of the mainstream at all. It’s been mentioned in prior SCOTUS decisions on this matter.

But this is a bit more dangerous than calling Scalia a racist. Alex Griswold

First of all, it’s worth noting that oral arguments are not an avenue for justices to share their views on the case at hand; it’s an opportunity to suss out any holes in the arguments of both parties. To that end, justices often advance arguments and theories they do not necessarily hold. Take for example Chief Justice John Roberts‘ extremely harsh questioning of government lawyers in NFIB v. Burwell, even though he eventually voted to uphold the individual mandate anyways.

Arguing before the Supreme Court is a notoriously nerve-wracking experience, since justices try to find arguments and lines of attack attorneys would never consider. In this case, the transcript make it clear that Scalia was asking a question about a theory put forward by others, not himself:

Scalia, in particular, has a tendency to play devil’s advocate. During the flag burning case, he asked if burning the flag could be banned by being considered fighting words. But he eventually decided with the majority to strike down the flag burning laws.

Charles Cooke, linked above, brings this home:

If we are to have a functioning justice system, we cannot hold lawyers personally responsible for the unpleasant parts of their designated roles. When a defense attorney successfully demonstrates that the prosecution’s case is too weak for a conviction, he is not betraying a preference for murder or rape or grievous bodily harm, he is ensuring that his client gets a fair shake. When a corporate counselor illustrates that a given statute is so badly written that it cannot be used to secure guilt, he is not endorsing whatever misconduct yielded the case in the first instance but upholding the rule of law. And when a Supreme Court justice pushes those before him to respond to the countervailing briefs — or offers whatever devil’s advocacy occurs to him on the spot — he is not pitching his own ideas but mediating a dispute. The day that we fail to understand this will be the day we give in to barbarism.

All too often these days we conflate principles with outcomes. Thus, to defend the free-speech rights of neo-Nazis is to be accused of endorsing their words. Thus, to protect the right to keep and bear arms is to be charged with complicity in its abuse. Thus, to oppose further government surveillance is to be lumped in with terrorists and hackers. During the 2013 Texas gubernatorial race, the Republican nominee offered the uncontroversial observation that, as attorney general, he was obliged to defend laws he personally opposed, and that this would have been the case during the 1960s, too. For this accurate appraisal of his professional responsibilities, his opponent labeled him a foe of interracial marriage. If this approach to government were to become quotidian, we would soon find ourselves living in a country ruled by men and not by law.

Raising points of law and discussion is Justice Scalia’s job. And … apparently … taking cheap shots at him is now the Democrat’s job.

Islamophobia. And Conservaphobia

By now, I’m sure you’ve seen Donald Trump responding to a question about how we can get rid of Muslims:

Confronted with a questioner who called Muslims a “problem” and asserted that President Obama is a Muslim and not American, Donald Trump did not correct him on Thursday night.

“We have a problem in this country, it’s called Muslims. Our current President is one. We know he’s not even an American,” said a questioner at a town hall in New Hampshire. “We have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That’s my question, when can we get rid of them?”

“A lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there. We’re going to be looking at that and a lot of different things,” Trump responded.

Trump has been a leading proponent of the discredited theory that Obama was not born in the United States.

I will be as fair as I can to Trump. Politicians tend to draw nuts to them. This is especially true of politicians who are perceived as outsiders challenging the system. Libertarians have had to deal with this kind of crap for decades. The nuts turn up not because they agree with Libertarian philosophy but because they are attracted to just about any political outsider. But even mainstream politicians get crazies. I’ve talked to Congressional staffers about some of the insane letters and calls they get from nutty constituents. Trump laughs nervously halfway through the question and doesn’t really address it. I don’t think he’s embracing the views expressed at all. He’s just not smacking it down.

That having been said, it’s been a couple of days and he’s had plenty of time to disown the man’s comments. He hasn’t. It won’t hurt him right now bceause part of Trump’s appeal to many is precisely that he doesn’t constantly apologize. But it’s yet another thing that could come back to bite him badly should he win the nomination and yet another reason for anti-Trumpers to dislike him. And it’s yet another way the GOP’s willingness to play footsie with the lunatic fringe has damaged the brand.

