Imus, Locke and Bigots

Tim is acknowledging that he ruffled some feathers with his approach to blogger’s code of conduct.  But the trolls still are busy trying to drown the conversation and change the subject.  I was having trouble understanding why some of these people were so angry at Tim, until I found the blog of the dude who made the “noose in Kathy’s neck size” comment.

It looks like someone tracked down the identities of a few of the perpetrators, and the perps are in full CYA mode.  It reminds me a whole lot of Imus’s “I have some black people renting on my ranch” comment.  I really don’t have a bone to pick with these people (everyone makes mistakes), but I’ll share some of the links here to make a broader point.

First, though, I want to address this comment from Rogers Cadenhead (who isn’t a perp, just defending what he believes in):

“In retrospect, though, it seems pretty clear to me that when Kathy posted her now-famous blog entry, anger and fear led you both to combine two things — her anonymous, criminal tormenter(s) and the non-anonymous, non-criminal, mostly harmless stuff that went on at Mean Kids.”

It’s true that the two need to be separated.  I spearated them from the beginning, but I don’t give meankids a free pass.  This line of reasoning seems a lot like Imus saying “emotion caused you to combine two things — mean old bigots in Alabama, and harmless old me doing comedy”Imus tried that line of reasoning, and it didn’t work.  The fact that the two things can be so easily conflated is not permission to cross the line, it is a resposibility to be extra cautious.

More instructive (or disturbing) is Shelley Powers response on the same thread.  It is apparent that Shelley is feeling threatened or attacked over this, which was a surprise to me:

“Why no mention that the person who posted the noose photo was a woman, and she did so based on a joking request made by Kathy herself. Why nothing on that Bert?

You continue, Bert, and this is going to backfire against you. From what I can see, the people who have a legitimate reason to take anything to the courts, are the ones you are continually harassing, and the ones who were erroneously associated with death threats, and whose lives and potentially careers have been impacted. …

It’s unfortunate both sites were taken down, because looked at in the whole, the first was harmless, and I’ll bet the second one was, too. That one post on Maryam, yes that was ugly. And the person who wrote it deserves to be slammed for it. But it wasn’t a threat and it wasn’t illegal.”

Great, so Shelley is telling us the following:

  1. Some of the comments weren’t threats and they weren’t illegal, so that makes it OK.  I guess that clears Imus too.  There is nothing illegal about calling women working to better their lives, “nappy headed hos”.
  2. A woman participated in the fray, so clearly there can’t be any misogyny involved.  I will read Shelley’s future posts about “women in technology” very differently, now that I know this.
  3. If anyone tries to link the nasty, permissive environment (nooses and all) with the actual death threats that emerged, they better look out.  I’m not sure what the punishment will be, but don’t dare speak up and say that Locke and crew might have been responsible for creating this environment.

This is the same Shelley Powers who yesterday lectured Scoble publicly for “demeaning” his wife, when his wife has a public blog and said no such thing (and has no problem speaking for herself).  This is the same Shelley who blogs publicly about how “diverse” she is because she watched a “Chinese Couple” walk around her apartment complex in Missouri (or something like that).  No Chinese woman I know would walk five steps behind any man (and would be insulted/amused at the idea), but “those people” apparently aren’t relevant to the story.  In America, we like to get our “diversity” in bite-sized chunks of ethnic restaurants and clothing, all carefully categorized and narrated by white people.

But this is a post about Imus and Locke.  The point is, it’s not illegal to say something stupid and accidentally reveal your bigotry.  It’s perfectly legal for me to look at what Imus said, and say “OMG, what an irrelevant imbecile bigot”.  It’s like the Thurmond descendant, who upon hearing that Al Sharpton was descended from her grandfather and a slave, said (of Thurmond), “it’s wonderful he was able to be successful despite what his ancestors were”.  Sitting on her North Carolina plantation, she probably still has no clue how utterly ignorant, repulsive, and fringe a comment like that is.

I get no pleasure from watching Imus lose his job.  And I can totally understand people being defensive when they are being threatened with legal action over ignorant comments.  But when you do something stupid, spending the next two weeks challenging people’s right to form opinions about you is probably not a good strategy.

~

And what is it with the knee-jerk Hitler associations?  Not only the gratuitous “vaterland” reference, but also Sicherheitsdienst.

