Quasi-Literate Racist Asshole Jim DeBerry of Definitive Television Threatens To Sue Above The Law For Calling His Video Racist

If you want to be a quasi-literate racist asshole, go right ahead. It's a free country. There are lots of quasi-literate racist assholes around and it's unlikely you will distinguish yourself. I trust the marketplace of ideas to assign appropriate social consequences to you and your business. I may or may not help distribute those social consequences depending on the degree to which you irritate me.

But when you start threatening to sue people for pointing out that you're a racist asshole, I feel that you are going out of your way to antagonize me. I feel that it's time to put on my cockroach-stomping boots.

You might have seen the coverage at Lowering the Bar or FindLaw or numerous other sites of a breathtakingly racist caricature in a purported law firm advertisement produced by a company called Definitive Television, the vehicle of one Jim DeBerry of DeBar Holdings Ltd. The advertisement features a man dressed up in an Asian-caricature costume using an Asian-caricature voice to recommend a law firm called McCutcheon & Hamner, PC in Alabama. The caricature is a character Definitive TV offers to its clients. Definitive TV is a little defensive about it right out of the gate:


So touchy!

When Joe Patrice at Above the Law reported on this, two things happened. First, the law firm of McCutcheon & Hamner PC claimed that it had been "hacked" and that it did not approve the commercial. That may or may not be true. Second, Jim DeBerry wrote Above the Law and threatened to sue for suggesting that the advertisement is racist.

The threat is a masterful example of sub-literate drivel from a self-important tool who thinks he's learned law from ten minutes on Google, seven of which were spent looking at lolcats. There's the moronic "it's not racist under this dictionary definition I chose" rhetoric:

We object to the statements of racism, as we do not fit under the legal definition, which is, The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability that a particular race is superior to others. 2. Discrimination or prejudice based on race.

There's the bizarre use of commas, odd diction, and weird capitalization that suggest that Jim DeBerry just took a break from sending 419 scam emails:

Furthermore, upon your interview request, we have read MR. JOSEPH PATRICE article/blog


Finally, there's the barely-coherent jibber-jabber threat:

We firmly believe MR. JOSEPH PATRICE statements of racism when done with intentional malice and to damage our name for gain of revenue and promotion on his article through your business. Mr. Patrice is not stupid or ignorant, by lacking intelligence or common sense. By all appearances, He is educated and he fully understood the reckless racist statement claims with intentional malice he chose to type and for yourself to distribute when he submitted for article creation in which you accepted. We are currently consulting with another party regarding how we should pursue action against the libel statements made by Mr. Patrice, through your company, and others.

I will accept a retraction and apology related to the racist claims made by MR. JOSEPH PATRICE published by your company.

Let's be clear: Jim DeBerry's legal threat is complete bullshit and shows that he's pig-ignorant in addition to a racist. When Above the Law or any other blog or individual looks at DeBery's douchey video and calls it racist, that's a classic statement of opinion absolutely protected by the First Amendment. Above the Law didn't claim that DeBerry's company produced a racist video based on a secret review of some undisclosed videotape. If that had been the case, DeBerry might argue that Above the Law was implying false undisclosed facts. Instead, Above the Law and other commentators are offering opinions based on a specific disclosed fact — the video. You might not share the opinion that the video is racist, or that it reflects racist attitudes by the people who produced it. That's your prerogative. But calling the video racist — and calling the classless untalented hacks who shat it out racists — is classic opinion. As I have explained before, such an opinion is protected by the First Amendment:

This is not a case of opinion premised on false unstated facts, as if someone said "based on what I overheard Donna Barstow say, she is a racist." Rather it's pure opinion based on disclosed facts — the very cartoons she complains they posted. (Note that this strengthens the fair use argument.) Partington v. Bugliosi, 56 F.3d 1147, 1156–1157 (9th Cir.1995) ("when an author outlines the facts available to him, thus making it clear that the challenged statements represent his own interpretation of those facts and leaving the reader free to draw his own conclusions, those statements are generally protected by the First Amendment.") Such accusations of racism are routinely protected as opinion by the courts. See, for instance, Rambo v. Cohen, 587 N.E.2d 140, 149 (Ind.Ct.App.1992) (statement that plaintiff was “anti-Semitic” was protected opinion); Stevens v. Tillman, 855 F.2d 394, 402 (7th Cir.1988) (Illinois law) (accusations of “racism”); Smith v. Sch. Dist. of Phila., 112 F.Supp.2d 417, 429–30 (E.D.Pa.2000) (granting judgment on the pleadings after concluding that the accusation of racism was an opinion); Martin v. Brock, No. 07C3154, 2007 WL 2122184, at *3 (N.D.Ill. July 19, 2007) (accusation of racism is nonactionable opinion in Illinois); Lennon v. Cuyahoga Cnty. Juvenile Ct., No. 86651, 2006 WL 1428920, at * 6 (Ohio Ct.App. May 25, 2006) (concluding that in the specific context of the accusation, calling a co-worker racist was nonactionable opinion); Puccia v. Edwards, No. 98–00065, 1999 WL 513895, at *3–4 (Mass.Super.Ct. Apr. 28, 1999) (concluding accusations of racism are nonactionable opinion); Covino v. Hagemann, 165 Misc.2d 465, 627 N.Y.S.2d 894, 895–96 (N.Y.Sup.Ct.1995) (concluding statement that plaintiff had “racially sensitive attitude” is not actionable). By contrast, cases finding that accusations of racism were actionable defamation usually involved implication of false facts. See, for instance, Overhill Farms v. Lopez, 190 Cal.App.4th 1248 (2010) (accusation that business fired workers for racial reasons was a statement of fact distinguishable from a mere opinion that farm owners were racist). And those are just the cases I found in about five minutes whilst distracted by yelling at an associate.

Similarly, if I said "I've reviewed his personal papers and Jim DeBerry is illiterate," that might be defamatory, because I'm implying potentially false facts. But that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that Jim DeBerry's idiotic legal threat, which I've linked, shows that he's less literate than the average penis-enlargement spammer — in addition to being a racist douchebag. That's opinion based on disclosed facts and therefore absolutely protected.

Before closing comments on the YouTube video, someone (consider the diction and grammar, and guess who) from Definitive TV wrote this:

We are respect your 1st amendment right and your freedom of opinion and speech on our comment board and will approve your comments. Due to the overwhelming feedback (50% positive and 50% negative) and at the request of McCutheon & Hamner at Law we have elected to disable the comment thread. We may open the comment section back up soon when we can reply.

Of course, this is wrong. YouTube is private and Definitive TV is private and nobody has a First Amendment right to post comments there if YouTube and Definitive TV don't want them to. But Definitive TV's mention of the First Amendment here is more than a little erratic, given their bogus legal threat to Above the Law. Maybe being a racist douchebag all the time is mentally taxing.

So: don't let the stupid threats of the Jim DeBerrys of the world chill you. Instead, call them out.

And I propose, to commemorate Mr. DeBerry's idiocy forever, that we make "We are respect your 1st amendment right!" a catchphrase for dealing with such censorious thugs.

What Kind of Nutter Calls For Censorship?

When a public official acts like a censorious asshat, and flogs one of my least-favorite stupid pro-censorship quotes, and is named "Nutter," my fundamentally suspicious and misanthropic nature leads me to look around nervously. Am I being Akbarred here? Or is this giddy warmth and pre-pounce quivering anticipation I feel further evidence of a God that loves me?

It's the giddy warmth one.

[Read more…]

Progress Kentucky: Vigilant Against Every Type of Alien Threat

I am not a fan of Mitch McConnell, even though I am impressed that he has a lifespan of over 100 years and is the 10th-heaviest living reptile. However, I lack any animus against him based on the ethnic background of his wife. This distinguishes me from a PAC called Progress Kentucky


This attitude earned Progress Kentucky not only the anger of conservatives, but the scorn of the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and Talking Points Memo. And you know what they say — if you've lost the New York Times, then you're not going to get a trend story about you, even if a New York Times reporter hears about you from her Pilates instructor.

Progress Kentucky's response to criticism has not been exactly on message. They've gone with a modified sorry-if-you're-offended-by-our-intern:

A spokesman, Curtis Morrison, told WFPL, “It’s not an official statement. It’s a Tweet. And we will remove if it’s wrong.”

They've also asserted that accusing them of race-baiting is unfair, because when we accuse them of emphasizing McConnell is married to a woman of Chinese descent, we ignore that her father is also Chinese and is reputed to have gone to school with Chinese people.

