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Sunday, October 05, 2003

The Lesson Not Learned

The Rush Limbaugh controversy isn’t just relevant to football.

As everyone paying any attention to the goings-on in the sports world knows, Rush Limbaugh made some very controversial remarks on ESPN’s NFL Countdown last Sunday, suggesting that the media has overrated Donovan McNabb at least in part because of a desire for a black quarterback to succeed in the NFL. A firestorm erupted Tuesday morning and within 48 hours, Limbaugh had resigned/been fired from ESPN’s Sunday morning football preview show. That did not end the story, however, and the question of racism and Limbaugh’s remarks continued to be asked to all the sports talking heads.

And as usual, the media missed the point entirely. Other than a complete lack of tact, Rush’s error wasn’t in being racially insensitive, but in committing the error that we see a lot of people make on a daily basis - making a conclusion that doesn’t correspond with the facts. Donovan McNabb almost certainly is a bit overrated as a quarterback, even taking into account that Thrash, Pinkston, Lewis, and Mitchell is hardly a stellar receiving corps, and there was a time in which the lack of black quarterbacks was considered a pressing issue, but it doesn’t follow that McNabb is overrated because he’s black rather than overrated because he’s an exciting player who makes a lot of electric plays. The sports establishment, however, went for Rush’s throat, the easy target, when what they should have been doing is tearing about Rush’s argument on the underlying facts and using this as an opportunity to do a frank evaluation of themselves and how race is perceived in sports.

What do the rantings of a talk-show host on a football pre-game show have to do with baseball? I believe that the answer is “a lot.” Baseball is no different from other sports in that the race has played an important rôle in its history and perhaps, even moreso. For half its history, professional baseball maintained a strict color line and the history of race in baseball didn’t stop when Pumpsie Green stepped on the field on July 21, 1959.

How have we done since then? In some aspects, pretty well, in others, the results are mixed at best. The problem is how do we objectively look at it? It becomes especially difficult when the media abdicates its responsibility in examining the issue intelligently in order to concentrate on the quick soundbite and, I believe, looking hard in the mirror to review how they help shape the perceptions of the general public by the way they frame their stories.

What the media did as a whole in this instance was far worse than any single commentator can do - they automatically assumed that what Rush said about them could not possibly be true and reported on the story in that way.

Don Malcolm talked a few years ago about how Sheffield’s contract remarks were taken in a much different light than similar remarks by Roger Clemens and David Wells by the media. This isn’t the only example - why are most scrappy players white? Why are most crafty pitchers white? Why is Paul Molitor’s isolated drug use 20 years ago completely forgotten while the isolated drug use of 20 years ago by Tim Raines still sometims comes up? Why is Julio Lugo a pariah while Mike DiFelice’s indiscretions are forgotten? The answer may very well not have anything to do with racism, but the problem is that the media won’t even ask themselves that question. The media is quick to crow whenever MLB doesn’t hire black front-office executives, but where are they when the Brewers are hiring one?

Earlier this year, there was a poll taken of the players in Major League Baseball. Other than the hilarious discovery that some players still think Babe Ruth is alive, one of the notable results of the poll was that the players who were perceived as overachievers were overwhelmingly white while those perceived as underachievers were overwhelmingly non-white. In the mainstream media, this went completely overlooked when there could have been made an interesting observation about how even within the bounds of the clubhouse, perception isn’t color-blind.

The media, in every field, does a lot to shape how the general public looks at things. That race has become the third rail in any kind of discussion is the fault of the media as a whole, not Rush Limbaugh and Jimmy the Greek, and things cannot improve on that end until they realize that they’re major players in the perception of race and open a real dialog on that end. The media is made of many, many individuals, all with differing beliefs on society. But what they seem to share in common is a lack of courage in examining their effect on race in sports and using race to promote their own interests.

In a final note, the other broadcasters on ESPN’s NFL Countdown, those men in the best position to be open and frank about discussing Rush’s departure, decided this morning that the most responsible way to deal with the incident was to claim that every single one of them and every single member of ESPN’s production crew “didn’t notice” what Rush was saying, a far-from-convincing argument and as big a fumble as Rush’s.

In a second final note, the Baseball Primer mail server is down, so anyone who needs to contact me for any reason needs to use my alternate e-mail of


Dan Szymborski Posted: October 05, 2003 at 06:00 AM | 82 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Dan Szymborski Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:43 AM (#613113)
Only if Jesse Jackson and Carol Moseley-Braun are all black people.

Does this make anyone who makes fun of Strom Thurmond or Dan Quayle racist against whites?
   2. Dan Szymborski Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:43 AM (#613116)
Rush Limbaugh has also made fun of plenty of white people. Is he racist against white people, too? If anything, Rush has shown a dislike and willingness to make fun of people of a differing political ideology than himself.

In fact, I believe you're providing a perfect illustration of how things are presented. The FAIR article isn't an in-depth examination of Rush's radio show, it's the typical article on race that we get from both sides of the political aisle - selective cherrypicking and anecdotes in order to prove a specific point.

In fact, the FAIR article is worse than anything Rush has done. Rush has never claimed, as far as I can tell, to be an unbiased source, while FAIR does both in their mission statement and their very name.

   3. Dan Szymborski Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:43 AM (#613118)
No, the question is if *you* are insane. Is Rush racist against white people, too? He says nasty things about them, also, as a quick google search reveals.

Where's the complete transcript of these so-called events? The apparently inaptly-named (is that a word) FAIR is basing this entire article off of three sentences that Rush apparently said over a 20-year period.

Is this what the media calls an in-depth examination of race? A cursory look at things that a blowhard entertainer says?
   4. Dan Szymborski Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:43 AM (#613122)
You're quite brazen for someone who posts anonymously.

Nowhere is it represented that he's making fun of a race. In my opinion, making fun of someone for saying "axe" instead of "ask" is no different than making fun of us mid-atlantic people who can't pronounce "orange" or southerners for saying "nucular."

In fact, the media had a pretty fun time about Bush and other southerners saying nucular some months ago. Are they racist?
   5. Dan Szymborski Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:43 AM (#613124)
The burden is on the person making a claim. I have no idea whether or not Rush is really racist or not and frankly, I don't care and it's irrelevant to my article.

However, you and FAIR have made claims of racism. And if the best evidence of that racism is less than 20 words over a 20 year period. At least on what's been presented, there's more evidence to Carl Everett's claims that there weren't any dinosaurs.

Frankly, I believe that this whole Rush fiasco has hit you a little too close to home. Perhaps you looked into your soul and found that your ideals aren't as lily-pure as you would like them to be?
   6. Dan Szymborski Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:43 AM (#613127)
The title of an article is now evidence? I shudder at the thought of you ever thinking me as intelligent and am quite relieved that possibility will never come to pass.
   7. Dan Szymborski Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:43 AM (#613128)
Huh? Of course people have claimed Rush is racist. I'm claiming that neither you nor that article have shown that to be the case. If you have actual evidence, I'd love to be pointed to it. Knowledge is the pursuit of truth, not the pursuit of perception.
   8. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:43 AM (#613132)
Man, this is getting heated.

My sense is that Rush Limbaugh is simply a garden variety radio pitchman whose entire career rests on half-truths and easy attacks on individuals who make themselves into easy targets. All this is done with one, and only one objective in mind: ratings. Limbaugh knows his audience's prejudices and plays to them like the artist he is. He's a "racist" in a limited sense that he plays to the black stereotype when he attacks particular black villains like Sharpton, but I've also heard him rail against racism on several occasions. On the "racist" spectrum he's somewhere near where Strom Thurmond was about 20 years ago and with about 20 or 30 I.Q. points added. He's not the Strom Thurmond of 1948 or the Jesse Helms of much more recent vintage.

But Dan, Realist has been asking you to provide specific examples of times where Rush has mocked white people's "whiteness," or drawn on "white" stereotypes to attack white individuals. And you seem to be either unable or unwilling to provide any such examples. This doesn't tend to lend much credence to your argument that Rush isn't a racist. I suspect that he's mocked a French accent on occasion, but that's not quite the same thing, since the "bone in the nose" stereotype has historically been applied to more than, say, Kenyans.
I always believe in giving my ideological opponents the benefit of every doubt, but sometimes Limbaugh makes that kinda hard to do.

On his ESPN comments, though, I thought that they were typical Rush: a half-truth in support of an absurd stretch to make an ideological point. The "truth" part of the half-truth is that the media obviously "want" black quarterbacks to succeed, but the reason behind this is the same that it is when they play up Larry Bird: Black quarterbacks (up until very recently) and white NBA superstars are (or at least were) both relative rarities, and the media sees "stories" in relative rarities, not in statistical commonplaces. So I'm sure that much of the media was "rooting" for McNabb in a way that it wasn't "rooting" for Peyton Manning. But the logical jump from this to the idea that McNabb is "overrated" is completely bogus, and wholly typical of the sort of "logic" that Limbaugh routinely employs.

