Some Not-So-Random Thoughts on the Redskins Controversy

These days when the National Football League isn’t dealing with the latest player to be accused of hitting their wife/girlfriend/child, they have to deal with another big issue; the nickname of the football in team in Washington, DC.  The fight to have the name changed , has waxed and waned over the years and now is one of those times when it is high in the social consciousness.

Now, I do think there is no good reason to keeping the name.  Even if it wasn’t meant to make fun of Native Americans, it is being perceived that way now and should be changed.

But even though I support changing the name, I find myself more and more uncomfortable by the rhetoric coming from “my” side.   It seems as if being on the “right side of history” ( a term that I am increasingly uncomfortable with), gives folks the right to be as boorish to others as they so desire. How I’ve seen people acting in regards to the Redskins reminds me how degraded public discourse has become in our society and how much emphasis we place on symbols as opposed to actually doing anything of substance.

The most recent tale involving the football team involved a number of fans being interviewed by the Daily Show.  The fans were told that they were going to be on the show to defend the right to use the Redskins name.  When asked if they would have to confront Native Americans during the interview, the crew said no.  And so the interview begins and the fans are confronted by Native Americans.

Now, leave aside the stupidity of the fans in thinking the Daily Show was not going to skewer them, there’s something a little mean-spirited about this.  Yes, the Native Americans have a right to be aggreived, but it just doesn’t seem fair to gang up on a bunch of people and lifting them up for public ridicule.

Of course there are those who think otherwise.  They believe anyone that defends the name is an active racist.  I remember talking with a theologian about this a few months ago.  I tried to tell him that most of these people aren’t trying to offend Native Americans.  His response was basically that he viewed anyone as suspect if they supported the nickname.

We live in a time when we view the other, the person we disagree with not simply as wrong or mistaken, but as evil, as something that is foul and not deserving of decency.  I think the fans and Dan Synder, the owner of the team are wrong in their support of the nickname.  But I don’t see them as somehow evil or not worthy of respect.  And I don’t see how such attitudes would actually make a difference in getting Synder to change the name.  It seems to have made him dig in his heels more, not less.

What has been sorely missed in this debate is any notion of civility.  I know that some will roll their eyes and think that I am talking about “being nice.” That’s not what I’m talking about.  What I am talking about is how to talk about sensitive issues with a bit more grace and less condescension.

Civility in this context would include two things: actually listening to other side, even if we think they are wrong and then with explaining your position with calm and humility.

Listening to the other side would mean understanding that the Redskins name has meant something to the fans and the team over the last 80 years.  For many, it didn’t mean intentionally dishonoring Native Americans, but it meant going to the old RFK stadium and cheering on the team, especially during the years when they went to the Superbowl.  This isn’t a reason to keep the name, but it does show how important the name was to many folks in the Washington, DC metro area over the decades.

About a year ago, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote a piece about the controversy that has been the “gold standard” on how to deal with this issue and how to keep it in perspective.  He explained why the name should be changed without resorting to mocking the other side.  His column is a reminder that things aren’t so black and white on this issue. He explains why he thinks the Redskins should adopt a new name:

I don’t like being lectured by sportscasters about ethnic sensitivity. Or advised by the president of the United States about changing team names. Or blackmailed by tribal leaders playing the race card.

I don’t like the language police ensuring that no one anywhere gives offense to anyone about anything. And I fully credit the claim of Redskins owner Dan Snyder and many passionate fans that they intend no malice or prejudice and that “Redskins” has a proud 80-year history they wish to maintain.

The fact is, however, that words don’t stand still. They evolve.

Krauthammer makes his case without resorting to name calling or coersion.  I remember when I first read it I was convinced of his argument because it was presented  taking into account the humanity of the other side.

As Krauthammer notes, this is an important issue- but it isn’t the Cuban Missal Crisis or Brown v. Board of Education. Let’s learn to act accordingly.

 

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171 thoughts on “Some Not-So-Random Thoughts on the Redskins Controversy

  1. Civility in this context would include two things: actually listening to other side, even if we think they are wrong and then with explaining your position with calm and humility.

    To be fair, though, Dennis… this is a two-way street.

    If neither side is committed to civility, it ain’t gonna be there. If only one side is committed to civility, it ain’t gonna be there for very long.

    Too often folks use the mantle of civility as the cover for them to not listen to the other side, but instead to explain their own. And while they often assume the guise of calmness, they’re not interested in listening to the other side, they have no intention of ever changing their mind about anything, and they’re just waiting for the other guy or gal to get frustrated at which point the passive-aggressive prodding begins, resulting in the holier than thou, “Well, if you can’t discuss this nicely

    This has been a pretty recognizable pattern, ’round the Internet, since the days of Usenet, but it’s getting mainstreamed.

    If you’re not interested in listening, you’re not interested in civility, and you deserve only enough civility for it to be established that you’re not interested in listening.

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    • Yes, this.

      And there’s a good argument that defending the name “Redskins” is, in and of itself, highly uncivil to Native Americans. Because there’s basically no way a non-Native person can tell a Native person “you shouldn’t be offended by the name for x, y, and z reasons, and the team should keep it” without being uncivil, even if they keep an even tone while doing so.

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    • You are implying that defending the use of “Redskins” is uncivil per se. I disagree with this. This is just an excuse for people against the name to act uncivil towards ttheir opponents.

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      • Actually, I wasn’t implying that defending the use of “Redskins” is uncivil, per se.

        I was arguing that the general attitude of “treat me with civility so that I can say what I want to say, at which point I’m out” is uncivil.

        Dennis said: “Civility in this context would include two things: actually listening to other side, even if we think they are wrong and then with explaining your position with calm and humility.”

        I agree with that. But if you’re not actually listening to the other side, you’re not behaving with civility at all.

        You’re just assuming that “Shut the hell up and listen to what I have to say, because I have opinions and they are important” is an appropriate way to engage with the world, and then crying because people rightly interpret you as wanting to pontificate and not listen.

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      • But if you’re not actually listening to the other side, you’re not behaving with civility at all.

        You are assuming that Daniel Snyder and his supporters aren’t listening to the other side, when you have presented no evidence that is the case. Just because they don’t agree and don’t find their arguments persuasive doesn’t mean they didn’t listen.

        Snyder is under no obligation to his protestors; it’s not like he is campaigning to win a referendum. The obnoxiousness with which the anti-Redskin protestors are acting isn’t helping their cause.

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      • Ehhh, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Snyder’s not listening. Other fans of the team and supporters of the name are different story, but Snyder himself pretty clearly isn’t given the tone-deaf way in which he’s responded.

        Someone who’s listening would not proclaim “”We’ll never change the name . . . .It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”

        Nor would he state “”We understand the issues out there, and we’re not an issue…”

        And he certainly would not persistently refuse invitations to meet with either the Oneida Nation or Ms. Blackhorse.

        One of the reasons this issue has gotten so much traction, in fact, is that Snyder’s made such a point of making it clear that he’s not listening and not interested in listening.

        Had Snyder just taken the position that the Chicago Blackhawks have taken over the years, it would have remained a second-tier story. That position is, essentially “We’re always listening and will do all we can to maintain and strengthen the lines of communication with American Indian groups to make sure that we treat this issue as responsibly and respectfully as possible, but are not prepared to change our name or logo at this time.” That doesn’t stop opponents from protesting, obviously, but it avoids the creation of conflict, perception, and absolutism that drives media coverage and allows for public pressure to build.

