If I Say Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) Behaved Like A Thug, Does That Mean I’m Claiming He’s Black?

To be clear from the start: Rep. Michael Grimm threatened a reporter last night for doing his job. He behaved like a thug, which is to say that he behaved as a “ruffian, hooligan, vandal, hoodlum, gangster, villain, or criminal” might behave, which is unacceptable for any law-abiding citizen, and outrageous for an elected representative. NY1 political reporter Michael Scotto had the audacity to ask the Congressman a direct question at the State of the Union address relating not to the speech, but to the Congressman’s fundraising, which is the object of an FBI probe. Grimm refused to answer the question, then cornered the reporter (on camera, though he did not know it, and said ominously , in an excellent soto voce imitation of Michael Corleone telling Fredo that he knows he betrayed him…

“Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again I’ll throw you off this f***ing balcony.'”

As the shocked reporter tried to sputter out a defense, Michael…that’s Grimm, not Corleone…continued,

“No, no, you’re not man enough, you’re not man enough. I’ll break you in half. Like a boy.”

That is thuggery, ladies and gentlemen. It also is an affront to the democratic process, the public’s need to be fully informed about the character of their elected representatives, and the duty of reporters to meet that need. Now, I suppose the Congressman could have argued that he answered the reporter’s question by behaving exactly like someone the FBI ought to be keeping an eye on, lest a horse head turn up in some reporter’s bed. Instead, Grimm claimed that he was justified in threatening the life and limb of a journalist, and refused to apologize. Good to know. Staten Island, your elected Representative is a thug, or plays one on TV. Republicans: That’s your Congressman! That’s your Congressman!” (For some reason I have “The Godfather” movies on my brain today.)

But wait—can I call him a thug? Daily Beast race-baiter Jamelle Bouie has declared that “thug” is the new “N-word,” and that when conservatives (read “white guys”) use the word it is a coded racial epithet. In this he is taking his cue from Richard Sherman, the Seattle Seahawks star who behaved like pugnacious jerk in a post-game TV interview, then put on his erudite Stanford grad persona and excused himself by 1) saying that this was his in-game persona coming out—as in Pazuzu, and not the real him, and 2) playing the race card, suggesting that those who called Sherman’s glaring at the camera, shouting “Don’t you open your mouth about the best or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick!”, and generally doing a credible impression of  a street gang member threatening an intruder on his “turf” thuggery were racists. Bouie wasn’t the only one to endorse Sherman’s blame-shifting tactic: alleged comic and Democratic Party flack  Bill Maher agreed that “thug” was now a racial epithet. Anyone could have predicted that someone on MSNBC would eagerly embrace this theme ( I think they draw straws), and sure enough, “PoliticsNation” guest Joe Madison used Sherman’s theory to conclude that Rush Limbaugh was really calling President Obama a nigger.

I didn’t call Sherman a thug; I called his performance arrogant, silly and rude. But thug would have fit, though not as well as it fits the white Republican Congressman, who, according to The Daily Beast, is likely to use “thug” as a code word for racial denigration. But if it’s code for the N-word, can I use it to describe Grimm threatening to break a reporter’s legs? It makes no sense to call him a nigger—does it?—especially since I wouldn’t call anyone that.

Wait,I think I’m beginning to understand the rules! Only a fair and ethical society, only a white man can be criticized for behaving like an asshole. If you criticize a black man, you must be racist.

Got it.


Sources: Daily Beast, Daily Mail

133 thoughts on “If I Say Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) Behaved Like A Thug, Does That Mean I’m Claiming He’s Black?

  1. Here it is in primer form. Liberal, woman, black, socialist, good. Conservative, white, male, capitalist bad. All things bow to the liberal agenda. Any deviation is grounds for shunning and shaming.

  2. And, never attempt to be fair or nuanced as all efforts in that direction will backfire and be used against you. For instance, instead of seeing your correct evaluation of Mr. Grimm’s behavior as a personal indictment of a single person’s behavior the left will use it as a club to beat all Republicans. As you correctly implied.

  3. I hate hate hate it, but we’ve lost the word “thug.” The “thug life” idea has so firmly entrenched itself that tragically the word “thug” has developed indelible ties to black urban criminals. Using it to describe a black man is going to be seen as racist, as saying that no black man can be anything but an inner-city gangbanger. Using it to describe a white person is ultimately probably going to be viewed in the same light as if I got into a disagreement with a white guy in Detroit and yelled “Stop acting like a nigger!” You may not be racist against the individual, it’s true, but you may be called out for racism because you are saying he is acting like a minority, and that doing so is bad. It’s ridiculous, but I don’t think we can take it back.

    • I went to school with a lot of thugs (and was related to some of them) — and I went to an all white school! It was an acceptable term in the Midwest back in the day, but I see that it’s not on the East Coast now. Language changes as you know. Thankfully, “asshole” still isn’t verboten and it is a nice descriptor with no racial, social, gender, religious, or other “you’ve violated my hippie thesaurus language rules” overtones.

    • Thug is a relatively new term anyway (used in the sense ruffian from 1839). Language changes – that is both great and awful.


      What worries and saddens me is that the number of wonderful, colourful words that are used in the appropriate context in the “mainstream” media seems to be diminishing daily – particularly descriptive verbs, something English is particularly good at. (e.g. Stroll, meander, wander, stride versus walk … in most other languages they’d use adverbs.)
      It would be interesting to compare the average number of different words used in a 15 minute segment of TV now versus the 50s. Or the front page of a newspaper.

      • The ever maligned adverb

        And that article doesn’t even cover the problem I see. It talks about using the adjective form of words as adverbs. I’m more concerned that we don’t even modify verbs or adverbs hardly at all any more in order to subtly modify (and therefore enrich) the meanings we convey.

    • Like “hacker” and “conservative” and “feminist”, “thug” has suffered a disabling drift in its meaning.

      If it had not, our host would now be dealing with a storm of criticism and boycott threats from Kali worshippers.

