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PC Knitting Circle

From a longtime reader:

I deeply regret ephblog becoming such a PC knitting circle.

1) Hard to take that complaint seriously when, just last month, I published: Better (or, at least, browner) Umpires.

2) Want some un-PC goodness today? Consider:

History says Maz Jobrani is descended from Caucasians. Some Americans think he’s a dangerous Arab. Jobrani, however, prefers to call himself “Brown and Friendly.”

That’s the title of a new comedy special from this Iranian-born comedian who was raised in the United States and now travels the world running roughshod over ethnic stereotypes.

Jobrani starts his show laughing at his fellow Persians, then widens his scope to the whole Middle East. His Indian wife gets no mercy. Before the end of the show, Mexicans, white Americans, Japanese, the Swiss and more get lampooned, in a variety of perfect accents.

American culture has long dealt with shifting boundaries through jokes, said John Limon, an English professor at Williams College and author of “Stand-Up Comedy in Theory, Or, Abjection in America.”

In the 1960s and 1970s, as standup became a cultural force, it challenged the notion that American identity was white and Christian, Limon said, citing the early prevalence of Jewish comedians, followed by giants such as Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor.

“With Maz Jobrani, it’s clear there aren’t just two things,” he said. “It’s not just am I going to get counted as a white American. It’s what does it mean when I’m having dinner with a Jewish person or if I marry an Indian person.”

“It’s not a question of does this outsider play an interesting and funny game at the border of inside and outside,” Limon said. “It’s that you can’t tell what’s inside or outside.”

Hmmm. One group is prominently (?) absent from the list of mocked groups. Can you guess which one? Is it absent because Jobrani does not tell those sorts of jokes or because the reporter failed (purposely?) to mention that he did? Or are such jokes included in the act and I am a hypersensitive Tea Partier for assuming that they would not be?

Knit away.

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#1 Comment By rory On January 29, 2010 @ 12:04 pm

*facepalm*

#2 Comment By mike On January 29, 2010 @ 12:59 pm

It’s funny that you post this in the same week that Paul Shirley got strung up by the PC lynch mob.

#3 Comment By frank uible On January 29, 2010 @ 1:30 pm

OBAMA IS BLACK AND CONSEQUENTLY AN IMMORAL MORON. Does that statement even things a little?

#4 Comment By David On January 29, 2010 @ 1:34 pm

Info on Paul Shirley.

Coincidentally (?), I was just re-reading “The Forgotten Man” by William Graham Sumner.

Now who is the Forgotten Man? He is the simple, honest laborer, ready to earn his living by productive work. We pass him by because he is independent, self-supporting, and asks no favors. He does not appeal to the emotions or excite the sentiments. He only wants to make a contract and fulfill it, with respect on both sides and favor on neither side. He must get his living out of the capital of the country. The larger the capital is, the better living he can get. Every particle of capital which is wasted on the vicious, the idle, and the shiftless is so much taken from the capital available to reward the independent and productive laborer. But we stand with our backs to the independent and productive laborer all the time. We do not remember him because he makes no clamor; but I appeal to you whether he is not the man who ought to be remembered first of all, and whether, on any sound social theory, we ought not to protect him against the burdens of the goodfornothing. In these last years I have read hundreds of articles and heard scores of sermons ands peeches which were really glorifications of the good-for-nothing, as if these were the charge of society, recommended by right reason to it scare and protection, We are addressed all the time as if those who are respectable were to blame because some are not so, and as if there were an obligation on the part of those who have done their duty towards those who have not done their duty. Every man is bound to take care of himself and his family and to do his share in the work of society. It is totally false that one who has done so is bound to bear the care and charge of those who are wretched because they have not done so. The silly popular notion is that the beggars live at the expense of the rich, but the truth is that those who eat and produce not, live at the expense of those who labor and produce. The next time that you are tempted to subscribe a dollar to a charity, I do not tell you not to do it, because after you have fairly considered the matter, you may think it right to do it, but I do ask you to stop and remember the Forgotten Man and understand that if you put your dollar in the savings bank it will go to swell the capital of the country which is available for division amongst those who, while they earn it, will reproduce it with increase.

Professor Robert Jackall explains the (tenuous) connection between Sumner and Williams here.

If Shirley had quoted Sumner would ESPN have fired him?

#5 Comment By JeffZ On January 29, 2010 @ 1:43 pm

Hadn’t heard about Shirley. While I vehemently disagree with his views on Haiti, it is a shame if that statement will ruin his career. He is a sharp, insightful guy, and I really enjoyed his book about what life is like in the NBA for a marginal player.

On the other hand, I think that among Ephblog’s concerns, being too P.C. ranks very low on the list.