How does he get away with it? Simple: The dittoheads are just that---dittoheads---and you don't lose your audience when you play to its simplemindedness. Listen to some of the products advertised on that show and you'll get a pretty good idea of what the sponsors think of his audience's ability to see through bullshit.
   9. MGL Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:43 AM (#613136)
I am 100% behind Realist on this one. (I am a white Jew by the way.)The "racist" argument against whites is a poor one. Practically speaking, one cannot be "racist" or bigoted against a group that is not a persecuted or denigrated minority. Even if one could technicaly make that argument, it doesn't matter. The reason that "racism" and bigotry is wrong is that it prepetuates the oppression and denigration that is already prevalent against a certain minority. "Racism" against whites is NOT a problem in our society, because whites are not oppressed or discriminated against, just as "bigotry" against heterosexuals is not a problem.

One of McNabb's teammates hit the nail on the head with his comment "Limbaugh is well-spoken and well-read, but he's an idiot." I don't know whether Limbaugh is "racist" or not (BTW, many "racist" persons do not admit or even know they are racist, and in any case, it is just a label and doesn't really "mean" anything; if it means anyhting it is how it is preceived by the people to whom the racism is directed), but his comment was insulting and embarrassing to a large group of people and totally inappropriate for a football program. He then blithers about the First Amendment, which has nothing to do with anything (yeah, the governement can't make a law outlawing what opinions football commentators offer on TV), and lies about ESPN's reaction to his statements (they "are solidly behind me").

Regardless of what you think about the "truth" of his comment, it was another example of Limbaugh's blithering idiocy. When people in the public eye say or do stupid or offensive things, they deserve to be criticized and canned...
   10. Dan Szymborski Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:43 AM (#613139)
Rush also makes many appearances on political shows. For what reason, I haven't figured out, but FAIR doesn't have that on him.

And since when is bias OK if it doesn't involve denigration? There was a great deal of racism in the past against Irish, Germans, Italians, and Poles in the past. When did they magically stop being denigrated? Calling someone a wop was bad in 1880, but suddenly not today?
   11. jakarta Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:43 AM (#613140)

I do have to agree that Rush has a history of being divisive, insensitive, polemic, and misleading. And as such, there is a much lower burden of proof required of his critics when he makes a (what seems to be yet another) inflamatory statement.

Illinois, yes Braun has many things in her past and public service which are questionable and deserve scrutiny. However, Rush's making her representative of a stereo type instead if just hitting her statements/actions for their lack of merit was tasteless. Rush has been a master of painting with broad or narrow brush strokes depending how it serves him.

And this is why it is so hard for me to take Dan's article seriously. Rush wasn't starting a conversation about race, he was prempting one. When you say "the media" failed, as if "the media" is a fixed entity, does this or that, where can that conversation go? I need a point of entry like FAIR to do research into what media fosters what perceptions. As it the recent report which shows that people who watch FOX news as their primary News Source are much more likely to be misinformed than those who watch any other news source.

   12. MM1f Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:43 AM (#613141)
Nice article Dan, fight the good fight.
   13. jakarta Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:43 AM (#613144)

Chomksy is a linguist. He is a brilliant linguist and somebody that is de riguer for a student of the field. He has done some amazing studies on the effects of media on creating perception, these are not polemic tracts.

He does however have other polemic political stuff which he does. His tone can be grating, his own language and analysis can be pretty insipid and whiny. But his research and content is usually airtight, he comes from the academic tradition of sources and testing theories. This is why his rants are so dissapointing compared to his academic work.
   14. Patriot Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:43 AM (#613147)
Primey for Reality Check! My thoughts exactly.
   15. jakarta Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:43 AM (#613150)
p.s. This is the link for the full report I cited earlier from the Program on International Policy Attitudes. It is a pdf link. I am using this as one more illustration about how one's perceptions have quite a bit to do with which media one consumes. Also controls for prior bias, etc...
Baseball Primer = Misperceptions, The Media, and the Iraq War

Dan, subtract the furor over Rush stuff from your article and I'd probably really agree with you. There are subtle and not so subtle perceptive differences that persist still in sports and the language of coverage. And why did Lebron get that endorsement contract? Talent of course, and Street Cred? And what is Street Cred?
   16. Dan Szymborski Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:43 AM (#613152)
I'm looking for some specific Rush quotes - my general experience with Limbaugh is limited to when I'm trying to get local traffic or weather or if I'm in the car waiting for the 3:00 guy to come on. I'm fairly certain I've heard some nasty things said about the Clintons and Gore agree with and I did hear him call the so-called "soccer moms" a bunch of empty-headed idiots. I've also heard "Gray Doofus" which is pretty darn insulting when done on a regular basis nationally.
   17. David Jones Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:43 AM (#613154)
Out of curiousity I listened to Rush's radio show the day after the controvery first came out, and one thing I will say is that many of the callers, who professed to being big fans of his, said that he was completely wrong about McNabb.

And he was completely wrong about McNabb. And his comments were stupid, in that they were illogical and not backed up by evidence. I don't think they were racist. Contending that a player gets preferential treatment because of the color of his skin is not in and of itself a racist thing to say. It does, however, indicate a certain ideological framework on Rush's part, which is, of course, not surprising.

Racism is properly defined as "a doctrine or teaching that asserts the superiority of one race over another or others, and that seeks to maintain the supposed purity of a race or races."

It is possible for blacks to be racist against whites. I will agree that the *impact* of this racism is lessened by the historical/social context. But that in no way changes the fundamental requirements for racism to exist. Simply because somebody's ancestors oppressed somebody else's ancestors does not give that "somebody else" the right to believe in a "natural superiority" of their race over "somebody's" without being rightly called a racist.

Look, racism is a terrible thing. It should be denounced in every instance where it takes place. Because if it is not denounced, then history shows that racism has a funny way of becoming pervasive, and doing great damage to a society.
   18. jakarta Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:43 AM (#613155)

Sorry, I wasn't trying to make that href tag "Baseball Primer" as a joke, i just screwed up and didn't delete it from when I cut and pasted.
   19. Dan Szymborski Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:43 AM (#613156)
J-Ho, exactly. Just like insulting black people like Jesse Jackson and Carol Moseley-Braun isn't the same as insulting them because they're black. Do you really believe Rush would've been nicer if they were white?
   20. Dan Szymborski Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:43 AM (#613161)
Realist, you still haven't laid the foundation for your argument. You have to show Rush is a racist for your argument to have any validity. The best you could find is a a few sentences, quoted without any kind of context, allegedly said by Rush over a period of 15-20 years.
   21. GregD Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:44 AM (#613168)
Since someone stated that Spinsanity would be a better resource than FAIR for Rush information, I'll pass on the following quote and link. It is the only thing on Spinsanity that speaks to this point. As readers of the site know, they tend to respond to specific stated positions (not the theme songs or radio insults mentioned in the FAIR report.) I think it's generally fair to say that Spinsanity reports paint Rush as a crude liar, but that they focus on his use of personal destruction, rather than on issues of race, which they tend to avoid.

Here's the one relevant example they cite:

While conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh has been relatively restrained since the terrorist attacks of September 11, he indulged in hypocritical ethnic cheap shots at some disfavored Democrats last Wednesday:

?[W]e [the US] are the giants of public relations, we are the giants of spin ? and so, I have a question. I have yet to see Abdullah Begala, I have yet to see Mustafa Stephanopoulos, I have yet to see Sahib Carville. You even remember how we turned Ken Starr into a walking, breathing, daily devil? Can't we at least do that for a real devil? Can't we at least do that for Saddam Hussein or Osama Bin Laden or some of these people who are ? the Taliban? ? We have no trouble coming up with campaigns to destroy the lives of decent American citizens, but when it comes to the genuine enemies of America, we seem to have a little less than resolve...

....Nonetheless, Limbaugh attaches Middle Eastern names to the three in an attempt to irrationally associate them with Bin Laden. This is both a groundless smear and an offensive ethnic cheap shot....Nonetheless, Limbaugh attaches Middle Eastern names to the three in an attempt to irrationally associate them with Bin Laden. This is both a groundless smear and an offensive ethnic cheap shot.

It strikes me that the term racism, as we most commonly use it, refers to a system of practices more than a system of beliefs. Therefore, it is commonplace (though perhaps not accurate) to differentiate it from prejudice, which does refer more to belief. Therefore racism is an act of power--not of hatred--and is typically unavailable to powerless groups and barely available to near-powerless groups. Prejudice is of course more equal opportunity. Under these constructions, people often accuse others of racism when their actions tend to enhance or maintain the power imbalance that favors one race over another.

The arguments about "white" ethnic groups advanced here miss the key historical fact that at one point Irish and Germans and Italians and Jews were considered "not white" and members of a different race. This changed over time, as it may well be changing for Latinos, slowly and in some places more than others.

When this happened, when Irish and Germans and Italians and Jews (and Poles etc.) became "white," they lost a separate racial identity, and slurs which had previously been racist now had a different context. The arguments advanced about racism against white ethnics miss this key historical point, in some kind of effort to claim equal status of victimhood.

