Lena Dunham, Double Standards and the Jester’s Privilege

Jewish DogLena Dunham—you know, the celebrity hyper-feminist, sister-molesting, slandering lying creator/writer/actress of HBO’s “Girls”?—-is again at the center of controversy. This is how people like Dunham, who is wan of talent or appeal so she has to manufacture ways to keep herself in the public eye, stretch out their lucky 15 minutes of fame to interminable lengths. They do it by regularly pissing people off, and requiring those who feel they have to defend her because she is on “the team” (Female, feminist, Democrat, “Pro-choice,” pro-gay, pro-gay marriage, progressive) to compromise whatever genuine values they have by insisting that her crummy behavior isn’t crummy after all.

Yes, she is an ethics corrupter.

Dunham’s latest foray into calculated offense is an alleged  humor piece inexplicably published by The New Yorker. Well, let me back that up: if you or I wrote it, publishing it would be inexplicable, because it’s just not very clever or funny. The New Yorker published it because Dunham is link bait.

The article is called Dog or Jewish Boyfriend? A Quiz, and it begins,

“Do the following statements refer to (a) my dog or (b) my Jewish boyfriend?”

It is drawing fire from many sources because it invokes negative Jewish stereotypes for the “following statements” such as these:

8. I feel that he is judgmental about the food I serve him. When I make something from scratch, he doesn’t want to eat it, but he also rejects most store-bought dinners.

9. This is because he comes from a culture in which mothers focus every ounce of their attention on their offspring and don’t acknowledge their own need for independence as women. They are sucked dry by their children, who ultimately leave them as soon as they find suitable mates.

10. As a result of this dynamic, he expects to be waited on hand and foot by the women in his life, and anything less than that makes him whiny and distant.

13. He doesn’t tip.

14. And he never brings his wallet anywhere.

24. Every week it’s some new health issue: urine crystals, sprained foot, beef allergy.

27. In fact, he has hair all over his body, like most males who share his background.

33. One spring afternoon, we walked to Dumbo to check out a new artisanal-Popsicle stand, when we ran into my friend Jill. Jill is actually more of an acquaintance—I don’t know her well, but I really like her; she curates high-end terrariums and she’s a clog designer on the side. She’s really slim and well dressed, in an all-American, J. Crew-model sort of way. He was immediately all over her, panting and making a fool of himself. It was humiliating. Because here’s the thing: I am not a Jill. I will never be a Jill. And if that’s what he is looking for—some anorexic hipster with a glossy braid and freaking Swedish clog boots she sewed by hand—he should never have set his sights on me in the first place.

34. He once vomited on his seatmate in United business class, then ran up and down the aisle in a panic.

Then there’s that “Dog or Jew” thing, of course. Said the Anti-Defamation League, the “piece is particularly troubling because it evokes memories of the ‘No Jews or Dogs Allowed’ signs from our own early history in this country, and also because, in a much more sinister way, many in the Muslim world today hatefully refer to Jews as ‘dogs.’” Yes. I must say that this was my reference point before I even read the thing.

The  double standard—many double standards, in fact—are palpable. Could even Dunham have gotten away with “Dog or Black Boyfriend?” Could an Arab or Muslim humorist have played on Jewish stereotypes like this? The hounds of political correctness have to be consistent, and of course they aren’t: their preferred form of censorship is designed to silence critics of their pet causes or to marginalization them as hateful bigots. If Lena Dunham says Jewish men are weak, mother-obsessed, cheap, hairy dogs, it’s all in good fun.

Thus TIME charges to Dunham’s rescue, excusing her because —well, you tell me: I find TIME’s article incomprehensible and contradictory. The New Yorker’s editor argued that Dunham gets a pass because she’s Jewish (at least her mother was Jewish) and compares her to Philip Roth and Larry David, or Richard Pryor and Chris Rock. This would be more plausible if what Dunham wrote approached the wit of those writers, or was objectively funny beyond a muffled “heh.” Salon, which never met a lefty it wouldn’t defend til the last Jew—I’m sorry, dog–dies, believes this is a complete defense: as long as there’s some Jewishness in Dunham, even though she does not, unlike David, Roth, Jerry Seinfeld or Sarah Silverman, present her self as a Jewish performer, she can fling stereotypes around like cowchips, and there’s no foul.

Okay. Dunham’s a comic performer: she has a right to launch a dud. Okay: the dog-Jew comparison is in excruciatingly bad taste, right up there with lower primate-African American comparisons, and if she wasn’t aware of it, she’s shockingly ignorant. Okay, the fact that she is Jewish, sort of, means that she gets a little leeway in being insulting to “her tribe.”

Nevertheless, at a time when the American left is increasingly hostile to Israel, when the President of the United States is openly disrespectful of Netanyahu, and when anti-Semitism is on the rise here and in Europe, it takes a mega-jerk to pick now for gratuitous Jew-bashing. That’s really what this episode is about. The article itself can be defended as misguided exercise of the jester’s privilege, but it still proves, as if any further proof was needed, what a despicable jerk Lena Dunham is.

_______________________

Sources: Salon, TIME, New Yorker, New York Post

 

 

 

96 thoughts on “Lena Dunham, Double Standards and the Jester’s Privilege

  1. I stopped reading it about halfway through because I didn’t like how it was reinforcing stereotypes. But it’s bigger crime is it isn’t funny. A great humorist would have found a cleverer use for those stereotypes. The NYer has some very funny contributors to Shouts & Murmurs, but they also occasionally feature people who have cachet like Jesse Eisenberg or Lena Dunham. Eisenberg, however, has written some pretty funny pieces.

  2. Oh puh-leese.

    I read it and thought it was funny; not her best, but not her worst, and objectively quite good. It never occurred to me to think of it as anti-Jewish.

    She’s Jewish herself, for crying out loud; have you never heard of jokes about Jewish mothers, Jewish princesses, Jewish sons-in-law? Jewish boyfriends fit right in there. It’s quite a tradition. There are entire books written on Jewish humor.

    There’s roughly 90 tons of that kind of humor out there, much of it quite funny, and a lot of it, only slightly tuned down, has formed the nucleus of our television sitcom world for decades (just watch Seinfeld, LA Law, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Nanny, Mad About You. All these are heavily Jewish-inflected. It’s a pretty broadly recognized thread.

    Claiming “double standard” here is another example of the the Inversion error. It simply IS NOT FUNNY when an out-person tries to tell an in-group joke. In fact, some of the best jokes are about just that (a shikse ordering pastrami on white bread with mayonnaise). If a Presbyterian were to tell Jewish jokes, barely a third would be funny.

    You have simply GOT to stop doing the “if so and so said this, could they have gotten away with it?” No they couldn’t, of course not! – that’s the POINT. You think you see a double-standard here, Jack, but you don’t: you miss that words have context. It matters who says them, and how, and when and where. They simply cannot be pulled out of social context and analyzed on cold paper through dictionaries alone.

    If she says it, it’s funny. If you say it, it’s not. That’s not an issue of fairness; that’s an issue of the diversity of humanity out there in the real world.

    Lena Dunham is a talented young writer, whose natural primary audience is heavily bi-coastal, Jewish, New York. The Anti-Defamation League has about as much sense of humor as the ACLU – their job is to be paranoid, but that doesn’t mean you have to buy into it.

    Lighten up, You don’t have to like her sense of humor, but at least recognize that others do.

    • Disclaimer: I’m honestly not familiar with Lena Dunham beyond the issues Jack himself has raised here.

      Is her shtick primarily Jewish humor? If not, why should I care that her mother is Jewish, making Dunham “technically Jewish”? You’re not necessarily wrong about the importance of context. When Mel Brooks jokes about Jews & Jewish culture, I have no reason to scream about anti-Semitism, because of context. It’s his shtick. (Ample use of Yiddish with an accent goes a long way.) If Lena Dunham presents her material similarly, then sure, the context ought to give her a pass. If she does not, then I don’t see how this defense is valid.