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      • You are assuming that Daniel Snyder and his supporters aren’t listening to the other side, when you have presented no evidence that is the case.

        Remember I was making a general observation. I’m not really talking specifically about Daniel Snyder in this case. Although I don’t know that I really need to present evidence that Dan isn’t interested in listening to the folks that are offended by his team’s moniker.

        “”We’ll never change the name,” he said. “It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.””

        That’s not something that someone says if they’re open to dialogue.

        In this specific case, though, I think it’s pretty clear that the supporters in question weren’t interested in listening to the other side. By their own version of accounts.

        Just because they don’t agree and don’t find their arguments persuasive doesn’t mean they didn’t listen.

        Yes, that’s fair enough, but it only gets you so far.

        Snyder is under no obligation to his protestors; it’s not like he is campaigning to win a referendum.

        If he expects civility, then he is certainly under an obligation to his protestors, he’s under the same obligation to listen to them and explain his side calmly and with humility. If he doesn’t expect civility, he can do whatever the hell he wants. He can tell them nothing, he can tell them to go bite a banana, he can confess that he’s actually Zandru, True God of The Peoples.

        The obnoxiousness with which the anti-Redskin protestors are acting isn’t helping their cause.

        So far, I really haven’t seen the anti-Redskins folks act with any more obnoxiousness than they’re receiving.

        I think you’re quite possibly a prime candidate for this thing I’m pointing. You think civility means we have a positive obligation to treat people with civility.

        My whole point is we have no such thing. We have an obligation to treat people with civility when they’re engaged in civility. If they’re not engaged, it might still be a good idea to stay within the realm of civility, but that’s certainly not because they’ve earned it.

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    • Of course this just raises the question if there was ever civility and wanting to listen to the other side in the first place or are we just misremembering our youths and thinking of a golden age that never was.

      I’d like to think reasonable people can disagree but the stance might have always been “you are bad and should feel bad”

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    • “If you’re not interested in listening, you’re not interested in civility, and you deserve only enough civility for it to be established that you’re not interested in listening.”

      So, basically, you just agreed with Dennis.

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  2. Why is this even a question?

    What if it were the “Philadelphia Negroes” or the “San Francisco Chinamen“? Or even the “Indianapolis Whitefolk”?

    It wouldn’t be a question. Any such name ought to change. The continuing insistence of the Washington Redskins to call themselves the “Washington Redskins” instead of any number of perfectly inoffensive nicknames remains too difficult for me to justify.

    I can say a team nickname like the “Atlanta Braves” does some honor to Native American warriors, with a straight face. But I can’t say that “Washington Redskins” does the same, not without the internal wince that would tell me I was saying something that I just didn’t believe.

    Even the “Cleveland Indians,” although… No. Not the Cleveland Indians, especially not with that logo.

    Anyway, should the government force them to change their name? No. But the free market should.

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      • “None of those being considered racial slurs today, is a significant distinction.”

        The only reason that “Forty-Niners” isn’t a slur now is that we’re a hundred and fifty-five years removed from the original events.

        “Only one, the Irish, is a race or ethnicity, and it’s an in-group identification without significant objection from the group being identified.”

        Hm, so if we can find some native Americans who say they don’t mind then we’re okay with “Redskins”? Okay then! Oh wait, you said “significant” objection. Well, there’s an awful lot of ways to define “significant”, aren’t there?

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      • I’ll admit that California history isn’t my specialty, but how was “’49’ers” actually a slur, let alone an ethnic one? I mean, I guess one can tease out an assumption in there that all whites who moved to California in the mid-19th century were somehow super greedy or naive and after only gold or the opportunity to exploit those who were after gold. But did the targets of the nickname really ever take offense at it?

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      • The only reason that “Forty-Niners” isn’t a slur now is that we’re a hundred and fifty-five years removed from the original events.

        And? The connection here is weak. One is a racial/ethnic group, the other isn’t. One is historic, the other is present-day. One objects, the other there isn’t much of anybody to object to.

        Hm, so if we can find some native Americans who say they don’t mind then we’re okay with “Redskins”? Okay then! Oh wait, you said “significant” objection. Well, there’s an awful lot of ways to define “significant”, aren’t there?

        Yep. The more objection you can find, the stronger your case. The Fighting Irish have virtually no case because they haven’t been able to round up serious objectors.

        There are actually people who object to names like Cowboys and the like, on the basis that they were the ones that massacred the tribes or somesuch. But these arguments have little traction because not many people buy into it.

        To take action here, first you have to find somebody to actually find it offensive. Then, they have to be able to convince others that their offense is reasonable. an ethnic slur like Redskins strikes me as being pretty reasonable. Snyder needs to find some tribes to come to his defense. If he can’t, that’s a problem as far as I’m concerned. If he can, then I’ll personally probably file it away with Seminoles.

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      • No one is trying to change the Sooners because that’s a description that Oklahomans have embraced and chosen to apply to themselves with some degree of pride. No one is trying to change the 49ers because that’s the event that turned San Francisco into a significant city basically overnight.

        No one is trying to change the Fighting Irish because it’s a name that a group has chosen to apply to itself (unless you want to try to tell me that ND isn’t Irish dominated).

        And is right that the quantity and standing of objectors matter. There’s a reason we are talking about the Redskins and not the Seminoles (e.g. https://www.fsu.edu/news/2005/06/17/seminole.support/).

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    • Cleveland is de-emphasizing Chief Wahoo. It’s no longer their primary logo, and they’re diminishing its use over time. I think they’re trying to shift away from it without raising a ruckus among those who like it.

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      • Long overdue. I recall walking into a sports shop to buy baseball caps for my kids, which must have been a good ten years ago, and seeing mostly stylized letters, but also the Brewers’ Wisconsin-shaped glove, the Angels’ halo, and Wahoo. I was honestly embarrassed for the team, which has a proud history when it comes to race: second team to integrate, first integrated team to win a championship.

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    • “Anyway, should the government force them to change their name? No. But the free market should”

      As it did with the “Pekin Chinks,” mascots of the Pekin Community High School in Pekin, Illinois from the 1930s until 1980.

      Anybody here care to defend that nickname?

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  3. I was looking through the comments section on the WP article on this incident and came across a comment by “Cytizen Sane” that pretty much sums up my views on the subject…

    ‘This article is hilariously clueless. It’s as if the context – 500 years of land theft, broken treaties, and cultural appropriation – is totally unknown to the “journalist” who wrote it.

    “nazis complain they were ambushed by jews, not prepared to debate holocaust”

    “KKK files police complaint after black protesters yell at them from across the street; ‘ We were so offended and upset’ said Grand Dragon Bill Joe Good Ole Boy'”

    “Rapists shocked by intrusion of feminists during press event” ‘

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  4. The anti-Redskins camp often acts in ways and make arguments that make me wish I didn’t agree with them on the underlying issue. To be fair, the pro-Redskins people often act in ways and make arguments that make me glad I don’t agree with them. The latter bothers me less, insofar as I am not really associated with it. (At least, on Redskins in particular.)

