I was right in the first place: Dallas commissioner is a twinkie

By Phil Plait | July 10, 2008 9:52 pm

Remember yesterday’s foofooraw over the term black hole? I wasn’t sure if the second commissioner in this event was being racist or not.

Turns out he was (sorry about having to link to a Fox site). That video makes it very clear that the first commissioner was using the term black hole to mean the office was sucking down paperwork, and that the second commissioner was being hugely overly-sensitive thinking that it was a racist term.

Also, the judge who asked for the first commissioner to apologize is being ridiculous as well. When you make an actual insensitive remark it’s OK to apologize, but it’s not OK to apologize when a) the comment is obviously not racist, and b) the other person is clearly being a jerk. It was the second commissioner who was being racist, assuming that a white man using the term black hole is making a racist comment. That’s really, really dumb. Note that the first commissioner even went as far as to explain what a black hole is, calling it a "science term".

So I was right in the first place. I’m glad I looked into this more, as I prefer to give someone the benefit of my doubt. In this case, he turned around and unequivocally proved my original assertion.

As I said in the previous post: we have enough real racism problems in this country, and they’re going to get worse in the coming months. We don’t need histrionics like this demeaning the issue.

… oh, about the title of this post: a twinkie is a term we used to use in Netrek, an online game, for people who did really foolish things. It’s less insulting than calling someone an idiot. And since Twinkies are yellow, I hope it won’t be misconstrued as a racist slur… but obviously any term can be misconstrued if you’re a twinkie, so the heck with it.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Debunking, Piece of mind, Politics
ADVERTISEMENT

Comments (133)

  1. RayCeeYa

    Can’t we just write off the whole state of Texas as a terrible mistake yet?

  2. Wow, Phil. You’ve been writing like a madman since you got back from your Arkansas trip. Keep this up and you’ll be on par with Isaac Asimov soon!

    Good stuff on the racism thing. You’re completely right about what’s in store over the rest of the summer considering the democratic nominee for president. In fact, Jesse Jackson just made all that crap more probable. Glad you kept up with this story and summarized it for us.

    Dumbest astronomically misconstrued comment I can ever remember receiving is when, at the end of a planetarium program I had just ran, a teacher approached me and said she wished the show hadn’t talked about evolution so much. The show never mentioned evolution and I told her so. She then said, “The narrator said ‘evolution’ many times over!” “Wait,” said I, “Are you talking about ‘stellar evolution?” “I don’t know what kind of evolution it was, but I don’t agree with it.” I felt obligated to explain that stars evolve and that the word doesn’t always have to be about her. She ended with, “Well they should pick a better word to use then.”

    Some people are just programmed to look for offenses where most of the time none exists. I wonder what causes such paranoia?

  3. I hate to tell you this, Phil, but “twinkie” is a racist term according to a friend of mine.

    It is a term that means an Asian person who rejects their heritage and, instead, adopts mannerisms of Caucasians.

    The descriptive is, “Yellow on the outside, but white on the inside.”

    Stupid? Hell yes. But there you go.

  4. Second to Christopher’s comments. It already is a slur. Right up there with “Oreo” (the analogous term for African-Americans).

    On the other hand, I feel obligated to point out that in Canada they have an interesting term for African-Americans. They call them “black people”.

  5. IBY

    This is just ridiculous, and that judge is an idiot. I mean, haven’t they ever heard of a black hole? Also, most holes are normally black, cause it is dark :)

  6. Ad Hominid

    A number of people here in west Texas have asked me if astrology and astronomy are the same thing.
    One of these was a senior administrator at a local hospital, another (so help me) was a member of the city council. Local government here is a kind of black hole, with any loose fragments of intellect and integrity that come within its grip being sucked into oblivion.

  7. Ad Hominid

    Btw, it is very likely that judge Jones and commissioner Price have no idea that they are a global laughingstock.

  8. RayCeeYa

    Step 1: Let Texas cede (you know they want to any way)

    Step 2: Throw Dubya out of office for no longer being a US citizen.

    Step 3: Deport the sorry MF back there for good and say good ridance

  9. Blizno

    This nation (USA) needs to grit its teeth and look its horrible, racist past straight in the eye.

    This nation owes a huge debt of gratitude to the Africans torn from their nations and families and forced to labor to build the USA. That any descendant of slaves doesn’t feel honored and treasured by this nation is a disgrace.

    Once that process is complete, we will then need to grieve for our dishonor. Only by owning our past will we ever be able to move past it.