As you can see from that tweet above, Progress Kentucky cites and promotes — and might have picked up its public relations skills from — Rense.com, a site that stands for a great American political truth: the more fearless and truth-seeking a political organization, the more likely it is to advertise questionable herbal supplements. Give Rense.com its due — would non-Progressive sites promote and link you to multiple posts disclosing the alien threat, or would they conceal it from you?

Hi, welcome back to 1996.

Hi, welcome back to 1996.

And what can you learn through those links?

Why would humans, (no matter how psychopathic), poison our environment with radiation, crude oil & chemtrails and put cancer causing GMO’s in our food? Answer, they wouldn’t, and they aren’t. These things are being done by the same cold, calculating pernicious evil that has controlled the course of events on this planet for thousands and thousands of years. Evidently the talking monkeys figure things out after enough time goes by, and they revolt, and have to be put down, hard. No problem, pernicious evil is patient, and will begin all over again after each mass extermination, uh, er, extinction event.

We are in Progress Kentucky's debt for its willingness to point out the threat of each and every type of alien.

But you probably shouldn't take my word for it. Like McConnell, I'm in league with them.


More of the Things They Will Say To Your Face

Nancy French pointed me to this great video that illustrates the sort of comments you get from people when you are out and about as a multiracial family (often, but not always, an adoptive one). Been there, heard that.

Regular readers may recall that last year I collected comments from adoptive parents on an adoptive forum and posted them to demonstrate some of what humanity has to offer.

Like I said before, the point of this is not to throw a pity party for adoptive parents. Any discussion of transracial adoption shouldn't be all about the adoptive parents' feelings. Rather, calling this sort of thing out is about (1) preparing parents to deal with such situations in a way that's constructive for their kids, (2) whistling past the graveyard — a sharing of the experience, and (3) laughing about the brokenness and general asshatitude of humanity.

Dirty Asians Set Marion Barry Up!

Marion Barry is on a lifelong quixotic quest to stand out, even in Washington D.C., as a living refutation of the viability of representative government. This week, after winning a council primary (which, it appears, he would have won even if he had strangled a kitten on camera), Marion continued to be Marion:

“We got to do something about these Asians coming in and opening up businesses and dirty shops,” Barry said on Tuesday night, according to video posted by WRC-TV/NBC4. “They ought to go. I’m going to say that right now. But we need African-American businesspeople to be able to take their places, too.”

Certain theoreticians and academicians, and the sort of people who take them seriously, inform us that only white people can be racist. (Occasionally people outside the academy use this trope when it suits their immediate political goal: see, e.g., "the shooting couldn't possibly have been motivated by race because the shooter is Latino.")

In the real world, the world occupied by people like Marion Barry, we know that certain theoreticians and academicians are full of shit.

[Edited to add the word "certain," without which the point is unclear and/or unfair.]

Lowe's, "All-American Muslim," And Living From The Inside Out

Part One: Lowe's Decision

This week home improvement mega-chain Lowe's pulled its advertising from the TLC channel's show All-American Muslim. TLC describes the show like this:

All-American Muslim takes a look at life in Dearborn, Michigan–home to the largest mosque in the United States–through the lens of five Muslim American families.

Each episode offers an intimate look at the customs and celebrations, misconceptions and conflicts these families face outside and within their own community.

To some Americans — for example, the Florida Family Association — this portrayal was unacceptable. Does "All-American Muslim" portray Hamas suicide bombers sympathetically? Does it glamorize calls for the destruction of Israel? Does it suggest that honor killings are a rational method of maintaining good family order?

No. All that "All-American Muslim" does is fail to depict such issues. The quarrel of people like the Florida Family Association is that "All-American Muslim" portrays a group of Muslim-Americans as regular folks, faced with regular challenges, with blowing people up and imposing Sharia Law on the West not among them. This, to the Florida Family Association, is necessarily propaganda:

The Learning Channel's new show All-American Muslim is propaganda clearly designed to counter legitimate and present-day concerns about many Muslims who are advancing Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law. The show profiles only Muslims that appear to be ordinary folks while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish.

One of the most troubling scenes occurred at the introduction of the program when a Muslim police officer stated "I really am American. No ifs and or buts about it." This scene would appear to be damage control for the Dearborn Police who have arrested numerous Christians including several former Muslims for peacefully preaching Christianity. Dearborn Police falsely arrested Nabeel Qureshi and Paul Rezkalla in 2010 and Sudanese Christian Pastor George Saieg in 2009 for preaching Christianity at the Annual Arab International Festival. Information on these two arrests are posted below.

