Skip to comments.In Defense of Paula Deen: Who decides which words, said in private decades ago, are firing offense?
Posted on 06/25/2013 8:24:21 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
If the bleak reckoning of Reputation.coms 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 its 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 Matthiass executioner learns in Life of Brian.
Matthias: Look, I dont think it should be a sin, just for saying Jehovah. (Everyone gasps.)
Jewish Official: Youre only making it worse for yourself!
Matthias: Making it worse? How can it be worse? Jehovah! Jehovah! Jehovah!
Jewish official: Im 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?
Jewish official: Right
Stoner: Well you did say Jehovah. (Crowd throws rocks at the stoner.)
Timing matters, too. As Fox reported, Deens 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 its no different to any other show getting canceled. Its the nature of the business.
Thats not really true, is it? For a start, Deen was is still, maybe extremely popular. This was not a commercial failure, Deens fan base did not disappear, and she did not die. More important: Deen didnt say anything offensive on air or, for that matter, even recently. As it stands, the accusations that landed her in court are unproven. If Deens employer judged that something she said on her show was damaging to the company, that would be one thing, although Im 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 theres 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 cant, 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 shouldnt have to lose their shows and go away when they do something bad, Maher complained on Friday. Its just a word. Its 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? Thats his prerogative. If you dont like it, then dont watch his show. If his audience doesnt like it, theyll stop watching, too and the show will go away of its own accord. On Friday, Mahers 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 Universitys 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 Souths 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 cant see the difference between Kanye Wests using the N-word and a racists 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 dont 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.
If she'd been black, no problemo, amigo.
I’d like to fire people for using the F word.
The race is on between North Korea and the Caliphate to determine who the US becomes.
I just heard Paula has been picked up by the DHS and is being transported to a “Re-education Camp”.
There is no justice in this. Non-minorities can be accused of anything at all and are automatically guilty.
Minorities can say anything and are automatically innocent.
If these idiots are not stopped, we’re ALL headed there.
Recent events here have caused me to become more than a little interested in the history of Nazi Germany.
That interest has drawn me to some of the films made of that sad period. Schindler’s List, Surviving Hitler, Sophie Scholl, Downfall, Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State and others.
But the film that jelled my alleged mind and brought me to this attempt to relate those events with what is happening here was Der Letzte Zug (The Last Train) depicting in excruciating detail the nearly week-long trip to Auschwitz of the last Jews forced from Berlin. Confined in sealed cattle cars with no food and water, they plotted largely futile escape attempts as, one-by-one, the weakest among them died.
As I watched, I sought to understand the common thread(s) that set them on a course to their premature graves at the hands of Hitler and his minions.
There were many.
One was the economic destruction of post WWI Germany by the Treaty of Versailles. Its punitive reparations made conditions ripe for the rise of the Nazis and their promises. In fact, some historians believe that Versailles was intentionally designed by those who profit from such activities to sow the seeds for Hitler and WWII. That is, however, a topic for another day.
Another element necessary for the Holocaust was Hitler’s disarmament of the civilian population. Though the compliant Germans allowed that disarmament to begin in 1919 and intensify in 1928, it became draconian when the Nazis took total control.
And, of course, the Antisemitism present then and now in Europe played a large role as most of their non-Jewish neighbors ignored the growing persecution that began in early 1933.
The historical Prussian mindset of Jews and non-Jews alike was to trust and obey those in charge of the state apparatus. It goes without saying that that is a more or less universal characteristic of populations living under elected governments. After the chaos of the Wiemar Republic, many of them saw Hitler as a savior, exacerbating the problem.
This brings me to THE element that I believe caused so many Jews to meekly submit to the homicidal madness: Their notion that, despite the rumors, whispers and, ultimately, the outright verbalization of that madness by their elected leaders, THAT could never happen here.
THAT could never happen here is perhaps the most dangerous phrase in ANY language especially for us here in America at this time.
If you have been paying attention, you must see numerous parallels between Hitler’s Germany and Obama’s Amerika. (Misspelling intentional.)
Admit it or not, Obama, his minions and handlers are doing all they can to drive the unemployment rate higher, causing increasingly desperate men and woman to further swell government payrolls. Hitler put many desperate Germans into his Brown Shirts, SS, regular military, etc.