As for Jabrani, last time I checked, there was no shortage of comedians making jokes about black people. Granted, they tend to be black, but under the Seinfeld principle, it is always much easier to make fun of your own people, whatever your ethnicity may be. The vast majority of comedians making fun of Jews happen to be Jewish, and so on …

#6 Comment By Ronit On January 29, 2010 @ 1:49 pm

What’s wrong with knitting circles?

Some of my favorite Ephs are knitters, David. Do you have something against knitters?

#7 Comment By frank uible On January 29, 2010 @ 1:51 pm

The Shirley situation reminds of the aphorism concerning pioneers and arrows.

#8 Comment By Ronit On January 29, 2010 @ 1:51 pm

@mike: 1 point for use of the term “PC lynch mob”

Warning: don’t use the term “lynching” as an analogy for right-wing policies and tactics. If you do that in any argument with a right-winger on EphBlog, they’ll get very offended, lecture you about US history, leave in a huff, and then write passive aggressive little notes to David.

But comparing the firing of a jackass making boorish comments about Haitians to being strung up by a lynch mob is a-okay.

#9 Comment By Ronit On January 29, 2010 @ 1:56 pm

I mean, really, losing your job with ESPN is exactly like being executed without trial.

But executing accused terrorists without trial is nothing at all like lynching.

#10 Comment By Ronit On January 29, 2010 @ 1:58 pm

So, David, which of our aggrieved right-wing friends wrote this? I’m guessing hwc or ephling.

#11 Comment By David On January 29, 2010 @ 2:03 pm

Some of my favorite Ephs are knitters, David. Do you have something against knitters?

I love knitters! Note that the current Knitting Club at Williams was started by two EphBloggers!

Ronit: Your guesses are wrong.

#12 Comment By mike On January 29, 2010 @ 2:03 pm

Wow, Ronit. -1 point for being a caricature of hyper-partisanship. -1 more point for being so worked up you felt the need to repeat yourself.

#13 Comment By frank uible On January 29, 2010 @ 2:04 pm

Shirley would have been more profound if he had not limited his remarks to Haitians but had comprehensively extended them to the whole human race, wherever it may be found. By the way my life experience tells me that ESPN’s actions were not as motivated by PC as they were by commercial concerns.

#14 Comment By nuts On January 29, 2010 @ 2:16 pm

#15 Comment By nuts On January 29, 2010 @ 2:25 pm

@David: You have a hyper-partisan deep throat! Will it be 40 years before you disclose his identify?

#16 Comment By Ronit On January 29, 2010 @ 2:42 pm

@mike: -2 points?! I gave you positive points :(

#17 Comment By Dick Swart On January 29, 2010 @ 2:47 pm

#18 Comment By rory On January 29, 2010 @ 3:35 pm

*facepalm again*

jeffz–read shirley a little closer. I think the problem is less his ahistorical and immature reaction to the crisis in Haiti and more the lack of insight and basic respect for humanity when writing things like this:

“As we prepare to assist you in this difficult time, a polite request: If it’s possible, could you not re-build your island home in the image of its predecessor? Could you not resort to the creation of flimsy shanty- and shack-towns? And could some of you maybe use a condom once in a while?”

don’t just read the wikipedia, read his actual post.

ronit, I can’t help but laugh at ephblog sometimes. To paraphrase ken, aren’t williams grads supposed to do better?

#19 Comment By johnwesley On January 29, 2010 @ 3:58 pm

frank uible said:

The Shirley situation reminds of the aphorism concerning pioneers and arrows.

more like, the wonderful talking dog, IMO.

#20 Comment By JeffZ On January 29, 2010 @ 4:18 pm

Wow, that is indeed pretty ridiculous Rory. Shirley should really stick to commentary on things he knows something about, like basketball and music. His comments on this are definitely beyond the pale, especially now that I’ve seen them more fleshed out. Notwithstanding that, I still enjoyed his thoughts on basketball. I can’t say I blame ESPN on the one hand; but on the other, I’m not sure anyone who ever says anything offensively stupid, or stupidly offensive, should be banished for evermore, so long as they learn from their mistakes and adjust accordingly.

#21 Comment By mike On January 29, 2010 @ 4:21 pm

“Shirley would have been more profound if he had not limited his remarks to Haitians but had comprehensively extended them to the whole human race”

But the “whole human race” doesn’t suffer from the same problems that Haiti does. There are many fault lines on our dear Mother Earth, but some cities deal with them better than others. Why? Your attitude is what prevents us from examining the differences between those cities, and what provides us from offering effective long-term support to failed states like Haiti.

#22 Comment By mike On January 29, 2010 @ 4:24 pm

“His comments on this are definitely beyond the pale”

Freudian slip?

#23 Comment By David On January 29, 2010 @ 4:29 pm

There are many fault lines on our dear Mother Earth, but some cities deal with them better than others.

The relevant comparison might be the Kobe earthquake of 1995. To the extent that Kobe dealt with the aftermath better than Port au Prince has, I blame the white man.

