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BUNDY VS. STERLING– AND PUBLIC VS. PRIVATE

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A supporter holds a photo cutout of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling while standing in line for the NBA Playoff game 5 between Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center in Los Angeles

For conservatives, the universal outrage over Donald Sterling’s racist comments performed the useful function of turning public attention from the similarly appalling remarks by Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who’d been embarrassingly embraced by some leaders on the right.  At the same time, the anti-Sterling hysteria badly damaged public discourse by erasing essential distinctions between private and public forms of expression.

By any reasonable standards, Bundy’s offensive comments count as a far more serious breach of decency than Sterling’s. The basketball billionaire intended his warnings against association with black people only for the ears of his mistress, but the rebellious rancher clearly meant the broadest public consumption for his moronic speculations on whether African-Americans might have been better off as slaves. When Bundy volunteered to a gaggle reporters, including those from the New York Times, to tell “something I know about the Negro” he clearly intended to share these moronic insights with the public at large.

Nevertheless, Bundy suffered no significant punishment for his words while Sterling faces a life-time ban from basketball, a $2.5 million fine, and a concerted effort to force sale of his team. Of course, this contrast stems in part from the fact that Sterling has so much more to lose, and is rightly judged by a higher standard. Before his fifteen minutes of notoriety, Bundy was a Nevada nobody, but Sterling, as owner of a basketball franchise in the nation’s second largest city, was a powerful celebrity who relied on the athletic excellence of his mostly black players. As a business decision, it’s easy to understand why his fellow owners would want to sever all connections between Sterling and the NBA, even though it took illegally taped snippets of strictly-private conversation to force their hand.

Sterling remains indefensible as a public personality but it’s still worth protecting the greater leeway that society has always accorded to purely private words, and even thoughts. It’s true that the “mistress from hell” (in Donald Trump’s memorable phrase) might have felt wounded by her sugar daddy’s repeated pleas to stop appearing publicly with black people. But his benighted words would have hurt or offended no other single soul if she (or someone else) hadn’t chosen to publicize them.

As a general principle, public pronouncements do more damage than any private opinions, no matter how hateful.

I advanced that notion in a particularly controversial way in 1997 when commenting on the release of Howard Stern’s conspicuously successful, autobiographical comedy movie, PRIVATE PARTS. At the time, fans of the film praised its portrayal of Stern as a happily married, doting husband and father, who only acted the part of a lurid, drooling sex maniac to achieve success for his radio show. I also cited the film’s charming ability to make Stern’s phenomenal popularity look more comprehensible, but I made the point that The King of All Media’s public endorsement of vice mattered far more than his presumed private virtue. Only his wife and daughters, along with a few friends and neighbors, got the benefit of his personal values while millions of listeners received his daily messages mocking those very values he purportedly honored.

This contrasted directly with the televangelists of that time who preached godliness and self-restraint but, in a series of grotesque scandals pursued degrading and destructive forms of sexual indulgence behind closed doors. Though the pornographic preachers certainly reached higher levels of hypocrisy than any shock jock, the damage from their behavior was limited to a few victims, at least before their ultimate exposure.

Francois Duc De La Rochefoucauld famously observed that “hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue” but at least hypocritical behavior honors virtue enough to offer some tribute. The hypocrite with his hidden vices doesn’t demand respect or acceptance for his loathsome conduct.

In that context, Donald Sterling surely nurtured racial bias long before his recent exposure but for most of his life he kept that bigotry well enough hidden to win three different awards from the NAACP. The fact that he declined to go public with hate-filled opinions counts as a good thing, not a bad thing.

In affirming the crucial difference between brazen and bashful attitudes to bad conduct and outrageous opinions, it’s worth citing an often misunderstood aspect of Jewish law. Our religious tradition draws a clear dividing line between sins that are well-hidden and those openly flaunted. In this regard, consider different approaches to the traditional Orthodox prohibition on driving in cars on the Sabbath. To this day, many guilty Jews will park several blocks away from synagogue and walk the rest of the way to the services in order to avoid advertising the fact that they’ve disregarded an aspect of the tradition. Others will pull up directly across from the sanctuary entrance and harangue anyone who will listen about how stupid and outmoded it is for 21st century Americans to shun driving one day a week.

