Fairness Conundrum In Rochester: What Do You Do With The Racist-Sounding Gaffe? [UPDATED]

Keep smiling, Jeremy: you’re probably ruined, and may have done nothing wrong, but it’s all for the greater good…

Go to this link, and listen (the video won’t embed).

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Falan.majors%2Fvideos%2F10212107639637618%2F&show_text=0&width=560

While reporting on the air  Friday about an ice rink at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park, WHEC (in Rochester, New York) meteorologist Jeremy Kappell fumbled King’s name and uttered something that sounds like “coon” in the course of trying to get it out. Viewers, convinced that he had uttered a racial slur on the air, demanded that Kappell be fired, and, astoundingly,  the mayor of Rochester issued a demand of her own.

Mayor Lovely Warren, blatantly abusing her power and position,  issued press release  saying…

“It is wrong, hurtful and infuriating that WHEC Channel 10 broadcast a racial slur in reference to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during its Friday News broadcast. It is beyond unacceptable that this occurred. There must be real consequences for the news personality involved and also for the management team that failed to immediately apologize and address the slur.”

Piling on, the Rochester Association of Black Journalists issued a statement condemning the “clearly racist language” and asking for a “complete explanation” from WHEC.

Although Kappell tweeted Monday that he has “never uttered those words,” he was indeed fired.

Is that fair?

Of course it isn’t fair. There was no investigation, for example. Those saying that the weatherman uttered a racist slur—and that is how the story is generally being reported—are assuming what cannot be assumed. Did President Trump intend to type “covfefe”? If one wanted to make that case, then an investigation would have to show that he had used the word before. Presumably associates of Kappell could be questioned regarding his use of slurs and attitudes toward race. This didn’t happen in a single day. The station fired him without due process of any kind to determine if he did anything wrong.

There is also a presumption of guilt standard being applied, which is the new fad on the Left. Police in shootings involving blacks are now presumed guilty, according to BLM hero and martyr NFL kneeler Colin Kaepernick. Brett Kavanaugh is a dangerous sexual predator because a single woman says he is, and that, apparently is enough to impugn his character forever. In addition, Kappell is the victim of racism himself. If he were black and said the exact same thing, would the black mayor be claiming that he was a racist and had to be fired?

No.

What this really is, though, is the emergence of a standard that demands strict liability for uttering anything that sounds like a racial slur regardless of intent. This is exactly the unethical approach that spawned the Niggardly Principles, the first of which was inspired by an embarrassing incident in which  a white Washington D.C. government worker was fired for using the word “niggardly” in the work place. His language was found to be racially insensitive to those whose vocabulary was so limited they didn’t know that the word had nothing to do with race.  Eventually the worker was reinstated, and I composed the First Niggardly Principle:

“No one should be criticized or penalized because someone takes racial, ethnic, religious or other offense at their conduct or speech due to the ignorance, bias or misunderstanding by the offended party.”

That appears to be what is happening in Rochester, however.

Unfortunately for WHEC, it has little room to maneuver, or to be fair and just. If the community, which is substantially black,  decides, however wrongly and unfairly, that one of their on-air personalities is a racist, it can’t afford not to act in the best interests of the station. Firing Kappell is the course of least risk for the business. He’s being sacrificed, true, but businesses cannot responsibly endanger their entire organization, investors and employees to support a single individual no matter how unjust the result may be to him.

The station, however, is the only blameless party in this. Rochester’s brutal and cruel treatment of Jeremy Kappell signals an era of deliberate choice to assume the worst of people, especially people of a different color. It rejects the benefit of the doubt, due process, the acceptance of the principle that people make mistakes, and the presumption of innocence. Broadcaster sometimes fumble their words; indeed anyone who is in the profession will eventually utter nonsense, gibberish, or misplaced words. Anyone who speaks for a living, like me, understands this. Now we are on notice that if a slurred word or a bungled name strikes someone as offensive, intent doesn’t matter. Fairness doesn’t matter. The Golden Rule isn’t operative. A social justice lynch mob will form, career-destroying labels will be nailed to our foreheads, and we will be pariahs, everywhere, and forever. Those calling for the meteorologist’s firing, including the mayor and the black journalists, are ethics villains here.