The argument about white ethnic slurs also misses the obvious point that Limbaugh would have been greeted with outrage if he used the word "wop" on the telecast.
   22. Dan Szymborski Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:44 AM (#613171)
My KKK meeting? Realist has officially jumped the shark, methinks.
   23. Sam M. Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:44 AM (#613172)
Putting to one side the question of whether Rush Limbaugh is a racist, he is manifestly a race-baiter. His comments on Donovan McNabb are obvious and incendiary race-baiting. In essence, he was accusing the unnamed, faceless "media" of being racists -- that is, of favoring McNabb in the way they treated him because of his race. Instead of asking his critics to prove he's a racist, you should be asking HIM to prove his accusation. OK, Mr. Limbaugh, if you think there's this omnipresent race-based favoritism in the media, give us examples. Who is guilty of it? Which article is an example of this phenomenon, or which announcer are you saying is racist in this way? And if you find someone who says McNabb is better than you think he is, on what evidence do you base your claim race is the reason, rather than simply disagreeing with you? And, no Mr. Limbaugh, your claim you can read their minds will not suffice.

Why aren't those of you who are defending Limbaugh, and asking for examples of HIS racism, being consistent about it, and asking HIM to produce examples of the racism he claimed goes on re. McNabb? You know what answer he'd produce? He'd hem and haw and bob and weave, and never provide any evidence. Because all he's interested in is dropping the bomb, calling attention to himself, and claiming a pattern of "political correctness" even if there's just no basis for it.
   24. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:44 AM (#613173)
The point remains that Limbaugh's comments about specific black people have often played on the racial stereotype.

The point also remains that he's never done this when mocking any white person, no matter how savagely.

Rush may not be a "racist," but he often does a pretty good imitation of one. That people like Carol Moseley-Braun, Al Sharpton, etc., are often worthy of ridicule is indisputable. There are entire books documenting the scurrilousness of Al Sharpton, the most prominent one written by Jim Sleeper, hardly a flaming conservative himself.

But while Sleeper documents practically every minute and misdeed of Sharpton's demagogic and lying rise to prominence, he somehow seems to accomplish this without the use of racial stereotypes.

Limbaugh is certainly capable of dealing with the likes of Sharpton without indulging in "coon" imitations, but somehow he often chooses not to.

Doesn't this imply anything to any of you dittoheads out there?

Perhaps not.

None so blind as those who will not see.
   25. David Jones Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:44 AM (#613175)

I think that most of us really don't care whether or not Rush Limbaugh is a racist. He is clearly, indisputably, guilty of making racially-insensitive remarks, but this is not the same as racism, which is, again, the assertion that one race is superior to another. The "bone out of your nose" line, even if it is taken in its proper context, is not in and of itself racist, because it does not contend that whites are superior to blacks. Rather, it makes fun of a racial stereotype of blacks, dealing with their physiognomy. To make fun of blacks for having larger noses is not an assertion of their inferiority. At its worst, it is very crude, very insensitive, very stupid, and very hurtful (who likes to have the way they look made fun of?) But it's not the same as saying that blacks are inferior.

In fact, one could argue that the Party most guilty of racism is not the Republican party, but the Democratic party, which supports affirmative action and racial preferences. I do not believe that these measures are racist because they discriminate against whites (which they do), but rather that they presuppose that blacks are somehow incapable of qualifying for entrance to schools or jobs, etc., without having the bar set a little lower for them. Isn't it insulting to an entire race to say that, "Well, you just can't score as high on the GRE or the SAT, so we're going to make it easier for you to get in, by setting a lower standard for you than we do for whites? As the Univ. of Michigan case clearly showed, this is what is happening with many college admissions boards.

A few months ago there was a very interesting article in the Atlantic Monthly, written by an African-American scholar, basically arguing that white guilt over slavery and Jim Crow, etc., and the ensuing "Affirmative Action," was basically perpetuating racism by telling blacks that historical circumstances, etc., meant that they were incapable of achieving as much as whites, so they needed to have the bar set lower for them. Interesting article.

   26. Patriot Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:44 AM (#613176)
If what Rush said is racist, then I am proud to proclaim it: I am a racist! Labels don't scare me. Anyone who is against the liberal line is something: homophobe, jingoist, elitist, capitalist pig, whatever. I think it's a great badge of honor.
   27. Dan Szymborski Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:44 AM (#613178)
Well, I've been thrust into the surprising position of defending Limbaugh, but I haven't supplied any quotes about what he's saying about McNabb being true. That's because I don't think they are - Rush was unbelievably off-base here.

Rush wasn't trying to create a dialogue about how race is perceived. However, given that it did start up such a furor, it is the logical time to address points. Whether Rush is a racist or not wasn't my central point and probably not even relevant.
   28. RP Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:44 AM (#613179)
I agree with David J. Looking back at my statement, the bone in the nose comment is stupid and insensitive WHATEVER the context. However, it is only racist if you identify bone-nose earrings as a side of an inherent deficiency, which I do not. It's a hurtful stereotype, and should not be excused, but does not prove Rush is a racist.

What on earth are you talking about? Of course the "bone-nose" comment is intended to demonstrate an "inherent deficiency." The implication is that black people are ignorant savages. Therefore it's racist. Sheesh. Also, the distinction between making racist comments and being a racist is pretty inconsequential. Even if Rush doesn't actually think black people are inferior -- and so is not actually racist -- using racist comments to get a reaction is still morally wrong.
   29. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:44 AM (#613180)

I'm not so sure that the "bone in your nose" bit isn't more than a little racist by your own definition, unless you believe that Rush believes that people who run around with bones in their noses are the equal of people who don't. I rather doubt that Rush believes this. The most charitable thing you can say about that remark is that it was one of Rush's attempts at humor, a throwaway line by someone who seems to see himself as somewhat of a comedian. Maybe this is all that it is. But this type of humor is more than a little repetitious in Rush's case, and after awhile the charitable explanation begins to wear a bit thin.

I share your misgivings about affirmative action's implicit assumption that blacks need the extra points, etc. I think that it's a very tough call for many reasons, but I found it impossible not to think that the Gratz girl (if that was her name---in any case, the daughter of the Michigan policeman who was trying to get into law school) got the shaft. But I also don't think that "racist" is a term to throw around at anyone who supports--or doesn't support--affirmative action. I do get a little suspicious, though, as I would imagine you might yourself, of all those "principled," "color-blind" conservatives of a certain vintage who get all worked up over "preferences" today, when they were either completely silent, or worse, when the "preferences" were 100% in the other direction. Thurmond and Helms are but two obvious examples of this; there are many millions more in private life, several hundred of whom I know personally. One of the great journalists of all time used to say that the key skill is to remember the official lie of yesterday in order to compare it to the official lie of today. In a somewhat analogous manner, I have a hard time paying much attention to ex-segregationists who selectively quote Martin Luther King on the subject of color-blindness. He could have used their support 40 years ago on that subject. Unfortunately in 1963 many of them seemed to be more interested in whether Dr. King was a "communist" tban the fact that tens of millions of citizens lived under a virtual caste system.
   30. Dan Szymborski Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:44 AM (#613181)
That doesn't necessarily follow. If I was bashing a certain college professor who reads this site and knows I'm talking to him, I'd tell him to go put on his kilt. The kilt is a traditional item of dress that has widely considered savage for centuries. By telling a Scot to put on a kilt would that be the implication that Celts are barbarians? Of course not. It's simply associated with them.
   31. Dan Szymborski Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:44 AM (#613182)
Furthermore, from the limited context, Rush didn't say that *blacks* should go put bones in their noses, he said that that one *person* should go do that.
   32. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:44 AM (#613183)
Nice try, Dan, but the kilt reference hasn't been seriously associated with barbarism for quite some time, at least in the context of America. The "bone in the nose," on the other hand, was a staple of American movies for decades (not to mention childhood insults), and if it isn't exactly current outside of Limbaughland, I suspect that it still is associated with "Africans" or "blacks" a lot more readily than kilts is associated with any "savage" traits in Celts or Scots.

Put it this way: Try throwing out the "kilt/savage" association these days and 99% of the time you'd just get a blank stare it return. You ain't getting many blank stares with the "bone in your nose" remark.

On the other hand, I'm endlessly amused by Willie the janitor in the Simpsons, so maybe I'm just a big old hypocrite after all. Wouldn't be the first time.
   33. Depot Posted: October 05, 2003 at 02:44 AM (#613184)
Does anyone have the context of the bone-in-the-nose comment? When I first heard about that (3-4 years ago), I looked up the context and I remember that what he said wasn't really all that bad (i.e. the quote was taken way out of context), but I don't remember the details. I don't care for Rush at all, but I do think he can get slammed for no reason sometimes.
   34. David Jones Posted: October 06, 2003 at 02:44 AM (#613187)

I agree that many conservatives who talk about affirmative action now have zero credibility, because they were on the wrong side of the issue of racial equality 30-40 years ago.

But really, that's a dying breed. There are also a lot of young conservatives who grew up in post-Jim Crow America and are (rightly) questioning the validity of racial preferences. I can see the argument in favor of them, but I can also see the racist implications of preferences. I do know that if I was a smart, talented, and determined African-American college student, I would resent it. Because I would know that a lot of people at the university would look at me and think that the only reason I was there was for "diversity" and not because I "earned" it. I think diversity across racial and socio-economic boundaries is a good thing to have, but I think we have to look long and hard at the negative implications of the racial preferences system. It seems to me that the answer to the problem is more long-term and difficult to obtain: real investment in the inner cities, and not just in the schools. I'm not an expert on this, but I just don't think that racial preferences/affirmative action is the best answer to the problems we face.
   35. The Interdimensional Council of Rickey!'s Posted: October 06, 2003 at 02:44 AM (#613188)

For the majority of this discussion, I thought I was going to have to take the perilous position of trying to make Realist's comments make sense, as he is in fact on to something worthwhile but tends to let his points get lost in the din of his hollering. But luckily Andy beat me to it down near the end, and I don't have to do that now. Thanks Andy!