      • This still bugs me. Allow me to attempt to construct a parallel hypothetical. Assume I have some African-American ancestry (from one-eighth to one-quarter), enough that I could have been discriminated against a century ago, but that I am more than passably white by today’s standards. Also assume I was raised in a typical white, middle-class environment, though I may have darker-skinned “urban” relatives I could point to. Imagine I am an established comedian, with no obvious African-American influences among my work.

        I then publish a humor piece with lots of questionable black jokes, referencing the behaviors of a black girlfriend or black brother-in-law.

        Now, perhaps if I got a tan, frizzed my hair, and then dressed & spoke the part, I could reasonably pass as “blacker” than even some prominent African-American political figures. I also have those family members I could point to for some street-cred. But that’s not the context my prior work has established. I’m really just another suburban white boy by the standards I have established for myself.

        Would you come to my defense?

          • Ok… But Null is right, Lena Dunham has not made a career out of being a self-depreciating Jew. When someone makes a racial joke, we shouldn’t have to scour their family histories to find a connection, it should either be self evident or not.

            • Sorry, I’m still not getting it.

              The article, in the first line, was overtly about Her Jewish Boyfriend. Odds are good right there that she’s Jewish; plus it’s in a liberal New Yawk magazine. Many people know her from her TV show, but the first two points alone ought to suggest something pretty clearly.

              Seems to me that, even if one ha’d never heard of her, based on the title alone (my dog and my jewish boyfriend) your first instinct would be it’s another of those “why your dog is better than your boyfriend/girlfriend” blogs written with an in-group twist. (It could just as well have been ‘my Irish boyfriend,’ too).

              It’s not clear to me why even someone who knows nothing about her would lead with OMG she’s racist, given the above, instead of ‘yawn, it’s a cute ethnic spin on a tired meme.

              • I think you need to take a step back and really take a look at what you just wrote:

                “The article, in the first line, was overtly about Her Jewish Boyfriend. Odds are good right there that she’s Jewish; plus it’s in a liberal New Yawk magazine.”

                Is the stereotype that Jews only date other Jews, that Jews are liberal, or that liberals aren’t racist? And why does that change the perception of Lena’s ‘act’? We as an audience should not have to scrabble desperately to find criterion by which speech that would be inappropriate for other people to say is appropriate for her. Lena did not make a point of being Jewish until it became this hybrid of necessary and convenient for her to do so, and your assertion that “she has a Jewish boyfriend” doesn’t change that.

                “Seems to me that, even if one ha’d never heard of her, based on the title alone (my dog and my jewish boyfriend) your first instinct would be it’s another of those “why your dog is better than your boyfriend/girlfriend” blogs written with an in-group twist.”

                Interesting. I think that if that was how it was meant, it fell flat. And it fell flat because while Lena isn’t known as a self depreciating Jew, she IS known as a flagrantly incendiary, mostly vile human being. I can’t believe you’re willing to try to talk to us about the context of the word “MY” while ignoring the entire body of her work.

                • HT, thanks for the clarifying questions.

                  First, the “stereotype” is indeed that Jews are liberal, not racist, and that they date only other Jews. Like all stereotypes, they didn’t fall randomly out of the sky, but nor are they 100% true.

                  For example, nearly half of recent Jewish marriages are inter-faith (by comparison, far fewer blacks marry inter-racially). By any definition of voting records, Jews have historically been liberal democratic voters, on the whole on the average (that’s under pressure lately with Bibi and with Adelson). As to liberals being less racist, that is fraught with definitional issues, though I will confess to a suspicion that yes, that stereotype has some truth to it as well.

                  Why does that change the perception of Lena’s act? I mean, where do I begin with that? I do not get “we as an audience should not have to scrabble desperately to find criteriona….” For me it was perfectly obvious. I subscribe to the New Yorker, I watch HBO – I am very familiar with her, as are most people who read that. The flaming is – I’ll bet – coming from people who are disproportionately non-New Yorker subscribers, non-watchers of her, and probably don’t have a lot of daily Jewish-influenced culture.

                  But never mind all that. The issue around all this is whether the speaker and the listener have any relevance to the conversation. I suggest they totally do. And I as a white male person who’s had a lot of exposure to non-white American cultures (lived overseas, interracial marriage, living in one of the world’s polyglot urban areas), have come to believe strongly a few things:

                  While Jewish/black/Italian and everyone else is just as capable of being racist as are white americans, nonetheless:

                  * I am very cautious about telling Jews that they’re being anti-semitic; I consider that to be arrogant on my part – they know better and it’s not my place.;
                  * I am very cautious about telling black people they shouldn’t use the N-word; it’s not my place, and anyway there are plenty of black people who[ll make that case directly without my help;
                  * If I hear something anti-semitic or anti-black (or anti-white) I am very curious about who it is saying it. Because in my 64 years on the planet around the world, there are damn few universal truths – but a world full of people willing to tell others what their truth is, and what others ought to believe. We don’t need more of that, we need less of that.

                  On the issue of whether Lena Dunham is racist, I would greatly value the words of Larry David, Jerry Seinfeld, et al. I would put a lot more weight on how they feel than I would on white Christians from the midwest (which I am too, by the way) who have little or no exposure to the context.

                  • Thanks for the clarification Charles,

                    There are things we agree on, the majority tendency to interact with people within ethnic groups or faiths, the importance of both the speaker and the audience, and that people are most able to describe what they themselves are than the average person watching them. We disagree too, but I think I’ve narrowed down to the disconnect:

                    I want to clarify that I didn’t say, and I don’t think that anyone here actually said that Lena is a racist. I think this is Lena attempting to be funny, but what she said happens to have racial connotations, falls flat, and has bad timing and I think that might be by design. She gets two audiences: The people that normally read that publication and might genuinely find her funny, and everyone else. She’s made enough waves over the last year that it is beyond naiveté to think that a Jew-Dog comparison wouldn’t hit mainstream. Couple that with her history I can’t help but think that the outraged people ARE her actual intended audience. Lena isn’t some blushing virgin being sacrificed at the altar of public opinion.

                    And that’s where I think the disconnect is. You think we’re saying that she is a racist. I can’t speak for the other people here, but I don’t think she is. However, I think she’s an awful human being who will do anything, say anything, regardless of what she actually believes or the truth in order to build name recognition through shock and outrage.

                    • Actually… Thinking about it. She reminds me of Tom Green. Except perhaps Tom Green took himself less seriously, didn’t have a political agenda, and was more of a constant stream of bullshit. Lena spaces her outrage out more, I think to give people more room to defend her and take her seriously.

                    • You’re right, HT, we’re a lot closer in many ways; thank you for narrowing it down – that’s a service.

                      I agree with you, I don’t think anyone (or few anyway) are accusing her of intentionally being anti-semitic. The concern, I agree, is for many who don’t understand the context and view the writing itself as anti-semitic. You suggest it may be deliberate; I don’t know, one of my rules of thumb is if you have to choose between conspiracy theories and incompetence to explain a phenomenon, 9 out of 10 times incompetence turns out to be the case. I strongly suspect she was shocked by the reaction, which speaks to incompetence in my frame.

                      I suppose that leaves whether people are rightly offended or not by what she wrote. I still don’t get that, but you do. Maybe we’e beaten this one up enough; there’s actually progress in all this for me, and I appreciate greatly your civility in the dialogue; it’s all too easy to go “flame on” when it’s just bits and bytes on the other end.

                      Let’s live to argue another day.

    • 1. You know how I hate lighten up.

      2. I would not deign to write about Dunham in this matter if she was not getting ridiculous defenses from the likes of Salon and criticism from the Jewish press. I wouldn’t read anything by Dunham without a gun pointed at my head or a needed blog point to be made.

      3. Think the Jews and dogs bit was funny, did you? I can’t wait for her Jews as soap bit…HAR!

      4. She doesn’t present herself as being Jewish or write about her experiences as a Jew, unlike, say, Woody Allen. We know Chris Rock is black, we know Jackie Mason is Jewish, we knew Ralphy May was fat; we know Margaret Cho is Asian; we knew Phyllis Diller was a fright—in all those cases, the jokes were pre-labeled as in-group, self-deprecating satire. Dunham is not known to be Jewish by most people who read that piece—it’s a contrived defense. Dunham is an English name (unlike, say, Silverman), and Lena isn’t Jewish either. That’s not how the rules work: if she hasn’t made it very clear in the past that she is Jewish, and that she is writing this from the perspective of a Jewish woman, then she can’t use it as a defense, and neither can you, once critics start shooting.