The first two episodes start off with Muslim youth complaining about non-Muslim Americans’ perception of them as extremists after 911. The show then reports on these youths’ daily, weekly and monthly prayer rituals. Many Imams who are at the head of these prayer rituals believe strongly in Islam and Sharia law. This TLC show clearly failed to connect the dots on this point but then again that appears to be their intent.

In other words, the FFA believes that it is propaganda to portray some American Muslims as regular people without mentioning that there are also some Muslims who are extremists. Imagine, for a moment, applying this logic to other religious groups. Imagine arguing that it's propaganda to portray a Jewish family without mentioning Baruch Goldstein or Irv Rubin or the USS Liberty "for balance." Imagine attacking any of the many television shows portraying Catholics on the grounds that they do not depict clerical molestation of children. Imagine saying that "Big Love" is propaganda not because of its portrayal of polygamy but because it fails to spend enough time depicting Mormons like Ron and Don Lafferty. Imagine saying that it is propaganda to portray conservative Christians (like those in the Florida Family Association) without mentioning people like Eric Rudolph.

Well, actually, it's not too hard to imagine any of those. America is full of nuts saying stupid, stupid things about popular entertainment.

But it is hard to imagine a major company like Lowe's caving to such an argument about other faiths other than Islam. And make no mistake — spin as they might, Lowe's did cave here:

While we continue to advertise on various cable networks, including TLC, there are certain programs that do not meet Lowe's advertising guidelines, including the show you brought to our attention. Lowe's will no longer be advertising on that program.

Our goal is to provide the best service, products and shopping environment in the home improvement industry. We appreciate your feedback and will share your comments with our advertising department as they evaluate future advertising opportunities.

Lowe's is now desperately trying to pretend that it didn't cave to the FFA, and that it just sort of coincidentally decided that "All-American Muslim" is unsuitable:

Lowe's spokesman Katie Cody clarified, insisting that the reason why they stopped their ads was not solely the Florida Family Association.

'We understand the program raised concerns, complaints, or issues from multiple sides of the viewer spectrum, which we found after doing research of news articles and blogs covering the show,' she said.

'It is certainly never Lowe's intent to alienate anyone,' she continued.

The Florida Family Foundation, triumphant, can wander off to pester other advertisers for buying ads on shows that fail to portray homosexuality as an E-ticket ride to Hell. Lowe's, having caved to the FFA, is now reaping the whirlwind and trying desperately to please everybody:

It appears that we managed to step into a hotly contested debate with strong views from virtually every angle and perspective – social, political and otherwise – and we’ve managed to make some people very unhappy. We are sincerely sorry. We have a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, across our workforce and our customers, and we’re proud of that longstanding commitment.

Lowe’s has received a significant amount of communication on this program, from every perspective possible. Individuals and groups have strong political and societal views on this topic, and this program became a lighting rod for many of those views. As a result we did pull our advertising on this program. We believe it is best to respectfully defer to communities, individuals and groups to discuss and consider such issues of importance.

Lowe's apologia merely hands a roadmap to anyone who wants them to pull advertisements from shows in the future. It's also bringing out the attitudes of their supporters, and the supporters of the Florida Family Association. The comments on their Facebook post show off the folks who support them and the FFA. Take Dr. Dan S. Gilliam, Sr., apparently a psychologist in Wildorado, Texas, who says "I guess it is time to return to Lowe's. At least they can hear and analyze what customers say about promoting a race that would like to kill Americans. If you don't believe that, then you have your head in the sand." Personally I wasn't aware that Muslims are a race, but then I'm not licensed in Texas. There's Billie Jo Connor of Berwyck, Pennsylvania, who is either confusing Muslims with Latinos or is trolling me: "Welcome to america everyone comes from different backgrounds but i for one believe if u come here u should learn english and we should not press 1 to hear someone who i can understand im not gonna learn another language to live in the good ole USA! Merry Christmas!" Or there's Mary Calkins Malone of Yelm, Washington, who has grasped the core message of the FFA that Lowe's has endorsed through its action: "Yay, Lowe's! I don't think All-American and Muslim should be in the same sentence."

Part Two: Americans Living From the Outside In and From the Inside Out

The Florida Family Association is wrong. Lowe's was wrong to yield to it.