My few points in addition to what's come before:

1. Rush Limbaugh is a big fat idiot. You don't have to be Al Franken, or even like him to realize this.

2. The comments about McNabb were not technically racist. You can hum and haw your way around them, break them down into constituent parts and reformulate them in a way that gets you around racism per se. But surely we're all smart enough to realize that if you're dependent upon grammatical jerrymandering to get you around charges of racism, you may be harboring some very ugly tendencies nonetheless. What I found most disgusting about the McNabb episode was the ease and casualness that the idiot showed in trotting out the "those politically correct media liberals are just out to get me" bullshit. It shows, at the heart of things, the absolute lack of morality and personal responsibilty in Limbaugh's character.

3. The bone in the nose comment can not be framed in a manner that is not racist. I can not concieve of a manner in which such a comment could be made that didn't rely on racial stereotypes and prejudices, and anyone who goes to any length to defend such stupidity on even the remotest of technicalities are, IMHO, spitting in the wind for no good at all. Why would anyone try to defend that level of ignorance and hatred?

4. Rob H. wins the best quote of the thread award with this: "I do not expect a useful dialogue on race from people who have not bothered to understand the shortcomings of batting average, let alone bothered to learn the difference between a sunk cost and a marginal cost."
   36. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: October 06, 2003 at 02:44 AM (#613189)
Does anyone have the context of the bone-in-the-nose comment? When I first heard about that (3-4 years ago), I looked up the context and I remember that what he said wasn't really all that bad (i.e. the quote was taken way out of context), but I don't remember the details. I don't care for Rush at all, but I do think he can get slammed for no reason sometimes.

I was about to ask the same question. Without looking at the whole converstaion Rush had with the caller, there might have been a valid reason for his statement (hopefully for his own sake because it does sound terrible on its own).

   37. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 06, 2003 at 02:44 AM (#613200)
The honest dialogue over affirmative action will take place between people like David Jones and people like Jonathan, both of whom recognize the complexity of the issue. I think David approaches the heart of the matter when he alludes to investing in the inner cities, "and not just in schools." He might have added, just to make the point even clearer, "and not just by governments, but by enlightened businesses, who can put two and two together and see the same tragic waste of talent there that Branch Rickey saw in the field of baseball." This is the messages that organizations like the Urban League have been preaching for, oh, the better part of the last century. Much as I'm extremely suspicious of many things that Bill Gates has done, I have to acknowledge that he seems to be the sort of businessman that in his foundation work, at least, appears to grasp the relationship between sowing and reaping.

S.B.M.T., I find much to admire in Thomas Sowell. His first book on race ("Black Education: Myths and Tragedies") is a masterpiece. Walter Williams is also a worthy spokesman for the libertarian point of view. But it hardly follows that just because you can quote from their works, you therefore can't be a racist. As I've noted above, Jesse Helms loves to quote Martin Luther King on "the content of one's character," but he built his entire career on the foundation of racial hatred and resentment (I lived in North Carolina when he was doing this on WRAL), and to paraphrase the cliche, his hypocrisy is so immense that it's almost thrilling. He's not the only one, although I am certainly not---note, please---saying that to agree with Jesse Helms nowadays on this issue or that issue makes you a racist yourself. Guilt by Association is a nasty form of argument, no matter who uses it.

It would be interesting to see Allen Barra come to this discussion for a little dialogue, rather than just as a scissors and paste man. His quoted words are classics of the "yes, but" variety of half-truth. Note my belief that "half-truths" are indeed half true. But this is what makes them so pernicious in public debate. Rush Limbaugh is the modern master of this technique, at least in its right wing variant.

   38. RP Posted: October 06, 2003 at 02:44 AM (#613202)
Is it a racist comment to say that Donovan McNabb is an overrated, bad quarterback? Is it a racist comment to say that "the media" want black quarterbacks to succeed? Or that they overrate black quarterbacks? Those are the only three statements I can see there...which is racist?


It honestly makes me very sad that people interpreted Limbaugh's comments to be denigrating to the ability of black people to play quarterback.

I'm not sure I understand these comments. I don't think anyone here is saying that Rush's comments about McNabb were inandof themselves racist. The point is that Rush has made racist comments in the past, and his inflamatory comments about McNabb should be viewed in that light.
   39. tlbos Posted: October 06, 2003 at 02:44 AM (#613203)
"Why is Paul Molitor's isolated drug use 20 years ago completely forgotten while the isolated drug use of 20 years ago by Tim Raines still sometims comes up?"

Because Molitor didn't invent new ways to slide in order to protect the cocaine stash in his socks?
   40. User unknown in local recipient table (Craig B) Posted: October 06, 2003 at 02:44 AM (#613204)
Rush Limbaugh lost his job because his bosses woke up and realized their mistake in hiring a highly controversial commentator who knows little about football... he's going to contribute little to the broadcast, except miring it in controversy.

I don't really care if Limbaugh is a racist or not, or if what he said is racist or not. There are a thousand possible ways to interpret that, and I'm not sure that I'm well-qualified to wade through that semantic soup. My personal opinion is that the comment was laughably stupid, but definitely not racist.

What I do know is that whether or not Rush Limbaugh is a racist, his network damn well has the right - even the duty - to fire him if the things he says don't reflect what his network wants to project as its public image.

Does it sound harsh for me to say that Rush Limbaugh can find a job with a network that doesn't give a damn about its relationship with black athletes? I don't know. I do know that arguments like this usually boil down to two opposing camps of people, one pointing and yelling "you're too sensitive" and the other pointing and yelling "you're not sensitive enough" as if the screaming is going to change people's *emotions*.
   41. Patriot Posted: October 06, 2003 at 02:44 AM (#613205)
Um, Joe, there are millions of people in the country named Joe. Way to take a stand, bud.

Everything I ever post here is under the name Patriot. I have a fairly good reputation as a poster about sabermetrics here and at fanhome. Telling you that my first name is Jim or Larry would not tell you anything more.

And yes, I am proud to agree with Rush on many things, and if that makes me a whatever by your definition, I don't give a flip.
   42. tlbos Posted: October 06, 2003 at 02:44 AM (#613208)
I'd also add that Ralph Wiley wrote a pretty darned good piece on this on Page 2, and since I usually bash Wiley's writing, that's saying something.
   43. User unknown in local recipient table (Craig B) Posted: October 06, 2003 at 02:44 AM (#613214)
A recent article in the highly respected "Journal of Personality and Social Psychology" (Click here for an abstract - Fourth one down on the list, by Nail, Harton & Decker) found that people rated as "liberals" suffer from aversive racism, cringe when African-Americans touch them, and try to compensate for it by being overly solicitous of African-Americans. Realist's anti-intellectual rants are particulary good examples of a liberal racist's response to his own inner Grand Dragon.

The article said no such thing, you have loaded it with your bias and BS. You are reading WAY too much into the piece, which was extremely interesting nonetheless.
   44. Stephen Jordan Posted: October 06, 2003 at 02:44 AM (#613216)
Rush Limbaugh has a new slogan . . . "Talent on loan from Jim and Tammy Faye Baker."
   45. Greg Luzinski's #1 fan (Chris M.) Posted: October 06, 2003 at 02:44 AM (#613222)
John R. - The reason that Rush's comments can't simply be ignored is the vast audience he commands. If his opinions were his alone and not absorbed without question by 20 million robots everyday, there would be no harm in dismissing his ideologically-driven drivel for what it is. However, the spread of such unintelligent thought threatens honest discourse on very important subjects (such as the current status of racial relations in this nation).

I also take issue with the article's inference that the indiscretions of minority players (Tim Raines, Julio Lugo) are somehow made into a bigger deal than those of white players. Has Ken Caminiti received less scorn in the media than Dwight Gooden? Has anyone implied that either player's substance abuse problems have to do with their race? Did Bobby Chouinard get any better treatment than Lugo (last I checked, Lugo still has a job in MLB while Chouinard sits)? I know these are simply anecdotes and subject to "small sample size" problems, but so are the reverse items cited in the original articles.

Rush's comments were toxic for several reasons. Yes, they were racially insensitive (if not overtly racist, but I'm not getting in the middle of that one). But more troubling is his use of the issue of whether McNabb is overatted to advance his polictical agenda (the "liberal" media, etc.). We as a society won't make any headway on social issues until we can step out from behind our ideological shields and start honest discourse about the issues.
   46. Greg Luzinski's #1 fan (Chris M.) Posted: October 06, 2003 at 02:45 AM (#613228)
Rush -

1). The level of formal education of your audience is irrelevant to their ability to critically process your message.