      5. You’re barking up the wrong…wait a minute..

  3. Actually, the more I think about this, the more it ticks me off.

    You, Jack, are accusing a Jew of anti-semitism. And you very frequently accuse blacks of racism.

    Let me make a radical proposition here. The seriously dangerous anti-Semites are overwhelmingly not Jewish. And the seriously dangerous racists are overwhelmingly not black.

    You’re hunting in the wrong places. Nothing wrong with pointing out hypocrites and unethical people, but your focus is away from the major violators.

    If you’re serious about “not Jew-bashing at a time like this,” Lena Dunham is not where to look. If you must look to Jews for fostering anti-Semitism, you should be writing about Sheldon Adelson.

    From the Jewish Daily Forward:
    “I don’t think the Bible says anything about democracy,” Adelson said. “[God] didn’t talk about Israel remaining as a democratic state… Israel isn’t going to be a democratic state — so what?”
    While Anti-Defamation League national president Abraham Foxman has slammed Adelson’s remarks, leaders of groups that have taken money from Adelson have not responded to requests to address his statements.

    Read more: http://forward.com/articles/209072/sheldon-adelsons-dismissal-of-israeli-democracy-dr/#ixzz3ViASgjVk

    • Step back, CG.

      1. I very specifically did NOT accuse Dunham of antisemitism. If I erred, show me where I mad such an accusation. Comparing a Jew, any Jew, to a dog AS a Jew, is a historical anti-Semitic slur. The stereotypes she raised are factually, anti-jewish slurs. Obviously I don’t think she’s antisemitic—she says she has a Jewish boy friend. (I once supervised a black manager who was sued for racial discrimination by one of her staff, who was black. “But she’s black!” I protested. “I know,” he said. “I can’t figure it out.” (She was NOT racially biased.)

      2. I said Dunham was a mega-jerk, which she is, linking to a piece where I explained why she is an awful person, which she also is.I said she still gets the jester’s privilege, but barely: she’s not funny, she’s just a provocateur, like Dan Savage, Charlie Sheen, Bill Maher, Alan Grayson, Sarah Palin, Charles Barkley, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, (WAIT! Did I just compare a jewish jerk to a dog? Well, a dog puppet…) Donald Trump, Ann Coulter, Andrew Dice-Clay, Rosie O’Donnell–WOW, more than I thought!—who keep baiting the media with offal like this to keep their names in the papers, except that all of them have some wisdom to convey or are funny on occasion except for Trump, who is a blot on humanity, Rosie and Sheen, who are idiots, and Grayson, whose constituents should have their voting rights taken away on ground of insanity.

      3. Yikes! I don’t think any Jewish, Hebrew Israel citizen can foster anti-Semitism, just as I don’t believe any single black celebrity or black organization can foster racism against blacks. I respect you too much to use a gotcha, so I’ll respert to Ted Koppel’s question to Al Campanis: “Do you really believe that?” Because you seem to be perilously close to the statement’s of Yale’s EX-Episcopal pastor, who sent a public letter arguing that Jews were responsible for antisemitism.

      4. Since I didn’t say Dunham was antisemitic, your claim that I was focusing on minor offenders is moot. Antisemitism, like racism, is self-evidently unethical: most of the time, I don’t need to flag it except when it’s disguised or accepted, like Eric Holder’s pro-black, anti-white biases (he’s not a racist, just a fool) or on the parts of media figures. Sheldon Adelson, until I stumbled on him in this matter, isn’t on my radar at all: I’d bet 10,000 time more Americans know who Lena Dunham is, so by my definition, she is far more consequential than he.

      5…. but if you’re right, you’re #22-ing to beat the band.

      • It seems strange to me that so many (most likely secular) Jews are aligned with a group that’s been very anti-Semitic and anti-Israel (the left).

      • Jack, very clever ploy by me to go back and review your (very excellent) unethical rationalizations and misconceptions page – always a good thing.

        Seriously though, I’m confused. You say:

        “Comparing a Jew, any Jew, to a dog AS a Jew, is a historical anti-Semitic slur. The stereotypes she raised are factually, anti-jewish slurs.” Which sounds, to my ear, like you’re saying she wrote something anti-semitic.

        But you also then say:
        “I very specifically did NOT accuse Dunham of antisemitism.”

        And you also in fact say, “Obviously I don’t think she’s antisemitic—she says she has a Jewish boy friend.”

        So here’s my question: Did Dunham write something anti-semitic – or did she not?

        If she did, isn’t that by definition grounds for calling her anti-semitic?

        • Are you really saying that an individual who says something that is antisemitic must be an anti-Semite? Isn’t this the whole issue with blacks and rappers using the word “nigger,” which is per se a racist term? That the use of the word is objectively harmful, regardless of the intent of the speaker, and that the speaker, knowing it, is liable for the harm it does, and can’t deny it or claim innocence on the basis of benign intent?

          These are negative Jewish stereotypes and the dog-Jew comparison is worse than that. She’s a reckless, narcissistic, insensitive, arrogant, ignorant fool, who is the equivalent of a child playing with matches in a dry forest (but who isn’t an arsonist.) I don’t believe she is anti-Semitic, but the consequences of her article are no different than if she was.

          • “Are you really saying that an individual who says something that is antisemitic must be an anti-Semite? Isn’t this the whole issue with blacks and rappers using the word “nigger,” which is per se a racist term? That the use of the word is objectively harmful, regardless of the intent of the speaker, and that the speaker, knowing it, is liable for the harm it does, and can’t deny it or claim innocence on the basis of benign intent?”

            Jack: YES I AM to the anti-semitic thing, and NO IT ISN’T to the per se thing.

            As to someone who says anti-semitic things being an anti-semite, I’ll cite Aristotle, whose definition of excellence (indeed, of all virtues) is DOING the excellent (or right) thing. If you don’t like Aristotle, try Grammarist.com (“The second main definition of lie is to make a statement one knows to be false. One who does this is a liar”). There’s a solid tradition of defining attributive nouns based on objective behavior.

            Is there really another viable definition of an anti-semite, such that one might say anti-semitic things and yet NOT be called an anti-semite? I can’t think of one, can you?

            But that’s not the point. Dunham did NOT say anything anti-semitic, and your presumption that “the word “nigger” [which] is per se a racist term” is the heart of the problem.

            No, “nigger” is NOT per se a racist term. You completely mistake the evidence when you say things like, “If a white person were to use that word, they’d be shut down by the PC police immediately.” OF COURSE THEY WOULD. You’re dead right about the observation; you’re dead wrong about what it means.

            You seem to infer that a double standard implies racism; but that’s true only if you think words mean the same thing if uttered by different people. And that’s just not true.

            Some examples:

            A German telling a Jewish joke in a synagogue is going to be perceived very differently than the same joke told on a website called Old Jews Telling Jokes. You can call that a “double standard,” but I’d call it a fairly obvious social observation, violated only by very stupid Germans.

            A Longhorn may tell an Aggie joke – but it will be perceived very differently by the Aggie if the same joke is told by a Yalie. You can call that a double standard, but I’d call it a fairly obvious rule, to be violated only by very stupid Yalies, at their own risk.

            A black person can tell jokes about black people to other black people – the same words will, I assure you, not be taken so kindly if those same words about black people are told to them by white people. (Which said white people would be, if they did so, fairly stupid).

            You tend to see this as some flaw in ethical logic – because you think racist statements are PER SE racist. I say they’re obviously not, and the proof is that the same words uttered in different contexts are understood to be, or not to be, racist, by anyone on the street.

