Let me say publicly that DonBoy’s answer exudes a combination of intuitive genius and confidence that make me think DonBoy is going to do big things in his life. -- Steven D. Levitt (Freakonomics blog)
Saturday, October 18, 2003
(I wanted to call it Donnybrook, but you've got to have the "subject" in the first part of the made-up funnyname, not the second part, especially with "Easter" being more recognizable than "Brook".)
First: I'm guessing that this means that my amusing email to TMQ won't make it into the now-nonexistent column?
Second: Gregg Easterbrook seems to have been running his non-football writings under David Brooks' theory from Bobos in Paradise, that the way to make a splash is not to be right, but to be wrong and yet so provocatively wrong that the rest of the pundit class rushes into print with attacks on your view, all of them featuring your name prominently.
Third: It has become the received wisdom (in the last 12 hours!) that Michael Eisner personally ordered every trace of Easterbrook removed from the ESPN archives. Comments in this Calpundit posting debate whether that was justified, and/or if Easterbrook should have expected any differently -- but we don't know yet if that's exactly what happened. It's really easy to pretend to have an idea of what happens inside companies, but if you know the name of only a few people there, you probably don't have a good handle on how the decisions are made. So maybe a little less jumping to conclusions?
Fourth: Easterbrook's apology founders on a couple of points. Working backwards in it, he's got to know that however sincere, pushing his admiration of Judaism as a Christian is going to hit an exposed nerve that's not too far away from the one that his original piece hit. It may not be fair, but that's the state of play. Further, as had been amply said, his problem is not "poor wording", which is itself a piece of poor wording; his description of how he came to write what he did seems plausible to me, but it's poor thinking -- he says that originally he expected to criticize the executives of the companies involved as bad Christians, but on finding out they are Jewish, he applied the same criticism with a different spin. But once he discovered that the premise of his point was false, perhaps he should have rethought the whole thing -- since if it makes no difference, what's the point of bringing it up?
Plus, if they had turned out not be Jewish, it would still be appallingly presumptuous to criticize them as Christians, especially since he'd probably have no idea if they were at all religious as opposed to Christian-by-default. Conflating it with what he wrote earlier about Mel Gibson -- whose brand of Christianity is the entire point of his movie -- is ridiculous.
Fifth: Easterbrook's exact choice of words sets off alarm bells that I didn't catch until I thought about it for a while: it's that phrase "worship money above all else". That strikes me as a rather specifically antisemitic turn of phrase, and although he says that he first thought of the point about Christian executives, I wonder if those words came with that thought before he realized he was talking about Jews.
Sixth: I'm an American Jew, which puts me on one side of the line in this discussion; but I'm also a white American, which puts me on the other side of the line when the topic is race. The hardest thing for a "good" white American to learn is that no matter how anti-racist you are, you've got crap in your head that's been put there by years of living in a culture with a history. Sometimes that crap pops up. Your job is not to deny that it's there, but to recognize it and slap it down hard. Gregg Easterbrook's crap detector didn't go off. I don't think he's got more, or worse, crap than the rest of the non-Jewish, non-antisemitic public. But you've got to keep that detector tuned up.