2.) The "device" you use is to play upon the fears of otherwise well-meaning people by taking complex issues such as abortion, fiscal policy, race relations, etc., and adopting a black-and-white, us-vs.-them mentality that stifles discourse (much in the same way the Clintons tried to do the same thing by conjuring up the "vast right-wing conspiracy" during the impeachment hearings). You take positions on issues not because these positions are the most reasoned or are supported by the greatest weight of evidence, but because the positions are designed to evoke the greatest emotional reaction from your audience.

That is why you should never be called a journalist, even if we accept you as a member of the "media" (much in the same way we accept the Disney Corp. as media).
   47. Rick A. Posted: October 06, 2003 at 02:45 AM (#613230)
I must say that I have actually enjoyed reading this thread. I tend to hate political threads on this site, since it usually denigrates into name-calling and false accusations. I have even denounced political threads in at least one other thread because of this. However, this thread (which, ironically, started with name-calling and false accusations) has developed into a well thought-out and interesting debate. I must commend the participants in this debate, including the ones who are on the other side of the political spectrum from me. (Excluding Realist and Patriot, they are both from opposite sides, but can't seem to make their points without resorting to name-calling)

For what it's worth, I tend to agree with David Jones and the best color is #000000
   48. Cliff Floyd the Barber Posted: October 06, 2003 at 02:45 AM (#613232)
I'd also like to point out that Ralph Wiley has an excellent article on Page 2 that basically (to condense several thousand words into a sentence) suggests that if Limbaugh had named Kordell Stewart rather than McNabb, Limbaugh might have been onto something.

What's more interesting to me - despite Realist's best propaganizing efforts to make this into a binaric yes/no good/bad discussion) - is Limbaugh's attempt to make the victimizer the victim (aka reverse racism) in sports. As Dan points out - and this has been well-documented by media studies professors, most notably Stuart Hall - minorities have always been portrayed in a much different language than non-minorities. Ever notice that white players are "students of the game" while blacks are "natural" athletes?

On a similar note, a few years ago Theo Fleury went into rehab for alcohol during the middle of a play-off hunt. The Rangers had signed him to a rather large contract and he was expected to be a clubhouse presence and offensive threat. Instead, he missed the duration of the season and the Rangers missed the play-offs. Several articles on - including a feature piece in ESPN the Magazine - were very sympathetic to Fleury, detailing his father's alcohol abuse and the spartan life he led on a farm in Canada. Bill Clement, one of the more recognizable personalities, also wrote an article commending Fluery for getting the help that he needed.

Around the same time, Lamar Odom was suspended for five games for testing positive for marijuana for the second time in as many years. His press conference was emotional, and he broke down in tears in front of his teammates and coaches. The coverage of his drug abuse was considerably more negative. His leadership was questioned, and it was an issue whether he was too immature to be a captain of a sports team.

My point - albeit longwinded - is that a noticable difference clearly exists in coverage of whites and non-whites. In sports, this tends to come out more readily because many of the most common prejudices tend to revolve around the body of the non-white (i.e. superiorly physically endowed, naturally gifted, etc) and the body is always on display in athletic events. What's fascinating about Limbaughs's comments is that he is picking up on this bias, but completely reverses the roles, and instead makes the traditional victim (black athletes) the beneficary of the biased criticism.
   49. David Jones Posted: October 06, 2003 at 02:45 AM (#613235)

Your comments raise interesting questions about the validity/usefulness of standardized test scores in determining an individual's intelligence, work ethic and potential. Personally, I think that test scores are the best friend of a lazy college admissions board. If you have to look at a lot of candidates, it is easier to just throw them into groups according to how they performed on this one test, rather than to look more carefully at their entire profile. So, basically, what I am trying to say is that I do agree with you that an underprivileged student with a 1040 SAT score might have more potential, more drive, than a privileged student with a 1300 SAT score. But I would add to that that a privileged kid with a 1040 SAT score might ALSO have more potential than a kid with a 1300 SAT score. I don't think the SATs are very good at what they claim to do.

I think that, in the short term, admissions boards should be shifting from the blatant racial preferences system to one based on socioeconomic status. The subtext of the crude Univ. of Michigan system is that all minorities must be underprivileged, or somehow incapable of scoring as highly on the SATs as whites.

Growing up, my best friend was Hispanic. Yet he also came from a fairly affluent family, and went to private schools. He went to a very prestigious private high school, where he graduated second in his class. When it came time to apply for colleges, his top choice was Princeton, and his second choice was West Point. When he filled out his Princeton application, he refused to put down that he was an Hispanic, even though that would have virtually guaranteed him admittance. He said he wanted to get in on merit, and not on preference. He didn't get into Princeton. He ended up going to West Point.

Another interesting thing that I thought I would note: I recently read an article in (I believe) the American School Board Journal, that reported on a recent study. This sociologist wanted to study the "trouble factor" for kids of different ethnicities. His basic question to the students he polled was: what is the highest grade you could bring home that would get you in trouble with your parents? I don't remember the entire results, but I do remember this: For Asian-American students, the "trouble threshold" averaged out to an A-. That is, if the average Asian-American kid brings home a report card with an A-, he expects to get in trouble with his parents. For white students, the trouble threshold was a B-, and for African-American students, the trouble threshold was a C-. I fear that a variety of historical, social, and cultural factors have combined to create an environment where less is expected of African-American students, by educators, by the students, and by their parents. There are all sorts of reasons why this has developed, but it seems to me that it must be imperative for us, as a society, to work to correct the problem.
   50. Greg Luzinski's #1 fan (Chris M.) Posted: October 06, 2003 at 02:45 AM (#613236)
Cliff -

Again, I am disputing the notion that media coverage of white players is consistently "more favorable" than coverage of non-whites. You offered one anecdote of two player who seemingly received disparate treatment by the emdia despite each having substance abuse problems. But this type of shallow analysis doesn't account for race-neutral factors that may have had as great or greater influence on the tone of coverage (i.e. - is Fleury well-like among his teammates thus leading them to be more sympatehetic, is Fleury a "good interview" or a buddy to the reporters who will then back off the opportunity to trash him for his failings; is Odom a "clubhouse cancer" who causes problems amongst his teammates and takes a me-against-the-world attitude that invites people to pile on when he falls?). While it isn't good journalism to let such considerations influence a story, they sometimes do and they have nothing to do with race.

Maybe you're right and maybe some of the media studies you refer to can show some systematic pattern of racism in media coverage, but anecdotally, I don't see enough disparity to make the case one way or the other.
   51. The Interdimensional Council of Rickey!'s Posted: October 06, 2003 at 02:45 AM (#613237)
"The best color is #00000" wrote:

Mr. Hutchinson, could you be more specific about how the comment is racist? You see it as so obvious that you have to make an effort to ignore it, but I still don't see doesn't say nor imply that black people are inferior.

Perhaps you could apply the vigorous reading you so doggedly give Limbaugh's comments to my previous post. You would then, perhaps, notice that I did not say Limbaugh's comments regarding McNabb were racist, only that they should be understood and analyzed in the context of his previous statements on race (one of which I point out that I can't concieve of outside of racial stereotyping), and that even though you can jerry-mander your way around the buried racial undertones of the McNabb comments, the fact that you have to go to such lengths to do so should tell you something useful about the value of defending them in the first place.

You might also notice, upon careful reading, how to spell my name. If you can't get that right, I'm going to have a hard time taking your further criticism of my writings to heart.
   52. GregD Posted: October 06, 2003 at 02:45 AM (#613240)
Thanks for the Snopes link.

The point about standardized test scores being essentially useless as predicotrs is dead on. I have specific information about LSAT scores and elite law school admission.

LSAT scores are, as everybody knows, big predictors of getting in to law school. This has become more true since US News gave them such weight--an absurd decision that many law school professors believe has led to class full of dumber students with higher scores.

Law schools pool information as a way of pressuring US News to change its weighting criteria. According to their information, law schools report

1) a mild correlation between college grades and first-year grades.
2) almost zero correlation between college grades and second- and third-year grades
3) Absolutely zero correlation between LSAT scores and first-year (much less second- or third-) year grades.

Now this would presumably not be true if law schools ignored LSATs entirely. If there were students with truly terrible LSAT scores at elite schools it's possible they might score near the bottom of their class. Or maybe they wouldn't.

But even elite law schools still have a reasonably wide range of LSAT scores among admitted students. Their data shows that a student in the bottom 10% of admitted students is as likely to be near the top of the class as a student in the top 10% in LSAT scores.

They may be useful as a tool for helping to separate out the group of people who could not succeed, but they are utterly useless in making any distinctions among candidates who do demonstrate they can do the work. And 90% of the job at an elite law school is to make distinctions between the overwhelming number of qualified candidates.

Anecdotally, I've been told that undergraduate admissions offices find similar results--that SATs and ACTs have little predictive power--but I've never seen any data.

By the way, I'd be a lot more impressed by a conservative who was outraged that alumni children at Michigan got more automatic "bonus points" than many minority applicants did. I'd hate to think that all the hue and cry was just about which group gets special privileges, and not about the notion of special privileges all together. Surely this can't be just a way to demand more favors for privileged white kids. (Due to older state policies discouragingly minority enrollment in Michigan and most other states prior to the Civil Rights era, the number of minorities who would be children or grandchildren of alumni is very small.)
   53. Cliff Floyd the Barber Posted: October 06, 2003 at 02:45 AM (#613242)
Chris M. -

You're right; my analysis is shallow. Kind of like yours. It's pretty hard to be thorough and in-depth on an internet bulletin board. But I digress.

