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In Defense of Paula Deen: Who decides which words, said in private decades ago, are firing offense?
National Review ^ | 06/25/2013 | Charles C. W. Cooke

Posted on 06/25/2013 8:24:21 AM PDT by SeekAndFind

If the bleak reckoning of’s Howard Bragman is to be believed, Paula Deen “will survive” her recent ordeal, “but she will never be whole again.”

This is because, in the choice words of Bill Maher, “she f****d up.” Court documents revealed last week show Deen being asked under oath whether she had used the N-word before. “Yes, of course,” she replied, although “it’s been a very long time.” For this admission, the Food Network fired her.

Immediately prior to her dismissal, Deen made what was tantamount to a hostage video, in which, per the Huffington Post, she was shown close to tears and “begging forgiveness from fans and critics troubled by her admission to having used racial slurs in the past.” Thus it was confirmed that, at some point in her life, Paula Deen has said some bad words out loud.

One might ask, “So what?” Many people have said bad things before. Is the admission of having once said an offensive word really sufficient justification for punishment in the here and now? Being humans and not computers, we will not last long as a society if we throw aside judgment, context, and mercy, merely to scan sentences for bad data and then gang up to punish the accused. If we are to purge everybody who steps slightly out of line, who among us will survive? There are certainly Good words and Bad words, but linguistic intent matters, as Matthias’s executioner learns in Life of Brian.

Matthias: Look, I don’t think it should be a sin, just for saying “Jehovah.” (Everyone gasps.)

Jewish Official: You’re only making it worse for yourself!

Matthias: Making it worse? How can it be worse? Jehovah! Jehovah! Jehovah!

Jewish official: I’m warning you! If you say “Jehovah” one more time (gets hit with rock) RIGHT! Who did that? Come on, who did it?

Stoners: He! He did! He!

Jewish official: Was it you?

Stoner: Yes.

Jewish official: Right…

Stoner: Well you did say “Jehovah.” (Crowd throws rocks at the stoner.)

Timing matters, too. As Fox reported, Deen’s termination will likely have at least one severe consequence:

“Her staff is probably out, most production employment contracts are written to say that if production ceases, their jobs come to an end unless you get a guaranteed ‘pay or play’ deal,” television executive Lonnie Burstein, Executive Vice-President Programming at Debmar Mercury said. “But it’s no different to any other show getting canceled. It’s the nature of the business.”

That’s not really true, is it? For a start, Deen was — is still, maybe — extremely popular. This was not a commercial failure, Deen’s fan base did not disappear, and she did not die. More important: Deen didn’t say anything offensive on air — or, for that matter, even recently. As it stands, the accusations that landed her in court are unproven. If Deen’s employer judged that something she said on her show was damaging to the company, that would be one thing, although I’m still in favor of considerable latitude here — making jokes or rap records is not the same thing as hurling insults, and the public and private domains are separate. But dragging up things that she may or may not have said at some point in her pre-television past and canceling her show based on blunt pressure from certain quarters? Yes, that is pretty much “different to any other show getting canceled.”

One imagines that there’s another reason that the likes of Bill Maher took exception to the firing. According to the New York Times, in the course of denying that she had “told racial jokes,” Deen,

stated that “most jokes” are about Jews, gay people, black people and “rednecks.” “I can’t, myself, determine what offends another person,” she said.

Indeed, she cannot. Nor can I, and nor can you. Therein lies the problem with elevating “offense” above all considerations. Because “offense” is in the eye of the beholder, it is, like unprovable accusations of witchcraft, ripe to be weaponized. “People shouldn’t have to lose their shows and go away when they do something bad,” Maher complained on Friday. “It’s just a word. It’s a wrong word. She was wrong to use it. But do we always have to make people go away?” One sincerely hopes not. Coming from a family that is a mix of white, black, and Asian, I would be unable honestly to promise a court of law that I had not said offensive words in the past — albeit I used them exclusively in jest or in parody — and nor would anyone else in my family. Should National Review fire me for this confession?

Maher was heavily criticized in 2011 when he referred to Sarah Palin as a “c**t.” He has also referred to special-needs children as “retards,” and he routinely mocks Christianity and other beliefs that are dear to large swathes of the population. As recently as this week, he dismissed half the country as “rednecks.” Again: So what? That’s his prerogative. If you don’t like it, then don’t watch his show. If his audience doesn’t like it, they’ll stop watching, too — and the show will go away of its own accord. On Friday, Maher’s guest, Bob Herbert, who is black, said, “[N****r] is the line . . . Nobody should be using that word.” Sure, nobody should use be using that word. But why is that word the line? Why not “retard” or “queer”? Who decides?