Though some of Obama’s supporters the small numbers with functioning brains are losing faith in him, a frightening number of them still worship him and would unquestioningly support just about anything he proposed if the free goodies keep coming their way and he assured them that only his and their enemies were to be reeducated or eliminated.
What these pseudo-intellectuals fail or refuse to grasp is that history teaches that even if THEY are one of those who gets a seat near the throne of their new leader, they, too, are in peril. Once firmly in power, said leader has a distressing tendency to not only purge the population of his opponents but eventually gets around to any among those who helped him to that power he perceives to be less than sufficiently worshipful and/or possesses sufficient intellectual firepower to challenge him. Think Stalin, Mao, Castro, Pol Pot and, of course, Hitler.
Fortunately for freedom here, Obama’s efforts to DISARM us have stalled FOR NOW! All that is keeping him in check is his understanding that to make his final play before doing so would be to put his life and the lives of his inner circle and handlers at serious risk.
If you are STILL not convinced that this fellow has sinister plans for those who dare to oppose him, please view the short video at the link below. (For those with short memories, Bill Ayers is despite Ayers’ comments about drones STILL one of Obama’s closest associates and is believed to have authored Obama’s book). Ayers founded the Weather Underground mentioned in the video.
As you watch it, remember that when that meeting occurred, our population was approximately 250 million. 25 million would have represented 10%. Come forward to our current population of approximately 315 million and that 10% would equal 31.5 million of us.
That COULD explain the billions of hollow point bullets now being delivered to Big Sis and her cohorts at Faterlandt Security.
There people are as SERIOUS AS A HEART ATTACK!
But THAT could never happen here, right?
Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution and the Republic
for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster, and what has happened
once in 6,000 years, may not happen again.
Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution should fail, there will be anarchy throughout the world.
People who use the F word think they’re bring ‘cool’ or macho. They’re just being crude and low class. They turn me off immediately.
But “thou shalt not using the “N” word” is part of the liberal bible - a book that's replace the real Bible in the minds of elites..
Of course liberals are only concerned about 'not judging' when they're being judged...
“Any white person over the age of fifty has used the N-word in the past.”
And anyone who listens to rap music on the radio and sings along with the radio has said ‘nigger’ not to mention a lot of other words which, IMHO, are far worse.
I’m with you serkit. If I had my way the f word would carry the same punishment as the n word does now.
Her attorney needs to be fired. There should have been an immediate objection to anything older than 5 or 10 years being “overbroad” as to time, and then a response that she did not use such slurs within any time relevant to the lawsuit.
People cannot fight each individual claim. The country is over and the time has come to face how you will tackle the future in an alien place.
Paula Deen may be who she is, but she is no worse than a black person who calls white folks crackers.
All of this is distraction from the fact that the communists have won. Our problem is that we have yet to admit that they did it with relative ease.
Compare Deen with Tyson on ESPN radio musing he’d like some well hung black stud like Rodman to rip apart Sarah Palin’s vagina
Mike and his usual violent rape fantasies....silly boy...no wonder he caught Robin betraying the blood with uber peckerwood Brad Pitt
No recriminations for rapist Tyson....its a cultural thing ya know....
Media laughed about it
Deen should not have apologized
Made her look weak
might make an interesting screenname.
Blaming the victim for the crime?
I guess we’ll just have to stick with “Black trash” until they decide it is offensive.
I think the point is being missed here.
All of these companies who are ditching Paula Deen were selling her goods in the first place because of her image. It’s now tarnished (frankly, her terrible taped apologies were a part of the problem.)
Her fans are comparing her words to something from a film like Django Unchained or rap albums — those are ART, whether we like the art or not isn’t the point. That’s different than a brand’s (and she is a brand) representation and image.
She can certainly sell her products on her own website, and if her fans are as devoted as they seem to be, she’ll probably do just fine. But blaming corporations for ditching a brand with an image problem is misplaced criticism. They’ve done their research and they know when a brand has become a liability instead of a benefit, and that’s the way capitalism works.
A company should be able to fire someone for any reason.