Thursday, September 6, 2018

Kaepernick, Bash and the Meaning of Gestures

Today’s mission, should we decide to accept it, is to get from Zina Bash to Colin Kaepernick… without overly contorting the argument.

You recall Zina Bash. She is Brett Kavanaugh’s assistant, or law clerk. She sat behind him, over his left shoulder, during the Senate confirmation hearings. During the first day’s hearings, she was espied making a certain gesture or sign with her fingers. Thumb and forefinger were touching, forming a circle. The other three fingers were erect.

Some might say that her fingers were arrayed at random. Some might say that she was signalling her approval of Kavanaugh’s performance. After all, the sign can mean: good job.

Apparently, some people decided that it was really a secret white supremacy sign. Which tells you that these people have far too much time on their hands and are suffering from a deficiency of little gray cells.

Kevin Williamson explains:

A bunch of 4chan idjits pulled a related prank by inventing a rumor that the familiar “okay” gesture — thumb and forefinger forming a circle, the other three fingers extended, suggesting the letters o and k — had been adopted as a white-power signifier, with the three fingers forming a w and the thumb and forefinger suggesting the top part of a p. They made graphics and everything — people are suckers for a neatly presented visual aid. A few media outlets fell for the prank, which, of course, will never die, even though the white-power significance of the okay gesture has been exposed as a witless media confabulation born of a prank. During the Senate confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh, one of his law clerks was accused of making a furtive white-power gesture: “Did Zina Bash Flash a White Supremacist Sign During Kavanaugh Hearing?” Newsweek asked. The usual doofi on social media did the usual thing. Bash is an unlikely white-power thug: She is Mexican on her mother’s side and a descendent of Holocaust survivors on her father’s.

Anyway, I have my own personal history with said sign. I am surprised that the doofi of the online world do not know this. I am happy to inform them.

One day, many years ago, I was lecturing in Sao Paolo, Brazil. In the course of a question and answer session I made the OK sign, which means, good job, and which used to be called the three-ring sign and which used to be the tag line for Ballantine Beer.

During a break from the questioning a friend took me aside to explain that in Brazil, that specific sign has a different meaning. It means, roughly speaking: Up yours! As such it is grossly offensive. I understood that I should not make that gesture in Brazil, lest I offend everyone in the assembled audience.

The lesson: a sign means what it means according to social codes. It does not take on a different meaning because you intend for it to mean something else.

I have employed the same reasoning in the matter of Colin Kaepernick. Hopefully, it is worth repeating.  After all, we have often been regaled with the heartfelt excuse that Kaepernick’s protest was not unpatriotic. After all, you have a right to express your hatred for America. It's protected speech. But, it is not a sign of patriotism. We ought to be able to make the most elementary distinction.

Whatever Kaepernick meant, other NFL players have declared that when they took a knee during the National Anthem, they meant no offense. They were protesting police brutality.

And yet, the gesture does not gain its meaning from your intention. It functions within a social code. There it signifies a repudiation of the American nation, a sense of not wanting to belong. It shows an absence of patriotism. If the players did not want it to mean that, they should have stopped making the gesture.

As happened to me, the first time you err, people will forgive you your ignorance. If, after having learned what the world thinks of your gesture, you persist… you are affirming your lack of patriotism. The players have a constitutional right to repudiate the nation. They are exercising that right. And yet, if I had continued to make the offending hand gesture in Sao Paolo, no one would have thought that I was expressing a right to speak freely. They would have understood that I was deliberately offending them.

As for Kaepernick’s patriotism, I would note that people like former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmajinedad came out in support of Nike’s effort to lionize Kaepernick. One of the world’s great America haters supports Nike, you should take notice. And, of course, the embittered and increasingly irrational John Brennan, formerly director of the CIA, has also voiced his support for Nike. Keep in mind that Brennan, whose religious affiliation is less than clear, refused to put his hand on the Bible when he was sworn in at CIA.

Kaepernick’s gesture was elicited by his Muslim girlfriend and was intended as an attack on America. He might not have known it. His fellow NFLers might not have known it. If so, they were all duped. The gesture means what it means.


Sam L. said...

The only picture I have seen of Ms. Bash has her thumb touching her forefinger and the others curled up and hidden behind it. The Dems and the enemedia say differently, unsurprisingly.

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: Kaepernick’s gesture was elicited by his Muslim girlfriend and was intended as an attack on America. He might not have known it. His fellow NFLers might not have known it. If so, they were all duped. The gesture means what it means.

This all looks to me like the right's version of "political correctness". We want cheerful happy millionaire black people to prove the American Dream is available to anyone if they work hard enough, and we want gratitude, not politics that risks making us feel bad about the world.