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      • I think your above argument is over-simplified, but no it doesn’t fall into that category. Mostly, there is still a lot of convincing to be done. A lot of anti-Redskins people seem more interested in chest-pounding and moral preening than convincing.

        I come down on the anti-Redskins side sufficiently that I cannot actually root for my “home team” in football as long as they carry that name. But we still don’t have a great idea of what Native Americans themselves actually think about it, in the aggregate, and that matters a great deal to me. A point on which I got a fair amount of pushback on last time.

        (Also, to be clear, I don’t begrudge Indian outrage on this at all. That’s an extremely important part of the conversation. Even when, at times, I think they’re not quite right and/or it’s a more complicated situation than described.)

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  5. Having read a little bit more about the circumstances in question, I’m increasingly unlikely to accept the narrative of “Daily Show Ambush” at face value. Looking at the biographies and comments made by the fans in question, it’s increasingly apparent that they aren’t fans in the well-meaning bystander sense, but are pro-mascot activists in much the same way that the native Americans on the panel are anti-mascot activists. The “former schoolteacher” who supposedly left the studio in tears is actually a former employee of the team with a sales and marketing career who is a contributing writer to NFL fansites. The twitter feed of another fan suggests that he knew the anti-mascot activists by name before going on the show.

    This wasn’t an ambush. These were people who showed up for a debate, lost, and then decided the best way to save face was to play the victim.

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    • Per Mark Kleimann, my understanding is that say they were told they would not be confronted by Native American activists and that the producers are not denying that they said that when, in fact, there were Native American activists there.

      Is this not the case? To what extent does it matter if it was or wasn’t? Seems significant to me, though I’m sure some would disagree with that.

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      • doesn’t matter. if you’re going to accept an appearance by the daily show, you have to accept it was offered because you’ll be entertaining to their core demographic. if your “thing” isn’t a “thing” for the core demographic, expect to get slapped.

        if you’re really, really charming and engaging, you can turn this into a thing you win at, sort of, but if you’re a schmoe who’s not on a book promo tour, you should probably expect a slapping.

        walking out of this and crying “but they mocked us!” is sad and petty. i know this is victim blaming, but it’s like walking out of applebees and crying that you weren’t served food fit for human consumption. you knew what was going to happen the minute you walked into applebees/the daily show. you have no one to blame but yourself.

        walking out and crying “but they lied to us” means you should send me your social security # so we can talk about amazing investment opportunities in river-spanning properties.

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      • As Patrick points out below, it sounds like the producers didn’t lie, but probably did present the facts in such a way that the fans reasonably, but incorrectly assumed that the confrontation wouldn’t take place. A comment from one of the fans suggests that the waiver they signed explicitly allowed the format, but when he objected, a producer told him not to worry.

        I think Megan has it half-right and half-wrong on the daily show. Because while they will pick out the choicest bits of an interview, the Daily show isn’t putting words in the mouths of its interview subjects. They’re highlighting stupidity and hypocrisy that already exists in their subjects. The appropriate thing to do when the Daily Show asks for an interview isn’t to decline because they might air the footage in unflattering ways. The appropriate thing to do is to self-reflect and figure out whether your actions or opinions are deserving of mockery, and if you realize you’re being stupid, to stop being so stupid.

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      • I don’t think I could give an interview on much of anything that couldn’t be edited out of context to make me look like a bumbling fool. I don’t think that means I need to reflect on everything I believe. That speaks to the power of editing and context. The Daily Show’s interest in being informative seems to be a distant third on its priority list, and I don’t think declining to play along says that much about you.

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      • “The appropriate thing to do when the Daily Show asks for an interview isn’t to decline because they might air the footage in unflattering ways. The appropriate thing to do is to self-reflect and figure out whether your actions or opinions are deserving of mockery, and if you realize you’re being stupid, to stop being so stupid.”

        if you presume the daily show is always correct – and i would agree with them in the specific context of this issue, because redskins is hella offensive on its face – then your advice makes sense.

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      • When I first heard about this story, and really as recently as this morning, I was pretty troubled with the notion that the supporters of the name may have been expressly told they would not be confronted by American Indian activists. That seemed to be of dubious ethics.

        But now I don’t have much of a problem with it, for two reasons:
        1. It seems the panelists were not just regular fans but were in fact activists for keeping the name, with at least one having close ties with the team itself. They’re would-be newsmakers seeking to make themselves at least limited public figures. If you’re going to assume that mantle, then part of the job is being prepared for difficult situations like this.

        2. While it’s debatable whether what the Daily Show does constitutes “journalism,” it’s worth considering that lying to get a story is not necessarily an unethical journalistic practice – otherwise, much of what we call investigative journalism would cease to exist.

        3. In the context of comedy programs, lying to, and deception of, even ordinary people is de rigeur and something that virtually no one ever complains about – think of some of Jimmy Kimmel’s Lie-Witness News bits, or better yet, any number of “Candid Camera” style routines.

        So conceptually, I don’t see how this is any different from (2) or (3).

        If anything, the problem here may be that the routine got its point across a little too well – tears of guilt and shame are hard to present as funny, particularly when the person doing the crying isn’t well known. I mean….Dan Snyder crying in this situation would be hysterical, because he’s Dan Snyder and we’re all familiar with who he is (and not just on this issue – dude’s a laughingstock for a lot of reasons) and how vehement he’s been on this issue. But someone who we’ve never heard of, despite her best efforts? Not so funny.

        On another note, am I the only one whose first thought upon reading about the 911 call was of this: http://youtu.be/U0p6QVBqAXA

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      • In the context of comedy programs, lying to, and deception of, even ordinary people is de rigeur and something that virtually no one ever complains about – think of some of Jimmy Kimmel’s Lie-Witness News bits, or better yet, any number of “Candid Camera” style routines.

        I think you’re right, , but speaking for myself, I usually don’t find such things funny. That’s just me, and I’m not so much complaining as I’m just preferring something else. Your point 1 I think I agree with, too, if we assume the facts on which it’s based (and I have no reason to assume otherwise).

        Point 2, I have something of a problem with, perhaps because I have something of a problem with some of what passes as investigative journalism. If a journalist is investigating wrongdoing or going after someone who is indeed a newsmaker or a public official, then lying is probably appropriate. But lying in order to bait someone strikes me as poor “journalism.” I wouldn’t ban the practice or really limit it, but it’s poor form in my opinion.

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      • It seems significant to me in two ways. First, it’s a dishonest dick move on the part of The Daily Show. Second, it’s a little bit telling that people who want to defend the name as non-offensive would prefer not to be around people who are offended by it when they do so.

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      • I probably should have clarified that there do seem to be limits to when lying to get a story is appropriate, and I agree with you on the newsmaker/non-newsmaker distinction and that there is a fair amount of investigative journalism that crosses the line. That’s why, in this case, one of the things that changed my mind was learning that the panelists were not random fans but instead fairly outspoken activists who are at least arguably newsmakers, or at least are certainly trying to get their name in the news.

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      • The appropriate thing to do when the Daily Show asks for an interview isn’t to decline because they might air the footage in unflattering ways. The appropriate thing to do is to self-reflect and figure out whether your actions or opinions are deserving of mockery, and if you realize you’re being stupid, to stop being so stupid.

        If I were going to propose a title for this comment, I might go with: “The One Where Compares Going on the Daily Show to the Auto-da-fe.