      (Yes, it’s possible to call a white person a nasty name otherwise dedicated to African-Americans. I knew a racist (actual racist, not just politically incorrect) who said “niggers come in all colors”).

  4. From several dictionaries – Thug, a common criminal, who treats others violently and roughly, often for hire. That quoted I feel the word fits, but more clearly I would, also characterize the said representative as a bully. Both words really spell out the real problem, but a bullying a reporter as a person in power is a clear betrayal of the mans commitment to those he serves, as they have the right to be informed. I find the behavior a perfect illustration of abuse of the trust his constituents have placed in him and the arrogance that some of our elected officials have for those they serve.

    The more modern use of the word was coined by Tupac – as someone who is going though struggles, has gone through struggles and who’s everyday life is a struggle. Which while he said this in regards to black men his definition can clearly be applied to any person and seems to be an attempt to excuse thuggish behavior of those who struggle. But if the persons own choices lead to the struggles then the excuse is moot.

  5. Frankly, I have extra understanding for what Sherman did. He made THE game-winning play, then as he told the guy he beat out on that play “good game” and tried to shake hands, the asshole shoves him in the face.

    So not only is he amped for making the play, he’s mad about effectively being told to go fuck himself. In that moment, I would be shocked if he didn’t act a little nutty.

    • I don’t know if you are/were an athlete, but I have to disagree on one thing- what Sherman did wasn’t good sportsmanship. When you beat a guy 1-on-1 in a game winning play, you don’t immediately try to “congratulate” his play- that’s nothing but a taunt, especially with a little butt slap to go along with. Give it 5 minutes, wait til the game’s over, and then talk to him, sure. Sherman was being a jerk.

      In my final organized sports game, the guy who’d been across from me the whole game gave me a hug and told me “good game, you’ve been playing hard, no shame” when the game was well in his team’s hand but not over yet. If I’d heard it after the game, it would have been nice sentiment. In the thick of it, it confirmed that my last goal as a football player was to sideline him.

  6. Nice to see that you can take an important subject like a elected official threatening a member of the press and make it about you , race and the meaning of the word thug.

    • Nice to see that you can dictate how our host chooses to write about an event. You want to shoot the barrel-fish that is “don’t threaten to kill people for asking mean questions” do it on your own blog.

    • It’s called getting two birds with one stone. A good trick when you can pull it off. The post is only about me in the sense that my dilemma was real—I was about to declare Grimm the “Thug of the Month,” and then was brought up short by having just read in one of the linked pieces about how many times the media used “thug” to describe Sherman—600 something—, on the theory that this proves a damn thing. I think they used thug that often because he was acting like one, and it was accurate description—what did Erin Andrews do to justify acting like that in answer to her question? And what’s an articulate Stanford grad doing presenting that kind of image?

      Your response to Sherman’s rudeness was, as I recall, “Who cares, it’s football!” I’d accept that, and Sherman’s first explanation seemed reasonable–he was jacked up. Fine. He made it more about than football by lateraling to the race-baiters, who then ran for daylight.

      And my ability to call Grimm’s (far worse) conduct what it was ended up being constrained by typical race-victim demagoguery. Yeah, I resent it. And so should you.

      • Thug is a word, who cares if people see it as racist or not. As long as you know your intent wasn’t racist that’s all that matters. It is no where near like calling someone a nigger or a black man boy.

        And if you had just called him the thug of the month and the post had been more about why he was you would have taken the word back from people who see it as racist.

        • I think that’s a valid point.
          Sherman says he doesn’t like labels, and I don’t like being told that words have labels. And you are right, the way to take the labels off is to ignore them.

          Go Redskins!

        • “As long as you know your intent wasn’t racist that’s all that matters.”

          Except that in today’s society someone can be seriously injured by a successful accusation of racism. That matters. Someone would have to be a Zen master to shrug that off.

    • Why don’t you fuck off, I’ll say what I want where I want.

      I’ll raise a thought that AMS and I have at odds elsewhere. It is problematic. It is contentious..

      I think, possibly that one person can’t ethically impose personally on a second person an offensive statement if it means imposing a higher injury on the 2nd person than the 1st person is prepared to pay themselves as a price for saying it.. I’m trying seriously to argue a case that some speech amounts to bullying, whereas some is vivid comment. And proposing/considering/thinking about some statement such as this rule as a dividing line between the two.

      To put it less formally if you want to say ‘fuck you’ to someone who is sensitive to the word ‘fuck’ you may do so with increasing volume, intesity, aggession and intent to wound to the extent that you are willing to say the word with equal offence to someone you love and who’s feelings you do care about. Once you reach a level, of remorse for the pain you cause, which stops your speech, that is the value of your offensive free speech to you. it is that level (of unpleasant remorse, emotional distress which you tolerate in order to make your point) that forms the limit of your ethical freedom to offend others and not an ultimate absolute ceiling.

      To do greater injury would mean you were willing to compel others to suffer for your freedom (pleasure, desires) without being willing to suffer similarly yourself for them. That is, Bullying.

      All of which is very arguable and the first time I’ve raised it in that form. I’m willing to hurt the feelings of people to talk about it even if it sets off a riot (or gets me choped to logical atoms in 2 seconds)

      Because, I don’t like bullies. Including reflex aggression like ‘Fuck off’ unless there’s some need or other. But that’s me. Many would be willing to insult their Granny 100 times a day to reinforce freedom of speech – no problem. Just as long as you love your granny so it isn’t a cheap hit.

      • I’m trying seriously to argue a case that some speech amounts to bullying

        Then you are an idiot and not worth any further consideration.

        I am utterly done with you. No one who subscribes to that idea is anything but a language criminal who belongs in fucking word-jail.

        • Well that’s sad. I’m sorry to lose an opponent. But I’m not sorry beyond about 1% of my allowance by my rule of thumb. I would willingly cry bitter tears of remorse, if that would stop bullying.

        • Let me make one thing quite clear. I don’t mind being fragged about this.