Earlier this year, when I wrote about the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I discussed a theme our pastor emphasizes that has become very significant to me:

A life lived from the outside in is a life defined by what has happened to me. A life lived from the inside out is a life defined by how I conducted myself in reaction to what happened to me. We should not define ourselves as the nation that was attacked on 9/11. We should define ourselves as the nation that stood up again, dusted itself off, looked to the injured, honored its dead, and persevered after 9/11.

It is beyond question that some Muslims are violent religious extremists who will kill Americans if they can. It's even beyond question that some such Muslims are here in America. It's clear that some Muslims favor imposition of Sharia law — antithetical to American values like equality and freedom of expression and worship — upon societies, and that some harbor a grand ambition to impose Sharia law here in America.

But those Muslims — however many of them there are — are powerless to change America's nature by themselves. The most horrific terrorist act, the most aggressive campaign to impose their religious values upon us — none of that can, by itself, alter fundamental American traditions and values. Those traditions and values were born in rebellion and deprivation, raised on the frontier, toughened through slow and painful progress from wrong towards right. They include hard work, fair play, due process, equality before the law, liberty, and individuality. Terrorist bombs cannot quell them.

But Americans' reactions to terrorist bombs could.

Americans could live from the inside out — we could define ourselves as the people who defend equality and free expression and freedom of worship and freedom from government interference no matter what, in good times and bad, come what may. Our we can live from the outside in. We could define ourselves as "the country that was attacked by Muslims and now is at war with Islam." God knows that's how people like the Florida Family Association wants us to see ourselves — a fond wish they share with both actual Muslim extremists and lip-service-paying dictators in Muslim countries, who dream of the power they would reap from America declaring war on all Muslims. By doing that, we'd not only commit ourselves to total and endless war, we'd change what America is in response to the threat of Islamic extremism. Muslim fanatics wouldn't have to destroy America — we'd do it for them by turning it into something different, something else, something small and ugly and inglorious. We would abandon consistent and ordered liberty for the vain hope of safety. "Liberty," said Learned Hand, "lies in the hearts of men and women. When it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it." (Thanks to Mike for reminding me of that quote.)

We've flirted with doing this, after 9/11. We've allowed the government to assume much broader powers, unreviewable powers, upon the premise that "9/11 changed everything." That danger is not past. And the mindset displayed by the Florida Family Association and endorsed by Lowe's threatens to push us much, much closer to the abyss. People like the Florida Family Association believe that there is no such thing as an "All-American Muslim" — that "Muslim-American" is an inherently contradictory term. They might agree in theory that America is a land of freedom of expression, but they will employ some categorical dodge to explain their position on Islam — like the increasingly popular "Islam is a political agenda, not a religion." (Note that this appeal to the categorical is exactly how the government convinces us to hand it more and more power over us — by saying things like "this belongs in the 'terrorism' box, not the 'freedom' box.")

So, such people want to affix an asterisk to "Muslim-American." That asterisk is indelible and stains us all, as surely as if we agreed "there is no such thing as a Jewish-American, because Jews have divided loyalties to Israel" or "there is no such thing as Catholic-Americans, because Catholics have divided loyalties to the Pope." No doubt there are some Muslims divided between American values and the values of Islamic extremists, just like there are some Jews divided between American values and the best interests of Israel and some Catholics divided between American values and papal edicts. But it is a central tenet of the mighty American experiment that we should treat people as individuals based on their abilities and acts, not based upon their origins or creeds. If we accept the proposition "we welcome all religions except Islam" or "we recognize freedom of religion for everyone except Muslims" or "we treat everyone equally except for Muslims, because of what some Muslims have done or want to do to us," or even the milder "any Muslim must be viewed with suspicion; no Muslim can be portrayed without a reminder that some Muslims are grave threats," we become a nation that lives from the outside in. We re-define ourselves based on wrongs done to us, rather than continuing to define ourselves by what we are capable of doing in the face of any challenge or any wrong.

It's fashionable, in some quarters, to call words like these naive. Islam is different, we're told. Sharia law is on the march, they cry. You're a fool to extend protections to people that they would never offer to you. But if hewing to these values is naive, I'll live with being naive. Frankly, I think that the mindset of the Florida Family Association and their ilk offers far more fertile soil for Sharia law than tolerance. I'm not worried about secular humanists (or "liberal" Presbyterians like me) yielding to Sharia law some day. I'm far more worried about the sort of people who invoke "America is a Christian nation!" to every social, cultural, legal, or political issue. These are the people, I fear, who are already susceptible to the belief that dogma trumps everything.