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      • What is your view of the Peter Schiff thing?

        Some of this breaks down to what standards The Daily Show holds itself to, and should be held to. Honestly, when I think of the “You think you’re going on the show to do this one thing, but really we’re going to do this other” the show that comes to mind is the Jerry Springer Show (and Hope Floats, a movie I am oddly fond of).

        The Daily Show is enough to make me think that McArdle is right about never appearing on that show if what you have to say is unpopular with its demographic. The Schiff things makes me disinclined to take them seriously. (To which the response may be “it’s a comedy show!”… but informing does come across, to me, as a part of its mission even if not its sole or primary one.)

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      • (To which the response may be “it’s a comedy show!”… but informing does come across, to me, as a part of its mission even if not its sole or primary one.)

        That’s largely my view, too. I also know people who see the Daily Show as one weapon in their war on the “reactionaries” among us. In my opinion, that function isn’t very effective their purposes.

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      • K,
        oh, shit, they did a daily show about thaat??
        Of course they did.

        I’m not sure whether I ought to call that foul play or not, it kinda depends on whether or not they knew who wrote that PR campaign…

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      • I’d much rather appear on Bill O’Reilly’s show, be interrupted every time I tried to speak, get told to shut up and called a pinhead, and have my microphone turned off so I can’t respond.

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      • At this point, I should probably mention that I wholeheartedly agree with the suggestion “don’t interview with a Daily Show reporter – Jon Stewart himself being a different issue – if you’re on a different side of the issue from its demographics.”

        But beyond that, and even though I have at least some sympathy for Schiff’s arguments, I don’t have much of a problem with what they did there from an ethical standpoint, or at least not in a manner that doesn’t exist with real news shows.

        It’s easy to forget, but when we say that the Daily Show is a “fake news show,” we’re saying that it exists not only to mock the “news” and political positions, but even more so it exists to satirize news programming. News programming certainly has a tendency to show its biases and take opposing statements and interviews out of context, and part of the way you satirize that is by taking this to an absolute extreme.

        And, if we’re being honest, there is no way to take an interview of any appreciable length of time, condense it to a few 5-10 second soundbites for a short news (or fake news) segment, and claim that you’ve reliably placed those soundbites in context.

        But even if it were possible to do so in a purely journalistic context….I mean, we’re talking about satire here, the very nature of which is to remove things from their context and maximize the absurdity of that which is being satirized.

        Beyond that, in all honesty, I don’t think most of the Daily Show’s segments have any real duty to inform, the exception being Stewart’s live interview. To the contrary, the very nature of satirizing current events and debates largely assumes that the viewer already has a particular understanding of those events and debates. If they don’t have something approaching that level of understanding, the jokes are probably going to go over their head.

        All that said, if true, the producer in the Schiff incident shouldn’t have given the assurance about not taking things out of context – the interview was already recorded, so what could possibly happen if you just say “you know full well that I can’t make that promise, Peter”?

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      • , reading the article and watching the daily show clip, I don’t think that Schiff was taken out of context here. His complaint seems to be that, while the clip the daily show aired does show the question he was asked followed by an exerpt of the answer he gave, that:
        -Of a list of two possibilities his answer included, that the producers only include the more controversial one
        -That, while he knowingly used an offensive term in front of the camera because he couldn’t think of the non-offensive term, that the Samantha Bee should have reminded him what the non-offensive term was, allowed him to say that, and use that answer instead.

        Schiff’s stupid was all Schiff. The Daily Show didn’t make him look like a fool with out-of-context editing–they did it by refuting his talking points with real-world examples and by simply airing the objectionable statements he made.

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    • Brian Dorch, said he asked whether in advance whether they were going to come face-to-face with Native Americans.

      He told paper that he was assured the panel with the Native Americans was planned for another date.

      This seems to be the one reference that supports “When asked if they would have to confront Native Americans during the interview, the crew said no. ”

      Now of course I have no idea who said what to whom outside of the line that’s actually reported in the Daily Mail, but I’ll note that the line quoted in the Daily Mail doesn’t actually say “no”. In fact, if somebody told me that in response to that direct question, I’d have alarm bells going off in my head.

      I have to admit, I find it very, very odd that someone would ask. If you don’t think that the name is offensive to actual Native Americans, why would you be worried about being confronted with a Native American?

      Because if you’re worried about being confronted with a Native American… well…

      … that kinda implies that you realize that the issue might be one offensive to Native Americans, which undercuts your whole argument more than a tad, don’t it?

      Gosh, it’s so hard, being confronted by the people who are actually affected negatively by the things I believe!

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      • that kinda implies that you realize that the issue might be one offensive to Native Americans, which undercuts your whole argument more than a tad, don’t it?

        You need the word “some” in there, because nobody is denying that. It’s not a concession to suspect that Comedy Central could find some Native Americans to confront them, even if you think they are the minority.

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      • If you think that the name is only offensive to some Native Americans, but that it’s still okay to use the name, then either you think those Native Americans are overblowing things (in which case you should be more than willing to meet up with them in front of a camera and let them show how overblowing things they are), or you think that those Native American’s feelings aren’t relevant.

        In which case, maybe being confronted with how uncomfortable that makes you feel in person kinda damages how relevant you think those feelings are.

        Look, I’m on board with ambush journalism being kinda weak sauce. Michael Moore’s ambushing of Dick Clark was a dick move. This is kinda a dick move.

        But I think it’s really telling that you feel like you need to be protected from your views in order for you to express your views.

        Again, this ties into my first comment: if you’re only using civility as a shield so that you can say what you want to say (as opposed to listen), then you don’t really deserve the shield and you only deserve so much civility.

        This whole affair – from the standpoint of the Redskins supporters involved – strikes me as people who want to say what they want to say while being shielded from uncomfortableness of being confronted with folks that they don’t want to listen to.

        Well, screw those people, they don’t deserve civility, because they’re not willing to give it.

        If the Daily Show folks were deceitful about it, then screw them too, for the record.

        But there’s two entirely different types of opprobrium I’m attaching to those two parties for their respective behavior, and they both seem to totally deserve precisely the amount I’m giving them, not what I’m giving to the other party.

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      • I have to admit, I find it very, very odd that someone would ask. If you don’t think that the name is offensive to actual Native Americans, why would you be worried about being confronted with a Native American?

        Not commenting on this issue specifically, but I can think of analogous things that I wouldn’t want to say just because I don’t want to deal with people’s hysterical overreactions.

        And in general, a lot of people just don’t like confrontation, period.

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      • Hey, you don’t want to deal with confrontation, I can see that.

        Then your obvious recourse is to avoid confrontation. By maybe not choosing to go on television to talk about something controversial?

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      • “Then your obvious recourse is to avoid confrontation. By maybe not choosing to go on television to talk about something controversial?”

        that would be a simple and easy way to deal with it.

        then again, being a passionate if tonedeaf graphic design nerd masquerading as a football fan is already pretty complicated.

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  6. Man, I am getting too politically correct in my old age. I used to think this was all nonsense but at this point the name bothers me. Here in Louisville, American Indian tribe names are extremely common throughout the city. One of our highschools used to be the Seneca Redskins. The imagery they used was unfortunate, with a cartoonish Indian waving a tomahawk. Now they are the Seneca Redhawks. We went through the same debate locally and magically, once it changed all the complaints on both sides went away.

