April 29, 2014

Pound Sterling

Only having heard select portions of Donald Sterling's private conversations, I would suggest he deserves the opprobrium one usually attaches to those who make insulting remarks about others behind their backs.

But I am troubled by the extent of the reaction to what amounts to personal views, however reprehensible or repugnant, expressed in private to an intimate. I am not only troubled as a firm believer in freedom of thought and speech, but also as one who believes in a right to privacy. In this case, it seems to me that even had Sterling's words been made in public they would be classified as bigotry, but hardly "hate speech." With all of the concern about the NSA, internet privacy, and so on, it seems counter to the trend towards recognition of freedom of thought and private expression to react so very harshly.

More troubling to me than that is the thought that this response itself represents a kind of quasi-Girardian scapegoating; as if the wrath poured out on Sterling somehow shows just how righteous and unbiased the judges are. Society can feel itself cleansed by its righteous ire at the miscreant, as if that feeling somehow rendered the society itself innocent.

Because it isn't. Racism still runs deep in our society, however much we like to pretend it is a thing of the past. The simultaneous dismantling of the Voting Rights Act and the construction of mechanisms of voter suppression is just a case in point.

So the Sterlings of this world do us all a service, reminding us just how closely beneath the mask the old hatreds fester. I have no interest in making windows into people's souls -- the mobile phone apps will do that for us; and when they do, I think the proper response is not a fine and an exile, but the cold shoulder reserved for nasty people, followed by forgiveness and help to reform, together with the recognition that if all private thoughts were shouted from the rooftop few of us if any would be able to face each other in the street.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

12 comments:

Grandmère Mimi said...

Just this morning, I asked myself why I haven't linked to one of the stories about Sterling's racist comments. Am I crazy? Of course, I'm not the least bit interested in professional sports, so I don't pay a lot of attention to the news stories, but to miss the Sterling story, one would have to be holed up in a cave far away from access to the media. And here you are writing about Sterling in just the right way. Thank you.

Brother David said...

It appears that many folks disagreed padre. Including many of the corporate sponcers of the Clippers. So now he is banned for life and perhaps will be forced to sell his ownership of the team.

Tobias Haller said...

Thanks, Mimi. At lunch today I found it literally impossible to escape Sterling on TV. I rotated through my "favorites" on my cable remote and his face peered out at me on every channel... even the BBC!

Tobias Haller said...

Indeed so, Brother David... but that's just what troubles me. It seems like an incredible over-reaction, and while some of it no doubt is just business practice (the sponsors who don't want to be associated with him) I do wonder how many clean hands there are, and if this isn't Girardian principles at work -- look how righteous we are for shunning the wicked one!

CS said...

What I find more concerning is the fact that he was able to get away with so much for so long. He's been spewing hate for years, but the NBA is only now bothering with him.

http://deadspin.com/your-complete-quotable-guide-to-decades-of-donald-sterl-1568047212

http://probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/04/28/what-is-sterlings-racist-history-everyone-is-talking-about-here-is-a-short-review/

CS said...

(Sorry. I think I submitted essentially the same comment twice. If so, please feel free to pretend that one of them never existed.)

JCF said...

I'm troubled by the discrepancy towards the Mozilla forced-resignation of Brendan Eich ("Evil homofascists!") and the Sterling story.

Sterling's comments were *completely private*, whereas Eich's contribution to Prop8 was *public record*, and he knew it when he made the donation (as a CEO, he certainly should have!).

Beyond that, I think we're seeing Realpolitik: speaking about African-Americans re the ****NBA**** [of ALL (hyper-profitable) institutions!], there was just no way Sterling could NOT be canned.

But LGBT employees at a tech firm: "Why should we care what They think?"

Deacon Charlie Perrin said...

And old saw comes to mind: There is no fool like an old fool. Yes, he was played by his mistress and goaded into saying these things. But say them he did. Perhaps the reaction is unfair, but it is the reaction that has occurred. It is essentially a dispute among billionaires (the team owners) and millionaires (the players).

No one will lose their wealth over this especially "poor" Mr. Sterling, who aside from being humiliated publically will make a tidy profit on the sale of the team. (His original purchase price was reported as 12.5 million. The current value of the team is 30 to 40 times that).

Tobias Haller said...

Thanks for the links, CS. A sorry history indeed.

JCF, I also find the reaction to Eich to be symptomatic of the same sort of problem. However much I dislike someone else's views, I am troubled by what amounts to "punishment" for expressing them. Personal action is always appropriate: I stopped buying Barilla pasta, for instance. On Prop8, there's no use complaining about the efforts of conservatives when the liberals fail to motivate and animate their own base. I heard a report on MSNBC that show that there is massive interest in the coming House elections by Romney supporters, conservatives, etc. while the liberals are sitting back and doing little other than the drum circles of a pathetic and pointless "occupy" movement.

Deacon C, which just goes to show that any "moral victory" in this is purely shallow and insubstantial.

Paul (A.) said...

A column by Dave D'Alessandro in the (Newark) Star-Ledger outlined the "social sins" of several of Donald Sterling's fellow NBA team owners, all of whom have known of his bigotry for years and who have turned a blind eye up to now.

Compared to the track record of some of them, Sterling's recent remarks pale in comparison.

Like you, Tobias, D'Alessandro notes that "all this evidence of bigotry was obtained via an egregious invasion of Donald the Clown’s privacy, which is a candor test that absolutely none of these Men of Basketball would be able to pass."

Sometimes it's lonely at the top. Often there may well be a reason for the loneliness.

Tobias Haller said...

Thanks, Paul. Sobering to be reminded just how shot through with bigotry some of our institutions are. Not surprising, but sobering.

Brother David said...

Mr Jabbar agrees with you;
http://time.com/79590/donald-sterling-kareem-abdul-jabbar-racism/