          For me what AMS says and does passes this ’empathy test’ with flying colours. Those colours would be the black flaq of absolute defiance and they must be kept flying. And before you ask, yes, I would go to my mum’s house and take lords name in vain, which she reallycannot bear, watch the poor woman weep for the pain it gives and come back and do the same thing the next day and forever if needs be if that’s what it took to keep AMS going (assuming he is sincere which I certainly hope and believe him to be).

          But it only takes one brave man to do that. Some support from time to time I’m sure will be welcome. If it’s actually sincere and necessary.

          The empathy test is directed to others. A comment I got from someone once to a point I raised and they disagreed with was ‘Nyaaa, Nyaaa, my dilemma is bigger than your dilemma’. That’s far worse in my book than anything AMS or Scott said to me. To be called an actual idiot andd my argument worthless without actually treating me like a human being oor havng the guts to say I’m not – unspeakable. If the perpetrator could pass the empathy test on that statement he should have expressed himself more clearly.

          Another case is casual abuse. ‘Yeah, whatever, retard’. Unless you are comitted to it that kind of thing is out of order for me. Either you care about the argument, in which case express it properly or you don’t, in which case – shut up.

          There are some in the world, I hope few on blog, who hide in the folds of that black flag of defiance and launch attacks on perfect strangers very casually indeed. They pretend it is defence of free speech. But really it is bullying tyranny. and ‘I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. Thomas Jefferson’ Scrub the God part, that’s my position too, including ‘pseudo-free speech tyrants’ and petty abusers. I don’t like bullies.

      • If I were too much of a delicate lily to handle getting told to fuck myself I wouldn’t comment on the internet, especially not by snarkily telling someone that I thought they were wrong.

        • There is no obligation on the receiver to be either robust or delicate. It’s the intention of the speaker that is in the mill. Nothing personal or Snarky intended,just one of several examples I could have picked, it’s better with real issues. It’s an idea. That’s all at the moment.

          • There IS obligation on the receiver to be robust, though. Speech is NOT bullying. I’ve been told a million permutations of “go fuck yourself”, some more clever and some less, some less deserved and some more. That does not and CAN not make me a “bullying” victim. Grimm grabbed a smaller younger man by the shirt and threatened direct and feasible violence, you can make a case that he’s being bullied. Telling someone to fuck themselves isn’t plausible or immediate, no bullying. If I can’t handle it I’ll leave, and expect likewise from everyone else.

            • Speech can be bullying. Of course. It may not be actionable bullying, it may not rise to the level of a crime, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t bullying. Sometimes telling someone to “go fuck yourself” can be bullying, or not. As usual, context does matter.
              What Grimm did was illegal. It was a direct threat to someone to do immediate bodily harm, as well as a battery. Technically he could have been arrested. But bullying is a broader category than just what someone can be arrested for.

            • In general over time that is quite correct there is an obligation to be as tough as possible (exactly to give others maximum freedom). But for a speaker there is also an obligation to bear in mind any existing vulnearbility at the time of the speech. Imagine being a samaritan sitting next to a ‘jumper’. “Go on and jump” Would not meet the rule of thumb. except for the extreme adherents of free speech, who wuld still be free to say it even if the guideline were made law (not that it ever could be). It’s just a quick check to make sure you don’t get caught up in what you are saying and inadvertently do unintended damage or really unpardonable damage or commit casual erosion of a social space. and so far, just an idea.

              • “To do greater injury would mean you were willing to compel others to suffer for your freedom (pleasure, desires) without being willing to suffer similarly yourself for them. That is, Bullying.”

                You’re joking correct? Suffer? This is more of the same softness going on in our society, individualism is the answer…oh no that is much too harsh, too much suffering. Maybe our nation is at a place in which the biggest issues we face is bulling and suffering from words. If someone offends you, you take issue with someone’s words, then as an individual you should resolve it, not society. If the bastard is on the bridge ready to jump I don’t concern myself if a word I said may have made him jump, he is the one who went to the bridge and climb upon the wall. I know we have screwed ourselves out of ways in which resolve conflicts, what years ago would have just boys fighting in the school yard is now call felony. But there are still options, many times just verbally confronting someone is enough……it should at least be step one, and fear of using words to confront words, “suffering in silence”, because more words, or a punch may result only makes the issue worse. Legislating against speech is always one of the first steps in destroying a democracy.

                • Please note, the rule of thumb only separates vivid comment from bullying. A firm believer in free speech will be quite willing to go as hiigh as bullying overtly in pursuit of an ideal. But at least they’d be consious of the fact and could engage in a reasonable discussion on that basis. They wouldn’t be saying I bear no responsibility whatever, instead they’d say yep, consequences, ok, oh my my, oh dear, (sob) oh well i accept them all – freedom first. It doesn’t reduce freedom – just says freedom isn’t free. and I acknowledge that any idea of limitation even hinted at around free speech will ruffle feathers. Mine too. But there is a difference, ethically between vivid and bully talk.

                  • For the remainder of your points. The resolving of conflicts is not something we will agree on. You sound US/libertarian/honour culture, I’m much more UK/ left anarcho-punk-socialist-green-nice and polite society/law culture, but so far to the left I’m on the right – we can get along but don’t expect me to understand always. I’m odd, so i fit in here. Huh? I hear you…

                    Guy on the bridge – he’s a brother. His trouble is my trouble. (We are really going to have a lot to talk about – later)

                    School yards – try being on the bottom of that pile, every day, and treated like an object because you lost. It might change your viewpoint, but I doubt it.

                    Legislation against speech? Nothing and I mean nothing could be further from my mind. Ethics is diffferent. The main reason I look to the west for salvation is your constitution and it’s written definitive rights. I’ve got so much despair over the rest (look we need a looooooong talk). But the 1st ammendment, yes please, tomorrow or sooner and can I have extra freedom with mine please, no ketchup.

                    I have a weird take on things, this one, the empathy test, I hope you like in the end. It’s about maximising freedom and individual responsibility. And toughness, double ration, access all areas.

  7. Frankly I’ll defend Grimm a little. The reporter tried to go off topic and he was having none of it. That said, he had walked away and should have just walked away. Coming back and threatening the guy was where he crossed the line into thuggery.