This isn’t a trivial or minor episode, Our society would be wise to examine its implications, which are ugly and dangerous.

____________________

Pointer: A.M. Golden

 

 

58 thoughts on “Fairness Conundrum In Rochester: What Do You Do With The Racist-Sounding Gaffe? [UPDATED]

  1. As someone who speaks for many hours a year before others, I have misspoken and malformed words which I am sure sounded bad or even worse. None are intentional. Nothing has ever come of my erroneous words or sounds.

    I suspect the hot pursuit of accidental microaggressions will change all that soon enough.

    • Linguistically, he anticipated the “oo” in “J-oo-nior” one word early.

      Doctor Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard has an awful lot of syllables to slip on….

      • This is a good point, and I wonder if a linguist brought in as an expert witness could argue it effectively in court.

        This incident reminds me of another problem. It sometimes occurs in classroom discussions that one person is commenting on the merits and accomplishments of the theologian and Protestant pioneer Martin Luther while someone else in the conversation is talking about Martin Luther King, Jr. Confusion abounds. It’s hard to eliminate the confusion if you don’t know of the existence of both.

        Probably there is not yet an ethical principle on this.

    • Do they send a violation notice? Have you ever asked for review/appeal?
      I can certainly understand that it may be a waste of your time, but I’m really curious what ‘community standard’ you might to be violating.
      It is a standard tactic of the fascist left to organize an effort to deplatform (have removed) those they disagree with from social media outlets. They complain repeatedly, both as a group and individually about one’s posts until they convince the platform (in this case Facebook) to ban, shadow ban, or selectively remove “offensive’ material. It appears that EA is shadow banned on Facebook. That is, there may still be an account but posts are removed and not allowed distribution.
      A single very persistent complainer with a few allies may also have an effect, which makes me wonder about the lengthy nuisance lawsuit you’ve been dealing with.
      My Facebook account is intimately tied to a business that involves 5 other people or I would be making a crusade of this. Perhaps someone who rarely uses their account could attempt to share every post and report on the results. The Greensboro lunch counter sit-ins were because anyone actually wanted to eat at Woolworth’s, it is a matter of equitable public accommodation by a business. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc. must soon be held accountable as either publishers, with the rights and responsibilities that entails, or as open platforms for public discourse with clearly defined legal and consistent rules. The middle ground they seek to occupy, to their great advantage is untenable.

        • Interesting. Since your posts don’t include photos of Jihadi beheadings, it seems unlikely that one of Facebook’s 23 year old social justice warriors made a decision based on their Big Book of Censorship and banned your posts on their own. I suspect an organized complaint effort by one or more people has resulted in you being placed on the shadow banned list, with most posts or shared links being outright banned if they deviate from “Merry Christmas to my Facebook friends!”
          I would raise hell. You are a legitimate ethics expert raising serious and thoughtful issues. You are being denied access to a public platform (whether they like that designation or not). Why?

            • I have a big colorful statement on Facebook announcing that I’m reading Ethics Alarms blog. Then I comment that the blog can’t be shared to Facebook, and it doesn’t seem to violate community standards. It’s easier to get more readers than to outwit the capricious and liberal-leaning banning mechanisms of Facebook. Tell your friends!

              I think I found this blog from Instapundit sometime in the last 2 months. Thanks for listening.

        • I reported the problem to Facebook about a week ago, complaining that their decisions to block EA is capricious and arbitrary. I did not get a response. However, now, I have weird cars with strange looking cameras attached to them passing by my house at all hours of the day. Should I worry?

          jvb

  2. This wasn’t even a Freudian slip or a failure to filter, unless the man’s an idiot, which he clearly isn’t, because only an idiot would refer to MLK as a “coon” on television. This isn’t a transparent attempt to hide hatred by claiming a mistake, like Dick Armey referring to Barney Frank as Barney Fag (I loathed Barney Frank, but who did Armey think he was fooling?). The man misspoke, nothing more.

