The Culture of Tyranny
can you defend an oaf like John Rocker? a friend asked me
recently. I dont disagree with you, but when you take
up his cause youre just begging to be called a racist yourself.
smeared as a racist is just part of the game these days.
Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Courts evisceration of libel law
in the name of the First Amendment, you cant do much about
it. But the worst thing you can do is to accept the role of defendant
and let yourself be intimidated by the ethos of laissez-faire libel.
Atlanta Braves star relief pitcher, has now been fined and
suspended for the early part of the coming season by Major League
Baseballs commissioner, Bud Selig. The sentence also includes
sensitivity training, on top of the psychological examination
Rocker has already submitted to. Selig said that Rockers unflattering
remarks about New York offended practically every element
of society and brought dishonor to himself, the Atlanta Braves,
and Major League Baseball.
I disliked Rocker from the first time I saw him pitch. Hes
an abrasive man, like a lot of athletes nowadays. But that doesnt
justify New Yorks fans in spitting on him, pouring beer on
him, and throwing batteries at him. Neither do his opinions about
New York justify Selig in punishing him and, particularly, humiliating
him as a thought-criminal in need of a Soviet-style cure.
If Rocker had
broken some well-defined rule, it would be one thing. But Major
League Baseball, as far as I know, has no speech code. Selig himself
has brought dishonor on the sport by trying, in a totally arbitrary
manner, to impose taboos on the expression of opinion taboos
that didnt apply to Ted Turners crude jokes about Catholics,
the Pope, and Poles. (Turner, the Braves owner, has apologized;
but so has Rocker, unavailingly.)
been roundly condemned as a racist even though he never
mentioned race. But liberal invective is routinely accepted as free
throws a lot of light on the prevailing thought-crime code. Thought-crimes
differ from ordinary crimes in several respects.
arent defined. Nobody knows exactly what racism
is; it can mean anything the accuser wants it to mean. And it rarely
refers to overt acts; usually it refers to the alleged thoughts
or attitudes of the accused.
has to be proved and since the word has no clear definition,
nothing can be proved. So the accuser bears no burden of proof,
as he would in cases of ordinary crimes. The accused is presumed
guilty as long as the accusation is sufficiently strident. And,
given the vagueness of the charge, he cant prove he isnt
most important, nobody ever has to pay a price for making a false
or reckless accusation. Nobody is ruined or disgraced for making
loose charges of racism. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton
continue to thrive after making far more wild charges than Joe McCarthy.
have to worry about being falsely accused of murder, because everyone
knows what murder is, there are clear procedures for testing the
charge, and anyone who makes a false accusation against you can
be sued or even jailed. But everyone has to worry about being accused
of racism, because these safeguards dont exist
when that poisonous charge is leveled.
If you really
think racism is a serious matter, you want the word to mean something
definite and you want to make sure that innocent people are safe
from false charges of it. Otherwise, the word merely becomes a weapon
that can be picked up and wielded by opportunists and tyrants to
create a climate of intimidation.
describes the methods of those who profess to oppose racism in America
today? The answer is obvious. Charges of racism are made so promiscuously
that everyone has to walk on eggs to avoid incurring them. And no
accuser has to worry about any penalty for damaging an innocent
mans good name.
Such a situation
can only breed such thought-police as Jackson and Sharpton, paving
the way for tyranny. It may not frighten the Ku Klux Klan, but other
people will learn to speak guardedly in multicultural America.
Reactionary Utopian archives. Watch Sobran's last TV appearance
Learn how to get a
tape of his last speech during the FGF Tribute to Joe Sobran
in December 2009. To subscribe to or renew the FGF E-Package, or
support the writings of Joe Sobran, please send a tax-deductible
donation to the: Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, P.O. Box 1383, Vienna,
VA 22183 or subscribe online.
Sobran (19462010), conservative turned libertarian, was one
of the most significant American writers. See his
website and his
(c) 2000 Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation
Best of Joseph Sobran