Punishing Bad Thoughts

Liberals continue to attack anyone whose thinking doesn’t conform to their ideology, and their efforts seem to be picking up steam. Lately, liberals have sought to punish Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty and Donald Sterling, owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, for certain statements relating to homosexuality and race. And some liberals are even calling for the criminalization of speech that questions climate change.

The problem with criticism of Robertson and Sterling is that their statements were made to only one other person. The statements may be odious, but because they were made in private, they harmed no one. Yet in Sterling’s case, the absence of harm did not stop Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post (see here) from demanding that the NBA punish Sterling and take away his team. And it did not stop NBA Commissioner Adam Silver from insisting that Sterling’s comments were harmful (see here).*

Silver responded to critics by banning Sterling from the NBA for life and fining him $2.5 million. So Sterling’s critics, including the players, have pressured the NBA with the threat of lost revenues to do their bidding, and we are now witnessing the punishment of an individual solely for his thoughts. Let us give a hearty welcome to the expansion of the liberal police state (actually a “shadow” police state because it is privately operated, at least for now).

But liberals claim that bad thoughts and words directed to a particular group do harm members of the group by making them fearful of bodily injury or by causing psychological harm. But even accepting this, an individual cannot inflict this harm on his own. None of the harm can occur without the assistance of the media and those in the media are not objective bystanders. They actually make the decisions to disseminate such statements, which is to say it is they who inflict the harm in question.

If the person who originally utters the nonconforming statement deserves punishment because of the alleged harm, then so much more deserving are members of the media who either publish or broadcast the statement to millions. They must not only be punished, but should even be removed from their jobs if they fail to learn their lesson.

So far there is no word on whether the NBA intends to punish Sally Jenkins or TMZ Sports, the website that originally published Sterling’s statements. No doubt Jenkins and others think dissemination of the bad statements somehow teaches America about tolerance, but harm is harm, no matter how liberals might justify it. Punishment for Jenkins and others in the media should be as swift and firm as that for Sterling. No self-respecting police state can allow the media to go unchecked.

Liberals seemingly cannot get it right. They either punish people for their thoughts or they fail to punish the right people for their harmful conduct. We shouldn’t hold our breath, however, waiting for liberals to think and act consistently, and oh yeah, as the liberals’ police state continues to advance, anyone who questions the facts of global warming would be well advised to watch their back.

* Interestingly enough, the NAACP selected Sterling to receive a lifetime achievement award for his actions in donating to black causes, although it has since withdrawn the offer. For the NAACP, words evidently count more than actions.

NOTE: This post has been revised from its original form in response to a comment.

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2 Responses to Punishing Bad Thoughts

  1. You seem to have missed the essential point that both these gentlemen are in entertainment businesses. Such businesses thrive or fail based on public opinion. That’s why their contracts contain so-called “morals clauses”. If they behave in any way that damages the public image of the product, they can be fined, suspended and/or fired.

    The two cases are quite different. Despite what columnists write and why, the only meaningful pressure on Donald Sterling was from all the corporate sponsors who dumped him, and from the uber-rich owners of the other NBA teams, hardly liberal groups. His behavior tarnished the brand, so he got kicked out of the country club. Perhaps if he hadn’t already settled multimillion dollar housing discrimination cases, the privacy of his conversation might have mattered. It’s more like Mitt Romney’s “47%” and “free stuff” remarks. There’s no blanket protection from consequences if what you say upsets or offends enough people.

    • alsanblog says:

      I agree that there’s no blanket protection from consequences if a person offends enough people. But that doesn’t change the fact that many people want to punish Sterling for his bad thoughts. But thanks for your comment – I’ve modified the post accordingly to (hopefully) clarify the point I wanted to make.

      By the way, a lot of people have pointed out that Sterling has ACTED badly in the past. I take that as a sign of discomfort about punishing him for this thoughts and so past bad actions are referenced to make the punishment more palatable. But all of the facts should probably be mentioned. For example, Sterling settled one case, but he actually won another. He also has worked with the NAACP for the last twenty years, to the point that the organization wanted to give him an award. Not to mention that his ex-girlfriend is mixed race. There’s more than a little ambiguity in the whole affair.

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