Thursday, November 30, 2006

The N-Word and Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Thought

The Michael Richards "Nigger"-laced rant set me to musing. Richards lost it. He stopped being funny, but there was a point where everyone waited for the punchline. As one audience member said, "It never came."

The outrage and media management and apologies happened on cue. The whole process was boring in its predictability. The only truly pained person seemed to be Jerry Seinfeld. Here, Jerry's friend, his former co-worker used words in a shockingly aggressive and abusive way. Jerry knows the strain of stand-up. Jerry knows the pain of discrimination. Besides Seinfeld's angst, the whole thing seemed to be a typically contrived circus started by one racist's words.

Alas, what did Michael Richard's outburst reveal about artistic freedom and freedom of expression in general? Some humorists have focused their acts on poking fun of and stereotyping whole segments of the population--using ugly words, to boot. In fact, Chris Rock, while not calling an audience member a "nigger" did elucidate the difference between black people and "niggers" in his stand-up routine. Wait, that's OK because Rock is the right color.

And then there is Madonna splaying herself on a cross in one scene and dry-humping a male dancer in another--all for art. She is only the most well-known purveyor of pushing the envelope. And it's OK, because the Catholic Church is Christian and deserving of contempt.

Watching CNN issue its warnings and grim-faced reporting around the Richard's rant made me laugh. Pictures of blood-splattered Israeli dance halls blown to smithereens by suicide-bombers don't receive the same overwrought fear for American's delicate eyes and ears. Why should a past-prime ranting comedian?

Dr. Sanity gets more to the point. She says this:

I am, of course, waiting to see the site champion Michael Richard's racist rant, which Gloria Alred insists isn't free speech, but is "hate speech". I will be waiting until the cows come home, I fear, because the minions of the left are incapable of making such an abstract connection. To them, "hate speech" is any speech they happen to oppose, and it most certainly does not include speech by those poor, oppressed terrorists (terrorism doesn't actually exist in their minds except as a natural response to the evil of American Imperialism, Bush, or Israeli oppression--take your pick). For them, it is only really truly "hate speech" if the hate is directed at one of their specially-designated victim groups who are deemed to require special laws to protect their civil rights. Did you know that the left is deeply concerned about religious intolerance....but only for Muslims (one of their newest addition to their special victims unit) and NOT, of course, for the pervasive and nitpicking intolerance they routinely exhibit toward any symbol, word, or expression of Christianity. Now, isn't that shocking?

This sort of cognitive dissonance and intellectual insanity is not because they are particularly ignorant of the U.S. Constitution. Rather, it is because as Duke suggests, they have a very specific political agenda that has been slowly but surely changing American society into their utopia. This "social engineering" on their part doesn't give a damn about free speech except insofar as it can be used to forward their socialist agenda. It doesn't give a damn about freedom of religion, except insofar as it can be used to forward their socialist agenda.
She goes on to say that it's perfectly acceptable to throw hate speech at certain targets--President Bush, Americans, Jews, Israel, Christians. Like the aforementioned Madonna, who tramples Catholic symbols with glee, or Andrew Sullivan who "outs" Mormon "Christianist" religious garments while extolling Madonna's praise. That's free speech. That's OK because the targets are bad.

Free Speech is just a quaint notion used to forward a political position--the "correct" position. Otherwise, everyone else is branded as using hate speech. For example? John Ridley calls out Jesse Jackson, a social engineer extraordinaire, for his hypocrisy:
The big news coming out of this meeting of minds is that Jackson, as supreme leader of all things black, has launched Operation N-word Freedom, a campaign to liberate the nation (finally!) from the dreaded N-word. Jesse now challenges all black people everywhere to "give our ancestors a present." No, not the gift of elevation though education and hard work. Jesse wants us to stop using hurtful words.

Jesse wants this?

Jesse Jackson, the same cat who once referred to Jews as "hymies" and New York as "Hymietown"? This same guy who denied it when the statement was made public, kept up the denial after the journalist who reported his slur had his life threatened, and only under immense pressure finally admitted that, well, perhaps he'd made a slip of the tongue? Twice?

And he wants to lecture us regarding the usage of hurtful words?

I am all for having open and intelligent discourse on the word "nigger." What I am wholly against are hypocrites who sling hate in private, then smile to us while they lie, telling the rest of us that intellectual debate is closed.

Sorry, Mr. Jackson, but the America I support through paying taxes in my over-inflated bracket allows me not to bow down automatically to your linguistic fatwas. Not all of us quake and quiver before mere words.
Oprah interviewed Jay-Z, I think it was, in a recent issue and begged him to stop using the "N-word" in rap. She feels that it is an offensive word and just doesn't want it used, ala Jesse Jackson. The response was tepid. He talked about reclaiming the word and artistic freedom. In the artistic world, the world she is part of by the way, a world where she bashed hamburgers or some such and found herself in the position of defending her free speech, one would think that she would be sympathetic to an artist's pushing the limits, but that all depends on what the limits are and if she agrees with them. Are they "good"limits or "bad" limits? Sounds very moral and churchy, doesn't it?

Jeff Goldstein, getting his groove back, posted today about the speech police at John Hopkins inflicting serious harm on a student for inadvertently bumbling across the P.C. Barrier:
I’ve told this story before, but while I was teaching, a friend of mine was hauled before a review board because one of his Black students found Faulkner’s “Barn Burning” both “offensive” and “harrassing”— specifically, its use of the word “nigger.”

No sanctions were leveled against my buddy, but the very fact that he was required to put on a suit and tie and go present a defense reveals all one need know about the contemporary academy: no longer a place for the free exchange of ideas so much as a place where, particularly in the humanities and social sciences, the “correct” ideas, framed in the “proper” language, are celebrated, reiterated, and reinforced.

Like a church, almost.

He continues:
In the current case, this student is, in effect, being forcibly re-educated by the Hopkins administration; and the reason for this is that nowadays, instead of teaching students how to think, universities are more and more concerned with making sure students know what to think. And to that end, they are too often willing to resort to intellectual totalitarianism to fend off any potential opportunity for giving “offense,” including restrictive pre-emptive speech codes.

Such, naturally, has the very practical effect of stifling debate and winnowing down “acceptable” intellectual positions that may otherwise find fertile ground in discussions. And without those perspectives, mere assertions, by dint of going unchallenged, become articles of secular faith.

In short, we have reached the point where we have sacrificed inquiry at the altar of appearances, polishing and re-polishing the sham veneer of utopian order that tops the entire cheap edifice. Which is funny, because I’d bet that many of the 60s leftists who brought about the transformation of eductation by introducing postmodern sensibilities into the academy would never have imagined themselves to be the second coming of the Victorians.

One commenter points out that a closer analogy would be Stalinists, but Goldstein responds (and I'm paraphrasing) that he used the church analogy because it would be more offensive to the P.C. crowd. Stalin actually ain't so bad to them.

Will the artists notice the tiny circle they've drawn around themselves? My guess is that it won't bother them at all--as long as everyone is forced into the zealous, true-believer circle with them. One sacred world where no bad words (depending on who they're said to and said by), no bad thoughts and perfect purity is wrought. I wonder if this forced conversion will come at the point of the sword.


Chalmers said...

The thing that I find very sad about CNN warning people is that the other day I watched (in horror) as CNN repeatedly showed a snuff film. It was video footage from some teen boot camp where a young man was beaten to death. I am not making a statement about whether the employees at the boot camp were guilty, just a statement on the irony of CNN worrying about harsh language, but not about presenting video footage of the death of a human.

H. Lewis Smith said...


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