            You say the use of a racist word is objectively harmful; I say it’s patently obviously NOT harmful – it depends on context, especially on who’s saying it to whom. The N word gets used by black people zillions of times a day without much offense being taken; but obviously, if YOU or I start using it with black people, there’s gonna be some reactions goin’ down.

            I say the use of a racist word per se is not “objectively harmful.” It depends heavily on context: mainly on who’s saying them, but also on the venue/location (Elvis was great on stage, but censored on Ed Sullivan).

            If it were true that racism is a matter of per se definitions rather than of human interactions, it would be a simple thing to draft laws against racist speech. But courts wisely recognize context.

            Lena Dunham may or may not be an anti-Semite; but what she said doesn’t qualify as anti-semitic, so you can’t call her one on that basis. However, if her column had been written by a known Muslim, all hell would break loose.

            And that is not evidence of a liberal bias – it’s evidence of a plain and simple fact of all peoples – if you’re an in-group you have rights of speech which do not accrue to out-groups automatically.

            • Your analysis puts me in mind of the White Knight’s exchange with Alice in “Through the Looking Glass”:

              `You are sad,’ the Knight said in an anxious tone: `let me sing you a song to comfort you.’

              `Is it very long?’ Alice asked, for she had heard a good deal of poetry that day.

              `It’s long,’ said the Knight, `but very, very beautiful. Everybody that hears me sing it — either it brings the tears into their eyes, or else — ‘

              `Or else what?’ said Alice, for the Knight had made a sudden pause.

              `Or else it doesn’t, you know. The name of the song is called “Haddocks’ Eyes.”‘

              `Oh, that’s the name of the song, is it?’ Alice said, trying to feel interested.

              `No, you don’t understand,’ the Knight said, looking a little vexed. `That’s what the name is called. The name really is “The Aged Aged Man.”‘

              `Then I ought to have said “That’s what the song is called”?’ Alice corrected herself.

              `No, you oughtn’t: that’s quite another thing! The song is called “Ways and Means”: but that’s only what it’s called, you know!’

              `Well, what is the song, then?’ said Alice, who was by this time completely bewildered.

              `I was coming to that,’ the Knight said. `The song really is “A-sitting On A Gate”: and the tune’s my own invention.’

              1. A racist joke, like a racist word, retains its racist quality whoever says it or uses it. The reaction to it might differ, and the tolerance of it might differ, but the right to use either is absolute (FREE SPEECH), and efforts to give one class of individual a greater or lesser right in that regard is biased and unAmerican.

              2. I do not approve of or accept the rules you would impose. Samuel L. Jackson’s use of the term “nigger” remains offensive and a breach of civility, as well as undermining efforts to encourage everone to avoid slurs on color, religion and heritage that degrades individualism. If a black man tells me I can’t use the same words as he does, that’s bigotry and prejudice, and I resent it. I’ll use whatever words I so desire, and accept the consequences, and I will not accept double standards, which are intrinsically unfair and manipulative.

              3. The presumption of racism based on what words one uses according to one’s color or ethnicity I also reject. Racial insensitivity and incivility is res ipsa loquitur—racism is not. Racism cannot be proven by words, only by conduct. The same is true of anti-Semitism.

              4. Absent this approach, we get the double standard that allows Joe Biden and Harry Reid to escape with their racially insensitive comments about Obama being “clean” and “light-skinned” and “articulate” while MSNBC race-baiters would and have cried “racist dog whistle!” at far less provocation from a Republican. So it isn’t just black and white_–it’s also a club that accepts whites as long as they pass a partisan litmus test. Well, I say it’s spinach, and I say to hell with it.

              That’s a censorship game.

              5. Dunham’s “humor” was rife with ugly anti-Jewish stereotypes and images. She though it was funny. Maybe she thought it was just funny, period. Maybe she thought it was funny BECAUSE it used stereotypes. Or maybe she was just trying to sho9ck people, which is what she does. It doesn’t matter–what she said is what she said, it was recklessly ugly and calculated to upset Jews, and that’s that. The words don’t mean she’s anti-Semitic—I doubt it, but I also can’t tell from what she says what she thinks. Base on the volume of her writing and speaking, I think she’s an anti-male bigot, and that may underlie what this was, but who cares? She’s accountable for her words.

              So are the words called racist, or are they racist, or is it racist to say the words, or is saying the words proof that the speaker is racist? Background, history, context, origin and stated intent all provide clues, but a Jew’s offensive comments about Jews are exactly as offensive as a non-Jew’s. One can presume that animus is less likely with the in-group speaker, but you can’t rule it out, nor does in-groups status preclude unintended cultural harm. And presuming animus based only on out-group status alone is itself bigotry, and wrong.

              Lena proves she is an ass, and not for the first time. Her status as a Jew-when-it-suits-her neither makes her less of an ass or a greater one.

              So they shook hands, and then the Knight rode slowly away into the forest. `It won’t take long to see him off, I expect,’ Alice said to herself, as she stood watching him. `There he goes! Right on his head as usual! However, he gets on again pretty easily — that comes of having so many things hung round the horse — ‘ So she went on talking to herself, as she watched the horse walking leisurely along the road, and the Knight tumbling off, first on one side and then on the other. After the fourth or fifth tumble he reached the turn, and then she waved her handkerchief to him, and waited till he was out of sight.

              • You gotta love an argument that starts with Lewis Carroll. Thank you.

                However, you misquote him. That entire passage is ironic. (We are, after all, in Looking Glass world). The absurdity of the Knight’s claims is self-evident.

                To make that even clearer, take Humpty Dumpty’s speech in the same book:
                ——–
                “‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’
                ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
                ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master—that’s all.'”
                ———
                Again, Humpty Dumpty is an absurd character, saying absurd things. In support of that view, I cite Supreme Court Justice Rehnquist, in Adamo Wrecking Co vs. United States, giving the majority opinion:

                “All of this leads us to conclude that Congress intended, within broad limits, that “emission standards” be regulations of a certain type, and that it did not empower the Administrator, after the manner of Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking-Glass, to make a regulation an “emission standard” by his mere designation.”

                He’s talking about statements like your #1 point: “1. A racist joke, like a racist word, retains its racist quality whoever says it or uses it.” That’s just an assertion – you give no data or logic to back it up. It’s just Humpty Dumpty. You say to-mah-to, I disagree. That leaves us nowhere.

                Your #2 point: “I do not approve of or accept the rules…” OK, good for you, but this is just you stating your opinion and your taste. A la Humpty Dumpty, it doesn’t speak to the real world, it just states your perception of it.

                Your #3 point: “The presumption of racism based on what words one uses according to one’s color or ethnicity I also reject.” You can reject all you want, a la Humpty Dumpty: it doesn’t change a thing in the real world.

                Your #4 point says “absent this approach, we get the double standard that allows Joe Biden and Harry Reid to escape with their racially insensitive comments.” No we don’t. You have rightly called them out on it. I call them out on it too. The world has called them out on it, and Harry Reid had to publicly apologize for it. The fact that MSNBC might have preferred to ignore it is simply a comment on their partisan political view, which you have also pointed out frequently. They’re pulling a Humpty Dumpty themselves, and it’s equally unjustifiable. In fact, it makes them look silly – as you have pointed out.

                The heart of your argument is in your last and first paragraphs: “A Jew’s offensive comments about Jews are exactly as offensive as a non-Jew’s,” and “the right to use either is absolute (FREE SPEECH), and efforts to give one class of individual a greater or lesser right in that regard is biased and unAmerican.”

                Again, those are merely assertions. As a lawyer, you know better than I that the right to free speech is NOT absolute. Court decisions list a number of limitations, including to incite actions that would harm others, to make or distribute obscene materials, for students to make an obscene speech at a school-sponsored event, and so on.

                But never mind the law, let’s stay in the realm of the arts – which are actually more reflective of the real world.

                Recall in Blazing Saddles where the black sheriff, played by Cleavon Little, is being held at gunpoint by a gang of racist townspeople. He pulls his own gun, points it at his own head and says gruffly, “Hold it – the next man makes a move, the nigger gets it.”
                The mayor, taken aback, tells the gang to stand down – “Hold it men, he’s not bluffing.”
                Another townsman says, “Listen to him men, he’s just crazy enough to do it!”

