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Jewish World Review July 14, 2000/ 11Tamuz, 5760

Larry Elder

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Politically correct double standards -- WHAT DO syndicated talk show host Dr. Laura, sports interviewer Jim Gray, director Quentin Tarantino, the Confederate flag, and John Rocker have in common? Answer: They occupy the wrong side of America's politically correct divide.

Syndicated talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger referred to gays as "biological errors." Quick, call the sponsors. Get this woman off the air!

But rapper Eminem frequently uses the term "faggot." His defense? "'Faggot' to me doesn't necessarily mean gay people. 'Faggot' to me just means ... taking away your manhood. You're a sissy. You're a coward. Just like you might sit around in your living room and say, 'Dude, stop, you're being a fag, dude.' This does not necessarily mean you're being a gay person. It just means you're being a fag. You're being an a--hole or whatever. That's the way that the word was always taught to me. That's how I learned the word. Battling with somebody, you do anything you can to strip their manhood away. So, when I started saying 'faggot' on record, I started getting people going, 'You have something against gay people,' and I thought it was funny. Because I don't."

So, apparently, here's the rule. Speakers may use offensive terms provided the speaker says, with a straight face, no offense intended. Eminem finds the term "faggot" synonymous with, say, "wimp," and, therefore, homosexuals should take no offense. Case closed. Funny, that didn't work for Dr. Laura, who says she harbors no ill will towards gays.

Nor did the Eminem Defense work for director Quentin Tarantino. As discussed a couple of weeks ago, black director Spike Lee attacked Tarantino for using the "N" word 38 times in the movie "Jackie Brown." Said Lee, "I'm not against the word, and I use it, but not excessively (emphasis added).

And some people speak that way. But Quentin is infatuated with that word." Suppose Tarantino said, "Look, Spike, I simply use the term in a descriptive way, the way many blacks do. Kind of like calling someone 'dude,' or 'homie.'" Would that defense fly?

Well, does the Eminem Defense apply to, say, the controversy over the Confederate flag?

In National Review, writer Michael Graham says, "According to a Gallup poll taken in May at the height of the (South Carolina) legislative debate, only 28 percent of Americans say that the Confederate flag is a symbol of racism, while 59 percent of Americans say the flag is more a symbol of Southern pride. And in South Carolina, 49 percent of those surveyed supported flying the flag on statehouse grounds while only 21 percent supported its complete removal from public display."

So, under the Eminem Defense, what's the NAACP's beef? After all, say white defenders of the Confederate flag, we fly the flag to symbolize Southern heritage, and the valiant battle for states' rights. We make no statement about slavery, and we do not intend to demean anybody black. Does that wash?

Which brings us to another case of double standards. A Sports Illustrated reporter, Jeff Pearlman, interviewed John Rocker, the Atlanta Braves relief pitcher. The quotes Pearlman chose to use made John Rocker America's No. 1 bigot.

But when television sports reporter Jim Gray interviewed Pete Rose on live national television, many felt Gray hounded Rose. Did you, Pete, Gray repeatedly asked, bet on baseball? But the story became not Rose's denial, but Gray's persistence, unwarranted, said many. Yet Sports Illustrated writer Jeff Pearlman received little such criticism for his article on John Rocker. Unlike Gray, Pearlman did not interview Rocker on live television, without the benefit of editing or reflection. No, Pearlman took Rocker's incendiary remarks and fashioned them in an article. No one needed Nostradamus to predict the fallout.

Now, Toronto pitcher Dave Wells claims that Pearlman victimized him. In a recent Sports Illustrated cover story on the All-Star pitcher, Pearlman criticized Wells' weight. Indeed, the title reads: "The David Wells Diet: Chips, Beer, and American League Batters." Wells feels demeaned. More importantly, Wells claims that Pearlman never interviewed him, sending instead someone else to interview Wells and obtain quotes. Wells states, had he known Pearlman would write the article, he would never have consented to the interview. "All it talks about is me being fat and what I did when I was in New York basically," said Wells. "Read it. It's stupid. The guy screwed John Rocker, and all of a sudden I'm victim No. 2."

This gives us another rule. Aggressive questioning, placing an interviewee in a bad light, is OK, provided the "target," like John Rocker, is a bigot.

If, however, the interviewee, like Rose, is a convicted felon refusing to acknowledge the obvious, then hang the interviewer.

Hope you were taking notes.

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