Here’s the thing, though. As bad as this question was and as bad as Trump’s response was, possibly the worst response has been that of the Left. They are gleefully citing this clip as an example of what conservatives are really like. They are trotting out every invective you can imagine. To hear them say it, conservatives a racist, bigoted, Religious Right fundies who want to purge the country of a religious minority.

And, to me, that’s much worse. The reason it’s worse is because the view that we need to rid our country of Muslims or that Obama is some kind of Islamic caliphatist Manchurian candidate is on the lunatic fringe. Someone says something like that and they are instantly branded as a nut. The question was so nutty, in fact, that some conservatives are wondering if he was a plant or if the question was a joke.

But the view that conservatives are evil racists is mainstream. It is propounded every day by mainstream blogs, mainstream pundits, mainstream comedians, mainstream politicians. And it has a far more malefic effect on our politics. Conservative views and conservative politicians are ignored because everyone knows they’re racist. Objections to things like Dodd-Frank and Obamacare — objections proving increasingly well-founded — were ignored because everyone knew the Republicans just opposed these laws because they were filled with hate.

The most dangerous tendency in politics is to see your political opponents as The Other. To see them as fundamentally deformed and immoral, rather than people who have a different set of values or a different perspective.

Conservatives, including myself, are not immune from this, obviously. We’ve had six years of people trying to tar Obama as a communist or an America-hater or whatever. But again, there’s a difference. The mainstream media writes those views off as irrational and partisan. But the view that conservatives are mean-spirited racists is never regarded as irrational and partisan; it’s regarded as a revealed truth.

No one has a monopoly on rationality or intelligence. I haven’t seen a political figure yet who didn’t have a good point about something. But this incident has once again revealed that the Left and their MSM dogwashers do believe they have a monopoly on racial and religious tolerance. And that’s not just wrong, it’s dangerous. Far more dangerous some fruit loop in New Hampshire who thinks we can get rid of Muslims.

The Culture War Rout Is On

So, this week George Takei called Clarence Thomas a “clown in black face” for this dissent in Obergefell. He has since apologized for the remark, claiming that he said it in a moment of anger.

As you know, I’m not one for the Outrage of the Day. What set Takei off was Thomas’ argument that government can not take away your dignity no matter what it does; dignity is intrinsic. Thomas used the internment camps as an example and Takei, who was interred, was angered by that comparison. That’s understandable.

However …

The reaction to Takei’s remarks has little to do with him. It has everything to do with a racial smear campaign that has pursued Clarence Thomas since the day he joined the Court. Just as Takei’s comments have their origin in his long experience with racial and anti-gay discrimination, the backlash to them has its origin in 24 years of liberals slagging Clarence Thomas, all too often in racist language. Thomas is a race traitor. Thomas is an Uncle Tom. Thomas doesn’t know his history. Thomas is an idiotic sock puppet of Scalia (actually, the Scalia-Thomas pairing isn’t even in the top ten for SCOTUS). Thomas never writes any significant opinions (I recently cited his wonderful dissent in Kelo; he’s written many many others).

We’re told that Thomas doesn’t understand or care about race relations. We’re told this of a man who was born in the segregationist South; who experienced vile racism in his early life; who was and is an admirer of Malcolm X; who is thoroughly versed in our country’s racial history; who can cite you chapter and verse about how our country has perverted the law and the Constitution to screw over black people. Thomas is well aware of his race, conscious of it and proud of it. But he the temerity to disagree with liberals about how the Constitution should be applied to the law. And so none of that matters.

But there’s something here even beyond the usual Clarence Thomas race-baiting. Let’s take a step back. For the last week, numerous Republicans have been responding angrily to the gay marriage and Obamacare decisions. Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal, among others, have questioned the Court’s legitimacy. We’re told that this is a sign of how insane Republicans are. But … you’ll see equal amounts of rage from the Left when the Court doesn’t go there way. Hell, just last week, people were responding to Scalia’s dissent with angry tweets and articles about Bush v. Gore and Citizens United, decisions which liberals responded to by … gasp! … questioning the legitimacy of the Court.