    • Yep. Saying that he was only talking about the SoU address and walking away was perfect, and it left the reporter looking weaselly as he stood there going “Well we just wanted some answers, but he’s not going to give them.” Should have quit while he was ahead.

      • We cannot criticize the news media for pitching softballs at lying, inept and crooked pols and then applaud when an elected official threatens bodily harm to a reporter for asking a legitimate question. That’s a great way to improve media initiative and diligence—have reporters fearing for their lives when they ask tough questions. Sure–the question was an ambush. Good. Now America knows that this NY Congressman is under investigation by the FBI. I learned something about Grimm.Then I learned that he tries to intimidate the news media.

        • I’m not applauding the threat at all, I’m applauding his initial reaction to the ambush- anything a politician says off the cuff is subject to being aggressively twisted by partisan media (and I’m getting fairly sure we don’t have any other kind). Rather than putting his foot into hit he walked away- good. then he came back with a threat. Very very bad.

          The reporter’s smug little afterward bugged me, and I’d bet it’s what set Grimm off. Not that he was justified, but I’d have been irritated to hear that coming from behind me too.

    • I have no problem with refusing to answer a question when an official isn’t quick enough, confident enough, or prepared to answer it. But you cannot blame a reporter for trying to get the facts, and coming back with intimidation and threats is indefensible.

  8. I think the term “thug” isn’t necessarily racist, but it has become racialized. People definitely apply it more to one race than the other. I remember back in the day of the Beltway snipers, before their identity was known, profilers and pundits would come on the screen proclaiming that whoever this guy was, he was going to be a white male, crafty, and smart. Of course, the shooter turned out to be two black males. Those selfsame people, without missing a beat, proclaimed them to be useless thugs. once their identity was known. That’s when I first noticed this tendency.

    But yes, thug has gone the way of telling a black person that he’s so “articulate.” Unless there is a very good reason for it, use other words. In the case of Sherman, the word “thug” was inappropriate. He didn’t beat anyone up, or even threaten to beat anyone up. Why use thug when “poor sport” would do?

    • 1. You don’t regard “Don’t you open your mouth about the best or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick!” a threat to beat someone up? What would you call it?

      2. I think people should use the words that best express what they mean, and let those who want to constrain vocabulary and the ability to express thoughts by declaring various words taboo go pound sand.

      3. See “the niggardly principles”…

      • You don’t regard “Don’t you open your mouth about the best or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick!” a threat to beat someone up? What would you call it?”

        I don’t consider it a threat to beat someone up. I consider it a promise to show them up, on the field, the way he did Crabtree. He’s in the middle of boasting about being the best cornerback, not the best boxer.
        I think people should use the words that best express what they mean, and let those who want to constrain vocabulary and the ability to express thoughts by declaring various words taboo go pound sand.

        That is your right, of course. But language is a two-way street between both the one communicating, and the one receiving the communication. Why get sidetracked into a race conversation that you didn’t intend if there are ways to avoid it? If you believe that Sherman was a poor sport, why not call him that instead of thug? Especially given at this point thug’s known racial connotations?

        • I think most people would disagree with your interpretation, and I’d urge you to read your own comment. When someone who is bigger than me says I better shut my mouth or they’ll shut it for me, I take that as a threat…and, by the way, the law agrees.

          Note again that I didn’t call Sherman a thug. But I’m not going to avoid it because MSNBC’s langauge police says so. Why not call him a poor sport instead of a thug? Well, why not say he misused an adjective when “quickLY’ was what he should have said? Because someone wants to comment not on his arrogance, lack of self control or poor sportsmanship, but violent attitude and threatening words…which he asked for by acting like that. Which of the synonyms I mentioned are more accurate? I found “ruffian, hooligan, vandal, hoodlum, gangster, villain, and criminal.” Ruffian and hooligan make one sound like Frasier. Vandal is inapt. Gangster has clear racial identification. Villain? Too much, and too melodramatic. Criminal? His rant wasn’t criminal.

          So essentially the taboo on thug forces a commentator to either use the wrong word (and get criticized for THAT) or criticize something else. Which, I believe, is the whole idea.

          • Who was Sherman threatening? In the little twenty second clip I saw, he seemed mostly to be boasting about he was the greatest. Andrews asks him to clarify who he was talking about, he says Crabtree, who had previously been talking smack about Sherman, and who Sherman had just shown up on the field. It was clearly a boast about his performance, past and future.

            Though if you really believe that he was actually threatening someone, why wouldn’t criminal do? But moving on, you say that gangster has a clear racial identification, making it off limits, but thug does not? I see, we are not quibbling over language usage or censorship per se, but whether the word thug has become sufficiently racialized or not. You contend that it has not, I think that it has. Ok.

            • I don’t think gangster has racial connotations, but I think it would be inaccurate to describe Sherman’s behavior that way. Otherwise Jack is spot on.

              A more accurate description of Sherman’s rant would be “classless, unsportsmanlike AND thuggish”.

              But the threat of force was what was most noteworthy. Hence the focus on “thug”.

              • I agree on in regards to the word thug, but it is a stretch to say Sherman was threatening physical violence against anyone. It is bluster, tough talk and challenging anyone to best him. The fact that people get so wound up about confrontational language further demonstrates how soft our society is getting. Grimm was threatening violence, Sherman wasn’t.

                • Whether he intended physical violence or engaged in rhetoric only: “I will shut your mouth for you” is pretty self evident.

                  The tone and body with which it was delivered helps round out the judgement of describing it as “thuggish”.

                  Neither the time nor the place on a post game interview.

                  History has given us thousands upon thousands of athletes who show that class, sportsmanlike conduct and self discipline lead them to leave their emotions on the field at the flip of a switch and become fully civil and gracious as soon the game is over.

                  His behavior was an exception, on national television and is therefore noteworthy AND critique worthy. His words and tone ARE accurately described as they were.