Freedom of speech is not a license to say anything anywhere without consequence but a check against government. As Paula Deen has no right to work at the Food Network, her rights have not been violated. But to be healthy, a country needs more than merely a prohibition against government overreach; it also needs a strong culture of free expression. Our tendency to disqualify people categorically on the basis of a single indiscretion is ugly and destructive. Perhaps Columbia University’s John McWhorter is correct to argue that because “Deen was already a twenty-something when the old racist order broke down,” she will prove unable to “utterly expunge” the South’s old assumptions and should thus be forgiven and given her job back. Perhaps he is wrong and Deen has honestly changed and moved beyond whatever mistakes she made in the past. Either way, this is irrelevant to the matter at hand. Are we really to extirpate everybody possessed of a checkered past — however small — and then push them into the naughty corner for perpetuity? What is the statute of limitations on the use of anachronistic language?

And what explains our inconsistent application of this principle? I have little time for those who can’t see the difference between Kanye West’s using the N-word and a racist’s hurling it at an African American in anger. But how about those who have made genuinely disparaging comments and survived? Jesse Jackson remains at large despite his use of the word “hymie” to describe Jews and his description of New York as “Hymietown”; Robert Byrd managed to say “n****r” on national television in 2004 while serving as a United States senator; Al Sharpton referred to “Socrates and them Greek homos” to dismiss the ancients; Joe Biden believes that “you cannot go to a 7-Eleven or Dunkin Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent”; and Marion Barry recently contended that “we got to do something about these Asians coming in and opening up businesses and dirty shops.” What about them?

Tu quoque arguments are as fallacious in these instances as they ever were. That these people said these things does not excuse Paula Deen. But there is a definite double standard here, and one that is particularly peculiar given that Deen was an entertainer with a show on the Food Network while the speakers listed above work in government or in politics.

If the accusations that pushed Paula Deen into court in the first place are true, she deserves to be fired and excluded from polite society. Among other things, Deen is accused of paying blacks less than whites; her brother is accused of telling one worker “you don’t have any civil rights here”; and another family member, it is claimed, repeatedly called an employee “my little monkey.” But these are allegations and nothing more — accusations from a woman who not only cannot seem to keep her testimony straight but who started out by sending an “inflammatory letter seeking over a million dollars” and promising “Deen ‘a chance to salvage a brand that can continue to have value.’” Deen strenuously denies the claims. It should go without saying that until such time as she is convicted, she is innocent. In the meantime, is it wise for us to pull her and her brand down because of something she may or may not have said privately in the 1980s?

— Charles C. W. Cooke is a staff writer at National Review.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: pauladeen; race; racism
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To: SeekAndFind

I love it when the leftist mobs start eating their own. Hey Paula, put some extra butter on it!

21 posted on 06/25/2013 8:47:53 AM PDT by CSM (Keeper of the Dave Ramsey Ping list. FReepmail me if you want your beeber stuned.)
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To: JamesP81
I regret my career choice for this reason.

You can write drivers for special purpose hardware using those skills. You don't have to do data-base mining that has questionable applications.

22 posted on 06/25/2013 8:49:55 AM PDT by Pearls Before Swine
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To: Boonie

23 posted on 06/25/2013 8:50:05 AM PDT by PLD
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To: SeekAndFind

The government is collecting many words of Americans. Which one will hang you?

24 posted on 06/25/2013 8:51:31 AM PDT by bmwcyle (People who do not study history are destine to believe really ignorant statements.)
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To: Pearls Before Swine
You can write drivers for special purpose hardware using those skills

Except I've spent the past 7 years writing software. I have no experience writing drivers, and in this business experience is everything. I'm probably pigeonholed as a dev from this point forward.
25 posted on 06/25/2013 8:53:43 AM PDT by JamesP81
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To: kenmcg
FWIW WARNING for excessive use of swear words.
26 posted on 06/25/2013 8:55:54 AM PDT by Sgt_Schultze (A half-truth is a complete lie)
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To: JamesP81

Not arguing... just pointing out that you aren’t exactly at ground zero for a lateral move, although you would be in some completely different field.

27 posted on 06/25/2013 8:56:42 AM PDT by Pearls Before Swine
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To: SeekAndFind

The employer.

28 posted on 06/25/2013 8:59:56 AM PDT by Wolfie
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To: SeekAndFind

The employer decides, as it should be.

