Tag Archives: political correctness

On Sacked Nobel Tim Hunt: The Trouble with Being PC

Originally published by ANewDomain.net:

Want to know when political correctness crosses the line from noble social justice war to unfair censorship? When someone gets fired for saying something unrelated to their job.

That is clearly the case with Tim Hunt, a 72-year-old Nobel Prize-winning biochemist who was forced to resign from his post as an honorary professor at University College London after he brainfarted some sexist comments at a scientific conference in South Korea.

“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls,” Hunt said.

“Three things happen when they are in the lab: You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them they cry.”

Social media went crazy, and that’s fine: a Two Minutes Hate is exactly what Twitter is for.

And, to be charitable, what Hunt said was stupid. You don’t have to fall in love with your female colleagues. It is, or it should be possible, to note silently and with a pokerface said colleague’s hotness, and then get back to work. But, really. Can’t we open our minds a little?

tim hunt nobel photo wiki ted rall opinionWhat Tim Hunt said isn’t that terrible: After all, people do hook up at work, and you’d have to be an idiot to argue that women don’t cry more than men. Plus, Tim Hunt is 72. Not old old, but old enough not to know the finer points of political correctness.

In context, Hunt’s words, though archaic, are harmless. And Hunt was an honorary professor. He didn’t run a lab. And he was in no position to hire or fire anyone — specifically, he wasn’t in a position to hire or fire any women.

If free speech means anything, it guarantees the right to mouth off about whatever, without having to worry about having your career trashed — especially when what you mouthed off about isn’t even related to the job you stand to lose.

I feel this stuff personally. After 9/11, when my political cartoons were controversial because they opposed Bush and his wars, I didn’t fault the newspapers, like The Washington Post and New York Times, that dropped me. The editors were cowards, yes, but they had that right.

But when Men’s Health, which didn’t run my political work, got rid of my cartoons about men, sex and relationships, now that pissed me off.

On the other side of the coin from the Tim Hunt case are those of former LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling and ex-Harvard president Lawrence Summers.

don sterling la clippers owner former ownerSterling and Summers’ remarks were far more offensive than Hunt’s comments.

Summers, the ex Harvard honcho, said women don’t have the “intrinsic aptitude” for science and engineering.

And former LA Clippers owner Sterling told his girlfriend that her other (black) boyfriends weren’t welcome at his (supposedly public) games: “You can sleep with (black people). You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want …the little I ask you is … not to bring them to my games.”

lawrence summers harvard ex harvard presidentSummers was forced down and Sterling was pushed out, and that’s fine. As president of the most prestigious university in the United States, Summers held power over thousands of women faculty, staff and students. How could they work for him, knowing that he thought they were stupid?

And, more importantly, how can Summers, the now-former president of Harvard, be so stupid as to think that women are dumb at math? On the grounds of low intellect alone, he deserved to get canned.

As for Sterling, he owned a professional NBA team. Many professional basketball players are black, as are many of its fans. It would have been an abomination to continue to allow a racist to own a team whose stars included many African-Americans — all of whom would have to wonder if they were being discriminated against by their boss.

This is neither the first time nor the last time we will see this, but it must be said: The sacking of Tim Hunt is something that politically correct Internet “warriors” ought to be ashamed of.

The New Journalism

Not long ago, journalists were expected to work stories by getting out of the office and tracking them down. The new breed of online journalists who have replaced them sit on their butts, monitoring tweets in the hope that some celebrity or politician will say something stupid so they can trash them. This is what, in an age of minute budgets, passes for journalism.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: How to Deal with a Media Pile-On

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Tips for Targets of Online Hatefests

Over the holiday weekend I found myself in a uncomfortable yet not entirely unfamiliar place. I was the target of the online equivalent of the Two Minute Hate in Orwell’s “1984.”

The subject: the way I draw President Obama. Which I’ve been doing since 2009. But this column is not about that. It’s about a few things I’ve learned about how online witch hunts and mob mentality have evolved in recent years.

Like other cartoonists I’ve taken heat before, notably over my “terror widows” and Pat Tillman cartoons from 2002 and 2004, respectively. During the grim years following 9/11, bloggers on the far right of America’s political fringe repeatedly issued furious rants calling for me to censored, imprisoned, tortured, raped and/or assassinated. Well, hey, it’s nice to be noticed.

