Friday, July 27, 2018

Taking Offense, Once Again

Following removal of Roseanne from "Roseanne," President Trump responded not by honestly defending Ms. Barr but by proposing Samantha Bee be fired. "But," Bill Maher remarked soon afterward, "fat Donnie is not the only one that demands everyone be fired all the time."

"For free speech," Maher stated, "this has become a terrifying time in human history." He added "conservatives govern without shame and liberals shame without governing."

It's not only conservatives, though. as demonstrated by executives at New Jersey 101.5 FM, a radio station never confused with liberalism. We learn

It took just hours for a conservative radio station in New Jersey to suspend two of its most prominent talk-show hosts after the pair repeatedly referred to state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, a practicing Sikh, as “Turban Man.”

“The guy with the turban,” New Jersey 101.5 host Dennis Malloy said on the air Wednesday, referring to Grewal. He then declared he would never learn the name of the state’s top prosecutor, a key foe of President Donald Trump.

Turban Man,” his co-host, Judi Franco, replied in a sing-song voice during a broader discussion about a recent action taken by the attorney general.

“Listen, and if that offends you, then don't wear the turban and maybe I'll remember your name,” Malloy said. “If you called me ‘Baseball Hat Man’ and I was in a culture where no one wore baseball hats … should I be offended?”....

But this latest incident, which gained widespread public attention after audio of the show was shared on Twitter Wednesday evening, was met with swift anger and, to the surprise of some, an apology and action by the station. The reaction seemed to highlight how quickly public outcry can can grow over insensitive comments in an age in which the level of political discourse has shifted dramatically since Trump became president.

Perhaps this overreaction results from an under-reaction to the President of the United States of America, who routinely ridicules andpersonally condemns individuals and faces no penalty, ever.

Nonetheless, a "that's just Trump being Trump" attitude does not justify what Maher refers to as "making every offense a hanging offense" (though unfortunately he blames liberals for an affliction spread throughout society).  While neither Mr. Malloy nor Ms. Franco was charged with a "hanging offense," they were charged with a lesser felony, for what context would suggest should have been viewed as a mere disorderly persons offense. 

 When Mr. Grewal was nominated by the govenor, Politico had reported

“Throughout the campaign, I made it clear that in selecting the best and the brightest to serve in our administration, I also would strive to ensure that our cabinet reflected our tremendous diversity,” Murphy said.

The 44-year old Grewal

is both the state’s first Sikh county prosecutor and the first county prosecutor of South Asian descent.

The Glen Rock resident said he abandoned his work in private practice several years ago to pursue a career as a prosecutor, viewing it as a way to “give back” and also to send a message.

“I wanted to give back to a country that has given us and other immigrant families like us so much,” he said, standing beside Murphy. “And, in the process, I wanted to perhaps show people that, while I and others like me may look different, or worship differently, that we too are committed to this country.”

The governor vowed to "strive to ensure that our cabinet reflected our tremendous diversity" and the then-nominee "wanted to perhaps show people that, while I and others like me may look different, or worship differently..."

The personalities at the New Jersey radio station did not identify Mr. Grewal by his ethnicity or religion- the latter and the governor already had already played the identity politics card, several months earlier. As if to confirm Maher's critique six weeks earlier of politics exquisite, un-liberal sensitivity, Governor Murphy

released a statement calling the comments “abhorrent and xenophobic” and urged New Jersey 101.5 to “hold the hosts accountable for these intolerant and racist comments.”

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) tweeted that the “hateful rhetoric doesn’t reduce Gurbir,” but rather “reduces and disgraces the one who uses it.” He called on all to “denounce this ignorant and outrageous attack.”

Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla, also a Sikh American, tweeted, “Hey Racist Man,” at the Dennis and Judi show’s account.

A flood of condemnations from civil rights groups and politicians from both major political parties spilled into Thursday, when state lawmakers spoke out on the Senate floor.

Grewal has sent a message- that religion is synonymous with national descent. When the Hoboken mayor tweeted "hey racist man," he was making the same mistake as did the Attorney General, who carelessly declared "I'm a Sikh American."

Well, no. Grewal is an American of Asian descent or, as he prefers, an American of Indian descent. His religion is Sikh. He is no more a "Sikh American" than your neighbor is a "Protestant American." She is an American Protestant (alternatively, a Protestant) and he is an American Sikh. This is not insignificant, given the importance of both religion and ethnicity in the USA.

We  have become too discomfited by insensitive speech and demand a pound of flesh, in this instance a ten-day suspension and an apology. In a rebuke to the importance of free expression, the bounds of acceptable discourse (except in the case of D. Trump) have been continually narrowed while- not coincidentally- those of action have been widened.

"Yes, you disappeared Roseanne," Maher noted in June before sarcastically adding "and that sent a strong message to all the other racist Republican TV stars who suffer from multiple personality disorder." Democrats Murphy, Bhalla, and Booker (joined by spineless Republicans) may believe the action taken by 101.5 FM may change things, but it will have little impact. It will slightly increase bias- at least that which is driven underground- while we continue to be (in Maher's observation) "too comfortable with the clean out your desk card."

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