                  •  Oh, I don’t disagree even in regards to his actions and “His words and tone ARE accurately described as they were.” Where it goes beyond is whenever anyone makes his actions to be more then what they were, classless and unsportsmanlike. Our society is more and more prone to treating harsh and confrontational language as actual violence. Context is also important; if the confrontational stance is taken in response to someone being an asshole or attacking ones character then I really am ok with it, even escalating it to actual physical confrontations if the actions continue.

                    • To be clear i don’t think Sherman was warrented in his actions, nor was Grimm. Unless more info comes out I think Grimm may have been right to take a confrontational stance but he went too far too quickly.

          • I do think context matters here- if you and I are in an argument and I tell you to shut your mouth or I’ll shut it for you, that’s a threat of force. If I’m an athlete and think the guy next to me is talking trash about me and his superiority to me, then telling him to shut his mouth or I’ll shut it for him is more of a counter-brag that I’ll perform so well and make him look so bad that he wont’ be able to keep talking trash.

            • Context matters—but the excuse that it was just bluster would also apply to “and I’ll beat your damn face in”, “and I’ll make sure you never speak again,” “and I’ll make sure your mother can’t recognize you,” as well as “and I’ll rip your head off and puke down your neck hole.” But these aren’t violent threats, nah…

              But you know who talks like that in ANY context? THUGS.

              • Those are all threats of direct violence, that may be meant only to illustrate how bad I will beat you at sports. “I’ll shut your mouth for you” isn’t a direct thread of physical action, and is a commonly used metaphor for beating someone so bad (points/skillwise, not beating up) that they can’t even defend their efforts.

              • Once again, who is Sherman threatening exactly? He is so clearly talking about how he shut up Crabtree with his performance. If it’s a threat, its a threat to embarrass anyone who would disparage his claim as the greatest cornerback. To me, it’s a clear continuation of his boasting. If someone says to another person who they are playing against in an upcoming game, “we are going to beat you so bad when we meet next week, your mother won’t recognize you,” do you immediately reach for the smelling salts and call the police, or do you realize that they are talking about the context of within the game?

                  • But once again, who was Sherman threatening? The tone and posture should be directed towards someone for it to be a threat. In this case, looking at the context, it was an obvious boast, not a threat.

                    • If he was addressing Crabtree, I have a very difficult time seeing how his statement, “Don’t you open your mouth about the best or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick!” was anything other than a boast about what had just happened on the field. I’m sure Crabtree was not in a very talkative mood after that game.

                    • Geez that’s odd. I would have thought if he was talking about what he’d just done, he’d be using a cool thing we call “past tense”.

                      He wasn’t. He wasn’t making a serious threat he intended to carry out, I’ll grant that. But there’s no realistic reading of his words + tone + body language other than “thuggish”. + context + attitude and you also get “unsportsmanlike” and “classless”.

                    • He’s using Crabtree to illustrate his point. “Crabtree thought he could go against me and I shut him up! If you think you can go against me you better shut up or I’ll shut you up just like I did him!” Still classless, still horrible sportsmanship, no true threat required.

                    • Geez that’s odd. I would have thought if he was talking about what he’d just done, he’d be using a cool thing we call “past tense”.

                      Not necessarily. Did I think he was talking about beating up or otherwise manhandling Crabtree? No. Crabtree had apparently been disparaging Sherman before the game. Therefore within context, when Sherman says, “Don’t you open your mouth about the best or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick!”, he is telling Crabtree, “Don’t talk trash about me, because you will get embarrassed on the field, like what just happened.” It was Sherman’s own version of “knowing is half the battle” rendered in trashtalk.

                    • It’s amusing how your explanation of his meaning requires you to reword what he said and add clarifying comments.

                      My reading uses what he said word for word.

                    • Considering that you yourself have already said that you believe Sherman didn’t mean what he said literally, I’m pretty sure you are also injecting clarifying statements into what you think he meant. No difference.

                    • At the very least, based on what you’ve said previously, your clarifying statement for Sherman is: “Don’t you ( Crabtree)open your mouth about the best( me, Sherman ) or I’m gonna shut it for you (with physical force real quick!” ( But not really, ha,ha!).

                      You have just never bothered to write it out is all.

                    • You are being willfully obtuse now.

                      “Don’t you ( Crabtree)

                      HE clarified who he was talking to. (no need for me to add that)

                      “open your mouth about the best( me, Sherman )”

                      I never needed to clarify it was himself he was discussing. That’s self-evident, and only an idiot would argue against that. This is a mini strawman.

                      “or I’m gonna shut it for you (with physical force real quick!” ( But not really, ha,ha!). ”

                      I didn’t need to add anything to that, the words are self-evident. You, however had to add all sorts of rephrasing and clarifying explanations and personal anecdotal opinion to get to the meaning of your reading.

                      So again, none of the suppressed premises needed to be said, because, like I said, the words + tone + posturing = a self-evident meaning.

                      And again, none of your interpretation made sense until you rephrased what he said and added to it.

                • The last two, that he was threatening to shut (Crabtree’s) mouth using physical force at some point in the future if Sherman was to hear (Crabtree) talking about Sherman is not self-evident, otherwise we wouldn’t be talking about it, and so many wouldn’t be disagreeing with your interpretation. Add in that you yourself believe he wasn’t actually threatening anyone literally, you are basically agreeing with everyone’s idea that he was joking around, and being a blowhard. Unsportsman-like? Perhaps. Thuggish? Much more of a reach. I’m pretty sure Sherman didn’t intend a threat (and you agree), and I’m also reasonably certain that Crabtree didn’t feel particularly physically threatened by that statement either. So not much evidence of thuggish behavior.

  9. Saying “Thug is the new N-Word” does not mean that we have changed the definition of thug. It means that people who would normally say the N word are replacing it with the word thug and that the meaning beneath the use of the word is the same.

    It is just like calling someone a boy isn’t a bad thing. But if you refer to a black man as “boy”, well, you are likely a racist.

    • Except people who normally say “nigger” still say “nigger” and people who normally want to describe “ruffian, jerkish behavior with associated threats of force” in one word still use the word “thug”. And accurately so.

