Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Here’s the post where I’m accused of defending Donald Sterling

Oh boy. The title of this post alone makes me wish I could have a swig of whiskey before reading.

Mat Walsh writes:

It’s really a fascinating thing, when you think about it.

Even a culture like ours — a culture dedicated to hedonism and relativism — has to put on a show every once in a while and pretend it has some semblance of a moral standard. It shows you that those philosophers and theologians were actually onto something when they wrote about Natural Law. And/or society/culture/people are much more complex than you understand them to be.

Deep down, in the pit of our being, there exists a need to be good and virtuous; but if being good and virtuous is too hard, then at least we need to find a halfway convincing substitute. Only demons and psychotics would stand and openly proclaim their own evil — the rest of us can act the part, but we still feel the urge to get up and play Morality Charades on occasion.  OR, people try to be good and virtuous, and being human, often fail, but, nevertheless, still hold fast to certain moral principles (say, not denying the humanity of any human beings) because they really do care about these principles. And maybe, just maybe, their list of things they get morally outraged about is different from your list, because they are viewing issues from a different perspective, with a different (more accurate, or less accurate) set of facts? For example, Matt, if you come to different conclusions than me about certain issues because you happen to lack accurate knowledge and insight into the broader dimensions of the situation, I do not assume your concern about moral issues is any less genuine than mine.

That’s what comes to mind when I see the reaction to the story about Donald Sterling. If you don’t watch the news (and these days I highly recommend that you don’t), I’ll fill you in on THE SCANDAL OF THE CENTURY:

Sterling is an old, crazy, rich, (alleged) racist who happens to own the LA Clippers. Being old, crazy, and rich, and living in California, he also has a pretty progressive love life. He left his wife a while back and started shacking up with his young west coast mistress. Now, his wife has quite unfairly accused the mistress of gold-digging, all because she just so happened to fall madly in love with a rich married man who showered her with Bentleys, diamonds, and cash.

(It happens to the best of us. Stop judging.)

The wife filed a lawsuit against the mistress, and the mistress allegedly swore to ‘get even.’ Getting even, in this case, evidently involved coaxing her lover into making some very inane and very racist comments, while secretly recording the exchange. To give you an idea of just how inane and racist:

Sterling allegedly tells his *minority* mistress that he doesn’t mind if she has sex with minorities, but he doesn’t want her to be seen in public with them.

Well, this audio tape SOMEHOW made its way to that bastion of journalistic integrity known as TMZ — although the girlfriend totally had nothing to do with that, she says.

In a normal and sane society, this sordid soap opera would never be discussed outside of gossip magazines and entertainment shows, because there’s nothing very newsworthy about it. A wealthy, morally bankrupt adulterer in Los Angeles professed some unsavory views, behind closed doors, to his manipulative morally bankrupt girlfriend.



And this man has a prominent position in an industry that plays a significant role in the African American community. And this man is one among others who have recently made blatantly racist comments, allowing us to reflect upon racial progress in American society. And this man's comments are demonstrative of the attitudes and thoughts of the strata of society that is effectively running this country. And sports are really popular in America, and sports related scandals always ALWAYS monopolize airtime in mainstream media outlets.

Remember the OJ Simpson trial?

Donald Sterling can say and think whatever he wants to say and think. Given his situation, I’m not particularly surprised that he says and thinks offensive things. In fact, his overall lifestyle is far more repugnant than his ludicrous statements about black people.  Sleeping around is far more repugnant than condemning an entire race of people? I see...

(*Note* this post originally identified his wife as his “ex-wife.” They are not divorced, I was mistaken. This man is publicly breaking his marriage vows, but still we find his discriminatory racial views to be the most offensive thing about him.  Yeah, how crazy, because it is so obvious that having an affair is such much worse, and so much more harmful to more people, than having discriminatory racial views, especially when you happen to employ racial minorities.)