Under Jewish law, both parties have violated the Sabbath but the one who trumpets that fact counts as significantly more blameworthy. He communicates his disrespect openly and undermines community standards, but the discreet motorist who tries to hide his unsanctioned behavior actually demonstrates some respect for those standards.

In the same way, a public figure who expresses contempt for African-Americans in a press conference with national reporters shows utter disregard for national norms of at least superficial deference to the dignity of long-victimized racial groups. On the other hand, an old man who mostly keeps quiet on racial issues, while expressing his true bigotry only to his girl friend in a conversation he logically assumed would remain private, if nothing else signals his acceptance of standards of inter-racial respect.

This doesn’t mean that the loathsome Mr. Sterling deserves our respect. But it does argue that it’s worth treating private sentiments, no matter how hateful, with somewhat less indignation than we apply to public statements.

This column originally appeared at TruthRevolt.org on May 5, 2014.

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  1. John D. Fiat  •  May 13, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    It’s funny how Medved brings up Jewish Law for an analogy regarding Sterling but not the fact that Sterling himself, is Jewish, not Caucasian. He also fails to address the fact that Sterling said, “we treat the black’s like dogs in Israel” (which is true). Why does this matter? Because the media always convinces the masses that any racist is a “white” guy. They were even successful doing it with George Zimmerman who clearly looks Hispanic, and is indeed half Hispanic. But his other half, is Jewish (his better or racist half, or both?) This is especially scary, because it means that the average US citizen is too stupid to tell a Hispanic from a Caucasian. And blacks in particular seem to lack the ability to distinguish between Caucasians and any other race, especially when it comes to Ashkenazi (Euro) Jews who appear to be “white.” Remember, they already tricked them into believing that a full-blown brown man was “white” so convincing them that (a Jew like) Donald Sterling is white was no problem at all! If there is racism, the media always guides the Sheeple to the very ambiguous “white!”

    • Elmo Glick  •  May 16, 2014 at 11:56 pm

      Blacks are treated very well in Israel. Zimmerman is not part Jewish. The name is German, not Jewish.He is, in fact, part black. One of his grandparents is Afro-Peruvian. Why don’t you quit when you’re behind. You’ve already revealed yourself as a bigot, and a quite ignorant one at that.

  2. Omari Tahir  •  May 16, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    FYI
    Mr. Sterling is a typical “EUROPEAN SETTLER COLONIAL BUSINESS MAN” operating on the land PIRATED FROM THE NATIVE PEOPLE AND DEVELOPED BY AFRICAN:”SLAVE LABOR” THROUGH GENOCIDAL TERRORISM !!!! LIKE HIS FELLOW EURO DESCENDANT BANKERS, MOVIE EXECUTIVES. INDUSTRIALISTS, POLITICIANS, CATHOLIC, PROTESTANT, EVANGELICAL AND OTHER “WHITE JESUS” RELIGIOUS LEADERS. The “WHITE SUPREMACY COURT” has ruled in the DRED SCOTT CASE THAT “A BLACK MAN HAS NO RIGHTS A WHITE MAN IS BOUND TO RESPECT”? What is new???? “THE MORE THINGS CHANGE THE MORE THEY REMAIN THE SAME”??? IT IS TIME THE AFRICAN AMERICAN BASKETBALL AND FOOTBALL PLAYERS FORM AND CONTROL THEY OWN MULTI ETHNIC LEAGUES AND THEN MERGE WITH THE NBA AND NFL!!!!! PLANTATIONS SHOULD HAVE MORE THAN JUST “WHITE” OWNERS IN 2014 FORWARD OR THE BLACK HORSES DON’T RUN!!!!…………….. TALENT EQUALS CONTROL.??????? FOR THE SAKE OF JUSTICE YOU CAN THROW IN $$$TRILLIONS FOR “REPAIRATIONS” (REPARATIONS) 400 YEARS OF UNPAID BLACK “SLAVE LABOR” BEFORE THE NBA AND NFL!!!!!!!! YES, YES, YES JUSTICE AND AN END TO ECONOMIC APARTHEID!!!! Omari Tahir (omariAfrinet@yahoo.com) FOUNDER African American Heritage Museum and Culture Center and AFRICATOWN SEATTLE (SUPER SONICS).