Ten years later, the anatomy of the Internet pile-on has changed, and it reveals some interesting changes in American political culture. The knee-jerk nationalism of the Bush years has given way to a form of political correctness on steroids under Obama, with identity politics running amok. Influenced by social networks, the comments sections of political discussion websites have adopted like/dislike ratings systems that amplify groupthink. In contrast to the 2000s, when right-wing haters threatened lefties’ lives more than their livelihoods, conservative Obama Democrats are more likely to censor you than to threaten to kill your family.

To be sure, the basic characteristics of TwoMinuteHate.com remain the same. Internet mob rule still relies on the power of suggestion; when people follow a link that urges Click Here to See a Terrible Horrible Witch, they’re more likely than not to see, well, a horrible witch.

I call this the Comedy Club Effect. 99.99% of stand-up comics aren’t funny. Yet most people laugh at most of their (bad) jokes. People who spend $30 plus a two-drink minimum are preconditioned to have a good time. Having a good time at a comedy club requires laughing. So the audience laughs.

The mandatory drinks help.

After I was introduced as “America’s funniest cartoonist” at a talk in Chicago I apologized — in a straight-ahead, not even trying to joke way, for being late, explaining that I’d gotten stuck in traffic from O’Hare. Everyone laughed.

The corollary of the Comedy Club Effect is that when people are preconditioned to hate, they tend to hate well and often. Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen experienced this when his “what if I were a bigot” musings (“people with conventional views must repress a gag reflex“) about New York Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio’s biracial family drew calls for his firing and unsubstantiated assertions that these were really Cohen’s thoughts. It was the exact 180-degree opposite of fair: If anything, white conservatives “with conventional views,” rather than progressives, should have been angry at Cohen for attributing bigotry that the conventional types hadn’t expressed.

Like other targets of media pile-ons, I find it hard to accept that angry people who are yelling at you are open to nothing you have to say. Explanations don’t help. Apologies don’t stop them. They just want to yell at you. Anything you say can and will be used, distorted and twisted against you in the court of Twitter.

If you’re smart, you’ll duck and cover, leaving your allies and fellow travelers to run interference for you and defend your cyberhonor. But your defenders won’t get far. Dissenting voices get shouted down too. Anything they say will be similarly twisted and they’ll be accused of being your toadies and shills. In the end, they’ll get ground down by endless demands to repeat themselves until they finally fade away, leaving the field to your attackers’ hundreds of comments, all of which will remain forever Google-able to your future might-have-been employers.

There’s no way you can win. All you can do is conserve your energy until the mob moves on to burn down someone else’s house.

As always, commenters have strong opinions about, for example, cartoons they haven’t actually seen.

My latest imbroglio brought me into contact with such relatively recent additions to the PC canon as “whitesplaining” and “mansplaining.” According to the Urban Dictionary, whitespaining is “the paternalistic lecture given by whites toward a person of color defining what should and shouldn’t be considered racist, while obliviously exhibiting their own racism” and mansplaining is “the tendency of some men to mistakenly believe that they automatically know more about any given topic than does a woman and who, consequently, proceed to explain to her — correctly or not — things that she already knows.”

A more lucid definition is for the suffix “‘splaining,” which Geek Feminism calls “a form of condescension in which a member of a privileged group explains something to a member of a marginalized group — most particularly, explains about their marginalization — as if the privileged person knows more about it.”

As a white male, in other words, I can imagine how irritating it would be to hear a white guy like me tell someone who isn’t white or male about their experience as a disadvantaged minority. But I can’t know how they feel.

Obviously, this is true. The trouble is that, on sites like Daily Kos, where the majority views are pro-Obama and pro-Democratic Party no matter what they do, the cries of “whitesplaining” and “mansplaining” are used to stifle not condescension, but disagreement.

Speaking about the controversy over the way I draw Obama, the founder of Daily Kos refused to weigh in with his opinion over whether or not I am racist. “Don’t be that white guy telling African-Americans what is and isn’t racist,” sayeth Markos Moulitsas. 1300 comments or so later, someone finally asked: “If white guys have no right to voice an opinion about racism, I’m curious if minorities expect white guys to say anything at all about racism (except for racist statement, of course)? After all, if your opinions simply aren’t welcome, can you really expect people to engage in a debate?”

