This point in a thread about magazines I used to read in the 1980's and 90's raises an important point about antisemitism that I would like to explore with you before I call the judge's chambers about the scheduling order
Oh gosh. Apologies to Ben Stein. I loved his columns in @The American Spectator! Also that antisemite Taki. And @Mark Steyn before he was online. Really everyone who wrote there in the 80's and 90's. Buchanan, of course. Turgid but right on.
They (and WFB) taught me how to write.
One of the popular sports among the social terrorists on the left is looking at people's past conduct and statements and flagging them for un-woke, "racist" (scare quotes because the word has truly lost meaning) or anti-Semitic offenses.
I have two observations about this. >
The first one is somewhat easier to assimilate for most people, and it's this: People grow. This should not only apply to Democratic politicians. It is preposterous that the sins of youth - "youth," to me, a grandfather, writ very large - should socially damn an entire life. >
The fact is I know and am friends with a number of people who, in their earlier days, probably said or even believed some stupid things about Jews. I say Jews because, as a Jew, I have the magical "power" to forgive this sin but not other kinds of bigotry, right?
Not right. >
"As a Jew" or "as a woman" etc. is not an irrelevant formulation, but it is close to it. Anyone is entitled to make a fair assessment of another's character for his own purposes, regardless of whether past offenses directly targeted his category or not.
This is a side issue.>
The real issue is, what is the person's character today? What does he do or say with respect to people and categories (race, sex, religion, whatever)? (It's sort of the opposite of the rule applied to @Donald J. Trump which I expressed here twitter.com/RonColeman/sta…) >
@Cernovich No one from New York seriously buys that Trump is a racist. He would never have lasted in public or business life here.
Indeed, as I said once in a discussion about hate crimes, the liberal obsession with what is really in someone's heart and what he "really" means when he says something ("dog whistles"!) is ridiculous.
What does a man say, plainly? What does he do? >
Should be for violent crimes.
I don't care what's in his heart. I care what he does with his hands.
So my first point is people grow. And if we are intent on assessing their character vis-à-vis the modern cardinal sin of not only noticing but preferring one group over another based on immutable characteristics, let us look at them now, not a decade ago. Not even yesterday. >
My second point will set the world on fire, or, perhaps worse, get me banned!
It is this: I don't really care all that much if people have such preferences, and even express them, to a point, as long as they don't act on them.
There is no bigger lie in our culture than this: >
The normal or at least realistically attainable, and certainly the only decent, sensibility for a person is to never notice differences among groups of people, or associate certain behaviors with groups, or categorically prefer to date or marry those within their own groups >
This preposterous lie about human nature is borne on the wings of the popular aphorism that "you have to teach prejudice to children."
You cannot have actually reared your own children and believe this.
I, with my extraordinary mate Jane Coleman, have reared children. >
And those who have know this: Children are scared of people and things and characteristics that are new or unusual to them. This "prejudice" is very understandable; if you believe in evolutionary theory it is obvious why this would be.
I had a child who was born "prejudiced"! >
He was prejudiced against.... my own late father. His grandfather!
My father OBM had a beard when this child was a toddler. And I did not. And the boy was not used to beards. And the facial hair scared him! He cried when my gentle, loving father came near. >
This is just human nature. Now, as we get older we get more sophisticated. And the sooner we get out among people with different kinds of characteristics, the sooner and better we learn that these characteristics, in and of themselves, do not make people better or worse. >
This is an advantage of city living, by the way.
I was once a "big brother" for a boy who needed a little extra support, and he grew up in an all-white suburb. And during one of our "hangouts" I asked him if he liked basketball, and he said yes. I said let's go to this park >
where you will see local guys play basketball that will amaze you. You won't believe just a bunch of guys in New Jersey can be so good. And he agreed, and we went.
And when we got there, he realized they were black. Well, of course they were! >
(If you are not prejudiced in favor of black basketball players, you are a schmuck.)
Well, we sat there in the bleachers just 20 or 30 feet away from this playground pickup game, and this kid is absolutely terrified. He has never been this close to black men in his life. >
He could not enjoy the game or the athleticism of the players. He could not get past his fear of black men - not because he had been traumatized by an encounter with a black man, but because they were different, and he had picked up cultural signals that made him afraid. >
We had to leave.
Noticing differences and not being immediately able to assimilate them and feel comfortable with them is not a moral crime. It is something to be reckoned with, but the encounter with the other may come slowly, or in odd patches, or never at all. Or: >
It may come unpleasantly.