    • S Johnson  •  May 16, 2014 at 6:49 pm

      Omari. We have to stop focusing on only black people the native Americans where the first to have this happen to them and it continues today.and would like to say not all black people hail from Africa so saying African American is not totally true, are we not all Amercans,the hyphenated names and the PC crowd is really tire some and separates us when we need to come together

  3. S Johnson  •  May 16, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    Totally agree with John and want to add that with Bundy there Is a differance what he said was jumped on as racist by people like Medved but it was not racist but only in small minds like Medved and the important fact that several black people came out to say it was not rAcist which was not covered by Medved,I also asked a good friend his thoughts on this,he told me it was not racist and he is black.
    It is sad in this time in history that hosts like Michele can’t be honest but has to stir the pot just to get ratings and won’t even have a conversation with those who go against him with out getting childish cutting people off or ops I didn’t hang up on the caller yeah sure.and to all who support Mike do some research dont believe every thing that makes you no better than a sheeple
    And to Mike when will you start being honest, don’t expect an answer, word twister.

  4. Sheila  •  May 16, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    I agree with the fact that what Sterling said was despicable but if we start punishing people for what they say in the privacy of their home then it’s open season for everyone. No one will be safe. Down with Big Brother.

  5. Alan  •  May 16, 2014 at 8:20 pm

    I find it rather sad that Medved’s carefully drawn article has elicited such bigoted and hateful remarks as those of John, Omari and Johnson.

    • Elmo Glick  •  May 16, 2014 at 11:58 pm

      And quite stupid, as well.

    • SJohnson  •  May 21, 2014 at 1:41 am

      For you it’s hateful because you are wrapped up in PC and group think that you have to follow the herd, it makes me mad that this continues, attack those who don’t think like you and any other ideas are wrong.sorry but Bundy is not racist while Sterling was but the thought police get the most cover,beware you may be next even while you speak out on others it will come back on you.

  6. martin Kessler  •  May 16, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    People are so stupid. I’m just so sick and tired of all this race-black-white thing. Enough already!

    Slavery was not a mistake. It was the accepted customary way human effort was acquired for productive purposes if you didn’t have enough of your own. If you needed some help–on the farm in the field in the home, any where, at the dawn of the industrial revolution you bought or acquired whatever labor power you needed –body and soul. Slavery was as common a human aspect of history as war, which was a result of much slavery. It was something that became to be purchased if you needed more hands. It may come as a surprise to the reader but the market for human power was supplied primarily by Black merchants in Africa as their prime economic activity All Blacks are not the same. Some are superior and some inferior on many behavioral and intellectual variables. Think the Bell Curve. You need to be informed of precisely who were the sort of Negroes that were the unfortunate victims of being captured and sold as vendable product by Black Merchants who said the blacks they “captured” to sell were not at all like them. My point is, you begin with a number of less endowed humans and transfer them to another culture you wind up with the same less gene- endowed people – for the most part even two hundred years later. Finding disparities as we do now between the races is no great startling discovery. When you begin with a sow’s ear you wind up with a sow’s ear, not a silk purse. . It’s a long story but if you know how to read get the book “Inhuman Bondage”, by David Davis. Oxford University Press,2006. Davis is a leading authority on Slavery in the New World.

    Now — after a long time and some conflicts that should have been unnecessary –we buy human labor mostly by the hour in this country–yet still not everywhere else.