                The entire passage (which I hope you’ll agree is hysterically funny) rests on our ability to recognize that the black sheriff is saying words we only expect from white people.

                The absurdity of that belief is heightened by the obvious stupidity of the townspeople in not recognizing the victim is also the one holding the gun (recall National Lampoon’s “buy this magazine or we’ll shoot this dog”). Humpty Dumpty is delightfully, humanly, proven wrong.

                Everything changes when you substitute speakers – despite the words all sounding the same. That’s not just an assertion, or a belief, or a normative statement, or an opinion: It’s a bona fide observation of human behavior, and we can all find a thousand examples walking around us every day.

                Words DON’T mean whatever we choose them to mean; meaning, like beauty, lies in the mind of the observer/listener. And Lewis Carroll (I assert) would agree with that.

                • I’m only half awake, and will come back.

                  The Humpty Dumpty exchange is another of my favorites. But I am not asserting that words mean what we choose them to mean. Isn’t that what a rapper is arguing when he says that he is using “nigger” as a term or endearment? Or that Lena is doing when she argues that by implying that there is a challenge in distinguishing Jewish behavior from canine behavior she is not invoking the same comparison made by anti-Semites throughout history?

                  I did not misquote Mr. Dodgeson, either. (I cut and pasted it right out of the text). That exchange isn’t absurd, either. Like much of both Alice books, its mathematical precision. But it is also Clintonian parsing. My point was that such distinctions aside (there is indeed a legitimate difference between the name of a thing, what we call the name of the thing, what we call the thing and what the thing IS), what matters most is what the thing is. Labels just confuse the matter, and mislead, often intentionally.

                  • Jack, I hope you agree – I think this is a very interesting and important discussion.

                    Let me add a touch more. Take a look at these song lyrics, and tell me whether, objectively speaking, they are racist per se:

                    I love you more than bears love honey,
                    I love you more than Jews love money.
                    I love you more than Asians love math…”

                    Yes or no vote noted?

                    Now suppose I give you two scenarios:

                    Scenario 1. That was Taylor Swift, surreptitiously caught on someone’s iPhone goofing around at a private party, where she clearly thought no one was listening.

                    Scenario 2. That’s a Sara Silverman routine,

                    Would you not agree that scenario #1 would be seriously career-threatening to Ms Swift? Fortunately, it didn’t happen (as far as I know).

                    Scenario 2 is the truth, and it’s a well-known part of Sara Silverman’s routine, and while a few people occasionally miss her satire, i don’t think anyone has gotten upset over this ditty.

                    If your view is correct, these are both equally racist. If you believe in unlimited freedom of speech, they both ought to be able to say it. If you believe people shouldn’t say racist things, then perhaps Sara Silverman should be prosecuted.

                    And by the way – strange bedfellows – if you believe it’s a racist statement and no one should say it, that puts you squarely in the camp of liberal wussy politically correct liberals and the infantilizing “trigger warning” movement.

                    Sorry, but we’ve got to be able to distinguish between racist talk and talking about racist language. It’s obvious to me that the Taylor Swift scenario would be (if it were true) an example of racist talk, and that the Sara Silverman scenario is an example of talking about racist language. And I think it’s obvious to nearly everyone.

                    I suggest it’s absurd to claim they’re equivalent. Who says them and in what context makes all the difference in the word.

                    • Both are equally racially insensitive, and involve racist stereotypes. In Silverman’s case, like Dunham’s, it means that she is willing to give encouragement and validation to real racists for a laugh, just as Andrew Dice Clay courted actual misogynists for laughs. Was he really a sexist? Is Larry the Cable Guy really a redneck (no…).

                      In both cases, the words are equally hurtful, or potentially so. The fact that the hurtful words purchase enough laughs to make it worth the speaker’s while (in his or her opinion) doesn’t change the equation. Clown nose on, clown nose off—the words and ideas are teh same, and the color or culture of the clown is just a clue to their true intent, not a free pass or an automatic indictment.

                    • Jack,
                      Well, you are consistent, gotta give you that.

                      Given that view, how do you find room for satire? For irony? How do you find room for a literary discussion of Huck Finn without reading the language Samuel Clemens wrote it in – deeply satirical and realistic?

                      Huck Finn: Yup, steamship blowed up five miles south.
                      Stranger: Oh my; anyone hurt?
                      Huck Finn: No ‘m. Kilt a nigger.

                      Is that racist? It is a line of dialogue in a novel, describing a racist culture in the most biting, satirical way possible, in what many consider to be the Greatest American Novel. Should we outlaw classroom discussion of Huckleberry Finn? That’s exactly the argument being made in some Ivy League and Seven Sisters schools. How is that different from your argument?

                      How do you find room for any meta-social commentary if you can’t speak about the phrases that give offense, when spoken by others? Is it all to be banned because the literal phrases contain offensive words?

                      Any teacher worth his or her salt could use the above passage from Mark Twain to devastating effect in describing racism. Unless the book is banned in the first place.

                      What am I missing?

                    • Well, to begin with, “nigger” was the general term for blacks in the South, and was not considered anywhere near as vile a slur as it was later. The Huckleberry Finn example is not a good one—the same mistake is what has led school to ban the the book as racist. I directed a revival of the old version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and the word “nigger” is used by black and white characters throughout. I asked a 12-year old African American kid if that bothered him, and he made me feel like an idiot by answering instantly, “Well, wasn’t that what we were called back then?” Uh, yeah. Never mind.

    • “The seriously dangerous racists are overwhelmingly not black.” Yup, that is a radical proposition, unless you’re not astute enough to see through the media’s concealment of racially-motivated black-on-white crime.

      • So, since you’re presumably “astute enough to see through the media’s concealment of racially-motivated black-on-white crime,” are you saying that black-on-white racism is a larger problem than white-on-black racism?

        I think you’d have a very hard time proving that proposition. Not that you don’t have a lot of company these days who believe it.

        Then again, a whole lot of people think we’re suffering from inflation, crime is going up, and Jesus walked with dinosaurs.

        • Actually, you’re the one who stated the opposite as if it were a self-evident fact. What exactly do you base that on? Yes, I am unequivocally stating just that, based on the fact that every time there is an incident of racism against blacks, real or imagined, the media shouts it from the rooftops, even long after it’s been proven to not be the case, yet whenever black-on-white violence occurs (statistically more likely to happen on almost a couple orders of magnitude, per capita, than the converse), very often coupled with derogatory racial epithets directed at the victims, you don’t hear about it from the left-stream media, or the races are left out. Then there’s the fact that there are HUNDREDS of inner-city shitholes wherein your white self would most likely be at least robbed and badly beaten, if not outright killed. Deride that all you want; people who haven’t personally seen or experienced this, or are not as likely to, have that luxury.

          • Surf around the web a bit. The number of very, very disturbing crimes against whites, a lot of them old, some of them very young (infants), wherein the perpetrator(s) were heard to attribute the assault to the victim’s white skin, is staggering and sickening. I could spend a day showing you links to local news stories, stats, and youtube videos, but I’m fairly certain it would do nothing to shake you loose from such an essential liberalism tenet. You need victims to rescue, and you’ve spent too much energy and treasure creating this one to relinquish them without a fight. Keep manipulating them, and keep ’em pissed at those racist white conservatives, so they don’t realize who their real enemy is.

            “There is a class
            of colored people
            who make a business
            of keeping the troubles,
            the wrongs and the
            hardships of the Negro race
            before the public.
            Some of these people
            do not want the Negro
            to lose his grievances
            because they do not want
            to lose their jobs.

            There is a certain class
            of race-problem solvers
            who don’t want the patient
            to get well. ”
            Booker T was a pretty prescient guy, apparently. I can’t help but think he saw the advent of another class on the horizon.

          • Joed,

            First of all, that’s all just anecdotes.I got anecdotes too. Anecdotes do not a proof make. Got any real data?

