The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, November 25, 2003

The thought-police is an equal opportunity career...

After Ariel Sharon's effort at mind control, noticed in yesterday's piece, it's only right to point out a similar operation back in the Land of the Free [1]. In the University of Virginia Medical Center, at Charlottesville (just up the road from Walton's Mountain, as I recall.)

An employee of the Center is supposed to have said something like this:
I can't believe in this day and age that there's a sports team in our nation's capital named the Redskins. That is as derogatory to Indians as having a team called Niggers would be to blacks.

It's a point that's puzzled me from time to time, about the Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians: the poor sucker was only reflecting a due concern for racial sensitivity! (Of course, some selected Indians are crying all the way to the bank with their casino wampum...)

Now, it seems to me that, every time I visit to Rosenberg's blog, there's some chiselling going on at UVa on a racial issue, with the local Sharptons holding their indignation meetings, and the pusillanimous administration antiphonising Amen, brother! with the mob - for fear of a shakedown, natch!

As, for instance, this:
In an e-mail sent to a black faculty e-mail list, History Prof. Julian Bond, national chair of the NAACP, called for the employee to make a public apology and take sensitivity training.

"My first impulse is that this should be a dismissible infraction -- but free speech protections I hold dear tell me that shouldn't be so," Bond wrote, adding that the administration "ought to disavow such language." speech protections I hold dear... In its usage here, free is from the same lexicon as the democratic in Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Generously, Bond agrees that the University may commute the thought-criminal's sentence to kow-tow and Pol Pot-style re-education: I think we get a sense of who's running the show. Someone should check whether the good Professor's budget gets an unexpected hike next time...

But, apart from the politics, how would Bond define the scope of the thought-crime: is he suggesting that any use of nigger is to be forbidden? Surely not - how, then - to pick one example at random - could that Ur-work of American literature, Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, every be discussed in his fine university?

I'd humbly suggest to those UVa students uncowed by the electronic Black Citizens' Council of which Bond seems to be Chairman that they out-stunt Bond by arranging a marathon reading of Huckleberry Finn - in aid of charity (one of Amnesty International's, perhaps). The text un-Bowdlerised, of course. Or do I mean, un-Bonded?

And what of the First Amendment (to which, as a public university, UVa is subject)? A cursory search suggests there is a good deal of material on workplace harassment and campus speech codes - but I get the impression that the law here is in the process of formation [2]. Much further research to get up to speed on this stuff - for another time.

  1. The story courtesy of John Rosenberg's Discriminations - which I've namechecked several times. It's the CSI of race in America: for any who comfort themselves with the notion that the madness of the reverse Jim Crow that is affirmative action, and its allied nonsenses, might be abating somewhat, he patiently anatomises the evidence to show six ways from Sunday that they are completely wrong! It's NC-17 stuff - but necessary and well done.

  2. The Third Circuit (Federal) decision in Saxe v State College Area District (2001) may not be a bad place to start.


I note, on re-reading Rosenberg's piece, that, in referring to the matter complained of, he never actually uses the word nigger, preferring to euphemise with blanks or the N-word. A tad odd, perhaps, thus to indulge those who believe they have a right not to be offended by anything they read, in a piece whose substance will certainly offend them!

The Patron Saint of freedom to say anything inoffensive is erstwhile elected dictator of Singapore, Lee Kwan Yew. Lee championed the notion of Asian Values - a sort neo-Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere notion, that Asians preferred to dispense with the luxury of individual rights with which the decadent white man pampered himself, in exchange for the material prosperity that only deference to the interests of the group could secure.

(Strangely, we don't seem to have heard much about Asian Values lately. Lee's motormouth successor in the region, Malaysia's Mahatir Mohamad, has been more keen on Jew-baiting. Which brings us back to Sharon...)

[Those curious about Tony Blair's instincts in the matter could do worse than research the case of quondam England football manager Glenn Hoddle.]


Erin O'Connor - whose stuff I'm pretty sure I came across first on Discriminations - has much more on UVa in the Slough of Despond, freedom-wise, in her blog Critical Mass, as well as stuff on academic freedom more generally.

As with Rosenberg's blog, the problem is, the higher the quality of material, the more despressed the reader! In the words of the title of the biography of Trevor Huddleston, race warrior of a bygone age, she really has naught for your comfort!

(But, then, it is surely as infantile to confine one's reading to the comforting as to the inoffensive.)

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