    The worst thing to have happened to this country is to have elected a minority black man preoccupied with race. The reason is simple to understand. Life is difficult as it is without intentionally aggravating the state of social unhappiness that occurred as a consequence of race migration–forced or natural. As a result of the election Blacks will benefit for a short while—ever notice how more frequently blacks are now featured in print advertising and employed as announcers or panel participants on television political programs–like MSNBC. Courtesy of the sycophants. Every black man knows that all men are equal is a lie. There is not a day in the life of a black man — no matter the station in life–that he doesn’t suspect that is some way or another he was the object of some discriminatory act. All this will pass and we will revert to the historical mean. Nothing bad about that. That’s called life.

  7. Lawrence Coleman  •  May 17, 2014 at 3:36 am

    Now Martin, whose really showing their ignorance? What you just laid out is so full of holes, that one truly has to be ignorant to buy into your weak and quite sophomoric reasoning and logic.

    To say that slavery was not a mistake because it was customary, is as about ignorant as one can get. Just because something is customary, doesn’t make it legitimate or right. Slavery in any form and by anyone, will always be wrong.

    Should we start again subjugating and controlling women again because we had and have been able to do that in the past? Would that be ok for your mother, wife and or daughter? Just because you say, “When you begin with a sow’s ear you wind up with a sow’s ear, not a silk purse”, doesn’t justify any man or woman being enslaved.

    So based on your logic, as the world continues to turn “browner”, and it is turning “browner”, should we then in a generation or two, start enslaving White People?

  8. Bernard Wolff  •  May 18, 2014 at 11:06 pm

    I’m so sick of the word :”offensive”. Where’s the backbone?

    As a white guy from the South, who grew up under segregation & then embraced integration (thanks to the sacrifices of Dr. Martin Luther King & his brave lieutenants), traveled extensively outside the South, Vietnam combat vet (Swift Boat skipper nontheless) who subsequently attended an Ivy League Business school at the height of the antiwar insanities, then traveled to at least 65 countries on business for 35 years, I’ve had my share of insults. Much of my life while overseas, I’ve been the odd looking & odd talking person in the room.

    Did or do I get “offended” when someone slights me for ANY of the above personal attributes? Why NO. I have a BACKBONE and a sense of humor. Poking good natured fun at those who insult you has a positive effect *& actually wins over your detractors.

    Why don’t the “offendees” try this, for once? Or don’t NBA Pro’s have a spine?

    “He sure does pay us well as slaves” for example.

    Or “Hey! want to go have some beers with me & my friends?”

  9. Jay Tinley  •  May 22, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    What kind of garbage is this? How many Jews drive up to the entrance of a synagogue on the Sabbath and “harrangue” observant worshippers about how “stupid” they are for observing the Sabbath? Is this something that Medved experiences regularly? Better call Abe Foxman!

    • S Johnson  •  May 22, 2014 at 1:43 pm

      Michele just wants to start up things online and he won’t have a discussion on air, he won’t talk to you unless he is winning the discussion, ops looks like we lost the call,BS.he also is not a Conservitive and won’t uphold the Consitition but picks which parts he want to honor .
      Hey Mike if you read this I want to know why you won’t defend the constitution all the way,but you won’t answer my email because you know I am right and ignore these kind of replies.

  10. Omari Tahir  •  Jun 6, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    BILL GATES, PAUL ALLEN AND STEVE BALLMER, are all cut from the same cloth!!! I was arguing with Mary Gates, (Bill Gates mother) when she was on the Board of Regents at the University of Washington about divesting from businesses doing business with APARTHEID SOUTH AFRICA? When I sued the URBAN LEAGUE LEECHES about their neo-colonial take over and subversion of positive youth activities, Bill Gates dad (Bill Gates Sr.) turned up as their Lawyer. The BILL AND MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION, provided the seed money for the 36 CONDOS AND FAKE “NORTHWEST AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSEUM” (NAAM). YES, “NAAM IS A SCAM”. the URBAN LEAGUE LEECHES then went bust with their neo-colonial take over of the “SMALL BUSINESS /CONTRACTOR’S RESOURCE CENTER”. So this is my response to the DONALD STERLING CLIPPERS PLANTATION EXPOSURE AND BILL GATES AND PAUL ALLEN’S MICRSOFT PARTNER STEVE BALLMERS PURCHASE OF THE LA CLIPPER PLANTATION FOR 2 BILLION DOLLARS($ 2,OOO,OOO,OOO)?