We permit and even celebrate most forms of evil and debauchery in our society, so our Moral Outrage energy is stored, ready to be unleashed anytime an old white guy utters something untoward about minorities. Having removed sins like baby-killing, pornography, sex-trafficking, and infidelity from the ‘Things to Get Upset About’ column wait.. who is saying that sex trafficking is no big deal?, this seems to be among the only universally-recognized evils remaining. Removing sex trafficking from the list, the other issues all relate to sex, are largely personal decisions, and lend themselves to a variety of reasonable viewpoints in the U.S. A lot of people - even many of your ideological opponents - are not apathetic about or even supportive of (in the sense of liking) abortion, porn, or extramarital affairs. (Although they may have different views on how feasible or safe it is to try to stop these behaviors.) Adultery, promiscuity, prostitution, even abortion have all been common throughout human history. This doesn't necessarily mean they are good things or don't have negative consequences, but they are largely outgrowths of other social forces (you would have to start looking at the foundation of our economy, inequality, the status of women, the relation of family structures to other economic activity, etc. - all things Liberal People do like to discuss with passion, but unfortunately also things you hate to think about, Matt, so sorry).

Racism is a force in and of itself. That is why one's reaction to an individual's extramarital affair might reasonably be different than one's reaction to acts of racism. Racism is inherently not personal. Things are said, actions are taken, attitudes are formed because of group affiliation, not because of any personal interactions that have occurred. And more than that, personal histories and interactions are always pervaded by that impersonal context of intergroup relations.

Now, I can hear you saying, "But sometimes history and social structure and whatever just don't matter. Sometimes I, Matt (who happens to be white), am just talking to Sarah (who happens to be black) and nothing that goes on between us has anything to do with slavery or Jim Crow or racial profiling. Sometimes race does not matter at all! And how absurd it is for you to suggest that race always matters!"

Well, it is true that you can have many conversations with people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds and not consciously think about race or ethnicity at all (whether you are ever, truly "blind" to race, or can refrain from thinking about it at all is another, irrelevant matter that I don't even want to touch). However, it is an enduring fact of human sociality that you can never interact with another person in a social vacuum. You are always drawing upon societal resources, ordering your thoughts according to social structures, bringing social history and habits to bear in largely unconscious ways. "Is society a prison, then?" Eh, that's another irrelevant question that I don't want to discuss at the moment.

Here is the point. Race plays a very important role in the history and structure of American society. Obviously, the early American economy was founded upon the racial divisions that enabled the enslavement of a large population of people. Racial divisions continue to be important to the myriad of political, economic, and cultural forces that constitute our society. Even very particular instances of racism are noteworthy for the way they bring to bear and simultaneously reproduce broader systems of inequality.

In short: people want to talk about race, because race is very, very important in the functioning of American society. Race has always been one of the most important forces in American society. Ignoring race/racism does us no favors. Some people place racism very high on their Moral Outrage list because they do not want to live in a society that is premised on the exploitation and dehumanization of an entire group of people.  For some people, treating a large segment of the human population as sub-human is just a tad bit worse than cheating on a spouse.

In that vein, Matt, here is how some people perceive the selectivity of your list of Things to Get Outraged About. Ignore most human suffering, and in fact, vocally support damaging policies and systems that, for example, leave a quarter of American children without secure access to food. Ask, "what's the big deal?" when people complain about racism. Give no thought to the destruction of the planet. But get totally, utterly INFURIATED about people's sex lives and women who don't like it when other women are called "bossy."

I guess that explains why the media has pushed this to the front of their headlines, and the President of the United States of America took time out of his trip to Asia to bloviate about it. Oh, Matt, do you not understand how the media works? CNN has been devoting 95% of its time to a missing airplane for the last 2 months. Media are run by corporations, driven by profit motive, and consequently prize entertainment value over newsworthiness.

And, since I love nothing more than to spoil an overdone, media-hyped Outrage Party, I have a few comments of my own to make:

1) President Obama jumped onto this story immediately after the gossip merchants at TMZ broke the ‘news.’ You’d think, as the President of the United States on an important trip overseas, his remarks would be along these lines: “Yeah, that guy said some messed up stuff. Good thing he’s not an elected official, no crime was committed, nobody was hurt, and none of this has any relevance to the lives of any American who isn’t dating Donald Sterling. Next question.”

That’s how a president who respects his office might respond. But a president who never misses an opportunity to reinforce his progressive racial narrative would instead give a lengthy and thorough statement, which includes this little gem: “The United States continues to wrestle with a legacy of race and slavery and segregation that’s still there — the vestiges of discrimination.”

Being a president is a mostly symbolic role, and the public statements of all presidents have reflected that. Presidents have commented on seemingly trivial issues (but racism is by no means a trivial issue) for symbolic reasons, and used events (of all levels of significance) to highlight certain narratives. (Look at how 9/11 got us into Iraq....) That is what presidents do.

