Three years ago, I wrote in National Review:
Let us accept for the sake of argument that racism is bad, that homophobia is bad, that Islamophobia is bad, that offensive utterances are bad, that mean-spirited thoughts are bad. So what?
As bad as they are, the government's criminalizing all of them and setting up an enforcement regime in the interests of micro-regulating us into compliance is a thousand times worse.
Likewise, as bad as Donald Sterling is, what the NBA is doing is a thousand times worse:
"The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful. That they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage and my personal outrage," [Commissioner Adam] Silver said. "I am banning Mr. Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers association or the NBA. Mr. Sterling may not attend any NBA games or practices, he may not be present at any Clippers facility, and he may not participate in any business or decisions involving the team."
Everyone seems to agree that Sterling is a racist and always has been: He said he wouldn't rent apartments to blacks because they smell; and he has referred to the players of his Los Angeles Clippers as "niggers". All this has apparently been widely known for years, although not so well known that the NAACP hasn't lavished multiple awards on him, including his now hastily canceled Lifetime Achievement Award. Which seems odd.
But Mr Sterling's peerless record for Extraordinary Achievement in Racism is not the reason he has been banned for life by Commissioner Silver. Mr Silver is exiling Sterling only because of what he said in a private shouting-match with his mistress recorded without his knowledge and leaked to the press. As I understand it, owning an NBA franchise is roughly analogous to owning a home in a gated community, and Commissioner Silver is the enforcer from the homeowners' association. Even so, it is disturbing to see (as Bill Quick put it) "the use of a man's property be taken from him because of the way he expressed himself". And not just any property but a billion-dollar property the man has owned for a third of a century. Solely over views expressed in the course of a two-minute rant at his mistress about the other guys she pals around with.
Before the decision, Bill Maher Tweeted:
Sterling def. a racist,but take away his team? Clippers shldn't have played yesterday? Calm down,being an asshole is still legal in America
I'm not so sure being an asshole is still legal in America. Mr Silver has also fined Sterling $2.5 million - for something he said in his own home recorded without his knowledge. Kareem Abdul Jabar:
Didn't we just call to task the NSA for intruding into American citizen's privacy in such an un-American way..? The making and release of this tape is so sleazy that just listening to it makes me feel like an accomplice to the crime.
In a free society you should be able to make racist remarks in private without being fined and losing your property rights. Because the alternative is worse.
~Years ago, I met with a Russian oligarch, which is to say a man far richer than Donald Sterling, and with plenty of enemies. At the start of the meeting, everyone switched off their mobile phones and put them on the table. So I did, too. Then everyone removed the SIM cards. Which I'd never seen anyone do before, but evidently was routine to these chaps. So I fumbled with the back of my phone, and got mine out, too. And afterwards I did something wrong trying to jam the card back in, and the thing never worked again. Which didn't really bother me, as I barely make one cell phone call a month. But I was struck by the way these Russkie fellows lived their lives on the assumption that, wherever you were, whatever you were doing, there was always someone trying to record you, trying to get the goods on you.
Professional bodies in civilized societies should not be lending respectability to this practice. Technology is moving us inexorably into a world with less privacy. A world with no privacy at all - no privacy even to bawl out a lover - will change human behavior, and not in a good way. Donald Sterling's weirdly refined sense of propriety - he's happy to sleep with a black mistress, and he's happy for his black mistress to sleep with black men, but he doesn't want his black mistress Instagramming with her black men - derives in part from the bubble in which extremely rich men live, especially in America. The cautionary tale of his downfall will serve to drive the rich, simply out of self-protection, into even deeper insulation from ordinary life. That's not a good thing.
~When The Independent launched in London, the arts department and the sports department were put next to each other on (if memory serves) the third floor. I used to go into the office every now and then to rattle off a morning-after theatre review, and, being as how the arts department didn't usually have a spare desk, I took to going and writing my copy next door opposite the deputy sports editor. One morning, the door from the arts room opened and the waspish TV columnist, seeking a crucial bit of detail for some leaden jest he was essaying, leaned out and brayed to the sports lads: "Anybody here know what point size they use for headlines at The Sun?" And to a man they rose up all around and jeered back at him words to the effect of: "Oh, yeah, right. We're supposed to know that 'coz we're just beery sports blokes who can only read monosyllabic words in the tabloids when we're not looking at the Page Three girl's tits. Bog off, you tosser." Etc, etc.
I wouldn't make my former colleague's careless assumption today. In the 21st century's pansified American media the sports desk are the biggest pansies of all. Steve Sailer thinks this is because political correctness is all about not noticing things, and for sports reporters the stuff you're not meant to notice is staring you right in the face all day long:
There's a reason why run-of-the-mill sportswriters have long been among the most dopily politically correct for years. Political correctness is a war on noticing, and it's harder to not notice patterns when watching sports than almost anywhere else in life. If you turn on ESPN, you'll notice that on average, blacks can outjump and outsprint whites, that straight men and lesbian women like sports far more than do gay men and straight women, and that men are much better than women at sports.
Even so, the mawkish drivel from the sob-sisters of the sports pages is quite something. Adrian Wojnarowski:
For all these despicable revelations tumbling out of the hateful heart of Donald Sterling, there promises construction of a roadmap to redemption for the Los Angeles Clippers and the NBA... Magic Johnson is the ultimate cleanser in sports, and steering a Clippers sale to him could be transformative for the franchise. Truth be told, it could change the balance of basketball power in Los Angeles forever.
Oprah says Magic wants the team, and, if Oprah says it, it's probably going to happen. So let's see: Donald Sterling's mistress takes Magic Johnson to a Clippers game. And, in the course of complaining about her swanning around with Magic Johnson, Donald Sterling makes some racist remarks. So they take the team away from Donald Sterling and transfer it to ...Magic Johnson. Gee, that's awfully neat.
I miss those Fleet Street sportswriters.