Make no mistake: the Florida Family Association and its members have the freedom to call for boycotts of anything they want. Lowe's can cave to the advertising-related demands of any cultural group they want; they're a private entity and they have rights too. But the rest of us also have freedoms. I submit we should use those freedoms to criticize Lowe's and defy the mindset of groups like the Florida Family Association. Let's define ourselves by continuing to defend core American values even when facing tremendous threats. Let's live from the inside out.

Questions For Delta Airlines About Its Partnership With Saudi Arabian Airlines, And Treatment of Israelis and Jews

This story is breaking as I write this, and some of the details are in dispute. But the facts appear to be these:

1. Delta Airlines is entering into a partnership with Saudi Arabian Airlines through SkyTeam, a group of "code-sharing" airlines.

2. Saudi Arabian Airlines, owned and controlled by the Saudi government, enforces a number of the Saudi government's restrictions on travelers. One of these is a prohibition on non-Islamic religious materials:

Items and articles belonging to religions other than Islam are also prohibited. These may include Bibles, crucifixes, statues, carvings, items with religious symbols such as the Star of David, and others. Makkah and Medina hold special religious significance and only persons of the Islamic faith are allowed entry.

3. Saudi Arabian Airlines also enforces Saudi Arabia's ban on entry by citizens of Israel or people who have Israeli stamps in their passports (that is, people who have traveled to Israel).

4. Today USA Today reported, and then withdrew, claims that Saudi Arabian Airlines sometimes prevents Jews — or people it believes to be Jews — from flying. A USA Today blog later printed claims that some Jews have been able to travel to Saudi Arabia without incident. Though some sources continue to assert that Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabian Airlines have some kind of "no Jews" policy, I submit there is grounds to ask for proof on this issue.

5. Delta's response to date has been to say that it is bound by the travel restrictions of the countries to which it flies, but not to clarify what it understands Saudi Arabian Airlines' rules are or will be.

Based on that, I have some questions for Delta Airlines, an American company, to determine my position on its policy, and whether it merits a boycott:

1. Is it your understanding that Saudi Arabian Airlines does not permit Israelis, or people with Israeli passport stamps, to fly with them?

2. Have you conducted any due diligence to determine whether there is cause to believe that Saudi Arabian Airlines excludes fliers it believes are Jewish?

3. When you are partnered with Saudi Arabian Airlines through SkyTeam, what (if anything) will be your role in connection with travelers attempting to book flights to Saudi Arabia?
(a) Will customers be able to book travel on Saudi Arabian Airlines through your web site or other facilities?
(b) Will Delta advertisements include information about flights on Saudi Arabian Airlines?
(c) Will any Saudi Arabian Airlines flights be branded as Delta flights, or vice-versa?
(d) Will any Delta web sites, advertisements, phone systems, or information materials include warnings regarding restrictions on Israelis or people with Israeli passports, or about non-Islamic religious materials?
(e) Will any Delta employees have any role in inspecting passports to prevent Israelis, or people with Israeli stamps on their passports, from checking in, clearing security, or boarding Saudi Arabian Airlines flights?
(f) Will any Delta employees have any role in preventing people from boarding with non-Islamic religious materials?

4. Does Delta partner with any other airline that prohibits nationals of a particular country from flying? Does Delta partner with any other airline that offers flights to a destination country that prohibits nationals of a particular country from flying?

5. If someone provides Delta with credible evidence that, at least on some occasions, Saudi Arabian Airlines prohibits people from flying because it believes those people are Jewish, will Delta continue its partnership with them?

6. Is Delta proud of its partnership with Saudi Arabian Airlines?

Answering these questions might help defuse this public relations crisis.

Or not . . . .

Edited to add: to be a little less coy, I think that if the whole "Jews can't fly" thing is an internet hoax — certainly possible — then there's no reason for Delta not to come out strongly and say so immediately. Even if that part is a hoax, though, I think the other questions — about what role Delta will take, if any, in Saudi Arabian Airlines policy of excluding Israelis and religious materials — are apt.

Edited again: At Volokh Conspiracy, David Kopel has thoughts about the evidence of any anti-Jewish policy and the role of Delta. Also at Hot Air.

