Donald Sterling, Defender of Freedom
The penalty given Donald Sterling by the NBA – a $2.5 million fine, lifetime ban from all NBA games and practices, complete isolation from the Clippers -- is undoubtedly the most severe ever handed down to anybody for a remark made in the privacy of his own home.
As is commonplace with our free media establishment today, a number of elements are being overlooked in this story.
There’s a close resemblance to the Paula Deen mess of recent memory. Both involve wealthy individuals, with large levels of public exposure, and rather unpleasant personalities, being attacked using means which, on their face, are completely illegitimate. In both cases, the media has gone along with the joke without any sign of hesitation.
With Deen, the material, derived from a thirty-year-old deposition (a fact lost on just about everyone – if you’d conducted a poll you’d have discovered that the vast majority believe that she’d made her remarks the previous week), was apparently intended to bolster a lawsuit by a disgruntled ex-employee against her brother. (Exactly how this was supposed to derail the suit is not clear to me.) With Sterling, it’s evidently aimed at an investigation of a former trophy girlfriend sixty years his junior who is suspected of embezzling $1.8 million. (And no, I don’t I don’t know how it’s supposed to work here either.)
The second point involves illegality. In both cases laws were clearly broken to reveal the offending statements. With Deen, it was the unauthorized opening of a sealed deposition, with Sterling an illegally acquired recording of himself laying down the law to his mistress. In neither case has any point of this been made by national media. Racism, it seems, is so horrible and unforgiveable that any crime is justified in rooting it out.
Which leads us to the third point: the fact that there is no longer a right to privacy where racism is concerned. Both Deen and Sterling had perfect expectations of privacy. These were violated without a second thought. No such expectation can now be held with regard to racism. As time passes this will be extended to sexism, heterosexism, and the entire politically-correct litany. Anybody who thinks this will not work its way down the ladder from billionaires and media empresses to John and Jane Doe has not yet encountered millennial political ideology in action. Thought control is coming in through the back door, by means of a totally unfettered media structure. Government agencies and departments will not be far behind.
(Note how both cases differ from that of Cliven Bundy. Deen and Sterling were minding their own business. Bundy happily collaborated with the legacy media in his own public humiliation.)
Deen appears to have recovered handily from her initial battering. Sterling should take heed of this and stand firm. (If I were him, I’d start taking steps to shut down the Clipper franchise. Adam Silver and the NBA appear to believe that they can transform Sterling into a pariah and make him pay for it too. Sterling should call their bluff and start closing offices and bank accounts. Let Silver answer the millionaire players and coaching staff who will be banging on his door after their checks stop coming.)
But it can’t be left only to the principals. The rest of the country has to act as well. John Stuart Mill once pointed out that rights of free speech and thought stand in defense of unpopular causes as much as they do those that are widely accepted. The same is true of noxious individuals, however much we might prefer otherwise. Anybody who thinks differently will have plenty of time to reflect on the idea as he waits in front of his block monitor’s desk in ten years to explain the doubleplusungood remark his smartphone recorded him making.