• People Talk and My Ear Bleeds


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    Thursday, February 23, 2012

    ESPN, "Linsanity," and Acceptable Racism in America

    Recently, ESPN made headlines in a new sort of way - by firing an employee who made a headline with a racist double entendre. By now we mostly know the story.

    Anthony Federico, 28, made the far more stupid gaffe of the two on Saturday night when he posted the following headline on ESPN’s mobile website: "Chink in the Armor: Jeremy Lin's 9 Turnovers Cost Knicks in Streak-Snapping Loss to Hornets." The headline was posted at 2:30 in the morning, and then removed slightly more than a half an hour later when someone (finally) realized that it may be construed as an offensive remark. (link)
    One interesting take says that,
    By acknowledging this gaffe to such a degree, ESPN increased the social damage exponentially. ...

    From a public relations standpoint, the response from ESPN was a no-brainer. Yet, we ought to care more about the public's continuing recognition of fake words created by hate-mongers. By ignoring pre-existing definitions and acknowledging ridiculous slurs in an effort to not be considered racist, the media does the exact opposite.(link)

    That got me thinking about the collateral damage done by ESPN versus just quietly taking down the headline, and the phrase "the response from ESPN was a no-brainer." Everyone agrees that if "chink" is used in a racist manner, this is a horrible gaff and disciplinary action must be taken. But can we say it was meant that way? "Chink in the armor" is a common phrase used to describe a weakness in a previously perfect person.

    Do media outlets have to fire people who make mistakes with ambiguous intent because they could be deemed racist?

    What if the employee was African American? Asian? Does that change things?

    Recently, the African American community in Dallas, TX protested a gas station owned by a Korean man.
    The customer, complaining that the price of gas at the station was much higher than at other stations, demanded he be able to buy gas by smaller amounts than what the owner set as the minimum sales unit. The owner refused and told him to go to another station, to which the customer responded by telling the owner to go back to his country. The owner responded by telling the customer to go back to Africa.

    That triggered a boycott of the gas station by the black community in the region, followed by them speaking out against Korean and other Asian immigrant communities....

    The gas station owner publicly apologized on a Dallas radio program, attended by African American civic leaders like city councilman Eric Johnson. The Korea Society of Dallas also donated 500 winter coats to NAACP as a gesture of goodwill.(link)
    It's ok for the Black customer to tell the Korean man to go back to his country, but it's not ok for the Korean to tell him to go back to Africa?

    You can say it if you're black, but not if you're Asian?

    I am incredulous that the Korean and the Korean community had to apologize, but the African American community did nothing in kind. I don't think you should get a free pass if you're African American or Asian. Both people were in the wrong here. But clearly society doesn't feel the same way. A person seems to be given more latitude to say hurtful or racist statements if they are a minority - whether by race, gender, or sexual orientation - and perhaps certain minority groups get more latitude than others.

    So why does society do this?

    I don't know the answers. Racism is hurtful for everyone involved, and should not arise from anyone's mouth. But it does seem like - at least on a cursory read - when dealing with racist sayings, in American culture not all speakers are created equal.

    Sunday, February 19, 2012

    FBI Confiscates Websites

    A few short weeks ago, the internet came to a stop - at least in some corners - and the very foundations of internet freedom shook because a small group of very greedy Hollywood men and women sought to keep yet another copper for themselves. SOPA became a rally cry, unleashing a firestorm of frustration by the masses who see the MPAA and other media moguls in Hollywood as out of touch, lecherous, avaricious elitists who prey on old women because their grandchildren downloaded a song or two from Pirate Bay.

    Luckily, this sortie was repelled.

    Prior to this, however, the FBI started a practice that has gone relatively unnoticed but is - in my opinion - just as unnerving ... it shuts down websites for illegal activity with warrants and without waiting for a verdict. A few years back, right before the super bowl, the FBI shut down ten websites that streamed live sporting events illegally. This year, it shut down 16 more.

    *Now, I could go on about the morality or immorality of both the act of streaming illegally and the act of shutting them down, or the market forces and the need to evolve, but I will save that for another post...

    But now, the FBI has moved to shut down file sharing websites such as megaupload.com. While the FBI used the pretense that the owners are part of “the Mega Conspiracy, a worldwide criminal organization whose members engaged in criminal copyright infringement and money laundering on a massive scale," other file-sharing sites have severely restricted their services - offering only file-hosting - showing, therefore, that they see it instead as an attack on file-sharing.

    Which is truly a shame, because if the internet can be a place where the virtual storage unit is liable for what you or I place in our units, that jump to make sites liable for what we say (a la SOPA) is not too far off. And if they can regulate online before a case has even seen court, then how long before they move into the offline world? And all for what? So filmmakers can keep a few extra dollars?