      When people call black *men* “boys”, you may have a point. When people call black boys “boys” they are just as accurate as calling white boys “boys”.

      That’s not an analogous rebuttal.

    • Yes. A lot of people changed their language out of social pressure. They didn’t change their thoughts or feelings.

      Consider the Lee Atwater quote, “By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’—that hurts you, backfires”. Not “wrong”, he said, he said “backfires”.

      So what are they saying now? They’re coming up with new ways to say the same thing, like Victorians discussing sex.

      Which creates the problem of false accusations that Jack raised the alarm about. Someone talking about Census data about people between 13 and 18 in Census districts of high population density should be able to say “urban youth” without being accused of making a coded racist statement.

      On the flip side someone who seems to be criticizing safety net programs and then suddenly jumps to the idea of lecturing the NAACP about them deserves to be confronted.

      • Rarely a word is invented and passes instantly into a use in language. Quiz, I think, was invented. More often, there is a strong quick shift in meaning. Once ‘gay’ meant ‘happy’ and a tea-bag – was a tea-bag. But no one person can usually say, “Ok I’ve decided for all of you that from now on ‘banana’ means ‘nigger'” Nor can anyone person pretend that “nigger” isn’t a deeply racist offensive word, it has been used with physical force atttached and bigotry associated over too many years to mean anything else. Except when body of young kids attach a different meaning for it, and that spreads slowly. Or except when another group start saying ‘black’ which didn’t have the same connections as nigger and that meaning was overtaken by repeated erosion of thinking of the term as a synonym for nigger, which it is not by a long strech, yet.

        The language is a battleground and by looking at usage over time, the course of the battle can be traced (from Welsh studies). So invention and re-discovery of words may be found when a cultural element is changed. That is changed by those with one agenda or the other to represent a different attitude to the existing word and the existing issue. If you use ‘black’ for ‘nigger’ it displays your allegiance just as clearly as if you were using ‘Malvinas’ for ‘Falkland Islands’.

        Using ‘thug’ for ‘black’ also demonstrates group membership, but in this case its membership of a group that falsely allocates using a word to another group.

        By which I mean, using thug for black declares membership of the club defined by : ‘We falsely say ‘you are a racist because you said ‘thug’.” That is, as a group we are so committed to the black cause, that we are prepared to tell lies for it. Thus demonstrating our commitment and reinforcing it. Using ‘thug for ‘black’ is at once a protest, a sign of membership, an attack on an enemy and a rallying point.

        And bloody confusing for anyone looking in from outside. Which is even better.

        That got complex.

        • I think that may have failed the ‘trans-atlantic translation gap’. I think I can put it more clearly.(sorry I didn’t think of writing it this way before)

          Using their influence and the fear of offending anyone racially that the press have, in order to intimidate and guilt-trip everyone into alllowing them to redefine ‘thug’ as ‘nigger’, is a smart but vicious lie.

          Because ‘thug’ is a commonly used term, as soon as the definition is popularised it makes all journalists and commentators who have ever used the word look like racists. And causes ‘confusion to the white established race enemy’. Clever.

          Any black agitator, or kid, who uses ‘thug’ that way will now look clever and strong and right (within the circle of their natural support). And influential on other kids…..

          Don’t be surprised to hear two kids greeting each other with ‘Wasssup, thug?’

          That’s clearer, I hope…

  10. Jack
    Grimm’s behavior was abominable but if voter in NY want that they can have it. I think the underlying ethical issue here is when those that appear as arbiters of truth (not the reporter in this case) play to and reinforce the prejudices, mindsets, attitudes and beliefs of their respective audiences by way of making false etymological equivalency among word usages for the specific purpose of causing controversy or to inflame.

    The greatest threat to our nation today is not some terrorist with an IED it is the deceit that can be masked by communicated language. Spoken language is what allows humans to advance, record its progress, learn from past mistakes, and promotes understanding of ideas. Language conventions serve as the rules of understanding. When language conventions are misapplied, contorted, or not understood by the receiver of information, it is easy to vilify your opponent. When words are used to convey one idea but are interpreted by the arbiters of truth (Oberman, Limbaugh, Hannity, Bouie, et al) as something completely different because the media translators want to advance a specific agenda likely to be seen by their audience as beneficial, then it is the worst form of journalistic ethics.

    This practice has become widespread because the command of the English language has been declining within the population that consistently looks for external locus of control for their own economic condition and is easily reinforced by the 24/7 news cycle. All that is necessary is an enemy that utters words that are in any way descriptors of an action or idea that are counter to the arbiter’s of truth positions. Simply take a word or two in the statement and reinterpret them as a well known epithet that is fully understood by the audience to convince them that they should not listen to or reflect upon what was actually stated by the opposition. It is a form of Orwellian News Speak.

    In his first campaign, Obama was said to be an articulate orator by members of the right, and some on the left took umbrage at the term “articulate” suggesting that the word is used to describe an African American that was more white than black. Conversely, when VP Biden made a reference to him being clean, well-groomed and articulate – not a peep from the left.

    I guess what bothers me the most is that college professors of English often punish student writers who create written communications on a level higher than 9th grade. Long, grammatically correct sentences must be chopped up, extensive usage of highly discreet polysyllabic verbiage is frowned upon, and, unfortunately, student essays that offer well developed countervailing points of view to established norms are invariably downgraded relative to lesser developed works that espouse the group norm.

    If we do not call out these charlatans who proclaim themselves to be the arbiters of truth, we are going to be in a world of trouble.

    • Quite frankly I’ve never understood the furor over “articulate.” Sure if i say “he’s an articulate black man,” there’s connotation that most black men aren’t, and he’s an outlier. If I’m talking about a college professor, or a politician, or one of the managers at work, and want to point out that they are well-spoken with a broad and apt vocabulary and clearly convey meaning, ten it’s a perfectly cromulent word.

      • Yup. Context matters.

        The Captain of a ship noted in a log “of note: the 1st officer was drunk on duty today”.

