The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Sunday, October 19, 2003


I don't usually blog topics covered by Instapundit. But I would be remiss if I did not write about the firing of New Republic writer-cum-football analyst-cum-blogger Gregg Easterbrook.

I shall resist the temptation to make any one of a number of snarky observations: Whether Easterbrook has changed his mind about ESPN's treatment of Rush Limbaugh; whether ESPN could have found more deserving targets when combatting anti-Semitism; whether anyone should bother reading ESPN given that a writer could reasonably fear being punished for criticizing, say, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks?

Let's focus on broader and more important issues:


  • The culture war -- by which I mean the battle to eradicate crudity, sex, and violence from television, movies, and music -- is officially over. It has of course been over for a long time, just as Rome was defunct long before the official expiry listed in history books. But just as the official act that ended the Roman Empire was the German king Odoacer's dismissal of his puppet Roman emperor in 476, so October 2003 will be remembered as the date when the culture war breathed its final breath.

    Consider: A well-known and respected political writer criticizes a movie which contains excessive gory violence, and no redeeming cultural values. ("No redeeming cultural values" is a judgement proclaimed by the movie itself; said movie's stated purpose is to recall earlier fight-porn movies while providing an order of magnitude more mayhem.) Attention is drawn to an unfortunate side note in this criticism which offends an ethnic group. But at no time is the denunciation of the movie considered worthy of comment. The people involved with the making of the movie offer no defense; this is because there is not the slightest expectation that a defense is required.

  • Easterbrook's firing shows us why political correctness is destructive and immoral. Political correctness is evil not because people are punished for what they say, but because the punishment is entirely out of proportion to the offense.

    Easterbrook's meandering and half-hearted apology shows that he is still trying to come to grips with the idea that he has ceased to become an entertaining football writer; society now expects that if he comes near a mirror, he shall recoil like Dr. Jekyll seeing himself as Mr. Hyde in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. One can imagine his thoughts: "What on earth is going on? I'm not a Protocols-of-the-Elders-of-Zion conspiracy nut like the head of the Festive Fezzes. Wait ... not writing TMQ anymore ... just call him the Prime Minister of Malaysia."

    The previous politically correct lynching occurred just two weeks ago, when Rush Limbaugh said on ESPN that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was overrated because the media wanted to see a black quarterback do well. Note that Limbaugh did not say that McNabb could not play well because he was black. He did not say that the media was biased against whites. Limbaugh criticized the pro-McNabb media for being too well-intentioned to make a realistic appraisal of McNabb's playing abilities.

    Limbaugh was fired that weekend.

  • Those who live by the sword, die by the sword. When Trent Lott said that America would have been better off if then-Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond had been elected president in 1948, there was an immediate cry for his head. Nowhere was this outcry louder than in the blogosphere -- and there was an unseemly campaign to get Lott fired just to demonstrate the power of the blogosphere. Okay, here's your power of the blogosphere: Easterbrook writes something unfortunate on his blog and is summarily dismissed from his ESPN gig. Are you happy now?

    In his penultimate TMQ column -- no link, for obvious reasons -- Easterbrook said of Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett that the NFL should "ruin him if necessary." What was Clarett's offense? Clarett did not, like Raider Bill Romanowski, punch a teammate in the eye, breaking his socket and ending his career. Unlike Raven Ray Lewis, he was not present -- and formally charged with murder -- when a man stabbed another man to death. He did not, like University of Nebraska star Lawrence Phillips, drag his girlfriend down several flights of stairs.

    Maurice Clarett was a star athelete who helped to generate money and fame for Ohio State. He was paid, like a medieval serf, in kind; he was given a free education, but was not allowed to receive money from the university or a third party. While perpetrating the fiction that he had any interest in college, he was caught cheating on his exams. Clarett is attempting to leave college for professional football, and has filed suit against the NFL to force them to lower their age limit.

    Now Clarett does not seem like a particularly nice person. But why should he be forced to participate in the sham that he has anything in common with the average college student? For his attempt to introduce some honesty in sports, a 20-year-old is to be ruined? Easterbrook is currently about halfway to ruin. He still has his New Republic gig, and I hope he keeps it -- but it would not be surprising if he were to be fired from that job too. Maybe he will think twice about casually expressing his hope for others' destruction.


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