Much of my thoughts stem from Stuart Hall's case study of the media coverage of Ben Johnson's Olympic steroid scandal. In nearly all of the stories, there was a photograph of Johnson in action - running, hurdling, or working out. This struck Hall as (I'm paraphrasing here) the picture signifying "Even at the height of their achievement, black athletes still find a way to mess things up." In his subsequent research of other doping scandals, Hall found that most white athletes were pictured in casual clothes, headshots, or non-sports related poses. Hall came to the conclusion that white athletes were given the benefit of the doubt more times than not; their achievements on the field were completely separated from their failures off the field. Black atheletes were not afforded such luxury. My argument was an off-shoot of this central idea.

I chose Fleury/Odom because their stories are very similar; star players missing time off for a substance abuse problem. Yet the media reaction was overwhelmingly different. You imply that Odom was a "clubhouse cancer" or a bad interview, or that, conversely, Fleury had a strong rapport with the media. I would suggest that such perceptions are a result of media bias, and not a justification for them.

Lastly, to advance the claim that there is a systematic potrayal of race in sports which has existed for several decades, I would like to point out that in the very very early stages of professional basketball, the general consensus was that there were a race of ballplayers who were so superiorly gifted and naturally talented that it made no sense for the white majority to even attempt to play. That race? The Jews. And you can look it up.
   54. villageidiom Posted: October 06, 2003 at 02:45 AM (#613246)
Does anyone have the context of the bone-in-the-nose comment?

No, but it's interesting how well they've been able to identify the skin color of the radio caller to whom the comment was addressed.


From Rush's comment we can conclude with virtual certainty that he believes the sports media has a racial bias. Whether this belief has any factual basis is worth pursuing; and, I believe, this was the reason for Dan writing the article in the first place.

There are several problems impeding this pursuit. First is the debate over whether Rush is racist, and whether this quote in particular would be enough to "out" him as such. This thread has many fine examples of this debate. Unfortunately, this debate is a small and relatively meaningless subset of the larger question (in the sense that, at the time the comment was made, Rush was a small and relatively meaningless subset of the sports media).

The second is that the comments were brought up specifically with regard to Donovan McNabb. That Rush relied on the treatment of one player to make his case of widespread media bias, without considering the countless counterexamples, leads the discussion swiftly toward the goal of proving Rush Limbaugh is an idiot. I suppose we can prove that the earth revolves around the sun, and not the other way around, but why that is a worthwhile pursuit in 2003 is beyond me. The supporting evidence is overwhelming, while the nonbelievers are few in number, easy to ignore, and not impressed with highfalutin' things like "evidence" anyway.

The third thing that stands in the way is the media itself. They control the discussion - not in a conspiratorial way, but they still do. And for much of the last week they have focused on the first two points above: Is Rush Racist? and Is Donovan McNabb Overrated Because He Is Black? Occasionally they get to serious topics, like Why Didn't Tom Jackson Get More Offended, Because, After All, He's Black? and Is This Better Or Worse Than Having Dennis Miller In The Booth? OK, if those are the kind of topics that generate an audience, so be it. We are what we want.

But the very interesting question left for the thinking fan to consider is whether the sports media has a racial bias. Dan, I applaud your efforts. Perhaps in a few months, when the issue is divorced from the Rush fiasco, you can raise the issue again in another thread. I believe this site and its regular patrons are capable of handling it tangent-free, and I look forward to the opportunity.
   55. Greg Luzinski's #1 fan (Chris M.) Posted: October 06, 2003 at 02:45 AM (#613249)
Cliff -

Since my earlier posts were unclear on this point, I'm not saying that racial bias never existed in sports media coverage. I am saying that, by and large, it has been eliminated from today's sports journalism. Thus, what was written about Jewish basketball players 100 years ago is irrelevant.

With all due respect to Stuart Hall's conclusions about Ben Johnson and white athletes charged with doping, there are non-racial reasons why Johnson might receove different coverage than the non-white athletes (such as Johnson's notoriety as one of the most recoginized track athletes in the world makes him much more photographed than lesser-known athletes).

I believe that most perceptions of racial bias in media coverage today are more about the ideological agenda of the perceiver and much less about actual racial bias. Why else does Reggie White get a relatively free pass on his prejudiced comments when John Rocker is crucified? How come no one criticizes Michael Jordan's philandering and gambling proclivities, but simply chalks his vices up to his "competitive nature?" Is it because white people seem to like Michael Jordan? Is Jeremy Shockey not treated with the same level of contempt as Terrell Owens?

While these specific instances do not prove an absolute absence of racial bias in favor of whites and against non-whites, they do indicate that the issue is no longer as simple as saying the media is biased and always gives more favorable coverage to whites than non-whites.
   56. Patriot Posted: October 06, 2003 at 02:45 AM (#613250)
Rick...who did I call names? Unless "liberal" is now a name and not a classification of political idealogy.
   57. Cliff Floyd the Barber Posted: October 06, 2003 at 02:45 AM (#613253)

You make some excellent points on the Fleury/Odom comparison. I would like to point out, however, that Fleury "voluntarily" entered substance abuse treatment several days before the league would have forced him to enter the same program. Odom, on the other hand, was protected by the NBA's confidentiality agreement and did not have to admit to which susbtance he abused - he volunteered the information that he smoked marijuana.

Fleury missed the last 20 games of the season. Odom missed the first five.

I don't see why it matters whether the substance is legal/illegal. An addiction is a medical sickness, and as such it can take many forms.

Although I did focus on Odom's second arrest - which, in retrospect, is flawed - there was still a considerable backlash against Odom the first time he was suspended. He certainly wasn't allowed any consideration to get his life back in order and encouraged to seek help. This may have to do with cultural standards rather than racially tinged behavior, but it also may not.

As for Chris M., if you feel you can dismiss 350+ pages of research with one paragraph of pure speculation, then you're a wiser man than I am.
   58. Buddha Posted: October 06, 2003 at 02:45 AM (#613257)
"Ever notice that white players are "students of the game" while blacks are "natural" athletes?"

I think this was true 10 years ago, but not so much anymore. In fact, I hear more and more announcers praising black athletes as "intelligent" and "students of the game" more and more each year, even when it doesn't seem to be warranted (Kordell Stewart...).

As far as the fluff piece of Fleury and the "skewering" of Odom, I live in Chicago and Fleury was absolutely butchered in the press and on the radio here. Also, there are plenty of black athletes that get fluff pieces about them. It's all about having a good PR agent working for you. Just to use some more anecdotal evidence, I remeber seeing an article in sports illustrated about how Allen Iverson was really a great guy, a changed man, a great family man, etc etc etc. Seems to me he's been in a little trouble since then. And need we bring up Kobe "he's such a great family guy who never goes out" Bryant?

I think the idea that the media is biased against black athletes, or presents an image of them as stupid or unintelligent or just great natural athletes was put to rest a few years ago. At least I haven't heard it lately. If anything, I hear the exact opposite.

And about the Limbaugh thing, I would have a little respect for him (right now I don't have any) if he had not quit. If he had made a stand and defended (or at least tried to defend) what he said. Instead he just quit and then "wouldn't do interviews." And as for Tom Jackson suddenly getting offended and saying he would "quit" if Limbaugh came back, where was the outrage when he was hired Tom? Or when he said what he said? Only after the fact do you come out and "make a stand." Well, maybe "Boom" would have gotten mad at him if he said a sentence on the air that didn't begin with "[chuckle chuckle] that's right Boom..."
   59. David Jones Posted: October 06, 2003 at 02:45 AM (#613258)
I think a double standard does exist, though it is subtle and not as prevalent as it was 20 years ago. But it does seem to me that the players most often cited as "arrogant" or "surly" or "moody" are disproportionately black (Albert Belle, Frank Thomas, Barry Bonds, Eddie Murray, Carl Everett, etc.) Meanwhile, there are plenty of white players who could fit those descriptions (Paul O'Neill, Mark McGwire, to name a couple) who get a pass, because their surliness or moodiness is supposedly just a reflection of their "dedication to the profession."

Yes, there are plenty of black athletes who are lionized, but membership in that club seems to be restricted to those who go out of their way to endear themselves to the public either through their personality (Sammy Sosa) or through their involvement with the community. (Mo Vaughn, back in his Boston days.) For some reason, it seems to be less acceptable for a black athlete to just go about his business, without pandering to the press or to the public, than it is for a white player to do the same.