And people learn from their experiences, and while a baby is scared merely of that which is different, even a grown person can come to generalize irrationally based on a correlation of negative experiences and immutable characteristics. >
And 180 degrees from that irrationality is another sort of irrationality, which is to say that these characteristics can never, ever probabilistically predict a quality.
That is irrational, stupid even, too.
Is it crazy to say that "Jews" are very... verbal? smart? funny? >
No. It is a generalization. In fact, many Jews are none of those things. But it is a generalization that is not without its use in understanding the world - because categories and generalizations organize all the countless things into files in our minds.
Now, here it comes.>
Are generalizations about groups of people only useful or meaningful when they're positive characteristics?
Obviously not. But here's the difference:
When it comes to negative characteristics, it is appropriate and decent to handle them differently. >
I might think a certain group has a certain negative trait, based on my observation of things in the world, but that does not make me a racist or a bigot. That makes me a non-idiot.
What makes me a racist or a bigot is acting on it - treating people differently based on it.>
We need to be honest about this. Because there's a different kind of dishonesty afoot if we pretend it is not true.
When I was in college you could pick up a little pocket money by signing up to participate in psychology "experiments" for psych students. I liked doing this. >
Once I was told to sit in a waiting room until someone came to get me. The person came and we walked down a corridor that led to two rooms, one on either side. They were essentially identical rooms, and each one had a young man sitting at a desk.
You know where this is going.>
I was told to go into either room for the next part of the experiment; it didn't matter which one.
One of the young men was white. The other was black.
Neither made eye contact with me. >
Obviously I went into the room with the black guy. If I didn't it would seem as if I were prejudiced - even if no one were watching or keeping track. It would seem to *me* as if I were prejudiced.
So I did that. And the person who took me down the corridor said, "Thank you." >
"That's the experiment. Congratulations! You're not prejudiced."
Of course I am. I went into the room with the black guy at the desk BECAUSE HE WAS BLACK.
(I don't think that guy was Barack Obama, because Michelle was in my class, but not her future husband.) >
But you know what else? Maybe there's nothing wrong with this. Maybe it's fine that I did this. Is it not okay to make a little extra effort to be or even to appear (because this has an effect on the conduct of others) to be unbiased, to be decent? >
I don't know the answer. I would like to be able to ask the fellow at the desk. How do you feel knowing I chose to go into your room and do you a favor of showing you that I am not prejudiced against you?
Maybe he's cool with it. Maybe he's not.
These are not easy questions. >
But surely I did not commit a crime by noticing the difference and acting on it. If this is structural racism, then so are set-asides and @DoorDash throwing up a "black-owned restaurants" page when I log in to order a pizza. I did not ask them to do that.
I don't know. >
All this is an introduction to my actual second point:
Between this interior, human, intelligent and adaptive habit of generalizing about groups versus actually judging people by their character and not by the color of their skin is a lot of daylight.
This is the rub. >
And this space is mainly occupied by speech.
A good amount of jurisprudential time, effort and ink has been spent on distinguishing between conduct and speech. It is beyond our topic to go into it today.
But it is the rub, especially in culture and social media. >
A minstrel show is speech.
But it is very offensive speech, and putting on a minstrel show is, you could argue, offensive conduct that should be off limits, under most circumstances (not by the government, mind you.) >
But how about jokes? Op-eds?
How about tweets? Private conversations? Emails? Texts? Slack messages?
Does the use of generalizations, tropes, stereotypes damn the character of the person who made them? Period? >
Does that person deserve to be banned from public life? Deemed guilty of "hate"? Deplatformed?
Maybe. I think, though, it depends on the body of work. On the context. On whether something that appears to have been a joke was really a joke - even if it didn't make me laugh. >
In my case for @The Slants we convinced SCOTUS that magic words themselves do not, under the First Amendment, have talismanic qualities that, under the First Amendment, may affect the distribution of government services.
It took little convincing. The decision was 8-0. >
It is mind-boggling that the mere fact that the First Amendment does not, let us stipulate, govern non-governmental censorship that the logic of that conclusion has been lost on us.
In naming his band The Slants, @Simon Tam wanted to say something about differentness. >
Differentness and the experiences and qualities of differentness are real.
Not to observe them is impossible. To pretend not to observe them is polite, but false. To treat people differently in ordinary intercourse based on them can be barbaric.
It can also be something less. >
Sometimes people are bigoted, prejudiced, unreasonable in their application of generalizations or dislikes to groups.
You know what? That doesn't make them inhuman, especially if they keep their hands to themselves and no not violate the laws regarding discrimination. >