Stephen W. Browne Rants and Raves

March 27, 2015

The N-word is the new F-word

Filed under: Free Speech,Op-eds — Stephen W. Browne @ 6:54 am

“The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.” – H.L. Mencken

So there I was in southwest Minnesota on a spring break trip with my children when I saw on a restaurant TV, Dr. Phil discoursing on “Nine minutes that shook the country!”

Those nine minutes were a video that went viral, of some frat boys from the Oklahoma University chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon singing an offensive song using what we must call the “N-word” and referencing lynching.

As it happens the day before we left the March 11 edition of The Oklahoman devoted almost the entire front page to “OU students learn ‘a devastating lesson.’”

Well yes they did. They learned that if you are offensive in certain ways the First Amendment and due process don’t apply to you anymore, and you’d better not object if you want to salvage anything at all of your future.

OU President David Boren acted swiftly to expel two ringleaders of the singalong, closed the fraternity and gave the residents one day to pack their bags and get out.
The Oklahoman also announced in a sub-head, “University says it can’t confirm names of two frat members expelled after racist videos.” Underneath it posted two photos with their names in the caption.

I have a confession to make. I have never had any use for frat rats or their sorority sisters. I have generally found them to be shallow, immature, social-climbing little… bastions of everything
I despise in snobbery.

I apologize if I’ve offended anyone who enjoyed their time in the institution and expect to catch some holy heck from members of my family who did.

So it pains me to say, has the whole country gone nuts? Have the lunatics taken over the asylum?

These were FRAT BOYS for heaven’s sake! Who cares what they say?

Why is nobody concerned with the real issue? As stated admirably succinctly by Reason magazine, those boys behaved badly – Boren broke the law.

The boys and their parents penned sincere-sounding apologies, as well they should.

They say they’re not really racists. Maybe so, maybe not. I don’t know and don’t care enough to try and find out.

What I do know is that they’re godawful stupid. With cell phone cameras ubiquitous in our society you have to ask, “You didn’t know this was going to happen?”
Here’s what I think may be the case. When I was a boy the taboo words were the F-word, the two C-words, and some colorful descriptions of people’s alleged manners, morals, habits, and ancestry.

If you used any of those words in polite company you could be cut cold, you might get punched, you could even be arrested if you used them in a performance.

Legendary comedians such as Mae West, Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce, and George Carlin fearlessly stood up for free speech, even if offensive. Some paid a heavy price for it.

But in doing so they made those words if not respectable at least tolerable. Now we hear them in movies and on TV all the time. As a result there is no “juice” in them, no naughty pleasure in using taboo words to relieve stress.

The only really taboo words left, are racial epithets. The N-word is the new F-word.

But this time few are standing up for the right to offensive speech.

“The First Amendment doesn’t protect hate speech!” say the pious moralizers.

Yes it does.

OU students staged a march against racism on campus and no doubt congratulated themselves on their courage. Any bets anyone is going to stage a march for free speech over this highly unpopular issue?

Those boys and their parents could sue OU down to its underwear for violating their rights to due process.

They’re not going to. They know better than to try.

So it’s up to us who know what we’re going to face for saying this.

Your belief in freedom and the rule of law is tested by how far you are willing to extend it to people you despise.

March 9, 2015

American Sniper highlights divisions in American society

Filed under: Movies,Terrorism,War — Stephen W. Browne @ 12:38 pm

Clint Eastwood’s epic biopic “American Sniper” is hitting the target with all the accuracy of the legendary sniper it portrays, becoming the highest grossing domestic release of 2014.

It has also generated a lot of vehement criticism along with the adulation, and both say a lot about where we are as a country today.

Kyle has been hailed as a patriot and a hero. He has also been condemned as a psycho racist murderer.

No he wasn’t according to the testimony of Iraqis who worked with him.

The claim that the movie character called Iraqis “savages” in the film is misrepresentation at best. The character as portrayed by Bradley Cooper called jihadists who put bombs into the hands of children savages, which is too kind. So-called savages often display admirable traits of courage and honor – these people are evil.

But Kyle himself bears some responsibility for the misconceptions. Critics have pointed out passages in his autobiography where he said he enjoyed the war and missed it when he was away.

I think he was talking about the comradeship of fighting men in battle that few experience outside of the military. But however it might have been taken out of context, it was poorly put.

He also told some lies, passed off as tall tales by admirers, about going to New Orleans with friends during hurricane Katrina and shooting looters.

Come on! You didn’t know that was going to raise some hackles?

Critics claim the film shows a simplistic black-and-white view of the Iraq war, us good, them bad.

No, a great many of those critics have the simplistic view that if the war is bad, our enemies must be the good guys.

Does, not, follow. The question of whether the invasion of Iraq was justified or prudent or strategically sound is an entirely separate issue from the fact that Islamic jihadism is a world-wide movement, a fantasy ideology which aims to drag the world into a particularly vile barbarism.

The jihadists preach, and practice, forcible religious conversion, murder of non-believers and apostates, chattel slavery, and the brutal suppression of women.

In short, they’re not the good guys.

Whether we should roam the world seeking out the bad guys is another matter. To begin with, it’s expensive. An American soldier may fire a missile that costs more than he makes in a year to kill a guy who couldn’t pay for it in a lifetime.

The questions that occur to any thoughtful person are: Is there a cheaper way to defeat the jihadists? Can we do so without making more enemies in the process? Is there a peaceful way to subvert their poisonous ideology? Can we isolate them long enough for their movement to collapse under the weight of its own stupidity as we did with communism?

And there is a question critics seem to have missed. Sniping is a highly selective method of warfare. Kyle identified individual threats to American troops, in the act. He killed only them, without “collateral damage” in that detestable military euphemism. When in doubt, he did not fire.

I think what many people are reacting to is how personal Kyle’s kills are. He sees them through his scope as if they are close enough to touch. He can see their faces, and see them as they die.

That is chilling in a way that knowing the President of the United States checks off names from a list, authorizing a remote-controlled drone to shoot a Hellfire missile which may or may not kill the target but most certainly kills and maims a great many bystanders is not.

This is what we’re having to deal with, soldiers and civilians alike.

A veteran of World War II might have survived without ever knowing if he’d killed anyone, and we once expected warfare would only get progressively more long-range and impersonal.

We were wrong. Much of modern warfare is fought at close range and is brought into our homes via television.

Eastwood has done a good job at showing the cost to our soldiers, and to us.

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