    I compared this kind of thing once to several episodes from history, none of which we should seek to emulate. During the French Revolution people could be sent to the guillotine for the flimsiest of reasons or no reason at all. In the days of Juan Peron Argentinian army helicopters departed fully loaded over the ocean and returned empty after men with short hair and bulging jackets snatched the occupants from wherever and whenever. And then there’s the Troubles, where the IRA didn’t care much if you had really seen or said what someone said you had. If you were lucky you only got tooled (kneecapped with a power drill). If you weren’t, you got shot dead, no questions asked (of course within 24 hours the UDL would then kill some hapless Catholic who had nothing to do with it to “even up the score”).

    This has been going on for a good three years, ever since they tried to silence Duck Dynasty for one of its members daring to say what he really thought. I wrote at the time that the left’s attitude was no longer “I despise what you say, but I will defend your right to say it,” now it’s “I despise what I believe you say, whether my belief is accurate or not, and I will vilify you, shame you, attack you, and make sure you lose your livelihood as a result, but not arrest you…YET.”

    The day is approaching sooner than you think when they WILL arrest anyone who says the wrong thing.

    • Stop thinking it has been 3 years. In the universities, it has been going on for well over 30 years (probably more like 50). In the 80’s people were protesting the fact that speech codes were being ruled unconstitutional (campuses were pro-speech codes). People say the left used to have a “I despise what you say, but I will defend your right to say it” attitude, but I haven’t seen it in my lifetime and I remember the Nixon administration. When did they supposedly have this attitude, or is it just another leftist myth shoved down people’s throats?

    • This wasn’t even a Freudian slip or a failure to filter, unless the man’s an idiot, which he clearly isn’t, because only an idiot would refer to MLK as a “coon” on television. This isn’t a transparent attempt to hide hatred by claiming a mistake, like Dick Armey referring to Barney Frank as Barney Fag (I loathed Barney Frank, but who did Armey think he was fooling?). The man misspoke, nothing more.

      Concur.

      Not only is it unfair to the guy concerned, but cry wolf like this too often, and reasonable people will start to believe that racism isn’t the problem, but those who are against racism.

      Hence Trump.

      • Exactly. tell someone often enough they are racist, even when they hold no animus, and they will eventually ignore you.

        Tell an entire race that they are racist, and the reason they are racist is the color of their skin and not their actions, which are all racist anyway by virtue of who did it, not what was done, and watch Trump get reelected.

  3. I’m hping to make an excuse for the man that it totally plausible; many of these people literally read a lot of what they say, this could have been a typo that no one caught, King vs Kong.

    • Or maybe U was on his mind having just said “Luther” and would be saying “Junior” that ended up being something like “Kung” instead of King?

      I do this constantly, getting ahead of myself in speaking or typing, so that words with similar letters get conflated. It’s very frustrating. Thankfully, I don’t read news or weather on the air…

      The comments I’ve read online largely reflect the belief that this was an unintentional flub, though some believe it was a Freudian slip.

  4. The station, however, is the only blameless party in this. Rochester’s brutal and cruel treatment of Jeremy Kappell signals an era of deliberate choice to assume the worst of people, especially people of a different color. It rejects the benefit of the doubt, due process, the acceptance of the principle that people make mistakes, and the presumption of innocence. Broadcaster sometimes fumble their words; indeed anyone who is in the profession will eventually utter nonsense, gibberish, or misplaced words. Anyone who speaks for a living, like me, understands this. Now we are on notice that if a slurred word or a bungled name strikes someone as offensive, intent doesn’t matter. Fairness doesn’t matter. The Golden Rule isn’t operative. A social justice lynch mob will form, career-destroying labels will be nailed to our foreheads, and we will be pariahs, everywhere, and forever. Those calling for the meteorologist’s firing, including the mayor and the black journalists, are ethics villains here.

    Such a thing could only breed resentment against minorities.

    Have these people heard of the trope Then Let Me Be Evil ?

  5. I live in the suburbs of Rochester and know the place moderately well. Rochester’s mayor has a tough job and our community has a lot of problems that are not easy to solve. Problems exist all over, but the city of Rochester is often reported to have a level of “concentrated poverty” along the same lines of other medium-sized northern cities like (for example) Hartford, CT or Milwaukee, WI.