            Second, there are plenty of inner city locations where I as a white person would prefer not to be dropped off at night. They’re disproportionately black too, because black poverty in the US is disproportionately urban.

            So why don’t you try the other side of that anecdote? How comfortable do you think a black person would feel if their car broke down on a two-lane road in Appalachia? In rural Maine? In Mississippi?

            Actually, I’ll go you one better. Put a white person down in a well-to-do black Atlanta suburb at night, and I suspect nothing terrible will happen. But put a black person down in Beverly Hills, Palm Beach or a gated community in, say, Sanford Florida, and watch out.

            Finally, my challenge was about racism. Your answer was limited solely to violent crime – certainly one aspect of racism, but a very small part. How about fair access to housing? How about discrimination in home financing, or employment screening, or vagrancy arrests? Those are everyday areas of life where there are tons of studies suggesting white-on-black discrimination; can you point to even one that shows the reverse?

        • Actually, I could prove that proposition pretty easily. I’ll drop you off, on foot, at night,dead-center in any one of the aforementioned inner-cities you choose, and I’ll drop a black person off in the predominantly white enclave, also of your choosing.

          • Challenge taken.

            Try dropping a black person off at night on foot at the gated community in Sanford Florida (where Trayvon Martin was killed).

            How about Palm Beach? Palm Springs? Rodeo Drive? How about Appalachia? How about South Boston?

            Me, I’d rather be white under those conditions in any of the places you choose, than to be black in any of the places I mentioned. (Especially if the police department is mainly white. Oh wait, they all are).

            And may I suggest you check with your black friends as to which scenario they think is scarier before you presume to answer on behalf of everyone.

            • That’s worse than an anecdotal. The Trayvon incident being racially motivated is a very, very tenuous case to make, and the fact that you reach such a conclusion shows a bias that I think clouds your judgment. Either that, or you’re being dishonest. I don’t know what circles you’ve traveled in, but something tells me they’ve been relatively sheltered in this regard. It honestly boggles my mind that you can believe there’s an equivalency (the neighborhood scenarios). As far as Sanford, I lived there; owned a house at a place called Bryn Haven for about 3 years. Not a gated community, but decent enough, and thoroughly mixed, just as Trayvon’s dad’s place was. There was no place in Sanford where a black person couldn’t walk safely, but there was at least two where a white man couldn’t; an area downtown, and a project about a mile down the road from our place. This was a crack enclave, and you didn’t want to be just walking through if you weren’t buying. In the greater Orlando area, there were several more such places, most notably along Orange Blossom Trail. I can’t count how many inner-city incidents I’ve had; from getting bottles thrown at me while jogging, to being shot at while delivering pallets of flowers to florists in NYC and Detroit, or produce to Hunt’s Point market. These were usually accompanied by “white motherfucker” and similar expletives. Anyway, this is an exchange that is going to require much more of my time as far as data and counterpoints, not from a lack thereof, but because there is so much, I don’t know where to start. You are dead wrong, and I intend to prove it. I doubt to your satisfaction, though, but as I’m pitting myself against an obviously very intelligent person, I need to try my best nonetheless. I have a test tomorrow, and the first time I’ll have more than a few minutes worth of spare time will be Thursday. I’m a slow writer. See you Thursday.

              • I really wish we could edit comments. The above is sloppy and incomplete. For example; it looks like the range of my personal experience spans only a small handful of places. Also, wanted to mention that I’m addressing violent racism because of what you said about dangerous racism. I may have misinterpreted or over-interpreted that.

                • I’ll stipulate, Charles, that THAT poll is as depressing as those saying that Republicans don’t believe in evolution, that Democrats think Bush bombed the Twin Towers, that most Americans believe in ghosts and angels and that 50% think Obama has been an effective President.

                  Obviously a problem that doesn’t effect someone personally is invisible.

                  I directed a play in the 1980s for a community theater, The Little Theater of Alexandria. I cast an African American woman as the judge in “Nuts,” and her family was treated like interlopers every time they came to see the show. Later, the group tried to block a black actress from playing the hairdresser in “Steel Magnolias” until I threatened to sic the IRS and the Washington Post on them….and Alexandria is a “liberal Democrat” community. Anyone who thinks racial discrimination is a myth needs to get out more.

                • I don’t, for a minute, think that racial discrimination is over. It exists, and hopefully we’ll evolve our way out of it. It wasn’t created in a vacuum, though, and it’s far from one-sided. There are good reasons for some people being more skeptical of a black employment candidate, at least initially; blacks have a higher propensity for criminality, statistically-speaking. I wouldn’t be one of those people, but I understand it. I’m a felon, and I know I’m going to be (rightfully) looked at with a more skeptical eye. Rather than piss and moan about it, I realize that the public perception of felons is generally negative, and I’m going to have to work a bit harder to sell myself. I’m not trying to make a direct comparison between being black and being a felon, but making a point about what is going to get me the results I desire; gaining employment, and maybe opening minds. What is occurring now with the violence and incessant accusations of racism is polarizing, and they have no one to blame but themselves. I agree that, in terms of workplace discrimination, blacks, as a group, are in a worse position. Whites are more likely to be employers, simple as that. There is nothing preventing blacks from becoming employers, other than people endlessly drumming into their heads that as long as the white devil exists, they’ll never have a shot at it. In fact, there are hundreds of scholarships, business loans, and affirmative action-type programs that cater exclusively to blacks, not to mention all of the institutions and clubs that are openly exclusive of whites.

                  • Joe, I’m going to ask this, and it is none of my business, and I will NOT react in any way negatively if you tell me so. Are you white or black?

                    • I don’t consider it none of your business, as it’s pertinent to the topic, and I don’t mind answering: I’m white. I’d like to think I’d answer the same way if I was black. I think that blacks being dishonest about the enormous and grossly underreported black-on-white crime problem, making unfounded accusations of racism, and then blaming racial tensions on whites, is not going to bring people to the table.

                    • In the interest of full disclosure, I, too, am white, male and retired. Most folks here will tell you I am a conservative, and they’d be right. My reason for asking the question is that I have a buddy, who I noticed is black, who would cheerfully nuke downtown Detroit, and when we were watching the Ferguson Riots on the news asked the question “What the HELL are they doin?” He has also wondered aloud why Jesse Jackson is not in jail, and Al Sharpton has managed to get to the position he is in.

                • See you then. I’ll hopefully be adequately prepared. I have great respect for you, despite our differing stances, and I’m flattered that you would indulge me in a debate.

                  • Joe, these are very honest and thoughtful thoughts you’re putting forth, and while we may differ on a few points, I deeply appreciate and respect your attitude here. Thanks.

              • There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that the Martin-Zimmerman incident was motivated by race. And why anyone wishes there was is a tragic mystery. Liberal Dan left the blog screaming to the skies about this, but there was and is nothing. The only minor evidence of a racial component was the testimony that Martin regarded Zimmerman as a “cracker,” according to the prosecution’s witness.

                • The point I intend to make Thursday is that incidents like Sanford and Ferguson continue to reverberate as racial violence, despite a complete lack of evidence, while dozens of incidents every year towards whites of equal magnitude (murder, or a serious attempt at it), that are undeniably racially motivated (evidence-based), are completely ignored.

        • “You, Jack, are accusing a Jew of anti-semitism. And you very frequently accuse blacks of racism.”

          “Let me make a radical proposition here. The seriously dangerous anti-Semites are overwhelmingly not Jewish. And the seriously dangerous racists are overwhelmingly not black.”

          “are you saying that black-on-white racism is a larger problem than white-on-black racism?”

          I just have to ask… Did you mean these? I wanted to reply, but these quotes seem so… just logically crippled. I need clarification. Specifically:

          1) Are you suggesting that a Jew cannot, by virtue of being Jewish, be an anti-Semite or that a black person, by virtue of being black, cannot be racist? And to be clear, when I ask about the theoretical black racist, please distinguish between A) racist in a self-depreciating manner, and B) Racist against other ethnic groups, which include but is not limited to white people.