Look, it’s understandable that people get mad at the Court when it makes decisions they don’t like. Hell, I’m still upset about Kelo. That’s fine. I really don’t see anything unusual or alarming about anti-gay-marriage politicians being angry about the recent decisions. We have to accept the Court’s decisions as a matter of law; but that does not mean we have to accept them into our hearts. Be angry when you think the Court has gotten it wrong.

What’s striking, however, is how angry the Left gets when they win. Granted, most of the Left is just plain happy about last week’s decisions. But there’s a not insignificant faction that’s just furious that the conservative bench had the nerve to dissent.

As Clark at Popehat recently noted, the Culture War in this country has had two distinguishing features: an incredible series of wins for the Left and an even more incredible series of whinges about it:

The problem I have is that the blue alliance has been on a winning streak, and with recent Blue success in gay marriage, immigration of client populations, university-and-media roll-up, etc. I feel like the culture war is over and the victors are going around (metaphorically) humiliating and shooting survivors of the losing side, and conducting mop-up operations. Witness team Blue forcing bakers to bake cakes and forcing photographers to shoot photos for partnerships that they consider immoral. Witness blue team arguing that innocent people should go to jail for rape, because – and I’m quoting Ezra Klein here – we “need to create a world where men are afraid.” Red team men, I take that to mean. Football players. Frat boys. Not nice guys like Ezra.

Look at how the reasonable Left, who would never question the legitimacy of the Court, responded to last year’s Hobby Lobby decision. Just to remind you: the Supreme Court decided that the government could force almost all employers to provide unrestricted contraception coverage to their employees. But because of the RFRA, they decided that a small subset of businesses — privately owned or closely held businesses — could refuse coverage for a small subset of birth control methods that they considered abortificients. It’s exactly the kind of compromise that the Left always claims to want; one that respects our diverse and pluralistic country. In fact, it’s better: they got about 99.5% of what they wanted, with a small bone thrown to religious conservatives. Even better, the Court’s decisions was grounded in a law that can be repealed, not in any supposed First Amendment rights of corporations. By any definition, it was a big win for them.

And yet .. the “reasonable left” who would never question the legitimacy of the Court, responded by proclaiming that we were in a corporate theocracy. They disparaged Catholics on the Court. We were told that it turned back the clock on women’s rights. You can see a bunch of “reasonable” tweets here, including a comparison to Plessy vs. Ferguson (remember when Republicans comparing SCOTUS decisions to Dred Scott was over the line? Good times.)

That’s when they “lose” by such a tiny amount it’s really a huge victory. But last week, the Left won outright. And granted, most liberals are responding with jubilation. My FB feed filled with happy posts about the victory of gay rights. But there is a noisy faction that have spent the last week poring through the dissenting opinions to find something, anything to get in a tizzy over. Jon Stewart has done multiple segments mocking the dissenting opinions and the politicians who didn’t like the rulings. And then, of course, you had Monday’s afterbirth when liberals screamed that the Court has “struck down” limits on mercury emissions (it did nothing of the kind).

So, on it’s own, Takei’s remarks are nothing — something dumb said out of anger. But in the larger context, it was the intersection of two ugly trends: racial animosity toward Clarence Thomas and incessant left-wing whinging about a political battle they have won.

So, yeah, Takei’s apology is fine (Thomas, I suspect, does not care either way). But it’s nothing compared to the long smear campaign against Clarence Thomas and the vitriol with which far too much of the Left has responded to a decision that went their way.

The Culture War is over, guys. You’ve won. Hell, I’m on your side for most of these social issues. We’ve won. Do you really have to ride down your defeated foe?

Biker Wars

So, someone enlighten me. After this weekend’s shootout in Waco between two biker gangs that left nine dead and 18 wounded, we started getting a bunch of think pieces from the usual liberal outlets about how the media coverage of this awfulness was “different”.

