Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Revenge of the Hate Speech

Revenge of the Hate Speech
© 2006 Ross Williams

Ozzie Guillen doesn't have a nickname that adequately describes his baseball-related talents. I don't mean his baseball talents; he was a darn good shortstop while he played and he's a darned good manager now that he doesn't.

But his baseball-related talents – the skills that are associated with, but not directly involving, baseball. Leo Durocher was called Leo the Lip, which fit like a glove. And that might work for Ozzie... except that it's taken. Besides, “Ozzie the Lip” doesn't roll off the alliterative tongue.

Something like "Ozzie the Ossified Ideology Ignorer" ... only shorter. And, like Ozzie himself, blunter. And, preferably, also like Ozzie himself, in strangled English.

Ozzie Guillen is, as we all know, the manager of the Chicago White Sox. The Sox, as both of their fans know, not to mention the other 39,000 who eventually showed up for the Bring Your Parole Officer to the Park night, are the World Champions. And this means that Ozzie gets special attention. His words, now, to the best abilities of the translators, are heard, transcribed, and printed everywhere. Back when the Sox played like the, um, Cubs it was much easier for Ozzie to simply speak to the fans directly. A conference call sufficed.

Oh, many of us raised our eyebrows last year[1] and some of us even raised our hackles when Ozzie called a friend of his a homosexual. This friend is not a homosexual, of course, but Ozzie called him one. Why? Because back in his native Venezuela, ribbing your buddies in such a manner is the way it's done.

Well, we can’t be completely insensitive to his native culture even if his native culture is insensitive, so let’s look the other way. But just this once.

Last week, Ozzie called Jay Mariotti, a sports reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times and sometime-ESPN waggling tongue, a fag[2]. Now, Jay, of course, is not a homosexual, but some might argue that he's pretty gay, and, well, writing hatchet-pieces in a publication like the Sun-Times which is read by at least as many people as the White Sox now have fans – not to mention their parole officers – while never bothering to talk to the people he's hatcheting in print is kinda faggy. So Ozzie called him one.

Millions of Chicagoans, Cubs and Sox fans both, high-fived Ozzie in abstentia.[3] Not that it matters once the second-string “F-word” comes out – gays are going to take righteous offense no matter what – but these people celebrated the insult because Mariotti is not well-liked.

The High Commissars of Major League Baseball, on the other hand, got their panties in a wad and ordered Ozzie into “sensitivity training” for dusting off his First Amendment. Let's be honest about it, and not mince around the bush like fellow-hispanic player-turned-coach Mariano Duncan – or "Mewling Mariano" if you prefer: "We are here in America, where you can speak freely. But you don't say everything that comes to your mind."[4]

Um, Mariano, mi hombrito? If you can speak freely but get “sensitized” for it[5], then you can't speak freely. If you can speak freely but have to censor yourself to avoid being accused of embarrassing everyone else who comes from the same part of the world, then you can't speak freely.

Freedom is a simple but complicated thing… it’s simply complicated. If you are free then chances are real good you're going to offend somebody. If your society is free, chances are real good that you'll be offended, more or less on a daily basis. And you'll be free, of course, to complain, but you will not be free to stop it from occurring now, prevent it from occurring in the future, or penalize it when it occurs at any time. For the freedom to declare what is "appropriate" use of freedom and proscribe all else is tyranny – which is supposed to be against the law.

Many people who don't like being offended, and who think they are so special that they should never be offended, have complained. Well, they're entitled. Who likes being offended? I certainly don't. People who deliberately offend others are often small-minded and boorish.

But the easily-offended have convinced enough legislators that being offensive is worse than being a tyrant, and so legislatures the nation over have diluted our First Amendment to the widespread glee of the tissue-skinned. Being offensive in public gains censure, public rebuke, and sometimes criminal penalty.

Can't call a homosexual a fag; can't call a Jew a kike; can't call a black a nigger; can't call an Italian a wop; ...a Mexican a beaner; ...a Chinaman a chink [or even a chinaman[6]]; ...you get the picture. It's rude, yes, but under the law it's beyond rude. It's unlawful under many circumstances and is elevated to the level of "fightin' words!".

Fightin' Words! are words you say that simply infuriate me to the point that my only option is to slug you. They are words that are assumed to be used specifically to infuriate to the point of violence.