    That said, misuse of language achieves nothing. I have ranted before about accurate use of language (and against cell-phone-speak, LOL). Yes, I wrote “LOL” as a protest against dumbing down communication.
    Accuracy of language is important in life and critical in science. Rushing to be offended by perfectly good words that carry no offense, such as “black hole” and “niggardly” sets the important process of national reconciliation back by years.

  10. Eric TF Bat

    Phil, I vaguely recall that “twinkie” is also a term in gay slang — possibly for a barely-legal pretty young lad. So if you’re lucky, you can offend a whole separate collection of people without any extra effort! Woohoo!

  11. t.phillips

    Ray, George Bush was born in Connecticut.

  12. Thomas Siefert

    I hate to tell you this, Phil, but “twinkie” is a racist term according to a friend of mine.

    It is a term that means an Asian person who rejects their heritage and, instead, adopts mannerisms of Caucasians.

    The descriptive is, “Yellow on the outside, but white on the inside.”

    Stupid? Hell yes. But there you go.

    Just proves BA’s point that anyone who wants to take offence can find something to be offended about.
    My wife have on occasions called herself a banana, “Yellow on the outside, but white on the inside” due to her being an adopted Korean.

  13. Thomas Siefert

    Urg, html “block quotes” do not show properly here :-(

  14. DaveS

    Blinzo, I’m a third generation white American. You are being racist to suggest that I owe any more gratitude to slave descendants than I do any other descendants of my grandparents’ adopted country. I don’t have dishonor due to this country’s slavery past; I wasn’t there, and neither were any of my ancestors.

    Besides, the entire ancestor thing is really out of line. A person is responsible for his own actions and mind, but should not be held responsible for the sins of his g-g-grandparents.

    The entire basis of the racism that remains in the US is based on the idea that your parents, who gave you your skin color, also gave you some other inferior or superior qualities or position. In order to overcome racism, we have to measure the worth of people by “the content of their character”, not by whom their parents are, or whether they have stars on thars.

    And this broo-ha-ha about “black hole” is just about as stupid as the recent firing over the use of the word “niggardly”.

  15. Wut? He’s gay? ‘Twinkie” is gay slang where I come from!

  16. Pedro

    DaveS – Neither you, your parents, nor your grandparents stole this land from the Native Americans.

    Yet you’ve clearly benefited from that theft.

    That’s the concept Blizno is trying to get across.

  17. Bystander

    Blizno, I don’t know how well versed you are in the history of America’s African slaves. They weren’t ‘torn from their nation and families’ as you say. Almost if not all of them were already enslaved by their own people for criminal behavior, unpaid debts, and war prisoners.

    They were sold to the pale settlers by their masters. The difference, however, is that while enslaved by their own kin they had rights to marry and have kids. Also, they could and did eventually settle their debts and would be freed. Americans treated them like cattle.

    I know that shamefully few people are aware of this real history so I hold nothing against anyone for being unaware of these facts other than assuming American schools teach well.

    Yes, they did help build the nation. Should we revere their descendants? No. Do they revere us for the thousands of lives sacrificed in the American civil war? We took them from one enslavement to another and then slaughtered each other over the difference of opinion on the fairness of ‘owning’ other humans. They, with the pale settlers, inherited one of the most powerful free countries in the world. They are owed nothing and no one should be pointing any fingers because the past cannot be changed but dwelling in it will only do harm.

  18. FoxDem

    Why do you apologize for a link to Fox? More of us Dems watch it than any other cable news channel.

    http://tinyurl.com/5rg7hq
    FNC (31% Democratic): 491,350 Dem viewers
    CNN (45% Democratic): 432,450 Dem viewers
    MSNBC (48% Democratic): 328,800 Dem viewers

  19. khms

    Pedro Says:

    DaveS – Neither you, your parents, nor your grandparents stole this land from the Native Americans.

    Yet you’ve clearly benefited from that theft.

    That’s the concept Blizno is trying to get across.

    Except, of course, this is wrong on several levels.

    First, people don’t actually steal land. It’s pretty hard to put land somewhere else.

    No, what they do is they (usually forcibly) displace the people living there.

    Second, these days, there’s hardly a square inch of what we’d consider useful land where this hasn’t happened several times – usually, a lot of times.

    And this certainly includes much of the area of the US before, say, Columbus. On their way over from Siberia, these “Native Americans” kept chasing each other around quite a lot.

    Considering the way homo sapiens tends to behave, and given that we’re originally from Africa, just imagine how much chasing each other was necessary to get us all where we are today!

