Saturday, February 13, 2021

Thought Police at The New York Times

Last week a New York Times reporter was forced out of his job for having uttered a racial slur. He was using it during a dinner table conversation, and was not using it as a slur. He was simply pronouncing the word. 

At first, the Times editors decided that no harm was meant. They believed that no harm had really occurred. But then, the millennial mob on their staff got into the mind of publisher A. G. Sulzberger, and the young publisher, sensitive to the hurt feelings of his mentally challenged staff, forced Don McNeil out. The reasoning was-- the intent did not matter. The word is forbidden, in any form, in any context, in any manner at all.

It’s as though the word itself is a pathogen, a viral agent, one that will damage minds no matter when and where it was pronounced. The fact that words, even the most repulsive words, are not viral agents or even bacteria has not made it into the minds of the fools who are now running the New York Times. Beside, one cannot exclude the possibility that a virus might end up being useful in treating an illness.

It reminds us, if only in passing, of a line from Dostoevsky. You may recall the idea. What if someone says to you-- don’t think about polar bears. And he repeats, but really, do not think of polar bears. The more he says it the less you will be able to think of anything but polar bears.

Forbidding a word or an image can easily have an unwanted effect. It can cause you to think of nothing but the forbidden word or image. It’s one of the reasons why sexual harassment training so rarely works. In order to tell you what not to do, the trainers must describe the actions that you are not allowed to do. They fill your mind with images of what you should not be doing and effectively tell you never, ever to think such things.

Simply put, and to solve Dostoevsky’s conundrum, when you are told what not to think of, you will need to think of the thing that you are not supposed to think of. You will have to think of polar bears in order to know what not to think of. 

Even in the current state of America’s mental life, when you tell people that they are not allowed to use a specific racial slur, they will necessarily evoke the word itself, because otherwise they would not know what not to think of.

The word has rightly been banned from polite conversation, but under the influence of the thought police, it is nearly impossible not to think of it. And this is even stranger given that certain hip-hop artists use the word all the time.

Anyway, according to the feeble minds running the New York Times, the word must never be pronounced even if the intent is benevolent. Of course, they do not understand the concept of intent. They assume that it involves the speaker’s intent to harm or to denounce harm. And they imagine that the word is harmful, no matter the intent. Of course, the real issue is not intent, but usage. The way the word is used. But, the Times journalist who used the word in a context that was benign had to be dismissed from the paper, because the word can never be used in a benign context. One wonders what they all think about the hip hop artists who use the word.

The concept of intent has recently been much in the news.

You see, according to best-selling author and chaired professor Ibram X. Kendi, whatever America’s intent about racial justice or progress, the mere fact that blacks underperform in relation to Asians is evidence of racism. 

Apparently, Kendi’s simple mind could think of no other explanation for performance differentials, and he certainly never considered that these performance differentials prevail in other countries also. 

Ezra Klein explained Kendi’s point of view in an article about California. I posted about it yesterday.

Kendi’s central argument is that it is policy outcomes, not personal intent, that matter. “Racist policies are defined as any policy that leads to racial inequity,” he told me when I interviewed him in 2019. “And so, for me, racial language in the policy doesn’t matter, intent of the policymaker doesn’t matter, even the consciousness of the policymaker, that it’s going lead to inequity, doesn’t matter. It’s all about the fundamental outcome.”

So, we should judge policies by their outcomes. If the policies are designed to improve the conditions of people of color and they do not improve the conditions of people of color, the only explanation must be racism. If the policies are designed to produce proportional representation of all races they should be judged according to whether they do so.

And yet, no one with a minimally functioning intelligence ever imagined that civil rights laws and policies were designed to produce proportionality. They allow everyone a fair chance to try out for the team, but no one ever intended that they should produce teams where all races and sexes and ethnicities were proportionally represented. And they certainly were not designed to produce the same number of wins and losses for each team. 

And, what about the outcomes of standardized tests. Kendi does not know what an outcome is, because he obviously ignores the results of standardized texts. Those tests do not intend to produce certain results. They aim at fairness. The intent has nothing to do with producing specific numbers of high performing members of this or that race. The programs instituted under the rubric of civil rights are designed to offer everyone a fair chance to succeed. They do not intend to arrive at proportional representation of all races at all levels of society. Judging the success or failure of policy against a wildly unrealistic expectation merely shows that someone does not know how to think.


Anonymous said...

Had he been black they would not and could not fire him. Thus the firing was in itself racist.

Callmelennie said...

Every once in a while you run into a video of a ghetto baby mama calling her child the November Whiskey (I can't say "The N-word"; it makes me sound like a second grade tattle tale) And its clear from context that she does it all day, even as it makes her child cry. But nobody says anything about this even though the destructive impact is thousands of times greater

At some point, we have to fight back against this with the same brutality as the cancel kulturnists. This stuff is no longer connected to objective reality at all

Sam L. said...

And if you make a laugh that starts with an "s" and is followed with "the N-word", you'll be in a HEAP OF TROUBLE. (Sorry I'm late, mt electricity went out Friday about noon, and it didn't come back until yesterday afternnoon.)

Sam L. said...

As I see it, it's the Keystone Cops at the NYT.