As for Rush Limbaugh, the man is a partisan hack, on the same level as Michael Moore, Ann Coulter, and Al Franken. That is, they pollute the political waters with their unabashed hatred for their political foes, without adding anything of any real substance to the debate/discussion. They all tend to speak to a "ditto-head" crowd. People are unlikely to be swayed by them, but if they are already predisposed to agree with them, they will see in them a champion of the cause. It seems to me that this superficial brand of political commentary is becoming more and more common, and as a result, a complex understanding of what are complicated issues gets submerged by all the heated rhetoric. Thus, George Bush is either a lying, evil, Hitleresque war-monger or a great patriot and defender of liberty in the grand tradition of Abraham Lincoln. When attitudes get that polarized, politics becomes less substantive and more poisonous.
   60. reno dakota Posted: October 06, 2003 at 02:45 AM (#613260)
I think Rush is a racist. I freely admit that the only evidence I have for that claim is his radio schtick, and yes, lots of the quotes described in the FAIR article are taken out of context. At the very least, though, he plays up the angry-white-guy thing by jokingly referring to ethnic stereotypes in a manner that may not seem offensive to some, but is manifestly offensive both to me and to other people of color with whom I have discussed this issue in recent days.

I am a little surprised by the reaction to the claim of Rush's racism that I've seen on the board. To the apologists, I'd like to ask one question: If you don't think Rush is a racist, who do you think is? Are you just uncomfortable calling anyone a racist absent finding a white hood in his/her closet? I'd submit that, now that Strom has gone to that big integrated schoolyard in the sky, Rush has made more public statements on record evidencing a persistent denigration of people of color-- and blacks in particular-- than any other public figure I can think of offhand. Based on all the evidence I've ever looked at, I'm pretty sure that if you're not comfortable with the thought that Rush is a racist, then you might not be comfortable admitting that racism really exists at all.
   61. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 07, 2003 at 02:45 AM (#613266)
Sam, if Limbaugh's defenders had any standards to begin with, they wouldn't be defending him. I doubt if one per cent of them have ever read a serious book cover to cover which they knew in advance they were likely to disagree with. There's a lot of liberals who fit this description, too, but maybe only 80%-90% of them, not 99+% as in the dittoheads' case.

I make these admittedly off the top of my head generalizations based on a too-long lifetime of political give-and-take with people ranging from Klansmen to Kommunists. The scariest of all the creepheads have almost always been on the left (I knew a couple of those "Death to the Klan" protesters who were killed in Greensboro back in the 70's), but the biggest number of run-of-the-mill pigheads have usually been on the right, as in the ones in California who are about to elect an emptyheaded weightlifter as Governor, and have convinced themselves that he's somehow more than an emptyheaded weightlifter.
   62. Dan Szymborski Posted: October 07, 2003 at 02:45 AM (#613270)
Tom, this is nothing!

Go into Google Groups and search "Greatest Living Player" or "Malcolm AND Davenport"
   63. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 07, 2003 at 02:45 AM (#613280)

That's an interesting point about I found the site hilarious, period, a perfect sendoff on the sort of cultural pc you see everywhere nowadays, especially in advertising themes. But if you're a literal-minded person, which unfortunately many people are, I can imagine how it could seem to be a "racist" site. My solution to this would be to bar literal-minded people from public debate, since they seem to specialize in taking the fun out of it.

The test for "literal-mindedness?" Show them a few random clippings of the "Bernie X: My Meter Is Running" column from the old National Lampoon and check out their reaction. If they start frothing at the mouth, you know that they're "one of them," relegated to the "harmless joshing" track of life. Give them a one-way ticket to Disney World and recognize that it's money well spent. They can spend their remaining days laughing at people dressed up like Mickey Mouse and not bother the rest of us.
   64. Buddha Posted: October 07, 2003 at 02:46 AM (#613294)
"Feel free to prove me wrong the next time you see a black person (which for many on this blog seems to be only on television) and ask him or her if they could please take the bone out of there nose, or ask them if Rush is a racist. If you still have your fingers unbroken, type back to me."

Ooooooohhhhhhh. Do you know "black" people Realist? Wow. You ARE a good liberal. Please, oh great and worldly one, tell us all, what are they like?
   65. Patriot Posted: October 07, 2003 at 02:46 AM (#613311)
Rush's comment did not claim that being black made McNabb any better or worse in truth, but that it affected the media's portrayal of him. He is judging the media, not McNabb(other than simply saying he's overrated)
   66. Patriot Posted: October 07, 2003 at 02:46 AM (#613321)
What on earth does Rush speculating on the motives of the media have to do with his assesment of McNabb's football performance? What racial sterotype is this based on? If anything, it is a sterotype of the (largely) white sports media.

I'll say it again though. If you want to define what Rush said as being "racist", then being "racist" ain't such a bad thing, and I am a "racist" too, and I don't care.
   67. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 07, 2003 at 02:46 AM (#613335)
I'd use it to recruit about 100,000 more dittoheads, I would.
   68. Patriot Posted: October 07, 2003 at 02:46 AM (#613339)
Limbaugh "reflexively" looked for a race based explanation? How the hell do you know that? Can you read his mind or something?

And I think it's very possible that race could be a factor in the overrating of McNabb. His stats certainly aren't anything special. Winning QBs do tend to be overrated, but that hasn't stopped numerous people from saying "Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson won the Super Bowl" as if it demonstrates that you don't need a star QB--so certainly Dilfer and Johnson aren't overrated. What other easy explanations other than mass delusion are there? Maybe the style of the QB, the running, "exciting" QB? Maybe, but that is tied to race by numerous people.

For years we heard stories about how few black QBs and coaches there were in the NFL, and these stories portrayed it as if it was a bad thing, and hoping for change. Is it too much to think that now that there are a lot of black QBs, the same people who wrote those stories might be pulling for them to succeed?

If that makes me a racist, I'm proud to be one.
   69. Patriot Posted: October 07, 2003 at 02:46 AM (#613341)
Oh, and since when did sports talking heads need to site evidence to make claims in 30 second soundbites?

And if you want a "racist" sportswriter, how about this guy who was on ESPN, Paolantonio, who implied that many people were rooting against ND because they don't want a black coach to succeed. So let's see here:
*Rush says that the (mostly) white media wants a black coach to succeed
*Sal says that the (presumably) white public wants a black coach to fail

What's the difference? The only difference is that Sal is saying that white people are racist, which of course we all know is true, especially those white conservative people like Rush Limbaugh and Patriot.

But I'm a racist by your definition, and I could not be prouder of it.
   70. Patriot Posted: October 07, 2003 at 02:47 AM (#613358)
Sal Whitepeopleareracist didn't need evidence. Dusty Baker didn't need evidence. Reggie White didn't. Oh wait; all of their comments could be construed as racist against whites, which as we all know is impossible.
   71. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 07, 2003 at 02:47 AM (#613373)
Gotta admit Rush has a point here. Howard Cosell probably knew as little about football (not to mention baseball!) as Limbaugh does. Not that it seemed to matter in either case, since both of them are entertainers first and serious analysts second---make that about tenth.

And at least Rush doesn't seem to take himself quite as seriously as Cosell did.
   72. David Jones Posted: October 08, 2003 at 02:47 AM (#613389)
You're missing the point here of connecting racism to power- it is certainly possible for a disenfranchised group to be "racist", but they have to have power to do so. It is easy for white people to be conspicuously racist- they are frequently in positions of power and influence, and therefore they often have the opportunity to negatively impact minority races.

If I say that "all black people are inferior to white people" couldn't everyone here agree that this would make me a racist? Why would you need to know what my "power" was? In terms of my political power, I have little. I can vote. I'm nobody's boss, I'm in no position to make my views on race have a direct impact on the lives of black people. Simply because I am white does not give me any special power when it comes to enforcing my racist views. My "power" in regard to my racism would consist solely of my willingness to broadcast my views to the world, through the Internet, through personal conversation, etc. That would be my "power." And in that sense, I would be no different than a black person who believed that whites were inherently inferior, and were willing to do the same.

Your insistence on tying race to power, if taken to its logical conclusion, would exonerate just about everyone not in a position of obvious political, legal, or economic power. A "man on the street" could say or believe whatever he wants to without being called a racist. Personal responsibility for one's own statements and beliefs would fly right out the window. Even if you believe that whites who do not have any special legal, economic, or political power have some other indefinable "power" that is given to them simply by the color of their skin, what you are saying is that being black gives one the right to say or think whatever they want without being labeled "racist." Your definition of "racism" simply does not conform to anything that can be found in a dictionary, and by tying it to "power," you make the identification of racism purely a subjective matter, depending upon how one views the "power" of the individual making the statement.

One final note. No one is powerless.
   73. Cliff Floyd the Barber Posted: October 08, 2003 at 02:47 AM (#613392)
David Jones-

Despite your liberal (get it?) use of quotes, you're missing the point on what power constitutes. I believe it's being used in an extremely broad and theoretical sense; not in the specific and narrow definition that you employ, i.e. bosses, amount of capital, etc.

Power here is used as a way of documenting pre-existing relationships. If we take your man on the street - let's put him in J.C. Penny jeans and a Members Only sweater - and he bumps into the C.E.O of a law firm dressed in Gucci and Prada, what would his reaction be? Would it be different than if he ran into a bum? How about an attractive but scantily clad female? A child? All of these interactions are, to a certain extent, pre-dictated by class, appearances, and expectations. These represent power relationships.