Edited a third time: If Delta merely checked whether passengers have a visa from Saudi Arabia (which would necessarily involve Saudi Arabia checking to see if they had an Israeli passport, or an Israeli stamp on their passport), that would be different; I leave it to you to discuss how different.

You Didn't Have To Be A Dick About It

You've probably heard that San Francisco voters will consider a ballot measure to ban circumcision in the city. It's a controversial topic; there are hotly contested medical, social, and individual rights arguments on both sides. I'm not going to try to resolve them: I was circumcised, my son isn't, I see arguments on both sides.

Some Jewish leaders view the initiative as an anti-Semitic attack. It need not be one, necessarily — the circumcision rate in the United States hovers around 50%, while Jews make up only about 2% of the U.S. population (and observant Jews less than that). Moreover, there are many arguments to be made against circumcision that do not depend on denigration of religion.

It would take a heroic effort to frame this dispute as primarily one of anti-Semitism in time for the vote.

Help us, Foreskin Man!

[Read more…]

A White Supremacist BLAST FROM THE PAST!

Hey, remember Bill Johnson?

Bill Johnson, racist lunatic who (under one of his assumed names) proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow only certain whites to vote? Bill Johnson, who tried to ditch that racist lunatic past and run for Superior Court Judge in Los Angeles County? Bill Johnson, who made it onto the Ron Paul 2008 endorsement list until someone noticed his history of racial lunacy and threw him under the blimp? Bill Johnson, local boy in my hometown, who inspired ridiculously incompetent news coverage by my local rag?

He's still around.

When the story broke that judicial candidate Bill Johnson was also known as James O. Pace, author of the Pace Amendment, reaction from Johnson supporters (which included, but were not limited to, Ron Paul supporters) were dubious and/or angry. Not angry at Johnson — angry at people who criticized him. The forums are deleted now, but some supporters asserted that the whole story was all a trick. Many others suggested that Bill Johnson must have changed, that he's no racist, that he was real friendly to non-whites now, and that if he ever was a racist he isn't one now, and this is all just liberal Obama race-card playing.

Yeah. About that.

Via a trackback to my original Bill Johnson post, I discovered a "white nationalist" website reporting on a "white nationalist" entering a Congressional race in Montana. From passing references there, I learned that Bill Johnson is now the Chairman of something called America Third Position, which "exists to represent the political interests of White Americans." His biography notes that he is "more than any other, responsible for safeguarding the course, values, and program of the party."

So, Johnson-for-Judge supporters, how's that apologia looking now?

(I leave it to the imagination of the reader whether a white nationalist site would link to my original post about Johnson to identify him because (1) they didn't read it, (2) they're stupid, or (3) they don't give a shit that it's not complimentary.)

(By the way: Johnson lives (or until very recently lived) within a few miles of me. My wife and I are white, but our kids are Asian-American. Writing about him and people like him tends to attract the sort of people who have a history of inciting threats and violence against people they don't like, with success. However, please remember that Very Serious People think that I should not blog anonymously and that you should think less of me if I do.)

Free Speech And The Urge To Genuflect

When UCLA student Alexandra Wallace posted her moronic anti-Asian rant to YouTube, she felt compelled to preface it with an increasingly standard disclaimer

So we know that I'm not the most politically correct person so don't take this offensively. I don't mean it toward any of my friends I mean it toward random people that I don't even know in the library. So, you guys are not the problem.

All the modern "I can say whatever I want, and you're unreasonable to object" tropes are there — the meretricious invocation of "political correctness" (meant to imply that anyone who objects to what follows is a censorious ideologue), the whiff of "oh, I don't think of YOU as being Asian," and the request that listeners not take offense, invoked as if it changed the meaning and natural tendency of what followed.

Wallace then proceeded to vent, to the best of her bubble-headed ability, her spleen against UCLA students of Asian descent. The shit hit the fan. UCLA — acting correctly — said it would not discipline her for bigoted speech spewed onto the internet, but the tide of infamy has led her to flee.

Allow me a sweeping generalization: nobody ever said anything worthwhile after beginning "I know this isn't politically correct, but . . ." or "I'm not racist, but" or "I have nothing against gays/blacks/Asians/Muslims/whatever, but . . . ." It's not because there's never been a worthwhile statement that could be construed — or misconstrued — as politically incorrect or bigoted. It's because if the speaker had anything worthwhile to say, they wouldn't feel the urge to preface it with an unconvincing disclaimer. They'd say what they had to say, let it rise or fall on its own merits, and accept the consequences, like a grown-up.

