Smearing the Smearers

As I’m sure you’ve heard, two black dudes went into a Starbucks last week and claimed a table without ordering anything. And then they (yes, apparently both of them at the same time) decided to use the bathroom. Because that’s what guys do in coffee shops with tiny one-toilet bathrooms—they go in together to watch each other piss.

After refusing the bathroom bruthas their bonding ritual, and after asking them to order something or relinquish their table (which they refused to do), the Starbucks manager called the cops, and a legend was born. The bathroom boys are now national heroes, their story told far and wide. After days of noisy protests and breathless media coverage, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson has not only apologized to the toilet twins, he’s also promised to close every Starbucks in the U.S. for one day next month so that the employees can be sent to diversity reeducation camp, where I’m assuming one of the lessons will be that there’s nothing at all odd about two grown men in sweatpants walking into a coffee shop without ordering anything and demanding to jointly go to the bathroom.

It’s a joke of a story, and here’s the joke-within-the-joke: Several prominent black activists are now protesting Starbucks’ capitulation to their protests because among the organizations brought in by the coffee giant for its Ludovico Technique reconditioning seminars is everyone’s favorite collection of farbissiners, the Anti-Defamation League. Women’s March co-chair and Louis Farrakhan fangirl Tamika Mallory has condemned the ADL’s inclusion in the brainwashing sessions because, according to her, the ADL is “constantly attacking black and brown people.” Professional brown person Linda Sarsour is also protesting the ADL’s presence in the coffee klatch.

Economics in One Lesso... Hazlitt, Henry Best Price: $2.43 Buy New $7.43 (as of 12:35 UTC - Details) Here’s why this is so damn funny: The ADL is one of the most smear-happy organizations in the world. Those lovable nebbishes never pass up an opportunity to defame a perceived foe. And now they’re the ones being smeared, because no, they are absolutely not “constantly attacking black and brown people.” The ADL does indeed counter Jew-haters of color like Farrakhan. But if you’re going to bring in the big guns to browbeat your employees over “diversity,” the ADL has as much of a right as the NAACP to man the specula and administer the eye drops.

As the ADL finds itself being compared to the KKK, I shed no tears for an organization that has made a cottage industry out of comparing people to the KKK. But I’m fascinated by the dynamics at play whenever the roles of smearer and smearee are reversed. And while the ADL/Starbucks controversy is garnering a fair amount of press, a lesser-known but perhaps more interesting example of smear reversal is playing itself out on movie screens across the country. The Lavender Scare is a documentary film that’s currently burning up the festival scene. The movie tells the story of the Eisenhower-era mass firing of gays from federal jobs. That policy was based on a belief that gay men in high-level government positions were a security risk because they could be easily blackmailed and thus manipulated by a foreign power…and while that was not a completely baseless assumption, it can be argued that any straight male employee with a mistress posed a similar risk.

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