          2) Are you suggesting we rank all similarly bad things, and then ignore everything but the most dire? Who suggested that black on white racism is a larger problem than white on black racism? Why does it matter which is more prevalent?

          • Did I mean those? Yes; occasionally I have day-after regrets, but I still mean those comments. I don’t know why you see them as “logically crippled,” but maybe I wasn’t clear. So, more specifically:

            No I am in no way suggesting that a Jew cannot, by virtue of being Jewish, be anti-Semitic. I’ve met a few. And no, I am not suggesting that a black person, by virtue of being black, cannot be racist; they can even be racist about black people (and you’ve heard of ‘self-hating Jews’).

            You say, “when I ask about the theoretical black racist, please distinguish between A) racist in a self-depreciating manner, and B) Racist against other ethnic groups, which include but is not limited to white people.” I think you just did, and so have I.

            In fact, i made the distinction much bigger: I tend to give black people and jewish people (and the Irish, and the Catalans, and a few others I know a little about) slack. If they say things that are self-deprecating about their own in-group, I cut them a lot of slack, in fact. Words uttered by one Jew to another might be considered friendly joshing by each party to that dialog, whereas those same words uttered – about Jews – by a German protestant to an American catholic might be considered racist. The point is – you can’t go by the words alone, they always have context.

            Context is not absolute either: as mentioned above, there is the concept of a “self-hating Jew,” whereby you get the situation of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League calling Lena Dunham racist. (That’s something the ADL will have to take up with the LJC (the League of Jewish Comedians), and my money would be on Lenny Bruce, Larry David et al).

            Back to your note. No, I’m not suggesting we “rank all similarly bad things and then ignore anything but the most dire.” But I do think there’s an issue of proportionality on occasion – this being one of them.

            You ask, “Who suggested that black on white racism is a larger problem that white on black racism?” Good question. No one on this whole blog, from Jack on down, to my knowledge, has ever flatly admitted to believing such a thing. However – go back and count the posts and the commentaries since, say, the Trayvon Martin case, and I think you’ll find a huge preponderance of discussion about black on white racism rather than the reverse. You just won’t find many voices besides me (and Jack, on occasion) who highlight cases of white-on-black racism. You find a lot of the reverse.

            You ask, “Why does it matter which is more prevalent?” Because we have an ever-increasing disparity between the races about the perceived level of racism – and that’s a terrible social problem.

            Here’s a quote from a Washington Post Article:

            “Work by Harvard University professor Michael I. Norton, who examined data from a series of polls through the years, found in 2011 that although both blacks and whites believe anti-black racism has diminished through the decades, whites tend to think it has been all but eliminated.”
            Full article here:
            http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/10/08/white-people-think-racial-discrimination-in-america-is-basically-over/

            Not only is that disparity a fact, it’s also white people, not black people, whose perceptions are distorted most frequently: again quoting:
            “In many cases, he found, white perceptions of racial disparities diverge far from reality.”

            That’s not “different from black people,” that’s “distorted vis a vis reality.”

            “For instance, two-thirds of blacks think that African Americans earn make less money than whites, a view in line with official statistics. But just 37 percent of whites believe that blacks make less money than whites, and a narrow majority think black and white’ incomes are about the same. Also, although many objective health measures suggest blacks are in worse overall health than whites, a majority of whites think blacks and whites are equally healthy.”

            Another:
            ” just 16 percent of whites believe that there is “a lot” of discrimination in America today, a view held by 56 percent of blacks. What may be surprising is that the polls found that white perceptions of anti-black bias have diminished to the point where they are more now likely to think anti-white discrimination is a bigger problem than bias against blacks.”

            So my concern is that the balance of commentary on this blog mirrors the white view of the world as per that survey – it is disproportionately about the cases of black racism, black excesses, black-on-white racism, and of damage done to whites by blacks.

            All of which of course do exist – nobody’s perfect in this game. But our national problem, a very big one, is that we have the proportions mistaken out of balance, and I see the same pattern here. That’s why i think it makes a difference.

            • Argh. I used ‘depreciating’ TWICE. Sorry Ms. Ryz.

              I think I may be stepping on Jack’s toes by saying this, and he could probably field a better response than I could, but in defense of this blog, I don’t think that Jack ever pretended he was going to cover everything. I don’t come here because Jack adds commentary to the evening news (although that commentary is often awesome) but also because there is a lot of topics I’d never hear about otherwise. Aside from on a place like Fox, perhaps. But Fox has done such a stellar job discrediting itself that I can’t trust them to provide me even biased truth, never mind whole cloth.

              So while Jack is admittedly only telling one side of the story, it`s a side of the story that is utterly lacking from other venues, and arguably pertains more to the purview of this blog: Ethics. Jack doesn`t report the news, he comments on Ethics. Mainstream news outlets airing their biases IS more worthy of ethics commentary than media that is unbiased. If only we had some of that.

              I don’t think Identity politics have been so front and center in my lifetime. Identity politics are per se divisive. In the interest of being rational, self interested individuals, when someone who identifies with groups you do not belong to engages in identity politics, there is a near universal response of a mirror image of the complaint. I challenge you to find reports where someone was blaming black excess for black problems, or surveys where white people felt more persecuted than black people dated before the media really started going full bore on the Martin/Zimmerman train wreck. You`ll probably find them, but they won`t be nearly as common as they are currently. Were there problems? Absolutely! Were there racists? Absolutely! But in what universe was blaming entire demographics of people for those problems ever going to work? Race mongers agitated the average person by demonizing them alongside the racists with us vs. them language, and that`s something they need to answer to.

  4. Wooow dude. In order:

    It’s not objectively funny. It’s being panned across a wide spectrum of America – meaning that it is at best, very subjectively funny. Comparing a Jew to a dog is clearly anti-jewish and anyone who says otherwise is as historically blind as a holocaust revisionist bat. The fact that it may not have been her intent or that she is kinda sorta Jewish-but-not-really in no way shape or form changes that. The fact there there is a lot of Jewish humor out there is irrelevant, there isn’t much out there that is this offensive and this widely circulated.

    If you dont think this is a double standard, tell me how a white man could compare blacks to dogs on a major national publication and not suffer a career ending blow out. I would literally love to see that argument (seriously I dare you to make it). It should never matters “who” says/does a thing, only the thing should matter. Essentially, you’re arguing that Lena Dunham deserves special treatment because of the group she belongs to. I am literally flabbergasted that you don’t see the ethical hypocrisy there. Say it with me a hundred times until it clicks for you: “You can not ethically give someone positive/negative special treatment simply because of the racial/ethnic group they belong to. Ever. Doing so is called ‘racism’.”

    Chalking this up to paranoia and lack of humor is such a wild mis-characterization that it doesn’t even need to be rebutted directly. In this case, where the public has all the available evidence in front of them (i.e. the piece itself), the public outcry against it defeats the very notion.

    To be honest, I can’t believe that even half of that needed to be explained…

    • “Essentially, you’re arguing that Lena Dunham deserves special treatment because of the group she belongs to. I am literally flabbergasted that you don’t see the ethical hypocrisy there.”

      That is exactly my point, and the fact that you were flabbergasted, not you, not me.

      Your own counter-examples prove it. Would a white person say X that a black person said, etc.? Hell no, not unless you want to get your ass chewed out. Not would an American tell a Japenese in-joke in Japan, unless, again, idiocy. Would you say, “Trust me I’m here to help?” Not if you’re from the IRS and want to get laughed out of the room.

      You are arguing something I honestly don’t think you believe: that context means nothing in social discourse. Never mind the history of discrimination (which any mi Prouty person could tell you is a counter-example. Just look within your own family: are you allowed to make the same fun at you in-laws that your spouse is entitled to, as blood family?

      I’ll be more critical: the only people who believe that the speaker makes no difference to the words being said are people who are from majority cultures who hold power: in the US, that’s pretty much still white, older males.

      Women know they get ignore in business when a man says the same thing they said but gets noticed and praised. Black people know the shift in perception when they meet a white someone they’d met only on the phone in person, and the gears whirr. Dozens if studied on blinded rental apartnents, music competitions and more all prove it. We take into account who says something in our interpretation of what it means.