Daily Kos is one of many sites that have adopted Facebook-style like/dislike rating systems. Viewers may click “recommend (+)” or “hide (-)” on blog entries as well as individual comments. Items with more thumbs up add to a poster’s digital “mojo” on the site. Items with more thumbs down get hidden from view and subtract from mojo. Run out of mojo and you can’t post anymore. You are unpersoned, like in “1984.”

The link aggregator Reddit demonstrates the problem with this system. Post cute kittens and your ratings soar. Post anything controversial — say, something about Edward Snowden — and the hates will more than cancel out the likes. Reddit is a place where anything less than totally insipid goes to die. I assume they like it that way.

At Kos they call this “community moderation.” It sounds democratic. In practice, the Rec/Hide system is toxic, stifling and distracting, prompting long threads of comments by people complaining about one another’s hides and recs, and threatening to get even for them. (What were we talking about again?) There are secret Facebook pages for various gangs of Kossacks, who swoop into certain posts to rec or hide them into glory or oblivion, as the case may be.

It sounds silly. It’s what happens when people have too much time on their hands.

But this manipulation of online political discussion has a real-world effect: it crushes anything that disagrees with the hive mind — a collective mentality that becomes more lockstep because of it — and it kills anything new or interesting. Worst of all, casual browsers could be forgiven that nothing new or interesting or taking issue with this mainstream/generic view (in the case of Kos, unquestioning support for Obama and the DNC) exists.

I posted a blog defending myself and explaining why I draw Obama the way I do to Kos. It received many recommendations and attracted hundreds of comments. Unfortunately, you can’t find it anymore. It was “hide rated” by pro-Obama Kossacks.

Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think the Internet was supposed to turn out like this.

(Ted Rall’s website is rall.com. Go there to join the Ted Rall Subscription Service and receive all of Ted’s cartoons and columns by email.)

COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Presidential Tokenism, Part 2

Hillary Clinton’s One-Woman Affirmative Action Program

The last few weeks have seen a full-court press by MSNBC and other Democratic media organs to either — one can’t be sure which, but it’s definitely one or the other – promote Hillary Clinton as the Party’s 2016 standard bearer or run her up the flagpole to see if anybody salutes.

Another Clinton? Sounds pretty boring to me. But no, proto-pro-Hillary forces assure us that promoting Madame Secretary to First-Ever Female President is an inherently exciting prospect, a history-making thrillapalooza that would smash glass ceilings, change everything in Washington, and remove waxy buildup.

“The enthusiasm and hunger for a Hillary Clinton presidency is unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” enthuses strategist/pundit James Carville, who just slapped together a Hillary PAC to raise cash for 2016.

I don’t know about you, but the fact that the female One owes her political career entirely to having been married – and not particularly well married – to a president doesn’t exactly strike me as a glorious victory for feminism. Again, Carville and the gang, most irritatingly and recently centered around Tina Brown (another supposedly successful woman who married her way into prosperity), are sure sure sure that installing a commander-in-chief with XX chromosomes represents a magic game changer.

Or that we’ll think that it does.

“Even more than her husband, Hillary has become a symbol of something larger than herself,” one of Brown’s Daily Beast house web “reporters” swooned in a bit of puff that Kim Jong-un would deem too over-the-top. “[Hillary Clinton] is an embodiment of baby-boom second-wave feminists who see her elevation to the pinnacle of world affairs as their own story writ large. Now, they want to see her in the White House so they can die happy.”

Maybe we should let them die alone and in pain.

We have four-plus years of this guy from Chicago with a big shit-eating grin to prove that demographic novelty hardly guarantees ideological progress. (Sorry, long-term unemployed. You’re welcome, Wall Street.) And the passing of former Margaret “1,000,000 fired miners” Thatcher reminds us that estrogen isn’t enough if you’re a liberal, much less a progressive, hoping to reform capitalism into something slightly less heartless.

We’ve traveled down Clinton Inevitability Road before.

Democrats took a long, hard look at her in 2008 and in the words of one of the most tasteless T-shirts I have ever seen, consciously and decisively chose “bros before hos.” Voters asked to reconsider the current Secretary of State are being asked to forget that they rejected her.