#24 Comment By kthomas On January 29, 2010 @ 4:50 pm

@mike:

Give us the courtesy of a real email address on your next comment.

#25 Comment By kthomas On January 29, 2010 @ 4:55 pm

@David:

To the extent that Haiti’s governance was a result of French colonization, and its poverty, due to the absurdity of reparations paid for freedom from slavery, (until 1940), you might be right. (Except the French are not exactly white). (Who is these days?).

But you know? Sarkozy could get off his ass and do something to take up France’s particular responsibility for the situation, instead of leaving it all to the US (Mexico, and other nations).

P.S. I certainly encourage Shirley to use a condom– or vasectomy– or whatever it takes, to eliminate himself from the gene pool.

(Non-PC enough?)

#26 Comment By David On January 29, 2010 @ 5:05 pm

Ken: There is a difference between “non-PC” and “interesting.”

Would you agree that Shirley’s argument is, in broad outline, the same as Sumner’s? Moreover, wouldn’t you agree that US public opinion is largely on his side, at least when it comes to the total dollar amount that the federal government should spend on foreign aid? (Yes, I realize that foreign aid is not the same as emergency aid and that federal spending is not the same as private charity. But, in spirit, I see a direct link between Sumner, Shirley and the US public . . .

#27 Comment By kthomas On January 29, 2010 @ 5:56 pm

@David:

Ken: There is a difference between “non-PC” and “interesting.”

I believe I just demonstrated that (for the 100th time).

Would you agree that Shirley’s argument is, in broad outline, the same as Sumner’s?

Probably not– unless our brush strokes are really, really big.

Sumner’s argument has some holes. Chief amount them are a misunderstanding of production and monetary systems. It is also, from a different era.

Shirley, on the other hand, as above, has not so much an argument as a rant, which is not substantiated by anything else. (Thus it is fair to attack his genes).

Most Amer… no, there is no “most Americans” here. One need only point out that conservatives give in much higher numbers than liberals, and give and give and give, in many instances.

In the case of US foreign aid and policy, one has to– as with Mexico– consider consequences, and what one gets done. With no democracy, no effective governance, and no greater civil society in place… and that, being in part, by the usual blunders of US foreign policy…

There is a big difference, however, between Sumner claiming there is no point in giving to the shiftless (wrong or right) and Shirley making circumstances beyond the control of individuals, racial and personal– while ignoring Malthus and other simple facts.

Sumner at least has a working brain, capable of saying something useful, while Shirley is, on this issue, something like a quack who can justify his quacks by saying they sound similar to the sounds made by actual speakers.

I’m all for limiting the speech rights of ducks. (Lowell better watch out… if the SCOTUS can extend the First Amendment to corporations-qua-corporations, and not as collections of individuals, then the seals and the Wales and the Dutchies are surely next).

Now, if what you’re saying about US “public opinion,” is that the US public is one of the most ill-informed, uneducated, and listless on the planet… you might have some agreement.

But we’d have to be a lot more careful, before throwing words like that around.

And I didn’t mean to get into this; just to make a sort of point.

#28 Comment By Jr. Mom On January 29, 2010 @ 6:06 pm

Now, if what you’re saying about US “public opinion,” is that the US public is one of the most ill-informed, uneducated, and listless on the planet… you might have some agreement.

Hmmm, this reminded me of a point I wanted to pursue in Professor Birnbaum’s post…

#29 Comment By Ronit On January 29, 2010 @ 11:02 pm

#30 Comment By frank uible On January 30, 2010 @ 3:05 am

mike: My attitude never prevents anything more macro from occurring than my consumption of certain types of fruit juice in the morning.

#31 Comment By Brandi ’07 On January 30, 2010 @ 9:36 am

+10 to Rory for his use of “facepalm”.

+5 to Ronit for bringing points into this.

+100 to me for limiting my commenting on this thread to this.

#32 Comment By Brandi ’07 On January 30, 2010 @ 9:39 am

– 5 to me for commenting again but…

Don’t conservatives give more than liberals because church donations are also factored into that statistic. I’m too lazy to look up a source cite so, I’m going to take my 5 points back.

#33 Comment By Jr. Mom On January 30, 2010 @ 10:31 am

@Brandi ’07:

I believe the reasons conservatives give more is tied into religion. However, I would like to see a study that factors in volunteer work…actual time donated by individuals.

#34 Comment By Brandi ’07 On January 30, 2010 @ 11:31 am

#35 Comment By Jr. Mom On January 30, 2010 @ 10:50 pm

@Brandi ’07:

That is interesting. Kind of blows a big fat hole into my idea that liberals might be more generous with their time. But, by the same token, it serves as a bit of clue that the Mormon practice of tithing is probably making up a big part of those overall conservative donor amounts.