Yes, he really did paint the LA Clipper owner’s ridiculous, private comments to his girlfriend as some kind of symptom of a larger national issue.  Gasp! Noooo!!!  But that's soo unfair, because we clearly do not have any larger national issue related to race. We live in a wonderful post-racial utopia. Donald Sterling’s stupid opinions about minorities couldn’t just be Donald Sterling’s stupid opinions about minorities – it has to be an indication that the legacy of slavery still thrives nationwide.   It exists in Donald Sterling’s heart, so therefore it exists in America as a whole; lingering in the air we breathe, infecting our souls, and turning us into Republicans.  Sigh.... see all of my comments above; learn a little bit more about race.

Besides, when it comes to commenting on domestic scandals, President Obama will never live down his cowardly refusal to speak out against Kermit Gosnell. Here was a man who, for thirty years, murdered black infants in his Philadelphia abortion clinic, while his activities were allowed to continue because of the complacency and tacit approval of local, state, and federal agencies. Here was a man who segregated his waiting room by race, and gave better, safer treatment to white patients. Here was a man involved in a murderous scandal that implicated — and still implicates — every level of political authority, and resulted in hundreds of born infants being decapitated, stabbed, and drowned in toilets.

What did Obama say about it?

“I can’t comment.” Abortions should be “safe, legal and rare,” he said, but he “can’t comment.”

“I can’t comment.”

The ONE time his comments would be needed, warranted, and appropriate, and he declined

He declined to take a really strong stance on gay rights, too. And then he switched up his strategy a little bit because the timing was convenient.

That's because, that's how all presidents operate. There are certain constraints that they have to work within, and other people have some control over their speech. Yeah, politics is theater...

Forget everything else the man has done. Forget everything else he’s said. All you need to know about Barack Obama the man, and Barack Obama the President, can be summed up by the fact that he immediately and forcefully commented when a black Harvard professor was arrested by a white cop; he immediately and forcefully commented when a black teenager was killed by a Hispanic neighborhood watchman; and he immediately and forcefully commented when a white NBA owner allegedly made some insulting comments about black people — but when an abortionist was allowed to murder black infants for thirty years in the middle of an American city, he said nothing.

He's commented about lots of things, often immediately. See above comments. Also, if you are trying to argue that Obama is somehow privileging the concerns of African Americans, I need only point you to his actual policies, which are pretty detrimental to people of color.  Even his response to recent action surrounding the racial biases pervading the criminal justice system have been very weak. If he is helping out any race more than others, it is white people. Rich white people. Like all presidents. Ever.

In all three of the cases where he did comment, the facts weren’t yet fully known, and the incident had no relevance outside of the area where it occurred. In Gosnell’s case, the facts were established, and the incident encompassed a wide range of local, state, and federal authorities. Yet on the first three he pounced, while on the last case he ran for the hills.

That’s all you need to know about Barack Obama.  When you're a fan of ignorance, it most certainly is.

2. The LA City Council is drafting a resolution calling for the NBA to sanction Sterling, and labeling his comments as, somehow, a violation of ‘human rights.’ Because we all have a human right to… not be insulted by people in the privacy of their homes…?

Really?  The "human rights" discourse emerged in the wake of WW2, and concerns about racial prejudice have always been part of the discourse.

The NBA can do whatever it wants here. I don’t care. However, no government authority has any business getting involved in any capacity whatsoever, unless there are laws in Los Angeles against telling your girlfriend not to go to basketball games with Magic Johnson. I don’t think any such law exists, but I know that a California law against secretly recording private conversations does exist.

Who's talking about getting government authority involved? Another Matt Walsh fabrication....

By the way, I find it interesting that you are a big defender of freedom for private businesses to make whatever decisions they want.... unless the decisions have to do with firing people who are racist or support homophobic causes. http://xkcd.com/1357/

Therefore, interestingly, if the government steps in at all, the law requires them to step in on behalf of Donald Sterling.

But they probably won’t, because we’ve given up on the law, and we’ve given up on free speech.

We’ve given up on it so completely that I will be accused of racism simply for making that statement (see: the comments under this post). Doesn't calling you a racist fall under the umbrella of free speech? Or is it only free speech when people are saying things you like?