    Personally I think it’s great to honor Indian tribes with mascots, when it is done respectfully. My question is whether or not there is a way to do so and not still offend Native Americans? What about something like the Washington Natives?

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    • The US Military does it with attack helicopters. They name them after individual tribes (ones historically famous as warriors), which is not exactly the same as American Indians as a whole.

      I’m honestly not sure you’d want to name a team after an entire ethnic group. The “Washington Blacks” or the “Washington Mexicans” does not sound terribly great, and neither of those are actual slurs.

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    • There was a time when they probably could have changed to Washington Warriors and even kept the logo, and the wind would have left the sails of the antis. I think that time has passed.

      Re: Redhawks

      One of the downsides to teams changing their names is how remarkably terrible we’ve become at naming teams. This is an excellent opportunity to use novel and interesting names that weren’t in vogue when most teams got their names. Instead, Redhawks seems to have become the default. Which is an okay name, but is becoming just as common as Indians.

      (I know that the commonality isn’t the objection to the Indians name. But of the various names under review, Indians is among those I am least sorry to see go, because even apart from offensiveness it’s not a particularly interesting name compared to Braves or Sioux or a bunch of other similar names.)

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    • Why is it considered “politically correct” to show a minority group that is different than yourself dignity and decency?

      Maybe I am too young but whenever I hear people complain about political correctness, what I hear is people complaining about showing decency and dignity to their fellow human beings.

      “If I am only for myself, who am I? If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”

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    • Mike,
      There is a way–get the support of the tribe. E.g., the Florida Seminoles or the Central Michigan Chippewas.

      It’s not perfect, since 1) the governments obviously don’t represent everyone’s views, and 2) in cases like the Chippewa there are multiple related tribes, each with their own government. The Central Michigan agreement has been controversial among Ojibwe, but they did get the agreement of the tribe whose lands are immediately in the vicinity of the school.

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  7. No one likes being lectured to, it is part and parcel of being American.

    The problem is that every now and then, we need to be lectured to and the lecturer is right.

    I am in a bit of a stagnant place in my life now and feeling anxious about it and my parents have advice for it and how to change but I am resistant to some or a lot of it because change is really hard and there advice is a bit of the old-school variety and goes against my bookish nature. I would love nothing more than to have a job where I can just do legal research and writing and be more of a background kind of lawyer. My personality is more suited to being chief of staff than the guy going out there and gladhanding. My parents realize that it is a bit against my nature and some of my natural skill set to go out and get my own business and create work for myself because it is also a bit against their nature. Yet they also see the economy for what it is and don’t want me to be laid off at 50 or 60 and think the best way to avoid that is probably by being my own boss. They generally think I should just be old school and go to court and offices and just introduce myself and get per diem projects. I’d rather just be able to read a book all day. But I know deep down they are probably right and it fills me with stress.

    I think everyone deep down knows the name needs to change including Snyder but we are resistant to change and this is getting unbearable. And when the change happens it will probably be easier than expected and everyone will wonder what the big fuss was.

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  8. My thoughts on the matter.

    * The name “Redskins” has been known to me to be a problem since the Seventies. (Also the Cleveland Indian’s logo/mascot, though the name is probably ok). I don’t follow the NFL much at all, and was never a fan of the Washington, D.C. team. (As opposed to the true Washington team, the Seahawks!)

    * I deeply resent the label of “political correctness”. This is consideration and courtesy, which is the opposite of contempt and shaming.

    * Dan Snyder may not be evil, but he’s definitely a jerk. He is best described as “hostile and combative” in response to any sort of challenge.

    * There is entirely too much contempt and shaming in the world. I would dearly like there to be less, particularly for the purpose of entertainment.

    * Deceiving people and lying to them for the purposes of an entertainment show has crossed a line with me. I expected better than that from Jon Stewart.

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    • This is a good comment

      I always struggle with our notions of political correctness. Somehow, the idea of being sensitive and respectful of other people, which is the root of political correctness, got turned into a notion of contempt and shaming.

      Like it’s okay for some people to be rude, disrespectful, and offensive, and if you call them on it, if you lay out a set of guidelines based on good manners, you’re contemptuously shaming them (presumably because they were contemptuously shaming someone else). I refuse to buy into the whole ‘political correctness’ as a meme for thoughtless shaming; and totally feel that this characterization mostly reveals people being discomforted of their privileges.

      That does not mean some people might exhibit knee-jerk PC behavior, I see huge amounts of this in the way liberals discuss the far-right. But the notions of respect behind politically correctness would, I think, include that as bad manners.

      But I really, really hate it when PC = shaming in conversation; it was (and still is) intended as a reminder of respect for someone who might come from a different cultural perspective. That is a big part of tuning, “how can we get along?” It’s a good thing.

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      • I think it is important to give those who wish to be rude, disrespectful and offensive nice little happy places where they can do that.

        And then enforce that they kindly stay in those places if they’re going to be offensive.

        This provides a bit of stress relief for folks who don’t really have much of a filter yet (and who simply MUST share that stupid bigoted joke).

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    • Re: Dan Snyder

      The issue/problem is that his hostile/combative nature probably helped him and many others in the business world and to rise to the top. I think assholes know that most people will just end up giving in to unreasonable people.

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  9. I’m concerned at what appears to be more chest pounding than anything else.

    I will say it again, I think the name needs to be changed. But I think it is a big leap in logic to go from saying the name needs to be changed to immediately saying anyone who disagrees is a bigot or uncivil or what have you.

    I think what is missing in our culture today is that none of us gives each other the benefit of the doubt. I don’t know if the supporters on the Daily Show are racists or not. It would have been nice to have listened to their side to find out.

    I’m interested in having the name change, but I am not interested in showing everyone how moral I am and how horrible the other guys are.

    The objective of changing the name is a noble end. I have trouble with how we are getting there.

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    • Is it an ethnic slur? Yes or no. Everything else flows from that. Because, bluntly, repeatedly using ethnic slurs or defending them AFTER you’ve been so informed is the basic definition of “uncivil”.

      I mean, if I refer to you as “idiot” in every conversation I have with you, even when I explain i don’t mean anything insulting by it it’s just a harmless nickname, that’s pretty freakin uncivil. Especially if you’ve told me more than once you find it insulting and demeaning.

      *shrug*. It boils down to something simpler, I think. Whether the person uttering the word or the person the word is applied to (or is about) gets to determine if it’s offensive. I fall firmly towards the latter.

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    • I think the problem here is conflating bigoted action, which all of us are probably culpable of, even if inadvertently, with being a racist person.

      Just the differences in our jail populations and the economic distributions of household income provide ample evidence that there’s a huge amount of institutional racism baked into things here in the US. To the extent that we all participate, we all share some small level of responsibility for racism; we are, in that way, racist.

      To bring about change, we have to find ways to recognize that, yes, we all are guilty of racism and racial insensitivity because we are all part of the systems that produce that result. That’s the statistical racism baked into the system. But individuals are are single data points; and I think, at the individual level, we have some hard work to do to recognize when we needlessly defend racist results. That is the point when an individual goes from general culpability to overt racism; and is probably due some public censure.