And that's how businesses should see the world. They don't want to turn off half of their customers whose numbers get them advertising dollars to keep the gravy train coming. And that would be all good, if only sports stayed out of defining patriotism, but sports leaders took sides. They decided patriotism could make them more money, and so while they have the right to silence political symbols that remind us things are not all well, their attempts at silencing prove their gamble to wrap themselves around the flag were not about patriotism, but just about money. And so now they deservedly lose market shares no matter which side they take.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Similarly, when you are born with a penis, you use the men's bathroom. When you are born with a vagina, you use the women's bathroom. This is not hard for most to understand. It's part of the social code. In the self-absorbed veneer of openness, mindfulness and moral magnificence, others have said this is not the case, and the biological realities of gender are spectral, and thusly do not apply to them.

The people who believe in these things all have one thing in common: they gravitate Left.

Lefties are destroyers. They create nothing. They criticize everything. Their needs are insatiable. It's always someone else's fault. They are parasites.

Don't believe me?

Consider that when you believe this sort of rubbish, you arrive at the idea that taking a knee during the national anthem is patriotism. Not metaphorical patriotism based on an abstraction -- REAL patriotism. We've gone from protest to patriotism with an activist falsehood. The core problem is that Kaepernick has a personal expression he chooses to express during the national anthem. They're not compatible. And that's the problem we have in America today: nothing is sacred. The McCain funeral showed it, too.

I don't care whether Colin Kaepernick is a good football player or a bad football player. He was an employee of a NFL franchise, and now he's toxic goods. It has nothing to do with his playing ability. He is using his personal convictions as an excuse to harm an iconic American brand that makes him and his colleagues millions of dollars every year. It wasn't a one-time stunt, it's become a movement. And the movement is parasitic, and is destroying the host. The host is too stupid to do anything about it because its leadership believes in the power of political correctness. But political correctness cannot protect you from a destroyer. Destroyers destroy things. That's their source of power. They cannot create, they destroy. Kaepernick isn't creating anything.

Kaepernick does not actually represent a cause. Instead, he is the icon of what's become of America. There is no escape from politics, and there's no escape from people who don't believe that social codes apply to them. We see it in our bathrooms, in sports and now in shoes. It's corrosive. It ruins everything.

And stuff like this is why Trump won.

Today's social culture is being held hostage by the lowest threshold of emotional maturity/stability. Combine this with the surveillance state and swarming retributive attacks from Leftist groups, and you realize that people are scared to say what's on their mind. My fear is that conservatives will stop playing the game. They will wake up and say "I don't give a crap what you feel, I feel this way and now that's your problem!" In the current environment, this is fast becoming a sensible choice. But it's actually inherently antisocial and furthers cultural atomization. People are uncertain how to act or react. We are quickly abandoning thinking and sliding towards purely emotive discourse, which really isn't discourse at all -- it's waiting for your next turn to talk, or to "express yourself."

Tolerance has become indifference. Indifference is dangerous, and is born of anomie. We have a serious problem with all this social chaos, and good people are deciding that the risks are too great and it's best not to play the game. Look at the Kavanaugh hearings. It's a pathetic, infantile disgrace. And we wonder why our ruling class is bereft of wisdom?

Who's leading the charge? The nihilistic political Left. Destroyers all.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

And by the way, the "okay" gesture is offensive in Germany, too.

Molly Kule said...

Ignatius 1, Ares 0.

Christopher B said...

Liberals usually display their inner facism by being unable to draw a distinction between the government and the people of a nation.

"Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state."

Anonymous said...

Which restroom does Zina Bash use?

Anonymous said...

Zina Bash goes into the Women's Room in order to use her decoder ring that emits microwave signals that cause democrats to act like clowns. It is never their lack of ability to ask intelligent questions and create a dialogue to discuss the legal ramifications of Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court Justice.
These bozos have the gall to tell us that we lack the proper qualifications to run for political office? If their actions are any indication they are right because none of us are that inane. God they make me ashamed that I ever considered myself a Democrat!


Ares Olympus said...

Here's a history of the Anthem usage, apparently players standing for the anthem only began in 2009. I wonder why? Perhaps because of a declining audience and multi-billion dollar stadiums to pay off?

And of course the DoD also probably has a recruitment problem with all the endless wars, so it makes sense for them to work together to try to make military service look cool again. OTOH, I remember hearing that police officers who have experienced combat situations are less likely to shoot first, so if coolness gets us better trained police officers, it works for me.
2009: NFL players began standing on the field for the national anthem before the start of prime time games. Before this, players would stay in their locker rooms except during the Super Bowl and after 9/11.
2015: Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake released a report revealing that the Department of Defense had spent $6.8 million between 2012 and 2015 on what the senators called "paid patriotism" events before professional sports games, including American flag displays, honoring of military members, reenlistment ceremonies, etc.