        After the 1st officer protested vehemently that the log would ruin his career, the captain informed him, sorry, the log is in unchangeable and used to document noteworthy events.

        The next day, as duty officer, the 1st officer added to the log “of note: the Captain was sober today”

      • I think the problem with “articulate” is that it tends to be used pretty much exclusively in conjunction with black people. Most people and articles don’t note that a white politician or professor is articulate. It is assumed. They note when someone white *isn’t* articulate.


        The above link demonstrates that black people are described as “articulate” orders of magnitude greater than people of other races. It is definitely a racialized word.


        Just talks about the issue in general.

        • “I think the problem with “articulate” is that it tends to be used pretty much exclusively in conjunction with black people.”

          A canard. I use it generally. It is often used in reference to athletes, who are not known for their erudition. I have seen it used in reference to artists, especially actors.

          It’s a “gotcha,” like “thug.” People said Allen Keyes was articulate because he was outstandingly so, not for a black man, but for anyone. People who heard Sherman’s post rant interview noted that he was articulate because articulation isn’t expected from someone who acts like he did, no matter what race he is.

          Off script, Obama isn’t especially articulate.

          • You might use it for anyone Jack. But generally speaking, it is a word that is usually reserved for black people, or people for that you are surprised can speak as well as they do. I think at this point the use of the word has more than a touch of condescension to it.

            • Honestly, I usually use it as an insult.

              Like, if all I can say is that you speak words in a way that I can understand what words you are saying, then think about what compliments I’m not giving and ponder the reasons I am not giving those compliments.

          • Uh oh. O’Reilly just interviewed Thomas Henderson (former Dallas Cowboy). At the conclusion of their discussion on brain injury and concussions, O’Reilly quipped “despite it all you are still very articulate”

            Guess that proves O’Reilly is racist. Of course he works for Fox News so we may just be getting a false positive on the “articulate” is racist test.

              • That’s racist. How dare you call Thomas Henderson black… don’t you realize all the negative stereotypes that go along with being black?

                Like you calling him black I should assume he’s a coke addict and football player.

        • It would be less of an issue if one could easily understand what the fuck many black teens were fucking saying.

          The day people started letting ebonics exist as a thing was the day language died.

          Language’s corpse was then beaten and set on fire when we stopped beating children who so much as tried to use “txt-speak” on school papers.

          • Compared with the subltle lie (if I’ve guessed right) of saying ‘Thug is the new N-word’ that statement looks flat footed as well as gratuitously ultra-offensive and intimidating – again.

        • Deery,
          Irrespective of real or perceived connotation of “articulate” my point was that when the word is used by the opposition then it is interpreted as an cloaked invective. Conversely. as I pointed out, when Joe Biden made what could be an even more offensive remark stating that he (Obama) was a clean well-groomed articulate man there was nary a whisper that Biden used demeaning descriptors.

          The media lives and dies on controversy. There are enough legitimate points of policy disagreements in need of resolution that we have no time for media generated animus that distracts us away from real issues.

          Those that carry a chip on their shoulders will always find someone willing to knock it off. If one spends a great deal of time looking for oblique insults they will always find them because they control their own perceptions but they will find that they have very little time to do great things.

          • People did make a big deal about what Biden said. To the point where he apologized to Obama about his statements. It was headline news for CNN, the Washington Post, etc. Obama accepted his apology, while also pointing out that Chisolm, Jackson, etc. were also clean and spoke well. 🙂

            I do think language matters. How we refer to each other matters. It shapes how we think about each other and ourselves, as well as how we treat each other. It also pulls back the curtain on how we currently think about each other as well, underneath it all, which is where the conflict and uncomfortableness come into play.

        • It’s like telling someone different-looking that their English is excellent. It’s a pure compliment, right? Except I’ve heard from more than one person who is deeply hurt, even though they burned midnight oil for years mastering English, by the underlying assumption that they’re a foreigner. They want to be accepted as the citizens they are, to be seen as “Us” rather than “Them”.

          After you know them well enough that they’ve shared their life story and you know they moved to an English-speaking country at age 9, then it’s a pure compliment to say “My God, your English is better than most native speakers!”.

      • Luke,
        I agree with your point regarding the inclusion of the word “black” to describe the race of the man when coupled with the term “articulate” the negative connotation can be interpreted that way. That does not mean it was intended in such a manner.
        What is interesting is that the phrase “old white men” is used with regularity to inculcate the idea of universal minority oppressors.

        I do not understand why we need to include a racial descriptor for anyone unless we are trying to describe how the person looks so that he or she can be identified more easily.

        I do not identify call the college president the college’s black president as it does not confer any special significance related to his capabilities. I can accept the statement that x is the first black college president because it conveys additional meaning. I would not however continue to refer to him as the college’s black president.

        There are some that want to find offense or slight in communications. This is not to seek clarity of understanding but to gain debating power in the ongoing dialogue.

    • ” if voter in NY want that they can have it.”

      I disagree there. There are some minimum expectations an official in a free society has to meet. The rest of us have the right and the reason to suppress an incipient dictatorship in NY1 even if the voters want it.

      Threatening violence on a reporter who asks unwanted questions is a dictatorship move, period. Whether or not there’s a legal way to remove him from office, the thug (there, I said it) should not have any government job with any power.

  11. He apologized. I don’t think he meant it and I wouldn’t have in the sense that the reporter didn’t deserve it. I think he means it in the sense that he was unprofessional and he regrets it. 1.) The threat was bluster 2.) It was
    unprofessional 3.) It was pure emotion. I have no issue with physical confrontations when someone is being an asshole, be an asshole and you risk getting bloody or at least called out for being one. I KNOW it is unethical and unprofessional but I am perfectly fine with it, as well as the consequences arising from it. With this case for me it comes down to degree, I don’t know what was agreed to prior, the full context of actions or the history of Grimm and NY1. If the reporter did cross the line Grimm nulled his complaint, even if it would have even mattered, by his actions. I know I am on the wrong side of ethics on this but I just can’t help looking at this as a smug asshole reporter who was likely unprofessional that was confronted by his target for being an asshole. The media and reporters have demonstrated time and again that they are willing to go beyond reporting and inject themselves in stories or create a situation where it happens. They demonstrate the same desire to claim victim status as any other good progressive protected group.
    “I was wrong. I shouldn’t have allowed my emotions to get the better of me and lose my cool,” Grimm said in a written statement. “I have apologized to Michael Scotto, which he graciously accepted, and will be scheduling a lunch soon. In the weeks and months ahead I’ll be working hard for my constituents on issues like flood insurance that is so desperately needed in my district post Sandy.”

