October 24, 2003


WALTHAM'S GREGG EASTERBROOK: An Easterbrook-like brainfart by a sports columnist in the latest issue of the campus newspaper has caused yet another PC to-do at my alma mater Brandeis- but this time, for once in my life, I'm on the side of the PC zealots.
At the end of a not particularly strong column arguing that Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker cost his team the NLCS with his boneheaded moves (does that mean Bartman is off the hook?), Justice sports columnist Dan Passner had this to say about Baker:

As I often like to do, I will end with a quote. This one comes from noted campus civil rights activist [student's name]. I cannot endorse it, but I find it fitting. In response to the praise being heaped on the skills of Dusty Baker, [student] responded, "The only thing Baker has a Ph.D. in is something that starts with an N and rhymes with Tigger, the cheerful scamp who stole all of our hearts in the Winnie the Pooh series."

Let's quickly go through all the things that are wrong with that statement, and the column itself:

1. I'm all for being "edgy" and "controversial," and when I was a Justice editor I often bemoaned the paper's "first hurt no one's feelings" ethos. But on campus or not, in print or not, using (or in this case, eluding to) the "n-word" to refer to a black person is absolutely beyond the pale- you don't do it, period. Shame on Passner for writing it, shame on his friend for saying it, and shame on the Justice for running it.

2. Not only that, but the "joke" doesn't even make any sense. He has a "Ph. D. in [the n-word]?" What the hell does that mean? Is it some sort of new spin on Stuart Scott's "Ph. D: playa hatin' degree" line?

3. I don't know what the Justice was thinking here- did they not know the shitstorm this would cause? The current editors probably think it's "censorship" to edit out a controversial statement by one of their writers, apparently never having heard of "editorial judgment." If they bow to the inevitable pressure and fire Passner from his column gig, I won't object for a second.

4. If the author "doesn’t endorse" calling a man by the ugliest racial slur in the English language, how can he "find it fitting"? And why did he bother to include it in his column?

5. On top of all that, Passner's whole column is wrong- Baker is in fact one of the best managers in baseball, a man who took the Giants to the World Series in 2002, stepped down, and then managed the perennially underachieving Cubs to their best season in decades. The column is also chock-full of errors and other offensive and pretty questionable statements- Baker and Kenny Lofton "go together like Amos and Andy?" "Dusty seems as smart as Jessica Simpson, and his breasts seem to sag more?" Does he want to make fun of Dusty's kid while he's at it?

Passner also acts as though the acquisitions by the Cubs of Lofton, Randall Simon and Aramis Ramirez were failures, when in fact those three players helped the Cubs win a tight pennant race, as well as upset Atlanta in the first round. Passner seems to hate Baker to the degree that he has to make stuff up to support his opinions; indeed, he's just as wrong about Baker as Limbaugh was about McNabb.
The reaction from Brandeis' left, of course, has been so loud as to nearly be audible in Hoboken. A all-school "town meeting" was held Thursday night with the entire Justice Editorial Board; the requisite candlelight vigil can't be far behind.
According to an e-mail obtained by JawsBlog, one campus activist is somehow under the impression that Dusty Baker holds a doctorate from an Ivy League university (having made his major league debut at age 19, played 19 years in the majors, and managed for 11 more, it's hard to tell when he would've had time to earn such a degree.) The e-mail also brings up and attacks as racist an incident during this year's orientation week, when a hypnotist who was performing on campus asked a student under hypnosis to "speak Chinese," after which said student said "ching chang chong." Yes, you heard that right- under hypnosis.
This comes two years after "The Mens' Room Incident" in November of 2001, when a couple of guys on a campus radio show made some ill-advised ethnic jokes about Asians, and it caused more anger among many 'deis students than did certain other world events that were occurring at that particular period in history. With the Passner Affair now in full swing, we're obviously going to hear that Brandeis is "institutionally" racist, which is about as true as the post-TMQ accusation that The New Republic is anti-Semitic.
If anything, the PC lunacy that has enveloped my alma mater and other colleges for the past few years has had the effect of the Boy Who Cried Wolf- if everything under the sun is called racist, it takes away a lot of the sting on the rare occasion that something truly, blatently, racist- like Passner's attack on Dusty Baker- really does occur. My fellow Brandeisians would be wise to keep this in mind.
(Josh Wiznitzer has been on this story like glue; check out his blog for more.)

Posted by Stephen Silver at October 24, 2003 03:40 PM
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