Those who are using what happened in Waco to start conversations about stereotypes and media biases against black people aren’t complaining about the tenor of this weekend’s media coverage. They’re saying something a little different: that by being pretty reasonable and sticking to the facts, this coverage highlights the absurdity of the language and analysis that have been deployed in other instances, when the accused criminals are black.

I have no idea what Vox is on about. The coverage of this weekend’s events was not very different from the coverage of any other violence. You can read Ed Morrissey here where he talks about the many politicians who have denounced these gangs, the efforts law enforcement has made to reign them in, the arrest of almost two hundred gang members and the efforts made to prevent this before the weekend even started. No one is downplaying this or pretending this isn’t a problem. No one is failing to denounce them as violent thugs. And no one is trying to claim that this event was somehow justified.

Another line of commentary that’s predictable in media coverage and commentary surrounding violence involving black people has to do with black cultural pathology.

Politicians and pundits are notorious for grasping for problems in African-American communities — especially fatherlessness — to explain the kind of violence that, when it happens in a white community, is treated as an isolated crime versus an indictment of an entire racial group’s way of life.

The total absence around the Waco incident of analysis of struggles and shortfalls within white families and communities is a painful reminder of this.

What a bunch of crap. The difference between violence in the black community and violence in the white community is scale. Black people are six times as likely to be murdered as white people and eight times likelier to be involved in a murder. The community in Waco is not nearly as dysfunctional and crime-ridden as Baltimore is. Saying that violence is more endemic to black communities than white ones isn’t racism; it’s a fact.

Now what we make of that fact, how we respond to it; that’s a different ballgame. Then it’s reasonable to discuss institutional racism, the collapse of families, the cycle of violence, the destruction of inner cities, the War on Drugs, etc. I also think it’s perfectly reasonable to question why people get involved in biker gangs or why the media tend to romanticize biker gangs and have previously failed to report on biker violence. But let’s not pretend that a shootout in Waco reflects violence in our nation the same way the constant drumbeat of death and destruction in our inner cities does (Baltimore, to make one example, has had 34 murders just since Freddie Gray died).

And frankly, outlets like Vox are in a glass house on this. They seem to think it’s wrong for conservatives to talk about absent fathers as a contributor to violence. But it’s OK to discuss racism, decaying infrastructure and failing schools?

But the key thing to understand is that the criticism here is not really of the coverage of what happened in Waco. It’s of the juxtaposition of what happened here with what happens when the people involved are of a different color. The message is not that the conversation about Waco should be overblown, hypercritical of an entire culture, or full of racial subtext. It’s despair over the sense that if the gang members were black, it almost certainly would be.

Bullshit. There are about thirty mass shootings a year in this country, many of them involving gang violence. Almost of all of them are ignored by the media. In fact, I expect think pieces next week about why the media doesn’t cover shootings between black gangs with the same intensity they covered this one.

Salon, of course, takes the cake, wondering why the events in Waco weren’t called a riot (mainly because … there wasn’t a riot). CNN wonders why we react to Muslim violence more sharply than biker violence (because no biker gang ever murdered 3000 people). NPR wonders why the National Guard wasn’t called out (because all the perpetrators were arrested and the violence finished on the first day).

You can read a response from National Review, that points out that the media has had no problem labeling riots as such when it involves white sports fans or college students.

And who, precisely, is denying that organized crime syndicates are thuggish? Isn’t that generally what is meant by “biker gang”? No one is arguing that these were the Wild Hogs.

I understand that people get frustrated when conservations about the excessive use of force by police or the militarization of police gets sidelined into discussion of black-on-black violence. It is possible to denounce both at the same time (as indeed most people do). But trying to sandwich media coverage of the Waco shooting into that discussion is a stretch at best.

Sorry, guys. This isn’t about the media. This is about a bunch of thugs who started a brawl that resulted in nine people being killed (including, most likely, several killed by the police trying to deal with the situation). No one is defending them. No one is romanticizing them. No one is pretending this was something other than a vile incident. And if the result is crackdowns on other violent gangs, almost everyone is fine with that.

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.