      I think the first class — the guilt-by-association racism baked into the system, needs more recognition; we all participate in it, and we see that it’s harmful, so we all need to be party to better, more-equal results. This is long, slow change, too; it’s not something that happens over any single event.

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    • “I’m concerned at what appears to be more chest pounding than anything else.”

      But Dennis, how else are we supposed to get the emotional release of surrender to uncomplicated guilt-free anger? I mean, if we can’t be utter dicks to racists then who can we be utter dicks to? There must be someone. I mean, if being an utter dick to people were a bad thing then why would it feel so good?

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      • Considering “being awful” tends to mean “calling them racists”, I’m not sure what your point is.

        Should I not call a racist a racist? Should I assume, despite the fact that he uses racial slurs with casual glee, that he is not a racist? At what point, after listening to endless streams of racial epithets, should I be able to call a racist a racist?

        I mean, that seems to be the rub, eh? They want to keep using a racially offensive term — to which the folks it applies to find to be a slur — and not get called racist. While I can sympathize with the desire to do whatever you want without consequences, that’s not how the world works.

        And I can’t bring myself to believe that clinging to a racist slur — after decades of being told it is one, by the people it applies to — makes you anything but a racist.

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    • I believe they’re saying that these fans aren’t just casual fans who like the team, but rather are people who have been very vocal and active in defending and advocating for the name. As in these aren’t just people who innocently think the name is innocuous, but people who have a vested interest (for whatever reason) for pushing the name.

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      • , as Nob says, I’m saying that at least some of the guests demonstrate a level of activeness on the issue that suggests that they are more than helpless bystanders caught up in a controversy they didn’t really understand, and that instead they were active champions in promoting the use of the racist team name and mascot even before they went on the Daily Show.

        Kelli O’Dell, the main subject of the article, Had a short stint working for the team, and is an active contributor to NFLFemale.com. Her author bio can be seen here and describes her as an official fan reporter, though I’m not clear how actually official that title is. Her twitter page includes a permanent link to a pro-mascot activist site.

        In the Washinton Post Article, Maurice Hawkins speaks about anti-mascot activist Amanda Blackhorse* as though he was already aware of her before the segment was taped, and a twitter feed from one of the other participants that I saw when I was researching this last night but can no longer find also identifies Blackhorse as though the poster and target audience were already aware of who she was.

        *Strangely, the Daily Mail link you’ve posted, which seems to be a crib from the original Washington Post piece, misidentifies Blackhorse as a fan of the team, and suggests she felt dehumanized by the actions of the Daily Show. She is, in fact, the native american activist responsible for the trademark complaint, and the dehumanization she speak of is a result of her interactions with the team’s fans.

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  10. Dennis, while I like civility as much as the next guy…

    Or blackmailed by tribal leaders playing the race card.

    Is not the sort of line you use when you’re being civil. Krauthammer’s whole schtick was that he was being civil to the supporters of the Redskins name, but not to the people who objected to it. In fact he was outright snide and contemptuous of them. That’s not a style of civility I’d like to support.

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  11. I was all set to agree with Dennis’s post, and then people like and others above pointed out that the name “Redskins” itself is uncivil. And others (maybe not necessarily Patrick), also seemed to argue that an uncivil, bigoted term requires, or at least permits, an uncivil response in turn. So now I’m a bit torn.

    I think there’s a principled issue and a practical issue, and at some points each meets with the other.

    As a matter of principle, we have a term that most, though maybe not all, agree is a racial slur. If someone, either the targets of the slur or another on the targets’ behalf, finds that slur offensive, then they have the prerogative to be angry about its use. And from a point of principle, maybe they even have the prerogative to be confrontational about its use and to be “uncivilly” confrontational.

    Then there’s the practical issue. Sometimes, it’s easier, even advisable, to convince people with civility than with confrontation. Flies and honey and all that. That’s not fair, of course. Why should someone be confronted with a slur–and the sad history of theft and murder and systematic discrimination that informs that slur–now have to pony up with a civil tone when arguing against the slur? But the unfairness doesn’t change the fact that while most see the term as a racial slur, a lot of people see the term, when used as a team name, as a matter of tradition from which the offense, if intended at all, is at least a little removed from the tradition the term supposedly embodies. In fact, I imagine a venn diagram of those who see the term as a slur and those who see it as a marker of a team’s tradition would show some overlap.

    And then the principle and practical might come together. Maybe, maybe, maybe–there can be reconciling on this one issue if both sides calm the fish down and really listen to each other. Or maybe not. Taking away the name won’t change all the other ways in which society is unfair to American Indians. It would at most be just a gesture.

    Finally, I’m no fan of the Daily Show, and I don’t know exactly what went down or what promises were made or implied. But I’ll say this: If you would not defend something in front of someone else because you think that person might take offense, it’s a sign that maybe that “something” is indeed offensive. That’s not a hard and fast rule. But it is an opportunity. If you wouldn’t tell a certain joke, or use a certain term, or defend a certain position in front of someone else whom that joke/term/position would likely disadvantage, it could be a sign that you need to reconsider your joke/term/position.

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      • I don’t believe I was quite making that argument. I do think, however, that if someone strikes first, sometimes self-defense requires striking back. At the very least, striking back becomes very understandable if one was stricken first.

        As James Baldwin said, two wrongs don’t make a right, but one wrong doesn’t make a right, either.

        From what I’ve read of Baldwin so far, I’m not a fan. But I think he’s right there.

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      • What you’re saying is that some things are so extreme and so vicious and so nasty that it’s all right to be “uncivilly confrontational”, that such behavior is justified by the extremity of insult.

        In other words, “he hit me first…”

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      • That was an unfair reading, Jim. I disagree with a few points that Gabriel made (mainly, the idea that “most” people consider it to be a slur), but to read his comment the way you did is to turn its meaning on its head. He was talking about where decency restrains passion, not where passion overrides decency.

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      • I’m not persuaded that Redskin is a slur in this context. The Antis will tell me to look at the history of the term. The Pros will respond that they should look at the history of the Washington team name. The Antis will say that something that used to be acceptable can become inappropriate (as Krauthammer did). The Pros will say that most Native Americans seem to be fine with the name. Et cetera.

        Beyond that, we’ve reached the weird place where accusing someone of bigotry will carry absolutely no weight, not because of their bigotry, but because of accusation fatigue. When you’re called a bigot because of your views on tax policy, education or health care reform, and any number of other things, you start to treat the accusation as white noise. The accused ideally will continue to use his personal ethical code to make decisions. And if he sees the name of a football team as not being important, he’ll be unpersuadable by the accusation. And it won’t matter much if the accusation is “that term is bigoted” or “you’re a bigot”, because it’s water off a duck’s back.

        I say that ideally the accused’s code won’t be affected, but bad things can happen. The accused can look at bigotry as a treat – if I’m going to be accused of it anyway, I might as well indulge in it. He can also turn into a troll, dancing around the line between nonracist and racist jerkiness just to elicit a reaction. There are two animal metaphors, the frog in boiling water and the straw on the camel’s back. I think the camel is the go-to analogy for this.

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  12. Dennis, I have a tremendous amount of sympathy for the civility argument, but I’m not sure this is a very good application of that argument. The issue with the Daily Show bit isn’t about civility, it’s about journalistic quality and ethics.