It’s embarassingly ignorant and unimaginative.  They trundle out “Nazi” every time they feel lectured; almost as if they’ve been preconditioned ala Peter Sellers in “Clockwork Orange”.  Have none of them read their history books?  This mob isn’t a mob of pitchforks or brownshirts.  There is no threatening here.  It is only lecturing.

The appropriate comparison is to the the Red Guards of the Cultural Revolution.  As Wikipedia relates, “They held public meetings to criticize and solicit self-criticism from suspected ‘counter-revolutionaries.’ … the 16 Points and other pronouncements of the central Maoist leaders forbade “physical struggle (武斗)” in favor of “verbal struggle” (文斗)”

This is all just “wen dou” between civilized people, inviting the bigoted dinosaurs to publicly engage in self-criticism.

7 Comments

  • If you kindly read the post, you’d realize no one was “tracked down” and the entire thread is about deception on those very points.

    No one is challenging people’s rights to form an opinion, rather, it is more about releasing information to help people form their own informed opinion. And people are still totally free to disagree with what are presented as facts too ;)

    Best Regards,

    Joey

  • I made no ‘Hilter associations’, knee-jerk or otherwise. I guess I can see why on first pass it might have seemed so, though.

    ‘Sturm und drang’ seemed like an appropriately descriptive phrase for the ninny-headed handwaving over all of this, and I used ‘fatherland’ as a shorthand for the kind of nanny-state Total Information Awareness Patriot Act security-over-freedom Terror Alert Status nonsense that Americans (and by extension, the rest of us) find themselves neck-deep in these days. Perhaps ‘homeland’ would have been a better choice. Whether the meat is the same and the gravy different, well, that’s a whole other discussion.

    So, yeah, nice sidelong slur, but I don’t take any of this anywhere near seriously enough to start dragging out the tired Godwinisms, nor am I entirely unaware of the ways in which I use the language(s).

  • Also (and I’m doing my best to be nice and civil here, despite your insults), I have read my history.

    That — if I understand you correctly — you would draw a dotted line from the current, dirt-stupid kerfuffle to Cultural Revolution self-criticism in order to defend it as civilized leads me to suspect that you haven’t.

  • allenjs wrote:

    Stavros: the last sentence of the post was the giveaway. It’s wholly improbable that any human being alive would utter that statement in seriousness.

    But absurdity and sarcasm aside, I do think the focus on “nanny state”, “pitchforks”, and control/authority in the blogosphere was completely misguided.

    From the start, this was more like cultural revoution — self-policing, preachiness vs. groupishness, actions vs. words, and the sort of schizophrenia that is caused by such environments. Locke (and to some extent Imus) made a career on being seen as a “revolutionary” and “irreverent”, and the most interesting discussion is what happens when revolutionaries get branded counter-revolutionary and are expected to self-criticize.

    That would have been an interesting conversation.

  • Selective reading, snap judgments, incomplete fact gathering, supercilious attitude — I don’t think you’re going to have to worry about generating any interesting conversations.

  • I do believe it was Malcolm McDowell, and not Peter Sellers that was in clockwork orange. Peter Sellers was in another great cult classic Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

    That aside, I believe all of this is an important indication of how our new world of technology and the internet does not do enough to advance us socially. Now that communication can be near-instant, and everyone can voice an opinion, free speech is no longer defined exclusively by the courts, but can become witch hunts just as unpopular speech in the past had become.

    Now that being said, I love that Imus was able to say something that I think was stupid, and moreso I love that people were able to disagree, Regardless that he lost his job, it sets a definition of ‘stupid speech’ that the government won’t stifle, but perhaps it’s citizens will. This goes for may other racist, sexist, or otherwise plain ignorant speech. In the world of the blogosphere, radio, television, comedy clubs, etc… your words should come back and bite you in the ass… so don’t be surprised when they do.

    Other than that, I believe the rest of the threads I have followed became about much more than the topic at hand.

  • Graham; good catch. I intended to invoke reverse Godwinism by referencing Sellers’ involuntary arm in Strangelove. The involuntary arm was so cool that I refer to it often; I wonder how often I’ve referenced the wrong movie and had people nod while thinking “WTF”?

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