Starting out with "you know I'm not politically correct" or "I know this isn't politically correct" or "Not to sound like a racist or anything, but . . ." is a form of special pleading, and a sign of moral and intellectual weakness. Its a request that the listener exempt the following statement from the listener reaction that naturally and probably follows it. It's shorthand — the long form is "Look, I'm not prepared — or perhaps not capable — of presenting a cogent argument about why it's not reasonable for you to take offense at what I'm about to say. And I sure don't have the stones to assert that it doesn't matter whether you are offended or not. So, could you please let me off the hook on what I'm about to say? Please?" It shows an urge to genuflect towards listener sensibilities, but an unwillingness or inability to confront them or defy them. Statements like "I know this isn't politically correct" also have more than a whiff of bootstrapping — of the suggesting that a sentiment has inherent merit because it is offensive to someone. That might wash with simple-minded folks like Bill Maher, but most of us can recognize it as bullshit.

Alexandra Wallace might as well have launched her rant by saying, "Look, I'm a ditz and an asshole. So it would be totally uncool for anyone to react badly when I act like a ditz and an asshole."

There's a flip side to this, though. There's also pressure to genuflect towards sensibilities when we discuss behavior like Wallace's. A discussion of whether or not the First Amendment permits UCLA to discipline Wallace for her speech does not and should not require a ritualistic denunciation of Wallace's behavior. People who find overtly hostile sweeping generalizations about Asians will recognize her rant as offensive whether or not a writer tells them to. People who don't find it offensive still won't even if they encounter a First Amendment analysis suggesting that they should. A demand that any discussion include a sufficient critique of racism infantalizes readers and encourages the worst right-wing stereotypes of academia. Moreover, it erodes civic literacy. A First Amendment analysis ought to be judged on its legal merits, not on its ideological compliance.

You'd think that's obvious. It's not. Blogger Angus Johnston at the blog Student Activism criticized FIRE for failing to condemn Wallace sufficiently in analyzing the First Amendment implications of her speech. In fact, by his title, Johnston suggests that a failure to condemn speech sufficiently is the equivalent of defending the content of the speech, as opposed to the right to utter the speech. Moreover:

Alexandra Wallace’s speech was detestable. If you’re going to defend it on principle, there’s no reason not to admit that.

Well, there is a reason, actually. Whether speech is "detestable" is not pertinent to the question of whether it is protected. If a writer is moved to condemn offensive speech (or ridicule the speaker, which is more our style here), there's nothing wrong with it. But measuring the value of free speech analysis by the extent to which it condemns the speakers and soothes those offended is a distraction — and more than faintly insulting to the offended besides.

In a follow-up, Johnston argues that FIRE downplays and misrepresents the offensive nature of speech it defends:

Again, I respect FIRE’s principles as articulated. I can accept their belief that the work they do requires them to do no more than “present … all the evidence that we have about the expression in question in order to help people make up their minds for themselves.” But that’s not how Shibley approached the Wallace case, and it’s not how FIRE addressed the two previous cases I’ve highlighted. In each of these three cases, representatives of FIRE offered partial and incomplete descriptions of presumptively racist and/or sexist speech, with their omissions serving to create the impression that the speech was less obnoxious than it actually was. And in each of these three cases those same representatives offered editorial defenses of that speech on content-based rather than civil libertarian grounds.

Yet, quite significantly, Johnston utterly fails to explain how FIRE's alleged omissions or distortions were material. That is, Johnson fails to explain how, if FIRE had described the racist speech more vividly, it should have changed FIRE's First Amendment analysis or conclusions. No, what Johnston is talking about is ideological compliance — the notion that there ought not be any discussion of racist speech without a full exposition of the speech and a painstaking denunciation, even if the full details are not relevant to the First Amendment analysis.

That's genuflection. It's no more persuasive that Alexandra Wallace's genuflection. If FIRE engaged in ritual denunciation because it felt that it was expected to do so, then they would be, like Wallace, undermining themselves with a form of cowardice — they would be conveying the message that a discussion of free speech stands not on its legal and civic merits but on its ideological compliance.

Fortunately, FIRE doesn't roll that way. Neither should we.