    • Hadn’t seen the latest apology, which was the right thing to do. He explicitly did NOT apologize originally, saying, “The reporter knew that I was in a hurry and was only there to comment on the State of the Union, but insisted on taking a disrespectful and cheap shot at the end of the interview, because I did not have time to speak off-topic.” Sure he did. Just as he had time to come back and threaten the reporter.

      I don’t know where you get the reporter claiming victim status, or being smug. He looked pretty mild, and all he had said was that the Rep. refused to discuss the issue raised.

      • From what I am reading it was prearranged interview, my understanding is it was agreed to the topic to be discussed and the timeline with them getting first stop. I am ok with putting these guys on the spot but I think the line is crossed when an agreement is made and then the reporter ambushes the politician, this is dishonest and if I was lied to in such a way I would be pissed and confrontational as well. In that situation if NY1 made the decision that they wanted answers beyond what was agreed then they had the duty to either not agree or notify him prior to the arranged interview. If the agreement on topic was not made prior then I am ok with putting him on the spot. Based on what is reported and his reaction I believe NY1 duped him. As for the reporter smugness, that is how he comes across to me in the videos I have seen. I am ok with ambush reporting but this seems to be a total setup on him and the gotcha reporting was done to get a reaction, once they got it they played the victim of the scary powerful politician. It was newsworthy only because they created the situation. That is not to say the investigation is not just that they blew it on how they choose to pursue it.

    • Scheduling a lunch? There’s no way in hell I’d eat lunch with someone who threatened me. I hate these phony gestures people use to make everything ok. I still don’t know why GWB had now-former Senator Webb and his son to the White House after Webb disrespected him and indicated he wanted to fight him when he could have locked him out for the remainder of his term. I don’t know if you are ethically required to accept an apology, but you’re sure as hell not required to then act like nothing happened.

      In the heat of a hearing my opponent threatened to break my arm, I told him to come ahead, and the City had to post a cop in the room for the rest of the hearing. He later apologized and offered me coffee. I poured it out on the ground and told him if he had anything to tell me, related to work only, he could submit it in writing, we were done talking.

      • I don’t get the lunch thing either, it would make sense if it was an arrangement to talk about the investigation while leaving him free to focus the interview on his reaction to the President, but once they broke the deal then all bets are off. Maybe it is appeasement, if NY1 is his primary means to reach those he represents then he may have had no choice.

  12. I am somewhat perturbed at the reporter’s actions, as well, and not simply the followup. I take issue with the choice to, immediately following the state of the union address by the president – a president buried up to his neck in scandals which have gone untouched – hound a congressman (R) about his own personal scandal. The tactic of carefully chosen targets seems highly suspect to me,

    That being said, yes, hounding is what reporters are supposed to do. And yes, the congressman’s response was churlish and reprehensible.

    • I dunno, it’s been brewing for quite a while. Look back at the Duke Lacrosse case, one of the professors most keen to see the players prosecuted was Marc Anthony Neal (I believe it was him) who said he wanted to enter the world of academia in a threatening brash manner, to not just be an intillectual or a black intillectual but a “thugniggaintillectual,” his word.

    • Trayvon Martin… I think that is when the word “thug” started to take on a new meaning for many people.
      I think you’re right.
      It also might be different depending on what part of the country you’re in.

  13. Is there some reason why the Left doesn’t just publish the codebook so that we can avoid using redefined words and phrases? I, for one, would love to know what I am and am not allowed to say. On the other hand, I suppose keeping it secret does allow for playing “Gotcha!” when some oblivious conservative uses a word that no longer means what he thought it did.

    • There’s always the option of asking first.

      My wife was in at the beginning of a working group at her church focused on black concerns. The white people asked politely and maybe a little nervously whether they were supposed to say “African-American Concerns”. The blacks just rolled their eyes. It was the “Black Concerns” group from then on.

      If you’re a stranger talking to strangers, the ancient etiquette rule is to start at the highest level of politeness and work your way down as you get permission. It takes only a little effort to keep checking what the latest sensitive vocabulary is, and it’s worth the annoyance to be able to communicate that you give a damn about people’s feelings.

      • If you’re a stranger talking to strangers, the ancient etiquette rule is to start at the highest level of politeness and work your way down as you get permission.

        There are, as you might guess, dissenting schools of thought…

        • F’raid so. I remember my customer service days when I made the mistake of calling people, “Sir” or “Ma’am”. You’d have thought I’d called them thugs.

  14. My own attitudes on language taboos is basically a modified form of “domino theory”; if a word still has legitimate/semi-legitimate uses outside of being a slur, I say we fight to keep it legitimate, instead of letting our thought-police capitulators (how ironic is that term) prosecuting people for using it legitimately, inadvertently letting it fall to the bigots, who will then inevitably move on to corrupt other words once their new taboo has been played out.

  15. Well said. The difficulty I have is that both sides are lying. It makes it hard. You feel as though you must pick a side, but you must reject both.
    The ‘black power’ cause will mischievoulsy capture ‘thug’ as a curious backstab manoeuvre or reacquire ‘nigger’ and use it as a reverse taunt. The ‘white power’ bigots will capture ‘black’ if they can and make it mean ‘nigger’ in their way, while defending their grip on ‘nigger’ to the last breath.

    Language is a battle ground.

    Time for a truce would you say? That is, a truce for language’s sake. Before the damage done to any shared concept and usage of language means we all start talking, effectively, in each others understanding, gobbledegook?

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