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.



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