May 26, 2015
Writing “It’s been a bad week for white professors” is a lazy, hacky opening.
Especially because it cues up, at least in my movie-addled mind, Addison DeWitt’s weary counterpunch about “the history of the world for the last twenty years.”
Of course, last week wound up particularly badly for John Nash, although dying outside a New Jersey taxi is marginally preferable to dying inside one. (You”d think his physicist wife would”ve made him wear a seatbelt, no?)
Meanwhile, two other white male academics suffered merely metaphorical motor vehicle-related injuries: Rather than being ejected from a cab, they were thrown under buses.
One, Walter Block—the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar endowed chair in economics at Loyola—had his libel lawsuit against the New York Times thrown out.”¨
The Times had spotted Block opining that:
“[S]lavery wasn’t so bad. You could pick cotton, sing songs, be fed nice gruel, etc.”
Block objected that the Times writer had taken his words out of context. The judge who tossed out the suit countered that “Perceptions about Block’s notions of race related issues were largely fueled and published by Block himself. In this regard, Block cannot complain about resulting perceptions of insensitivity and levity on serious issues like slavery.”
Let’s start with the troubling spectacle of a American judge and the plaintiff more or less agreeing that joking about “serious issues” is somehow a bad thing.
Here I”d thought that attempting to turn the “tone” of a writer’s jokes into a criminal (or at least civil) matter was a distinctly Canadian compulsion, by way of the Soviet Union.
That’s why it pains me so to side with the judge in one respect:
Block had indeed been wearing a too-short rhetorical skirt while sashaying along Lew Rockwell Lane after dark.
Had he left out those goofy words altogether before hitting “send,” Block’s virtue “ or in this case, his “context”—would have remained inviolate.
Reading Block’s article in its entirety, one discovers so much to admire:
The unapologetically combative attitude. The jabs at Canadian columnist Chris Selley, an occasionally sound but mostly annoying young man in DEFCON 3 need of a haircut. And of course, the fact that Block’s overall conclusions are correct:
As Barry Goldwater wisely and courageously pointed out, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would begin the erosion of two foundational concepts “ private property and freedom of association—which has, fifty years later, left America a shabby red, white and blue shell of its former self.
As an outsider, I find Block’s iconoclastic approach to your nation’s tedious racial obsession particularly refreshing, and familiar.
(I”ll admit to always, heretically, wondering, even as a child:
(If all these folks eventually managed to walk to work instead of riding the bus, why didn”t they just do that in the first place and save ten cents a day?
(And are you telling me that there wasn”t a better burger to be had at the black-run equivalent of a “lunch counter” on the other side of town?)
But then Block marred an otherwise sensible article by sticking in that one unfunny, tone-deaf bit. Humor, more so than Keats” “Beauty,” is Truth. Lest I become the thing I hate “ and, more importantly, use up the remainder of my declining word count—I”ll refrain from performing an autopsy on Block’s “…wasn”t so bad” gag.
Let’s just put it this way: a natural humorist he ain”t. I”d suggest Block not quit his day job, except I suspect he”ll be fired first anyhow.
Anyway, right around the same time, Duke political science professor (and, incidentally or not, “old commie apologist”) Jerry Hough wandered into an adjacent patch of quicksand.