Decency is the word of the day for Trump haters. Hardly a day passes without David Frum, Max Boot and the rest of the gang invoking “decency.”
Now David French has the answer to the free speech debate in the Washington Post. It’s decency!
Barr’s Twitter attack on Valerie Jarrett, now deleted: “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj” possessed zero redemptive value to offset the corporate pain. It was one of the most undistilled versions of racism you’ll ever read. It offered no attempt to engage with public policy or cultural controversy. In other words, it was both unprofessional and indecent.
Damore and Kaepernick’s speech, by contrast, could only be characterized as unprofessional and indecent if a person buys the notion that disagreement on matters of identity or patriotism is inherently suspect. A respectful, silent kneel, even if it scrapes against the reverence for the American flag that many NFL fans, myself included, feel, isn’t unprofessional. A thoughtful memorandum, even if it struck many readers as an ill-conceived assessment of, if not attack on, Google’s diversity efforts, isn’t indecent.
Kaepernick’s protest occurred within the context of an intense, ongoing public dialogue regarding police treatment of African Americans. Reasonable people can disagree about the propriety of placing this issue in the middle of a football game. But the issue’s urgency can’t seriously be placed in doubt.
Neither case involves personal insults of the type Barr has flung. In fact, both Damore and Kaepernick, in different ways, made clear they wanted to express support for those who felt most offended by their speech. In his memo, Damore stated, “I strongly believe in gender and racial diversity and think we should strive for more,” and he offered concrete suggestions as to how to improve female representation in Google’s ranks. Kaepernick reached out to veterans and, in an interview, explained to those who saw his protest as unpatriotic that “I’m not anti-American. I love America. I love people. That’s why I’m doing this.”
The Colin Kaepernick Foundation donated in April $25,000 to Assata’s Daughters, a Chicago “direct action” resistance organization honoring Assata Shakur, who escaped prison and fled to Cuba after being found guilty in the 1973 murder of Officer Werner Foerster.
Apparently Mr. Kaepernick is also a fan: He retweeted a July 16 message wishing Shakur a happy birthday.
I believe strongly in decency. I mourn that it’s vanishing.
But real decency requires a common language of internal values. And we no longer have that. So the calls for decency are meaningless. They’re calls for respecting forms. And the intersectional left mocks them as tone policing while deploying their, “Oh my goodness, how rude” routine against conservatives. Some of whom fall for it.
Decency derives from character.
Internal decency isn’t just form, it’s function. Decency is not just in how you say things, but in what you’re saying. And what you believe.
Some beliefs are indecent no matter how they’re expressed. Some are decent even if expressed in vulgar form.
A polite dissertation on the inferiority of the races isn’t more decent than a racial slur. It’s the same function with a different form. It’s equally indecent.
Likewise, Patton’s speech was as vulgar as it gets. And yet its decent purpose was to rally the defense of civilization.
The greatest football player to never play the game isn’t protesting the anthem to take a stand against police brutality. The anthem doesn’t honor the police. Occam’s Razor. He’s protesting the anthem to protest America.
French’s distinction is subjective. He cares about police brutality, but not about the Muslim Brotherhood. So a guy who cheers cop killers is in, but Roseanne is out. Speech isn’t measured by whether any given person feels that they engage with public policy. Everyone involved here was trying to do that in their own way.
There are decent ways to protest government policy. And indecent ones. But protesting the anthem is a protest against that nation’s legitimacy and existence. That is what black nationalists believe. If you don’t believe a country ought to exist, the decent way to protest it is to leave. The indecent way is to stay and undermine it.
We protect speech whether it’s decent or indecent. Public figures who represent a product or brand in the media, like Kaepernick or Roseanne, are external figures and have their speech closely connected to a company’s welfare. James Damore however did not represent Google. He was part of an internal debate within Google. His purge sent a message of internal intolerance.
“If you think that means “anything goes,” look to Roseanne. Tolerance for dissent is vital, but professionalism and decency aren’t — or shouldn’t be — too much to ask,” French concludes.
Professionalism and decency, as he unintentionally proves, are subjective.
Public protests against the anthem are unprofessional and clearly violate the NFL’s rules. Meanwhile Google had an atmosphere that encouraged debates. Likewise, networks encourage their talent to maintain popular Twitter accounts. Plenty of actors have spoken about the pressure of doing so. Nor do they have a problem with obscene remarks. Or for that matter racist ones, as long as they’re aimed the right way. But most of these debates are pointless because the system is rigged to reward left-wing views and punish right-wing ones, except when strategically necessary, e.g. Bee.
Radical movements don’t practice decency. The kind of decency French argues for comes from a comfortable middle class and its moderate social consensus. It comes from community, faith, and all those things that are falling apart.
There’s no point in preaching decency when they’re gone. Horse. Barn door.
If you want decency, rebuild values. And understand that people won’t follow forms for the sake of forms if there’s no longer a social consensus protecting their values.