They’re also being asked to forget her awful record: botching healthcare reform in 1993 by ginning up a convoluted system designed to line the pockets of the big insurance companies in Hartford, voting not just for the disastrous lost war against Afghanistan but the Iraq fiasco, and the minor detail that when it comes to affirmative, actual accomplishment as a US Senator and now Secretary of State, there isn’t a lot to look at.

Yeah, yeah, we’ve all heard the MSNBC talking point. Hillary has done an amazing job as Secretary of State, she’s so competent, she’s worked so hard. “She traveled tirelessly, visiting more countries than any of her predecessors did and cementing her reputation as a serious and inspirational figure in her own right,” says Tina’s Beast. But really, so what? So she logged a bunch of frequent flyer miles. And?

Where’s her signature achievement as a diplomat, the big peace agreement, the disarmament success, the new detente? Why isn’t she taking up Iran on its offers to reestablish diplomatic relations? Why has she made no progress on the Israel-Palestinian conflict? Henry Kissinger had the Paris peace talks, SALT and opening ties with communist China, yet he was still a monstrous war criminal who deserves to be retroactively executed – and yeah, he’s a giant next to Hillary.

The Hillary for President bandwagon looks and feels an awful lot like the Obama campaign while it was revving up in 2006. Once again, we’re seeing an attempt to seduce voters with politically-correct tokenism.

We were supposed to overlook Obama’s inexperience (oh the irony, Hillary warned us about that during the 2008 primaries, and on that she was so so right) and brazen hypocrisy (his entire candidacy was predicated on his “opposition” to the Iraq war, which he repeatedly voted to fund, never voting no once) because he was, you know, black. That, and youngish. I had the same argument with so many of my liberal friends back in 2008, and they all told me the same thing: Obama looks different, so he feels different, thus he will be different.

My liberal friends are sad now. And many, many Afghans, Iraqis, Yemenis, Pakistanis – there are so many of them – are as dead as the American economy.

This time Democrats are being asked to overlook Hillary’s – not inexperience, she’s definitely been around Washington –lack of accomplishment. They want us to forget that, far from undermining patriarchy, a vote for Hillary Clinton would reinforce it by passing over millions of brilliant women who really did make it on their own. Once again, not being an old white Ivy-educated Protestant male is supposed to masquerade as inherently imminent change, a radically safe affirmative-action program for the benefit of a single individual substituting for actual policies.

Haven’t we learned anything from Condi Rice or Colin Powell? Let’s stop judging politicians by the color of their skin — or the curve of their breasts — but by their lack of character.

This ridiculous system, presided over by out-of-touch hacks, keeps trotting out the transparently absurd argument that being a white Ivy-educated Protestant female guarantees something awesome. What and how, no one can say. Just vote for her. Hope for the best. Shut up.

What’s disturbing about the Rise of Hillary Part 2 is that it’s all personality, no politics. Economy? No comment. Environment? Nothing to say. Secretary is a celebrity, all image, no vision for where she wants to lead us. And the media thinks it’s peachy.

The days when politicians broke promises are long gone; betrayal of principles seems quaint now that there are no principles on offer to sell out. Now there are no promises during campaign season, only platitudes. There are no policies, only avatars.

Look! She’s a woman!

The pre-race for the 2016 Democratic nomination is being promoted not as a clash between visions, as we saw in 1980 between Jimmy Carter’s Southern centrism and Ted Kennedy’s classic New England liberalism, but as a friendly rivalry.

The nomination is Hillary’s if she wants it, so much so that Joe Biden won’t run if she does. How would a second President Clinton be different from a first President Biden? Does either one have a jobs program? No one’s asking.

The race for Leader of the Free World has been reduced to jostling between two suits in the executive suite, girls against boys, angling for a CEO slot scheduled to open up. Which is fine. What I don’t get is: why are we supposed to pay attention?

(Ted Rall’s website is tedrall.com. His book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan” will be released in November by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.)

COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL

Minority Monsters

President Obama’s second term cabinet is being criticized for not being diverse enough. Clearly, for example, victims of American drone attacks would much rather get killed by a secretary of defense who was African-American or Latino than an Ivy league-educated white male.