3. Al Sharpton is threatening a boycott. I’m still waiting for Al Sharpton to boycott himself for his anti-Jewish comments, anti-gay comments, and anti-Mormon comments. Not to mention the time when he helped stir up racial hysteria over a rape hoax, or the other time he helped stir up racial hysteria over a rape hoax, or the time when he incited black mobs to attack Jews in Crown Heights, or the time when he got involved in drug deals before turning snitch for the FBI. I’m waiting for Sharpton to boycott himself for the crime of being Sharpton — i.e. just an overall lying, shameless, despicable, crook.  Yeah, you better check your sources, Matt. And I would recommend trying something other than the Daily Mail or NY Times for once.

4. Various rappers have come out of the wordwork to express their dismay over Sterling’s remarks. It’s impossible to ignore the irony when we get this kind of faux-indignation from the precise people responsible for hurting more black kids in more ways than a thousand Donald Sterlings ever could.

Riiiight. Because:  1) All hip hop is exactly the same with the same types of lyrics and rappers never write lyrics of that uplift people of color or incite them to positive action. and 2) The rappers who write the sort of stuff you eagerly reproduce below are not the pawns of rich, white recording industry execs trying to sell an exaggerated, distorted version of African American culture to mainstream audiences.

But you always prefer to believe that black people are more to blame for the social condition of black people than rich white people with lots of power. (It's almost like you have a bias against black people or something)

Racist NBA owners might result in hurt feelings, but the self-destructive culture peddled by these record industry predators results in funerals and prison time for black inner city children. I’m happy to know that Snoop Dogg — writer of such poetic lyrics as “b*tches ain’t sh*t but hoes and tricks” — thinks that Sterling should be ashamed of his repulsive rhetoric. Now that we know how sensitive Snoop Dogg is, let’s just hope he never listens to a Snoop Dogg song.

Lil Wayne also came forward to register his disapproval. This is the same guy who recently wrote lyrics where he called Emmett Till — the 14 year old black kid murdered for flirting with a white woman in the 50′s — a ‘p*ssy.’

But Mr. Wayne is, you know, super sensitive to the historical plight of black Americans. Says Mr. Sensitive to Black Americans.

5. If anything should come of this ordeal, it ought to finally be the complete dismantling of the NAACP. The organization was scheduled to give Sterling a ‘lifetime achievement award’ in a few weeks. They’ve since rescinded, but their backtrack doesn’t get them off the hook. If Sterling really has a LIFETIME of ACHIEVING things in the name of civil rights and racial tolerance, wouldn’t they perhaps be a little hesitant to throw the guy under the bus? They sure seem to have cut Sharpton a ton of slack. But if he was only going to be given the honor because he’s a wealthy guy and the NAACP is nothing but a political arm of the Democrat Party, then the move makes sense.  Unless, some of your information is incorrect (see correction at the bottom). So which is it, NAACP? Are you betraying this man who, as you formerly claimed, has dedicated an entire lifetime to achieving racial unity, or are you a bunch of Democrat shills doling out political favors?

Hmmm, this is quite the perplexing riddle, isn’t it?

6. Finally, it’s no skin off my nose if Donald Sterling gets cast out into the shadows with Mel Gibson and Kramer, but, for the sake of minor little things like integrity and accuracy, I do feel the need to wonder aloud about whether or not these tapes should be automatically trusted, without any sort of due diligence done ahead of time.

You are so concerned about people rushing to conclusions about Donald Sterling. Yet, you have no problem jumping to conclusions about the actions and motivations of his girlfriend (who is obviously a conniving bitch... or in yours words, a "manipulative morally bankrupt girlfriend").

(You also have a tendency to blame women for things... coincidence?)

These are illegal recordings given to a gossip site by a gold-digging mistress with a grudge. It seems at least possible that they could be doctored or manipulated in some way. It also seems quite possible that they weren’t. I don’t know. But isn’t it the job of the news media to verify these things BEFORE they put it all over the front page? And wouldn’t it behoove the President of the United States of America to wait until the tape is confirmed before he registers an opinion about it?

‘No comment’ — remember, that’s what he said about Gosnell.

Maybe that’s what he should have said about this.

Maybe that’s what we should all say about this.

Too late.


There’s been much discussion over Sterling’s political affiliation. From what I can tell, he’s a registered Republican who’s donated to Democrats. His (previous) affiliation with the NAACP also seems to indicate that the dude isn’t exactly Pat Buchanan. Still, it doesn’t matter. His politics are irrelevant. Donald Sterling is in the Party of Donald Sterling.

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