The Rules of the
January 13, 2000
Rocker case continues to reverberate. Rocker is of course the
Atlanta Braves pitcher who, late in the twentieth century, caused an
uproar by describing New York City unflatteringly. The ethnic-touchiness
lobbies took it very hard and demanded his head on a pike.
Major League Baseballs
commissioner, Bud Selig, was unable to deliver Rockers head
physically, but he did decree that said head be examined, sentencing
Rocker to the humiliation of psychological testing, after which, he hinted,
he might take further punitive measures.
Selig took a leaf from Soviet psychiatry
by stigmatizing Rockers views as symptoms of mental illness.
Rocker hadnt broken any known rule of baseball, let alone any law.
He apologized for any offense he had given, and later explained that he was
avenging himself (a little excessively, he admitted) for the rude
treatment he has received from New Yorks fans, who arent
especially renowned for gallant sportsmanship: in addition to the normal
verbal abuse, Rocker said, they have spat and poured beer on him, and in
one instance hit him with a thrown battery.
But its already treated as
established fact that Rockers remarks were racist
and bigoted. What did he actually say?
Well, he grumbled about
foreigners, noting that you can walk a whole block in New
York without hearing English spoken. Just what is racially invidious about
His most inflammatory sentence was
this one: Imagine having to take the 7 train to the ballpark, looking
like youre [in] Beirut next to some kid with purple hair next to
some queer with AIDS right next to some dude who just got out of jail for
the fourth time right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids.
Racist? The people he
describes could all be white. The ones with purple hair could hardly be
otherwise. If there is anything racist, its the
assumption that any mention of crime and illegitimacy must refer to
racial minorities who are entitled to take offense at any
acknowledgment of certain behavior patterns that are both obvious and
statistically verifiable. And if you dont practice the prescribed
double-think, you need your head examined.
A Lebanese-American friend of mine who
grew up in New York took exception only to Rockers comparison of
New York to Beirut. That aside, he thought it was a perfectly accurate
description of the New York he knows. It certainly matches the New York
you read about every day in the same New York tabloids that blasted
Rocker as a bigot.
One thinks of the wry remark of
Shakespeares earthy soldier Enobarbus, when Mark Antony rebukes
him for his bluntness: That truth should be silent I had almost
The old liberalism didnt demand
conformity of thought and feeling. It demanded only that the law treat
everyone alike, regardless of race, creed, and color. It honored freedom of
thought and opinion, however eccentric, because individual freedom was
the whole point of racial equality itself.
The newer liberalism wants to reduce
society to a collectivist horde in which even personal thoughts and
feelings are subject to state supervision and correction. It permits no
private reservations about its agenda.
There are no clear rules; its up to
the individual to avoid even incurring suspicion. Loose accusations of
bigotry are the norm, because being accused is in itself evidence of guilt.
Naturally, there are no penalties for making false charges, because, as in
the Soviet Union, even false charges help maintain the general discipline
Under the new liberalism, the entire
population must be kept in a state of constant intimidation, unsure of
what the individual is permitted to do and having to guess what the rules
mean and how they will be enforced. This marks a deep change from the
days when Americans assumed they were free to do anything the law
didnt explicitly forbid.
Of course this principle isnt
applied consistently. Major League Baseball has taken no disciplinary
action against the owner of Rockers team, Ted Turner, for his
insulting jokes about Catholics and Christianity last year. Nor did liberals
cry out against Turners bigotry; in fact, his liberal
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