      The fact that you think ethics is purely about linguistics, and not about real world humans operating in Reality is telling,

      • In essence then you’re doubling down on concept that literally the entire western world rejects as unethical. You believe that the right and wrong of an action depend on the race/ethnic group of the doer and not on the action itself. You’re misappropriating the word “context” here to hide behind, but at it’s core your ethics system is racist.

        • “…literally the entire western world rejects as unethical.”

          False on the face of it. I’d guess opinion is more or less evenly divided, give or take 10 percentage points. Very different from “literally the entire western world.” Dial back the hyperbole.

  5. This reminds me of the Seinfeld where his dentist is converting to Judaism and starts cracking Jewish jokes before the conversion. Jerry is convinced the dentist is only converting so that he can tell Jewish jokes, which offends him “not as a Jew, but as a comedian.” Man I miss that show…

    • That’s a great example; and quintessentially Jewish (a la Seinfeld and Larry David) in the double-punch line at the end.

  6. Lena Dunham is a waste of space, but I don’t think it is an anti-Jewish piece. It would have been just as funny/unfunny if she titled it without the word Jewish. It’s pure man-bashing.

    As for the double-standard, what are your thoughts on Coffee Talk? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzK0G3WYqUE

    I personally don’t think it’s funny, but aren’t Jewish mothers and Jewish boyfriends right up there with fat people as one of the remaining acceptable lines of humor?

    I think you’re distracted by the fact that she is an awful human being separate and apart from this piece.

    • Nor do I. It’s a lazy piece based on stereotypes that are offensive to Jews and that support anti-Semites.

      No doubt, there is confirmation bias here for me. But I don’t see anyone who isn’t an awful person writing that Jews and dogs have anything in common…not with the history of that comparison.

      • I consider Rush Limbaugh as primarily a satirist. How do you think Salon and TIME would treat this exact same piece (well, not about HIS boyfriend) if he delivered it on his show? Would Sandra Fluke defend him?

        • Rush is a political commentator — we’ve discussed him before. I put him right up there with Keith O. as someone who is half commentator/half sensationalist. But he is not a comedian or a satirist — or, if he is, the majority of his audience believes him to be something else.

          • He’s often laugh out loud funny, Beth, (Olberman can be too). The majority of his audience regard him exactly as Maher or Stewart’s audience regard them: a truth-teller with attitude and wit who pokes fingers in eyes juts to hear the squeal. Conservatives really aren’t as dumb as you think.

  7. Has anybody here noticed that the actual wording of Lena Dunham’s “quiz,” right there in the first sentence of the article, is:

    “Do the following statements refer to (a) MY dog or (b) MY Jewish boyfriend?”

    She’s not referring to “a dog,” she’s referring to “MY dog.” It’s a particular pet – not a species-wide generalization. She’s not equating Jews to Dogs; she’s contrasting her boyfriend and her dog. It’s a classic joke, she’s hardly the first to do it.

    Note the first three questions:
    1. The first thing I noticed about him was his eyes.

    2. We love to spend hours in bed together on Sunday mornings.

    3. He’s crazy for cream cheese.

    Again, the comparison is to someone’s PET dog – not to a “running lackey dog of imperialism,” or “low as a dog,” or “fit only for dogs.” It’s a pet.

    It’s exactly the same kind of humor to be found in, for example: Why Your Dog Is Better Than Your Girlfriend
    http://www.rantlifestyle.com/2014/01/29/dog-better-girlfriend/

    or

    that horrible post on PetMD.com called Top Ten Reasons Dogs are Better than Boyfriends.
    http://www.petmd.com/dog/slideshows/seasonal/top-ten-reasons-dogs-are-better-than-boyfriends

    or

    from the UK Daily Mail, citing Jennifer Aniston as saying she prefers dogs to men,
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2280628/Ten-reasons-BACK-Its-week-video-candid-blogger-Emily-Hartridge-This-week-argues-dogs-better-women.html

    The essence of the humor is boyfriend vs. pet – not ethnic boyfriend vs. lowlife-animal-species-dog.

    If you find this piece unfunny, I suggest you go read a book on Jewish humor; a good one would be Born to Kvetch, by Michael Wex. The essence of it is wry humor, always opposing a good with some hidden danger, and bridging the tension gap with humor. This is a classic case, though as per the above examples, that form is not uniquely Jewish.

    And for those who continue to commit the fallacy of substitution, no it would not be OK if she’d said “My black boyfriend.” OF COURSE IT WOULD NOT. Unless she were black. Which she’s not. In-joke humor only works as humor only works as humor when it’s within group. Once it goes outside group, it becomes offensive. Context matters; words alone do not the whole story tell.

  8. If Charles is right it’s giving the whole Lena Dunham vomit-fest a lot more thought than it deserves. She’s going to think she said something profoundly worthy of discussion rather than a disgusting attention whore’s thoughtless look-at-me-daddy public airing of her psychosis.

    • Wyogranny, you’re totally entitled to your opinions about what is and is not literarily redeeming, and what is and is not funny, as am I. (And judging from “disgusting attention whore’s thoughtless look-at-me-daddy public airing of her psychosis” I gather you don’t think much of her work on either dimension. Me, I happen to find it pretty funny).

      But that’s just opinion – mine as well as yours. Opinions about literature and humor belong on a different blog – one about literature or humor. What have they got to do with ethics?

      • Everything has to do with ethics. It’s unethical to continually degrade the culture just because you can get away with it.

            • You’re kidding, right?

              Wyogranny thinks Lena Dunham degrades the culture. I think she improves it. Where’s the objective consensus?

              The free market pays big time for her on HBO and the New Yorker; is that objective data?

              Many twitterers berate her; is that objective data?

              Of all the possible candidates for subjectivity, not objectivity, I would think “degrade” would have to rank pretty high.

              • I think the term is often suffused with bias, but I think it’s objectively quantifiable. The culture is degraded when it becomes less nurturing, sage, beneficent, rich, diverse, fair and conducive to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Is Up vs Down that hard to distinguish?

                Dunham’s work enriches the culture; just like The Walking Dead, Sexus, Lenny Bruce and Kanye West. Personally, she is a blight on the culture: mean, reckless, ugly, cruel, selfish. But a minor blight at most. It’s pretty hard for any one person to degrade the culture significantly. I think Bill Clinton degraded the culture significantly.

                • Interesting… I agree with on every one of those criteria. Yet I don’t think Clinton degraded the culture, much less significantly. Now, that guy that gave us a deficit and destabilized the MIddle East, he’s a candidate in my book!

                  A thought…I just read a really nifty book explaining in very precise well-researched terms jus why it is that liberals and conservatives have different values systems. Links it back to Hume and Kant, and tied to anthropology.

                  It’s called The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Jonathan Haidt. It’s a couple of years old.

  9. Before I start reading the debate up there, can we please change the “Pro-Life” in the post to “Pro-Choice”? Not that anyone doesn’t know what was meant, but someone may call libel on it.

    • Fixed, thanks. You were the first to flag it. It’s amazing how often I say the exact opposite of what I mean. My old girlfriend used to call it JMS for Jack Marshall Syndrome…stop when I meant go, hot when I meant cold. Ugh.

      • Thank you.

        I’m in the same demographic as Lena Dunham, and it bothers me how she/the media assumes I must share her views or have submitted myself to patriarchal oppression. Particularly when it comes to abortion, so that stuck out.

    • Edited to add my two cents: That wasn’t funny. I doubt the New Yorker would’ve accepted that piece if it had come from someone lesser known. At least, I hope not.

      The stereotyping didn’t even seem very specific, and could have applied as easily and problematically to her Greek or Muslim boyfriend.

      Because of that, it might going too far to call deliberate, malicious antisemitism here. Really, like much of Lena’s work, it seems to be more about her own insecurities than anything else. Mining those insecurities, looking inward, I can see how she didn’t look outward and see how this was offensive.

      Personally, this is my biggest problem with her work, but from her point of view, it’s worked so far, so why should she bother to change?

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