Thursday, April 12, 2007

PC Enablers

On the other end of the spectrum, in the pre-emptive censorship category, is a ludicrous decision by the Knothole Club of Greater Cincinnati little league baseball organization to ban “negative” chatter in their games.

What does it mean? If you’re a kid in Cincinnati and want to issue the timeless “Hey batter batter, swing!” you can expect a warning for a first “offense” and a one-game suspension for a second.

KCGC President Dave Eppien: "If you’re saying 'Swing, batter,' and this poor little kid is swinging at everything, he feels bad and maybe he turns to the catcher and gets mad. Honest to gosh, I didn’t have any trouble doing this."

I’m not sure he goes far enough. If the poor little kid batting will now no longer swing at pitches out of the strike zone, maybe the poor little kid pitching can no longer get him out, he feels bad and gets mad. Perhaps a rule that any pitch is a strike is needed.

But wait, now the poor little kid batting may not be able to reach base, and he feels bad and gets mad. Maybe we need a rule that…wait a minute, that’s going to make the pitcher mad again. What do we do now?!?

This is all a symptom of the idea that kids should always be led to believe that whatever they do is ok, it’s all good, you’re a success! It’s the wussification of our youth. What happens is that kids do not learn how to fail, which I would argue is among life’s most important formative lessons.

If the first time you experience failure is in college, or worse, in the competitive job market or on the job, how are you going to deal with it? Maybe, just maybe, if some idiot bureaucrat hadn’t legislated away baseball chatter you might have (gasp) been lured into striking out on a bad pitch. At which point you might have worked to learn how to overcome such obstacles and become a more disciplined and thus better hitter.

And maybe this experience teaches you that adaptation and hard work can help you prepare for and overcome other tough situations, leading you to become emotionally stronger and more resilient as you make your way through life’s inevitable minefields.

But not if the Dave Eppiens of the world have anything to say about it.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

PC bullies

No, this is not about the Don Imus kerfuffle, if for some reason you still want to hear more of that it would be hard to top Jason Whitlock's KC Star column. Imus differs from the subject matter of this post in that what he said was legitimately offensive, which Rutgers coach Vivian Stringer unfortunately proceeded to trivialize with silly platitudes of victimization (some of her players will be scarred for life? Please...).

As you would expect I loathe political correctness, from the grievance mongers who pore over every public statement or action looking for something by which to pretend to be offended, to those who give in to such bullying by issuing weaselly “If I offended anybody I’m sorry” pretend apologies. The whole dishonest dance trivializes the truly offensive.

My feelings are pretty simple – something is offensive if it was meant to offend. In some cases where the speaker legitimately did not know the meaning or connotation of a word or phrase (often due to changing mores) it can be a teaching moment for which the speaker should be held blameless and from which everybody can learn something.

Thus there are two situations that really raise my ire. The first is when a speaker knows full well the meaning of a word or phrase and uses it correctly, only to have some grievance group or individual denounce the speaker for faux offensiveness due to their own ignorance or the attempt to feed off of the ignorance of others. This is nothing more than an attempt to smear, a contemptible form of bullying and censorship.

The second is when somebody gives in to that type of bullying, certainly by faux apology but also in the form of pre-emptive self-censorship in an attempt to avoid committing a faux offense. This does nothing but enable the bullies, and it lessens the richness of our language and discourse by removing legitimate definition and usage from common use.

I bring all of this up because I’ve recently seen examples of each on, of all places, the ESPN family of networks.

The first was a pre-Final Four excerpt of an interview of Billy Packer on the Charlie Rose show:

Rose: Do you need a runner this Final Four? Because I could jump on a plane and I could be there."

Packer: You always fag out on that one for me, you know (laughing). You always say, “oh yeah, I'm gonna be the runner,” then you never show up. But I’m sure they can find a place for ya. You've got all the connections in the world. You can go ahead and be a runner anyplace you want to."

Cue angry faux offense from gay rights activists, self-righteous calls for Packer to apologize and/or be fired. But then a funny thing happened – Packer and CBS refused to be bullied.

"I said he fagged out on me and it had nothing to do with sexual connotation," Packer told the Philadelphia Inquirer. I got to know Charlie a number of years ago and have great admiration for his program and intellect. He is a big Dukie, and he has been talking a number of years about coming to the Final Four to be a runner.”

Packer explained that he was using the word in the wholly legitimate form of an adjective meaning to exhaust or tire out.

I’m certainly no fan of Packer; he’s (for lack of a better term) a college basketball supremacist and generally a blowhard. But I have to give him props here for refusing to be bullied in a situation where he has done nothing wrong. Anybody so ignorant as to be offended by such a thing should spend more time educating himself or herself and less time trying to impose speech codes on others.

Considering that people have been forced out of their jobs due to such ignorance, Packer is, sadly, lucky to have escaped despite his innocence.