So yeah, you're right, any man on the street can make a racist comment. But if he's a marginalized figure, who cares? Who's listening or paying attention? Power relationships, like baseball stats are not all created equal.
   74. David Jones Posted: October 08, 2003 at 02:47 AM (#613395)
So yeah, you're right, any man on the street can make a racist comment. But if he's a marginalized figure, who cares? Who's listening or paying attention? Power relationships, like baseball stats are not all created equal.

I agree that not all power relationships are created equal. But as I was reading your post I was remembering my freshman year in high school. I rode the bus to school, and I remember there was a group of maybe three or four upper classmen who also rode the bus, and they would make truly RACIST comments all the time, against blacks. (There were no blacks riding on the bus, otherwise I doubt they would have had the guts to say a thing.)

I really hated these kids, and because of them my freshman year was the only year I rode the bus to school. I avoided them as much as I could. But I know that other freshmen that were riding that same bus started to look up to them, and started repeating the same vile, racist jokes.

My point is that even marginalized figures have friends, or children. So who should care if they spout racist drivel? Society should. Because if that marginalized figure raises his children to think the same way, then isn't that a problem?

   75. Ron Johnson Posted: October 08, 2003 at 02:47 AM (#613399)
Ah well, Sam has pretty neatly summed up my position.

I'd suggest strongly that while what Rush said may not have been overtly racist, it reflects the thinking of a person for whom race is profoundly important.

And really when he defended what he said as an attack on the media rather than McNabb, I think he's right.

Contrary to what most people believe, overrated is nothing close in meaning to bad. To bring this back to baseball, I think Joe DiMaggio is generally overrated. I also think he's among the greatest players of all time at his position.

He didn't say McNabb is only playing because he's black. He said McNabb isn't as good as generally perceived AND the media is boosting him BECAUSE HE'S BLACK.

In other words he's accusing the sporting media of bias in its judgements.

Neither part of his claim makes a great deal of sense to me. McNabb hasn't been very good this year, and had Limbaugh said just that we wouldn't be having this discussion. But the previous 3 years have been pretty damned good (with limited support) and the notion of a racially sensitive sports media coming to some kind of a consensus strikes me as utterly absurd.

   76. David Jones Posted: October 09, 2003 at 02:48 AM (#613427)

In response to your post, the first thing I would point out is that being Jewish, even in Texas, and being Asian-American is simply not comparable to what African-Americans have experienced. The difference is all in the history.

Jews, unlike African-Americans, did not have their ancestors ripped unwillingly from their homeland and forced into slavery in the United States. They did not have laws passed against them learning to read and write (as was common in the U.S. before the Civil War.) They were not segregated from public schools, and forced into schools that were provided with meager funding, as compared to white schools. They were not denied the right to vote, the right to the political process itself, as African-Americans were from the late 1860s well into the 20th century. Nor were they denied access to colleges and high-paying professions, at least not anywhere near on the scale as African-Americans.

I have been reading an article about Indianapolis during the Great Migration. The article talks about how many blacks from Kentucky came north to Indianapolis because of the educational opportunities. The only problem was, once their kids got an education, they were still denied access to good jobs. The educated blacks of Indianapolis typically ended up working as waiters and porters.

I believe the problem is that African-Americans have been taught, throughout history, that it will do them no good to get an education. The fact that this is not the way society is now is somewhat irrelevant, because the heritage of discouragement and ignorance is already in place. You parents' parents may have stressed education, and with good reason. But can you be equally sure that African-Americans come from a similar cultural paradigm? I don't think so. I think part of the problem that some conservatives have is that they want to pretend that institutionalized slavery and Jim Crow never happened, or that, if it did happen, it's all in the past and we can just forget about it. But we can't forget about it, because the problems created by slavery and Jim Crow can't be solved overnight, or in a year, or in a decade, or in a single generation.
   77. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 09, 2003 at 02:48 AM (#613428)

If you want to read a particularly interesting book on the subject you just dealt with above, you might try getting a copy of Thomas Sowell's "Black Education: Myths and Tragedies," which he wrote over 30 years ago, well before he became famous/notorious, depending on your viewpoint. He gets straight to the heart of the matter of black academic problems in a direct, angry way, drawing upon both history and his own personal experiences in teaching at Howard University. He also relates the case of Dunbar High School in Washington, which up through the 1940's was academically competitive with the best white public high schools. Regardless of what you may think of Sowell's political opinions, it's a great introduction to perhaps the most important subject facing this country right now, if you think of "important" with a long range field of vision.

Unfortunately, it's been out of print for years, and there's but one copy on for $25, but it's a bargain at that, especially compared to the garbage which sells for $29.95 at the new book stores.
   78. David Jones Posted: October 10, 2003 at 02:48 AM (#613440)

You may consider the following an ad hominem attack. As you represent yourself on this message board, you are a bad human being. You are incapable of understanding the nuances of language, opinion, and history. You are arrogant, snide, and simple-minded. It is a good thing that you post anonymously, because if you did not, you would be doing great harm to your personal reputation, if indeed you still have one worth caring about.
   79. Cliff Floyd the Barber Posted: October 10, 2003 at 02:48 AM (#613443)
"The difference is all in the history. Jews, unlike African-Americans, did not have their ancestors ripped unwillingly from their homeland and forced into slavery..."

I believe the Bible might disagree with you. Something about Exodus.

But seriously, I don't know how much it furthers our discussion to map out how much or how little pain one particular group suffered. Yes, the Jews didn't face as many hardships in America, but that's because there weren't too many of them left; hundreds of thousands European Jews "converted" to Christianity in the 1700's-1800's. These conversions were either forced (Spanish Inquistion style) or voluntarily chosed because of the economic opportunites that became available once you switched your surname from Steinberg to Jones.
   80. Gold Star for Robothal Posted: October 11, 2003 at 02:48 AM (#613450)
"Only if Jesse Jackson and Carol Moseley-Braun are all black people."

"Does this make anyone who makes fun of Strom Thurmond or Dan Quayle racist against whites?"

No, of course not, but when one makes categorical statements about the media or any actor somehow conspiring to promote someone primarily because of race, when much of the opposite is true (I recall the reaction of Philly fans when McNabb was drafted), it can become a potential issue of racism. Folks like Rush and many of his fellow right-wing radio talk show hosts have fed on white resentment for years by claiming affirmative action is created to promote "unqualified" (i.e., "overrated") non-whites. The use of the race card, which is typically ascribed to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton by those from the Right, cuts both ways, which is one of the ironies of Limbaugh's interpretation of McNabb. That is, a fellow who has made a career by claiming that race should have no consideration in public life is invoking race to explain why Donovan McNabb is overrated. Substantively, Rush's comments on McNabb are no different from those he used in attacking the media over the Jayson Blair case with the New York Times. The difference here is that Rush made these remarks outside of the confines of his radio program, in front of viewers that aren't overwhelmingly fanatical supporters of his beliefs, on a pre-game football show. Had he made these remarks on his radio program, such as the time some years back when he claimed that blacks were only 12% of the population and not worth listening to, we probably wouldn't be having a discourse on the issue right now.
   81. MNP Posted: October 13, 2003 at 02:48 AM (#613455)
Now, I know I never would have phrased that in the way you're presenting it. Care to elaborate with the specific quote?

This post was obviously not by Limbaugh. You see, the real Limbaugh, given a chance to deny saying this, chose not to.

Following is excerpted from this Chicago Sun-Times column:

In October 2000, MSNBC's Lisa Myers said to Limbaugh, "You once told a caller ... '[Blacks] are 12 percent of the population. Who the hell cares?' That's a little bit harsh."

Rush replied: "I really don't remember if I said, 'Who the hell cares?' The, this, but this is a salient point. Twelve, 14 percent of the population is what, is, is, my point, and if somebody says like on my radio, my TV show, said, 'Well, we don't see very many black people there,' 'Oh, what are you basing it on?' 'Well, there's a percentage of the population. Why aren't they represented?'"
   82. David Jones Posted: October 13, 2003 at 02:48 AM (#613460)
David, you need to do a little research on the history of Jews in America if you think they haven't been subject to massive discrimination, prejudice, quotas and, if you believe that they are a separate race, racism. Not slavery here in America, true, but thousands of years of being discriminated against, having property seized, females raped, frequently displaced, does take its toll, as does slavery. Remember where most of the Jews here actually came from and what their lives had been for hundreds of years.

But who's denying any of that? The fact remains, however, that no Jew, that I am aware of, was ever sold into slavery in the United States. At least not on a legalized, institution-wide scale. Perhaps a few came over as indentured servants in the 17th century, but outside of that, nothing. Nothing has been done to the Jews in this country that comes anywhere close to approximating the horrors of slavery and Jim Crow. And if you disagree, I would like to see the historical evidence to refute that contention.

As for the larger argument about what has happened over thousands of years, that is a different issue, since we were talking about the Jewish experience in this country. Also, the precise nature of the long history of anti-Semitism needs to be examined. Is it the case that Jews were actively discouraged from acquiring an education, to the same degree that African-Americans were so discouraged for four centuries? I don't think so. When Jews were discriminated against, were they regarded as mere savages, little different than apes, as African-Americans were? No, they were stereotyped as devious, treacherous, cunning, and greedy. The cultural stereotypes of the two groups are completely different, and thus, the forms of discrimination and racism that each had to endure were also different.

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