November 03, 2003


THE JUSTICE LETTERS: The Passner story seems to be just about over so I don't expect to write much more about it (unless there's any news of note in tomorrow's Justice, which is certainly possible).
I finally read the 23 letters to the editor and was generally unimpressed- pretty much the same thing over and over again, with just about every letter writer bashing Passner, with some defending the Justice and some not. There didn't appear to be a single letter from any member of the BBSO or any other ICC-affiliated group, as they apparently decided to "speak with one voice," and submit the front-page "Unbreakable" manifesto as their collective response.
A few things worth commenting on in the letters: nice to see responses from not one but both of my assistants from my Arts Editor days (one of whom went on to become EIC); both expressed shame that Passner's remark was included but defended the integrity of the paper. One former editor who was from before my time, although I have met him once or twice, made the somewhat nonsensical argument that Passner shouldn't be "held accountable" because the words were his friend's and not his and he didn't endorse them, as though it weren't his decision to include them in the column. And two students do something that people used to all the time when I was at 'deis- they write a letter that's merely a creatively re-worded version of a certain sociology professor's pacifist manifesto.
Two different students- one of them borderline-illiterate, apparently- dispense with the racial angle altogether and merely attack Passner for being wrong on the baseball, which he certainly was. But there's one very valid point I didn't see made by anyone, which has been the first thing most non-Brandeis people I've showed it to have noticed: Passner's quote was not only racist and counterfactual, but it's also totally nonsensical: "a PhD in [n-word]"? Is there any form of slang anywhere in the English language in which that makes even the slightest bit of sense?
In fact, I think that might be Exhibit A for the case that the responsible Justice editors aren't actually racist: Assume for a moment that the Justice editors were racist conspirators, and it was their intention to publish a racially charged attack on Dusty Baker: wouldn't they at least have altered the quote to make it grammatically correct?

Posted by Stephen Silver at November 3, 2003 10:51 PM
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