In other words: "I can't control myself, so it's all your fault for being rude".[7]

We have the self-righteous temerity to call it “hate speech”. The only reason anyone would be rude is because of hate. That is certainly the case sometimes, of course; one could even argue – if willing to go to the self-important degree of assigning instant psycho-babble analysis upon the roughly 300 million Americans who are routinely rude – that it’s the case most of the time. But “only”? That smacks of moral absolutism, which the purveyors of cultural and social moral relativism cannot, for consistency purposes, ever ever indulge.

…unless they can rationalize such absolutism from a relative perspective. For example, if they were to hold the position that only white males who are not gay, Jewish, Italian, Polish, et cetera can be rude absolutely due to hate, while others would have their rudeness excused part of the time – like while being rude to the aforementioned. But I’m just being cynical, here; the gatekeepers of modern social morality are neither that self-serving nor that grasping.

Of course not. Silly me.

At any rate, the “woe is me” notion of fightin’ words! is out of pandora’s box. There’s enough people who want their own special fightin’ words! – and enough others who will sympathize out of mutual back-scratching cooperation – that these fightin’ words! are not going back in the box any time soon.

And, as with so many other things, if you can’t fight fightin’ words!, you might as well get some of your own. “Nigger” and “fag” aren’t the only objectionable pieces of rudeness around that some groups find offensive. There’s some people who so love everything about the United States that those Americans who criticize it or hold it up for specific ridicule have … are you ready? … uttered fightin’ words! themselves.

Of course I’m talking here of burning the US flag. A cherished tradition among a certain segment of our self-indulgent, who are nearly equal in number to White Sox fans when they aren’t winning the World Series. But to another – rather, several other – groups of Americans [somewhat self-indulgent themselves, naturally], burning an American flag is … not to put too rude a point on it … pretty much the same to them as it would be to call a Jew a heeb, or a Pole a pollack, or an Arab a raghead[8], or … you get the point, I’m sure.

Or you should, because of moral relativism.

And, moral relativism being what it is, it should be axiomatic to those who want to ban “nigger” and brainwash Ozzie for calling Mariotti a fag that the self-indulgent simpleton who burns the US flag should be punished for it. It constitutes fightin’ words! to the VFW. American veterans just can’t control themselves, y’know. You burn the flag, it’s all your fault for getting punched in the face afterwards; the veteran with bruised knuckles is blameless. Natural reaction.

Hate speech is hate speech. Burning a flag is a form of speech, so the theory goes, and burning it demonstrates great hatred[9] … the ACLU particularly should have no problem with this potential constitutional amendment, since they support so many other attempts to prohibit “hate speech”.

As for me, I’m not enjoying this particular moment in US legislative history. At all. I find it very insulting to my intelligence. Veritably offensive[10]. The simpleton-enablers in Congress and other legislatures around the nation are making every other form of insult we have punishable. There’s just too many Americans demanding to have their own special insult declared beyond the pale of garden variety political immaturity.

I hope everyone’s pleased with themselves. You made this bed with your political bed-fellows; now lie in it. Don’t forget to leave room for Mariotti. But a word of caution: he doesn’t like bed-wetters.

[1] before the World Series, when Commiskey Park still had attendance figures in the single digits
[2] Plus or minus some modifying adjectives.
[3] http://jaythejoke.com/
[4] http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/whitesox/chi-0606260095jun26,1,1680962.story?coll=chi-sportswhitesox-hed
[5] Other possible terms: indoctrinated, or brainwashed. Substitute as you prefer.
[6] http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/chi-0606130185jun13,1,6720027.story
[7] I find it ironic that the “fighting words doctrine”, as it is pretentiously termed by legal scholars, arose in 1942 because a cop in New Hampshire arrested a Jehovah’s Witness named Chaplinsky for calling the cop “a god-damned racketeer” and a “damned fascist”. Those were “fighting words” according to the USSC, and the arrest was upheld. Yet how many of the critics of the current administration use those very words and are not arrested…? Instead, it is they, when called “terrorist sympathizers” and “treasonous”, who more often complain about being called names.
[8] Thank god it isn’t a criminal offense to call the French frogs – yet. There’s still a few allowable vices left.
[9] For the record, I agree with the theory: burning a flag is speech which shows hatred; I just disagree that hate speech of any form should be prohibitable. Nothing and no one is that sacred.
[10] …and do we really need to spell out what is possible when offense is taken?


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