A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sterling Silver

There has been much hoo-hah in the media recently, where discussion of NSA "wire"-tapping, the performance of the government-run VA medical care, or of an economy for the past seven years endemically sluggish has been eclipsed by a two-minute hate declared regarding Emmanuel Goldstein Donald Sterling. Sterling, for those of you thankfully beyond range of the twitterverse, is the current stand-in for those perennial goldsteins, the Koch Brothers.

The exquisite sin of this two-time NAACP Lifetime Achievment Awardee has been that, having espied his mistress publicly accompanied by men other than himself, suffered the umbrage of all married men apparently being dissed by their mistresses and vented infelicitously regarding her behavior. In the course of this, he naturally mentioned those in whose company she had been seen and marked their most salient characteristic. Now, this venting was in a private conversation, but someone (presumably not the NSA) recorded it and distributed it to various publicity organs, in consequence of which the mistress' Q-score was increased from zero to a wee but positive number.

Because Sterling owns a professional basketball team, the management of the league sprang into instant moral preening lest they be declared full of Sterling cooties and therefore pinko com-symps, or whatever the term of art is today for guilt-by-association. Since the NBA honcho is named Adam Silver, we have the delightful pleasure of discussing the Sterling-Silver kerfuffle.

Nonetheless, the proposed penalties include banishment for life from all league games and the forced sale of his franchise. (It's not clear that the latter is legal, but it will be done, one way or another.)

The whole affair is an indicator of how far we must stretch today to find outrageous racist conduct. ("You call that racism? Why, sonny, when I was your age...")  Those of us who passed through the fire in the 1960s remember on clear days public behaviors that make Donald Sterling's worst utterances seem like compliments. Nowadays, someone who donates heavily enough to the NAACP to earn two lifetime achievement awards can become a racist with a few emotionally-chosen outbursts.

Now, compare the obloquy and penalties exacted on an old phart who thought his mistress was dating anything but his money and compare that to the case of running back Ray Rice, who in an argument with his girlfriend, apparently knocked her unconscious and was videotaped by casino security cameras dragging her inert body from the elevator.
Will Rice be banned from football for life? Will he be forced to relinquish his property? Will he be forced to make apologies to all woman-kind? Don't hold your breath. Instead, we have been urged to withhold judgement "until all the facts are in." At which time we will presumably be told that it's OK to knock your girlfriend unconscious under some provocations. (She spit on him.)

Is the lesson that violence against women is a lesser sin than snappishly telling one not to date other men, at least when the other men are black? That words are worse than fists?

One is immediately struck (metaphorically, not in a Rice-like manner) by the thought that if Sterling had not had a mistress in the first place, but had held true to his marriage vows, he would not be in hot water today. And even Rice, had he turned the other cheek and "set his face like flint", would not be embroiled in even so minor a peccadillo as assault and battery. But both men insisted on whittling the stick with which others then switched them. They engaged their passions rather then their intellect. Go figure.


  1. Mightn't his NAACP donations be something similar to Hugh Hefner's support for various feminist causes? Philanthropy is often a secular indulgence-purchase.

    1. Making an offhand semi-racist comment is far and away from building a porno empire.

    2. Hugh Hefner's support for feminist causes makes perfect sense, as do Bill Clinton's and Ted Kennedy's, which is why feminists didn't have anything bad to say about those men. Feminism isn't about achieving the betterment of women, but merely the tearing down of moral and social norms, like all Leftist causes, and it's not hard to see why Hefner would be on board with it. When feminists demand "respect" for women, it's not actual respect for women as women that they're after. It's really just a demand that you withhold any moral judgement for women's sexual license.

    3. And the NAACP advocates precisely the same policy positions, never mind that they are just as bad for blacks as for women—and much more obviously, if not spectacularly, so.

      The point is that people who are personally despicable will carefully cultivate a relationship with advocates for groups that they actually treat quite badly, as a smokescreen for their actual attitudes. That the advocates in question are not legitimate is beside the point—the whole thing is a matter of superficial appearances in the first place.

  2. Hey YOS. I had some questions on A-T metaphysics I wanted to get answered from an intelligent THomist.
    I emailed Feser about them last week , but (understandably) he was probably too busy to reply. You think you could reply. I saw your intelligent posts on A-T metaphysics and you seemed like a guy to ask.

    1. I'll take a look at your questions when I have time; but I don't claim to be an accomplished Thomist philosopher, merely a fan who has some formal education and later reading.

    2. Cool. I'm not a naturalist , but I feel like I've been drinking that reductionistic view of the world "with my mother's milk" so to speak.

  3. It seems Sterling's punishment is more of a lifetime achievement award than anything this particular trespass might warrant. For years in LA, stories have circulated about his underhanded, elitist and insulting behaviors in building up his real estate empire and running the Clippers - it might well be he's more of an enemy of poor people (effectively, everyone not a billionaire) in general than blacks in particular. But of course no one ever nailed him in court for anything the NBA was willing to bring the hammer down on. Instead, as you say, they work up outrage way out of proportion to this particular deed, and throw the book at him for stuff they could never prove but want to believe. Which, even for a man universally regarded as a slime ball, isn't fair. It's like noticing a lynch mob got the right guy - still not OK.

    I think his enemies see this as more of a nailing Al Capone for tax evasion sort of thing.

    1. Synchronicity: today, at the American Conservative:

      "As a fan of the NBA, I had been aware of Sterling’s history of racist comments in public and private, his settling of the largest housing discrimination lawsuit in history, and most of the varieties of Sterling’s debased character. I considered his punishment just as a lifetime achievement award, fitting to a body of disgraceful work that the audio merely served to bring together in the public eye in a culminating shame."

      Still - this is not the way a sane people go about seeking justice.

  4. Why didn't the phrase "NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award winner" appear on every headline and lead-in to this story?

    Or a recounting of the millions paid by the team to people of various and sundry skin colors, in their course of employment by the team?

  5. Downplaying racism or sexism is never a good idea. Sterling's private comments reflect an overall attitude of the heart, but neither would I defend Ray Lewis, who received his due punishment in time.

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