29 posted on 06/25/2013 9:00:33 AM PDT by Truthsearcher
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To: Pearls Before Swine
Not arguing... just pointing out that you aren’t exactly at ground zero for a lateral move, although you would be in some completely different field.

A fair point. I don't know, I'm actually thinking really hard about going back to school and studying neuroscience. It's just that the likely scary large student loans associated with that make me want to go hide under a rock somewhere :D
30 posted on 06/25/2013 9:01:36 AM PDT by JamesP81
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To: Pearls Before Swine

If every word I spoke about odumbo were recalled, you would never see me again. I would be locked in a dungeon someplace where no one would ever hear of me again. Freedom of speech? We don’t need no stinken freedom of speech now that we have odumbo.

31 posted on 06/25/2013 9:01:39 AM PDT by DaveA37 (I'm for SMALLER , HONEST government)
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To: SeekAndFind

In order to remove someone from congress, you would have to rely on a process which is called impeachment or a “motion of no confidence”.

32 posted on 06/25/2013 9:01:53 AM PDT by Boonie
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To: camle

I remember my grandmother had to be retrained to go from “that word” to Negro and sometimes she slipped. She played cards with black women, never treated anyone any different that I ever saw (this was Georgia). She just used the word as a differentiation to white people.

She never understood how it was bad. Maybe that was bad in itself, but she didn’t mean the word as hateful in her own heart.

I know that sounds ridiculous given all the movies and TV shows showing southern people and their ‘hatred’ of black people, but it is her truth.

33 posted on 06/25/2013 9:03:21 AM PDT by autumnraine (America how long will you be so deaf and dumb to thoe tumbril wheels carrying you to the guillotine?)
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To: SeekAndFind
Who decides which words white people may not say, but black people may say any time they please?

If words are too horrific for whites to say, how can can it be OK for blacks to say those same words with impunity?

Do some words have different meanings depending on the race of the person saying those words?

In a language, the purpose of a word is to convey a thought from one person to another. Can a word convey a different thought depending on the race of the person saying the word?

Yes, according to current politically correct thinking, the meaning of some words depends entirely on the race of the person saying those words.

Are there any other words out there that white people are forbidden to say under any circumstances, and if so, what is the statute of limitations on this crime?

Inquiring minds want to know.

34 posted on 06/25/2013 9:09:00 AM PDT by DJ Taylor (Once again our country is at war, and once again the Democrats have sided with our enemy.)
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To: bigbob

there are only 2 kinds of racists,the ones that lie about and the ones that admit it.

35 posted on 06/25/2013 9:09:34 AM PDT by old gringo
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To: schm0e
She's being maumaued.

There is a certain segment of the population that goes around desperately seeking the slightest hint of anything that can possibly be distorted to be of a racial nature. Most of these people are blacks. They have been raised so long in the false narrative that whites oppress black, and yet find no supporting evidence of this false narrative, that they'r desperate to produce something that justifies their belief even if they have to manufacture slurs where none exist. And this doesn't even get into the fact that no one was harmed by these words. offended maybe, but to win a judgment the usual standard is that you have to show that you've been harmed. Now if the shakedown artist whose trying to screw over Deen were fired because she was black and ONLY because she was black, then that would be a different matter.

Oh and for the record Paula Deen and her porky offspring annoy the daylights out of me. I can't stand to watch them, but I still think this is ridiculous and a criminal libel of her reputation.

36 posted on 06/25/2013 9:11:03 AM PDT by from occupied ga (Your government is your most dangerous enemy)
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To: Venturer

Any white person over the age of fifty has “used the N-word” in the past.

The lawyer who posed that question to Ms. Deen’s is a totally unprincipled POS (sorry about being redundant)

The people at the Food Network are below contempt for their knee-jerk sacrifice of Deen’s at the holier-than-thou altar of political correctness.

37 posted on 06/25/2013 9:12:55 AM PDT by Walrus (America died on November 6, 2012 --- RIP)
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To: SeekAndFind
Who decides which words, said in private decades ago, are firing offense?

You mean other than the media?

38 posted on 06/25/2013 9:13:14 AM PDT by 0.E.O
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It’s how the MSM works.

39 posted on 06/25/2013 9:23:04 AM PDT by Vaduz
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To: SeekAndFind
Asking her if she had used the word without reference to context and requiring only a yes or no answer and not allowing for an explanation sounds like a "have you stopped beating your wife?" type of question. After all, she could have been quoting a title of a classic story by a critically acclaimed author.
40 posted on 06/25/2013 9:24:40 AM PDT by Fiji Hill
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