    Recently a external review panel judged the Rochester City Schools be performing at a very poor level.

    It is sensible to conclude that for the mayor and others who have called for the firing, this is an “easy win.” Fixing the Rochester City Schools would be harder. Policing is controversial. Money is tight. Managing a declining city is hard. Getting a journalist fired is easier.

    Getting the journalist fired won’t solve the underlying issues, but presumably it feels good for a couple of hours.

    It’s low-hanging fruit
    It’s a distraction
    It’s not going to solve anything
    It feels good for a couple of hours.

  6. Jack said, “If the community, which is substantially black, decides, however wrongly and unfairly, that one of their on-air personalities is a racist, it can’t afford not to act in the best interests of the station. Firing Kappell is the course of least risk for the business. He’s being sacrificed, true, but businesses cannot responsibly endanger their entire organization, investors and employees to support a single individual no matter how unjust the result may be to him.”
    First, I confess ignorance of the Rochester community’s degree of buy-in to the “assume racism” cult, but my own experience leads me to believe that in most communities it is a far smaller percentage than is generally assumed and especially much smaller than what the MSM projects. Most African Americans that I know are just as sick and tired of political correctness and “perpetual offended-ness” as most of the rest of us are. The “community” didn’t “decide” Kappell is a racist, it was merely assumed by those who always look for and see racial offense even when none was intended or evident from the context present. It is likely that the station is appeasing the virtue-signaling mayor and a vocal subset of the “black community” rather than the actual majority of community members who watch their station, patronize their sponsors, etc..
    Second, any “sacrificial” firing such as this one sets a bad precedent and emboldens future demands for additional “sacrifices.” If no business will (or should) stand up for the unjustly accused employee, especially when no actual crime is alleged, then the principles of due process and the presumption of innocence are diminished to a chilling degree. If the “community” is truly this sensitive and the station truly this committed to stamping out every appearance of giving offense, then every on-air employee must be wondering “When will my turn come?” (while they update their resumes). Following the risk management approach, the station will likely begin to steer clear of any stories or features that might have the potential to offend, even inadvertently by a mere verbal flub. That will surely help their bottom line! If I were an investor, I would begin looking for another investment opportunity, and if I were an employee, I would be looking for another job.

      • In that vein, perhaps the reporter should’ve fired the TV station for not standing up for him. Everybody wins a little that way.

      • I don’t agree with that, Jack. At least not in this situation. When you are facing a true ethics conundrum then sure. For instance, if you had the power to fire Roseanne after her gaffe and you were certain beyond all doubt she was not a racist, you may think it’s the right thing to do for the station to fire her from her show, and perhaps it is. In that case a reasonable mind could conclude she was racist, so it is perhaps best for the station and the show to let her go.

        In this case, no rational mind could possibly conclude he was being racist. So, therefore, this was an easy call. They should have just said what happened, apologized for the miscommunication, and done the right thing for the reporter, even if it was just for the sake of doing the right thing.

  7. Unfortunately for WHEC, it has little room to maneuver, or to be fair and just. If the community, which is substantially black, decides, however wrongly and unfairly, that one of their on-air personalities is a racist, it can’t afford not to act in the best interests of the station. Firing Kappell is the course of least risk for the business. He’s being sacrificed, true, but businesses cannot responsibly endanger their entire organization, investors and employees to support a single individual no matter how unjust the result may be to him.

    So what we have here is the classic ethics dilemma — it’s unethical to fire someone knowing it’s for the wrong reason, but the duties and responsibilities of the station to its shareholders and profits demand it.

    Still, if this is going to be the standard going forward, anyone can be fired for any trumped-up charge of racism, the truth of which isn’t just optional, but frankly irrelevant. After all, in this case, there’s no real evidence of racism, yet he had to be fired. Truth does not enter into it, only what the angry mob believes, or even says it believes.

    This can only end badly — for all of us.