    Your initial feelings about the issue are right, but for some reason you don’t want to follow through with them. It’s like you’re a deer hunter who has that 15-point buck in the sites, but hesitates to pull the trigger because he suddenly has a fond remembrance of seeing Bambi as a kid. As someone who self-identified as a conservative for a significant period of my life, I am sympathetic. I fondly remember Bambi as well. There is a point, however, when you realize the utter inappropriateness of calling a major professional sports team by a racial epithet, you also realize that there has already been a level of incivility baked into the pie.

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  13. I have a few separate, not-cleanly connected thoughts, so I’m putting them in separate comments (as an aside, this is the most active I’ve been in years of lurking. Lots of interesting posts this week).

    Comment the first:

    Focusing on whether anyone is, in their heart-of-hearts, is a racist is a waste of time and a distraction. I don’t care whether Dan Snyder dislikes Native Americans. I don’t care whether Redskins fans do. I care that what they are doing is using an ethnic slur that offends a vulnerable minority.

    (by analogy, I don’t care what Reagan’s views on black people were. I care that he gave a speech about “states rights” just outside Philadelphia and built his wildly successful campaign strategy on attracting support from southern then-democrats who were absolutely motivated by racial hatreds)

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      • Appreciate it. Honestly the commenting system is clunky enough as applied to my system that I have to really be interested in the topic before diving in. And, as with any blog, there are a lot of topics that don’t hit that sweet spot. Unlike most, though, the interesting topics usually do have interesting threads that are worth following.

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  14. Comment the second:

    On the OP’s civility argument, I mind Krugman’s consistent argument persuasive (e.g. http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/14/wild-words-brain-worms-and-civility/). When you’re trying to convince people who are UNDECIDED, limited and credible use of uncivil language is effective. And a lot of harm was done pretending that, for example, Ryan’s first budget was a serious proposal worthy of civil discussion. It was, instead, one giant asterisk mixed with a reliance on creating 2.3% unemployment.

    Here, I think the fact that Native Americans express their outrage at the fact that an NFL team name is an ethnic slur does help convince undecideds that the name should be changed. I rarely see anyone say “I’m not a fan, don’t care about football, but wholeheartedly support Snyder”, and those I do see are usually saying that to signal a deep allegiance to Team Red.

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    • Here, I think the fact that Native Americans express their outrage at the fact that an NFL team name is an ethnic slur does help convince undecideds that the name should be changed.

      In this case, I think it goes even beyond that. The entire debate here is whether the name is particularly “offensive” such that it should be changed. Of course, a synonym for “offensive” is “outrageous.”

      I don’t see how you can possibly demonstrate the degree of something’s outrageousness without expressing the full extent of the outrage it causes you. How does one use civil language in a manner that fully captures outrage?

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      • I think this is a good point, both on its terms and for a second reason.

        By being outraged, people can allow others to civilly discuss the implications of that outrage to convince others of the need to change. For example, if anyone changes their mind based on this thread, it will likely be because the Native Americans expressed (justified) outrage and it led to a civil discussion.

        Obviously, this formula can be abused and is no silver bullet.

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    • The flaw in Krugman’s argument is that it necessitates some omniscient arbitor to tell who is worthy of civil treatment and who ought to be dismissed as unsalvageable. Of course, in the realm of economics, Krugman thinks that he is that omniscient arbitor, so that the very fact that he chooses to be uncivil to someone is the very proof that they deserve uncivil treatment.

      The whole argument basically becomes an obtuse way of saying that it’s cool to be uncivil to your political opponents.

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      • I disagree strongly with this. You don’t have to believe Krugman is an omniscient arbitor.

        When he writes a post saying “here is why I think the inflation target should be 4% but not 2%, and engages a counterpoint” he is signalling that reasonable minds can differ and trying to persuade yours.

        When he writes “Paul Ryan is a con man who is trying to trick the US into wrecking its finances in order to push through tax cuts”, he’s signaling that there is no reasonable argument for the other side.

        Both signals are refutable, but they are different and he is right to insist on clearly delineating them. If he uses the latter signal inappropriately, he loses credibility on it. Just as he would by making any other bad argument. But simply saying “Krugman is a mean liberal who isn’t civil” is a weak response to his second signal precisely because civil and uncivil responses mean different things, and are appropriate in different settings.

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      • I’m quite confident you think so. Hell, there may even be times where I would think so (though none come immediately to mind). And, as I said, the result is that he loses some credibility (at least to you) when using that signal elsewhere.

        Just like when he makes any other type of argument.

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      • I do not understand with what exactly you disagree.

        Here’s what I said:

        …Krugman thinks that he is that omniscient arbitor, so that the very fact that he chooses to be uncivil to someone is the very proof that they deserve uncivil treatment.

        And here is what you said:

        When he writes “Paul Ryan is a con man who is trying to trick the US into wrecking its finances in order to push through tax cuts”, he’s signaling that there is no reasonable argument for the other side.

        Krugman, the omniscient arbiter, has decided that Ryan’s plan cannot work; therefore Ryan is not worthy of serious or civil discourse. That is Krugman’s beat. There is a reason that his column is called “Conscience of a Liberal” and not “Conscience of an Economist. And let me just say that it’s fine. Krugman has no responsibility to be fair to Ryan or anybody else in pursuit of his preferred side of the debate, but consequently, I view Krugman for what he is.

        The problem is that it is next to impossible to be both fierce political partisan and objective arbiter at the same time. And when you try to be both, you end up being terrible at both.

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      • Krugman has no responsibility to be fair to Ryan…

        Fair or civil? Differentiating is important in this case. I think advocates have a responsibility to be fair but not a responsibility to be civil. I also think that while Krugman has been pretty uncivil to Ryan, he doesn’t seem to have been particularly unfair.

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      • Simple: it is no more necessary that he be an “omniscient arbiter” in dismissing the Ryan budget as unserious than it is that he be one when engaging in a civil debate on where to set the inflation target. Or than it is that any blogger be one when making any argument.

        Krugman, the omniscient arbiter, has decided that Ryan’s plan cannot work; therefore Ryan is not worthy of serious or civil discourse.

        That’s wrong. He is arguing that Ryan is not worthy of civil discourse not because he put forward a plan that Krugman dislikes on the merits but because he put forward a lie disguised as a plan. You may disagree with that argument (though I think you would be wrong to do so), but the two are separate.

        Here’s an example:

        The trouble with the budget devised by Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, isn’t just its almost inconceivably cruel priorities, the way it slashes taxes for corporations and the rich while drastically cutting food and medical aid to the needy. Even aside from all that, the Ryan budget purports to reduce the deficit — but the alleged deficit reduction depends on the completely unsupported assertion that trillions of dollars in revenue can be found by closing tax loopholes.

        If the budget simply slashed taxes and cut food stamps, he would write that he thought it was cruel and the wrong direction to take the country. Because it ALSO argues that it is deficit reducing without identifying how it will raise additional TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS, he calls it fraudulent. The latter is uncivil, but it is uncivil to highlight a specific problem.

        All I’m saying is that “be nicer” is a dumb response to that second argument. It, like any other argument, is capable of being wrong (though I think the quoted example is correct). And it has nothing at all to do with whether anyone is an “omniscient arbiter.”

