The Niggardly Principles apply to situations where a hyper-sensitive and ignorant individual takes an innocent statement as a slur because the individual doesn’t understand its meaning or context. These are all unforgivable scenarios that reward the foolish and punish the innocent (and articulate). They include the infamous episode in the District of Columbia government when a white executive was disciplined for using the word “niggardly,” ; the time the Los Angeles NAACP attacked Hallmark for an outer space themed “talking greeting card” that mentioned “black holes,” which the hair-trigger offended (and science education-deprived) heard as “black ‘ho’s.”
Then there were the students at at Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania, who demanded that the college rename “Lynch Memorial Hall,” named for Dr. Clyde A. Lynch, the LVC’s president during the Depression, because his name evoked lynchings to their tender ears. And who can forget, as much as one would like to, when ESPN suspended sportscaster Max Bretos after an Asian-American activist group complained that he had used the term “a chink in his armor” while talking about an NBA player of Chinese heritage ?
This story is worse than any of them.
ESPN sports announcer Doug Adler was calling an Australian Open tennis match last month between Venus Williams and Stefanie Voegele when he said,”You see Venus move in and put the guerilla effect on. Charging.” “Guerilla tennis” is a recognized phrase that refers to aggressive tennis. It has nothing to do with Great Apes.
New York Times tennis writer Ben Rothenberg, however, cued by some Twitter social justice warriors, attacked Adler, tweeting himself,
“This is some appalling stuff. Horrifying that the Williams sisters remain subjected to it still in 2017.”
Smug, dishonest, unprofessional, illogical, unfair, biased, unethical: “THIS is CNN.”
I just have to stop watching CNN is the morning, because it places everyone in my house at risk for head shrapnel.
The main danger is the smug, biased, ethically-jumbled Carol Costello, CNN’s late morning anchor after the New York governor’s telegenic brother has finished indoctrinating us into his view of the world. Today, Costello was taking a victory lap, implying that she helped get Stephen A. Smith suspended by ESPN for daring to suggest that women bear some responsibility for avoiding placing themselves within range of an abuser’s fists. (Interestingly, Costello had no similar directives for ABC, which quietly allowed Whoopie Goldberg to make the same (valid) point on “The View” with no adverse actions whatsoever. See, a woman is allowed to state some uncomfortable truths, but the same truth in the mouth of a man is offensive. Learn the rules, for heaven’s sake!) Then Costello played a clip of her earlier argument why ESPN was wrong not to suspend Smith. She said …
“It’s nice that Smith apologized, but I wonder if the network will do what it ought to do and suspend Smith. Look, in 2012, the management of ESPN expressed outrage when two employees used the phrase “a chink in the armor” when referencing Jeremy Linn, the Asian Basketball player. One employee was suspended for 30 days and the other was fired. So why is ESPN giving Smith a pass?”
Look out ! It’s a trap!
In today’s Washington Post letters section, Fred Shwaeary writes:
“In the April 28 Sports article “Harper called up to majors,” Adam Kilgore wrote, “General Manager Mike Rizzo made his bones in player development, and he crafted a careful scheme for [outfielder Bryce] Harper’s ascension.” “Made his bones”? Not the old mob reference again! This is a phrase that should never be used when writing about those of Italian descent — or anyone else, for that matter.”
Thanks, Fred! Now Mike knows he ought to be grievously offended, Kilgore knows that he was derisively suggesting that Italian Americans are all Mafia types the rest of us know Kilgore is a bigot, and the Italian-American Anti-Defamation League can demand that 1) the Post ban the term, which I have been using now and then for years and never associated it with Italians at all, from its writers’ lexicon; 2) Kilgore issue an abject apology to save his job and 3) Kilgore be symbolically suspended for a slur he neither intended nor that anybody else other than Shwaeary, and perhaps Fredo Corleone, took as an insult. Continue reading
If the long Presidents Day weekend took you hither and yon and away from ethical dilemmas and controversies, welcome back! Here is what went on here in a lively three days:
I'd advise staying away from "niggardly" too, Max.
Ethics Alarms first promulgated the Niggardly Principles in the midst of the so-called Ground Zero Mosque controversy. The Principles are named after the embarrassing controversy that roiled the Washington D.C. government more than a decade ago, in which a supervisor who used the good, old English word “niggardly” meaning “penurious or cheap” was fired for racial insensitivity after an African-American who hadn’t kept up on her Reader’s Digest “It Pays To Increase Your Word Power” complained that he had made a racist remark. The outcry in D.C. over this capitulation to ignorance was so great that the D.C. government reversed itself, though there remained some, like those supporting ESPN’s decision to fire Bretos for an innocent and appropriate application of the idiom ” a chink in the armor” today, who argued that the supervisor should have chosen his words so as not to offend those too ignorant and hair-trigger grievance-minded to comprehend them.
The First Niggardly Principle, therefore, is this:
“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 of the offended party.”
A corollary of the FNP is that violating it unconscionably empowers the kind of people who should not be empowered in a free, fair and intelligent society: bullies, race-baiters, grievance police, censors of free expression, and the shamelessly ignorant. That was the theme of a disgraceful incident in which Hallmark pulled an “offensive”card because some African-Americans complained that the term “black hole”—as in Stephen Hawking and “Star Trek”—sounded too much like “black ho”—I’m not making this up— and was thus a racial slur. Hallmark’s craven capitulation was off the charts as First Niggardly Principle breaches go, but in some ways ESPN’s breach was worse; at least Hallmark didn’t pick an employee’s pockets and finger him as a closet racist. Continue reading
What Max Bretos means by "chink in the armor." Not that ESPN cares.
The headline “Chink in the Armor: Jeremy Lin’s 9 Turnovers Cost Knicks in Streak-stopping Loss to Hornets” appeared on ESPN’s mobile web site last week, and it was quickly removed. ESPN apologized, then fired the over-night headline writer who thought it would be cute to make a racially-offensive play on words between the derogatory slur for a person of Chinese descent, and the old, respectable, and the completely non-racial phrase meaning “a flaw or weak point.”
ESPN’s response to the tasteless headline was appropriate.
But it wasn’t enough for ESPN, which was under a full barrage from the political correctness police and race bullies as well as Jeremy Lin fanatics. So the station also decided to make a victim of innocent anchor Max Bretos, suspending him for 30 days because he used the expression Wednesday when he asked New York Knicks legend Walt “Clyde” Frazier on air about Lin.
“If there is a chink in the armor, where can he improve his game?” Bretos asked. Continue reading