      • Well, I don’t know if white folks would have to go that far. There are many white people of good character who know how to protect themselves, and they wouldn’t have to exclude other races or ideologies.

        So no, I’m not going to go that far. But I see it as an extreme example, which is doubtless how you intended it.

    • I saw a neologism for “a person who makes frivolous or unfounded accusations of sexism, racism, prejudice, etc. to further his own career.” It’s “bigoteer,” presumably to match the construction of “profiteer.”

      Methinks somewhere in Tim Ferriss’s book _Tools of titans_ which is mostly interview transcripts.

      We could also speak of “bigoteering.”

      For example, we might say that “Twitter is a useful mechanism for those interested in bigoteering.”

  8. “He’s being sacrificed, true, but businesses cannot responsibly endanger their entire organization, investors and employees to support a single individual no matter how unjust the result may be to him.”

    But wait! This is a news organization. This guy has been railroaded (or rode out of town on a rail, take your pick) on a factually incorrect basis. Shouldn’t a news organization be involved in, you know, actual facts? Couldn’t this be what the wonderful Professor Obama loved to condescendingly call “a teaching moment?” Wouldn’t showing some integrity be to the long term benefit of the stockholders?

      • Frankly, I’m not sure how the station could be harmed in any way. People, no matter what color, are going to switch to a different local channel for their news because of this? People aren’t that stupid. Plus, I suspect people watch a particular channel for news because of what network shows precede or follow their news coverage. I’d just do a detailed expose on what the tempest in a teapot is about and then let it subside. If some local politician or national scale race-baiter wants to try to make something out of it, let them try. They can call it white-splaining or whatever they want. I just don’t think black people are that stupid, gullible and herdable.

  9. Here is a press release that you may find interesting.

    It doesn’t make much sense to me but the fact that local journalist David Andreatta used the word “carpetbagger” in a recent article is mentioned along with his article being “racially charged.”

    http://cityofrochester.gov/article.aspx?id=21474839952

    it’s taking me a while to get up to speed on this.

    https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/local/columnists/andreatta/2018/12/18/melissa-barrett-rochester-ny-city-court-judge-david-gantt-property-lovely-warren/2354304002/

  10. Not directly on point, but here in Houston, a 7 year old African American girl was killed while sitting the back seat of her mother’s car. Her sisters and mother were wounded. The local news media began running the story. According to the mother and the sisters, the perpetrator was white male, with blue eyes, between the age of 30 to 40, wearing a black hoodie driving a red pickup truck. A locally famous sketch artist came in to make a rendering based on their descriptions. The local news reported that the description of the truck and guy matched another unsolved crime from a year ago but law enforcement was quick to suggest that the two cases were not related. Yet.

    Everyone agreed he was the culprit and a manhunt was soon engaged to find him. International Peacenik and Race Conscious Social Justice Activist Shaun King picked up the story and began seeking justice for a 7 year victim of a hate crime. He mobilized his followers, Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee (Dem. 18th Congr. DIstr.) got involved, and the community was out to get the guy.

    Then, come Saturday night, the police made an arrest of someone in connection with the crime. Turns out, he made contact with Shaun King two days before that, telling King that the shooting was simply a case of mistaken identity. King turned the tip over to police but continued to run with the hate crime angle for two full days before the arrest was made. The fellow confessed and named his accomplice. A second arrest has been made of the accomplice. They have been charged with capital murder and have told the police that they didn’t mean to at the girls’ car; they meant to shoot someone else. Damn luck, that.

    So, the media and Rep. Jackson Lee have been losing their minds over this killing, tragic as it is. But, there’s more. The two fellows arrested are not between the ages of 30 – 40, don’t drive a red pickup truck and are not white. They are early 20 year black males with quite impressive rap sheets. When asked if Rep. Jackson Lee felt responsibility for flaming racial tensions, she said this:

    https://www.khou.com/video/news/local/congressman-sheila-jackson-lee-says-it-was-not-irresponsible-to-call-childs-killing-a-hate-crime/285-8385745

    jvb

  11. And with that, boys and girls, just about sums it up: We have entered “an era of deliberate choice to assume the worst of people”

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