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  15. Comment the third:

    If you are trying to convince someone who ACTIVELY DISAGREES with you, attempts to badger them will fail. Telling a committed Redskins fan who likes the name, grew up with it, and has never persecuted an Native American in their live (at least, in any other way) that wanting to protect a tradition makes them a racist will get you ignored. Every time.

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      • Not sure I agree with this. Or, at least, not sure that what you are calling “softly decided” folks (maybe people who haven’t thought about it at all but have a status quo bias) are different from what I’m calling “undecideds”

        If I’m interpreting you right, I think showing those people the degree to which this is a problem is more effective than engaging staunchly pro-mascot folks on their own terms.

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      • Well, the most recent poll suggests something on the order of 71% thinking that they shouldn’t change the name, compared to 23% saying that they should, and (by the math) 6% undecided. To get to 51%, you have to confront the 71%. That does require some delicacy, because getting to 29% won’t get you there.

        Unless it’s the right 29%. Which is why I say that you don’t have to get to 51%. You can get there if you can convince enough rich people.

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      • I think it’s probably fair to say that a good chunk of the 71% just haven’t thought about it much and don’t really care enough to think about it much. “Maintain the status quo” is an easy default position for people without much of a stake in a given issue and with little interest in learning enough to care.

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      • Mark, I think that’s true. Those you refer to ate weekday I meant when I talked of the softly decided.

        Delicacy is still a good idea. If only in the sense that you should take care not to insult them as you combat those who are harder in their decision.

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      • The thing is that I don’t see how delicacy is even possible here – see my comment above to . The entire debate hinges on demonstrating that the name is especially outrageous, and it’s impossible to express the extent of outrage without acting outraged.

        The primary difficulty here is, I think, that there’s an assumption that saying “this thing you support is racist” is identical to saying “you’re a racist for supporting this thing.”

        Separately, I think you’re overestimating the extent to which incivility is incompatible with persuasiveness. In so much of political debate, an emotional connection is needed to even start trying to think about opposing arguments and take them seriously.

        Otherwise, it’s easy to fall prey to thinking in something of a closed loop – we start with a set of values that are important to us and which we sort of assume to be universal, and think through issues from there. Consequences of that thinking on other values don’t really enter into the equation or get easily dismissed. A prerequisite to even considering a change of heart is often for someone to force you to consider the other value, which means drawing an emotional connection, and that can often mean being less than nice.

        Civility and reason are really important, but they’re sometimes only part of the equation that will change a given person’s mind. That doesn’t mean “always be uncivil,” though – incivility can obviously backfire easily, and there are an awful lot of different ways of being “uncivil,” few of which will work in a given situation. It more means that it should be deployed sparingly in close conjunction with other arguments and in a way that is geared towards invoking something your opponent presumably cares about but is undervaluing or ignoring.

        Used wrongly or excessively, it undermines your credibility and causes people to tune out to everything else you say. But used in the right circumstances in conjunction with other arguments, it can be a necessary way of grabbing your opponent’s attention.

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      • I read the above comment and agreed with it. In the context of the Redskins, delicacy is simply a matter of being conscientious of the difference outlined within number two. That, in combination with trying to differentiate between the hard and soft opponents of the change.

        Either way, you can’t just leave it at the people on your side and the undecideds, because there aren’t actually enough of them. You have to deal with at least some people who disagree with you, which does require delicacy in how you approach the issue and those who disagree with you. Or you need to bypass public opinion entirely and focus more on elite opinion (which is a viable strategy).

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      • “The entire debate hinges on demonstrating that the name is especially outrageous,”

        I’m not sure I agree. I think there is another more powerful hinge, which is empathy for the people effected.

        Take the F-word.

        I don’t find the F-word offensive at all. When asked (and because I have teenage boys, I am quite often) to explain why using putting the letters C,F,K and U together in a certain order is inherently offensive in a way that the word “darn” is not, I have no good answer. It’s just a word. The reason I don’t use the F-word in many circumstances isn’t because there’s something magical about the word, it’s because it causes offense where it’s not reasonable to assume I should be able to offend for any reason other than being an asshole.

        So I kind of agree with nevermoor here. I think the strategy of approaching those who are pod-redskin with the typical liberal “but it’s racists, and so are you if you use it!” is pretty much going to fall on deaf ears. I think a tac of “I know it’s doesn’t come off as offensive to you, but it does to Native Americans, and since they’re the one that are being made mascots, what’s it to you and I if the Redskins find a different name that doesn’t drive that kind of wedge?”

        In fact, I actually think liberals would get more traction on this subject if they said “don’t be an asshole” rather than “don’t be a racist.”

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      • If this were an isolated issue, maybe it’d be right that pressure only has benefits. You could badger people into agreement, or at least into aquiescence. But this isn’t an isolated issue (neither is Banned Book Week), and it’s a mistake to think about it in that way. There’s a sense that this is a matter of political correctness run amuck (I came up with that phrasing all by myself!), which makes it part of the big split in our country. That means each side goes into it with all the benefits and burdens of their prior actions, and will have to pay the price for their current actions down the road. It’s bad politics to alienate the person who’s leaning against you.

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    • This is probably another case of both sides failing to recognize the difference between, “Hey, you just said something racist. You shouldn’t say stuff like that,” and, “Hey, you’re a racist.” If people on one side were better at articulating the first and people on the other side had less of a tendency to hear the second, these policies would probably change a lot faster.

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  16. So Krauthammer’s column is the “gold standard” for civil discussion on the issue. Well, if we ignore his use of standard right wing tropes about the “race card” and the “language police.”

    And yet, despite his supposed high-minded civility, a year later we still have the Washington Redskins. Which suggests something about the usefulness of civil discussion.

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      • My point, which was obvious, was that if you’re going to extol the virtues of a particular approach to persuasion, you might want to choose as your example one in which the approach worked.

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      • Yes, your point was obvious.

        And my point, which was equally obvious, is that in a case like this, you can take literally any kind of strategy and use the same snarky line you just did. Because until the Redskins finally throw in the towel, no one’s strategy will have worked. The argument in cases like this by definition has to be which strategies you believe have the best opportunity to work in the future, because, again, no strategy has worked so far.

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  17. An NDN perspective:

    I take issue with the contention by Mr. Sanders that civil discussion is lacking and that Mr. Krauthammer’s statement is wholly “civil”.

    In Krauthammer’s view, he is being ‘played’ by tribal leaders using the ‘race card’.

    What is the root of the issue if not race? The words red and skin combined refer to the stereotypic shorthand that many non-Indians have used to describe Indian people.

    There is abundant evidence that the word has been used by non-Indians as a derisive descriptor of Native peoples.

    In short, the word ‘redskins’ was, historically, and is, at this moment, disparaging to Indians.

    In the 40 years since Indians began the movement to change the moniker we have been the exemplars of civility. Despite our protests and lawsuits the Washington organization and the NFL have refused to acknowledge the inherent racism of the name and the logo.

    If forty years of civil discourse by Native people cannot bring about change what good is civil discourse in this case?

    And Mr. Sanders call for civil discussion is directed at the wrong people. The ‘boorish’ behavior that Mr. Sanders describes is coming from non-Indians, not Natives.

    Any objective observer of this issue would recognize that the opinions of non-Natives are significantly less relevant than those of Natives.

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