    FYI
    ARE WE CRAZZZZZZY????? STEVE BALLMER’S 2 BILLION COULD END ALL HOMELESSNESS IN SEATTLE? WHAT IS MORE IMPORTANT ANOTHER WHITE PLANTATION OWNER WITH “BLACK LABOR”?? WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE STERLINGS, STEVEN BALLMER OR BILL AND HILLARY CLINTON OWNING THE LA CLIPPERS PLANTATION??? IF AFRICAN AMERICANS ARE 80% OF THE NBA AND 99% OF TOP BASKETBALL PLAYERS, WHY ARE NO BASKETBALL TALENT WHITES THE TEAM / PLANTATION OWNERS? YES ECONOMIC APARTHEID / PLANTATION POLITICS (HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS) IS STILL OPERATIVE!!!!! THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES, Omari Tahir

    FYI
    MR..PRESIDENT MR STERLING IS NOT “IGNORANT”. HE IS TRUTHFUL AND HONEST
    ABOUT THE PAST AND PRESENT US POLITICAL ECONOMIC SOCIAL SYSTEM AND MOST
    IMPORTANT PAST AND PRESENT “US WHITE SUPREMACY”/ BLACK LABOR CULTURE!!
    “THE KING HAS NO CLOTHES”
    Mr.
    Sterling is a typical “EUROPEAN SETTLER COLONIAL BUSINESS MAN”
    operating on the land PIRATED FROM THE NATIVE PEOPLE AND DEVELOPED BY
    AFRICAN:”SLAVE LABOR” THROUGH GENOCIDAL TERRORISM !!!! LIKE HIS FELLOW
    EURO DESCENDANT BANKERS, MOVIE EXECUTIVES. INDUSTRIALISTS, POLITICIANS,
    CATHOLIC, PROTESTANT, EVANGELICAL AND OTHER “WHITE JESUS” RELIGIOUS
    LEADERS. The “WHITE SUPREMACY COURT” has ruled in the DRED SCOTT CASE
    THAT “A BLACK MAN HAS NO RIGHTS A WHITE MAN IS BOUND TO RESPECT”? What
    is new???? “THE MORE THINGS CHANGE THE MORE THEY REMAIN THE SAME”??? IT
    IS TIME THE AFRICAN AMERICAN BASKETBALL AND FOOTBALL PLAYERS STOP
    “PLAYING AS VICTIMS”,,,, FORM AND CONTROL THEIR OWN MULTI- ETHNIC
    LEAGUES AND THEN MERGE WITH THE NBA AND NFL!!!!! PLANTATIONS SHOULD HAVE
    MORE THAN JUST “WHITE” OWNERS IN 2014 FORWARD OR THE BLACK HORSES DON’T
    RUN!!!!…………….. TALENT EQUALS CONTROL.??????? FOR THE SAKE OF
    JUSTICE YOU CAN THROW IN $$$TRILLIONS FOR “REPAIRATIONS”
    (REPARATIONS) 400 YEARS OF UNPAID BLACK “SLAVE LABOR” BEFORE THE NBA
    AND NFL!!!!!!!! YES, YES, YES JUSTICE AND AN END TO ECONOMIC
    APARTHEID!!!! Omari Tahir FOUNDER African American Heritage Museum and
    Culture Center and AFRICATOWN SEATTLE (SUPER SONICS).

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