    Any theory of ownership which relies on looking back forever is fundamentally broken. Even if you assign land to the first immigrant homo sapiens to use it (and they’re impossibly to trace usefully to today’s people), you’d either end up (depending on what theory of inheritance you use) with a quarter of the world population as having something like a billionth of the ownership in that piece of land, or else something like maybe a million people owning all the land – neither of which is actually useful.

    Now, mind you, I’m not saying that there was (AND IS) nothing wrong with this chasing around stuff. There’s quite a lot wrong with that.

    No, I’m saying that our concepts of ownership and inheritance are what is broken. Not that I claim to have the solution for this – but that doesn’t keep me from seeing the problems.

  20. Uh, anyone notice the poll on the side?

    “Is the term “Black Hole” racist?”

    What the frack?

  21. gopher65

    Pedro: As far as I’m concerned, no one stole this land from the Natives, any more than any other land anywhere in the world was stolen from anyone. Military conquest has been sanctioned (rightly or wrongly (wrongly of course:P)) as being a valid method of obtaining property and resources. Every single currently existing country on the plant is the result of such conquest sometime in the past few thousand years (and usually fairly constantly over that whole time period), and of the interbreeding of the conquestees and the conquesters. The conquest and genocide of the North American First Nations was no different than any other genocide. Or indeed, the genocides that still go on on a regular basis today. I simply don’t understand the difference. Death and torture are death and torture. Conquest is conquest. The conquest of North America is just like the conquest of Tibet, or Russia by the Mongols, or South America by the Spanish, or the Middle East and Northern Africa by the Muslims, or Texas by the Americans. All the same.

    And frankly, I think that those of my ancestors who were European were treated just as badly by the European royalty as those of my ancestors who were Native Americans. Both groups were raped and murdered indiscriminately. The only difference is that the Natives have had a mere 500 years of it, compared to the thousands of years of rapes, murders, and forced conscription (and such) the peasants of Europe endured. The royalty wasn’t particularly racist at first (they were a little bit, but not like what happened later); they simply hated everyone who was poor, or anyone who was even remotely culturally different from them. That included the poor citizens of their own countries, and even the rich merchants, whom they despised.

    So really, I’m not sure I buy that the Natives or the Africans (those who were kidnapped and brought here) were ultimately treated any worse than the Europeans were for thousands of years. Children ripped away from their families? Check. Murders? Check. Rapes? Check. Genocides? Check. Oh heck yes. That one gets 2 more checks. Check. Check. Purposeful starvation? Check (remember those 7 million Ukrainians who were purposefully starved to death? Geez, that alone is almost equal to the total number of Natives that were murdered!). Enslaved? Check (peasants were slaves, even if they weren’t technically called slaves). Forbidden from ever rising in status? Check. Beaten? Check. Worked to death? Check. So how exactly was the treatment of the treatment of the Natives and Africans any different than what was already going on at the time?

    And why do black people get affirmative action for a MERE 500 years of brutality, yet my ancestry of European and not-quite-enough-Native-to-not-look-white doesn’t deserve the same? Shouldn’t everyone who was forced into peasantry and forcibly held there by, say, the British Empire, receive compensation?

    I don’t understand how they decide who deserves affirmative action or compensation and who doesn’t. It seems to me that instead of picking the group of people who had suffered the most in sheer numbers (Europeans), or maybe the group of people who had suffered the most as a percentage of their total population (Natives), or the groups of people who had recently been conquered in the greatest numbers (Latinos/SouthAmericans), they picked picked the group of people who marched the farthest and complained the loudest (African Americans). That seems… unfair to all the other groups who were destroyed or brutalized in essentially the same fashion.

    Man that was a long rambling post that said nothing about anything, wasn’t it?:P

  22. Blizno

    DaveS, do you feel any gratitude to George Washington? To the Minutemen who fought and died to free us from rule by a foreign nation?
    Are you grateful to the Americans who built the railroads linking the distant provinces into a nation? To the Americans who built the highway system that allows us to cross a continent in days instead of weeks?
    The slaves also worked terribly hard building this nation, against their will. Their accomplishment is titanic. We will never know the true scale of the effort and sacrifice forced from those least fortunate of Americans.
    My only intent is to honor the slaves of America as we have for generations honored all other Americans.

    I never meant to suggest that any living American should feel the slightest guilt for the national crime of slavery. My point is that all Americans whose ancestors worked and sometimes fought and died for this nation deserve to have their ancestry honored and thanked; the descendants of slaves at least as much as any others.

    My ancestors came from England and Germany long, long ago and were eager participants in the building of the young nation that became these United States.

    All American slaves are long dead. All American slave owners and slave traders are also long dead. No living American is guilty of slavery. No living American has ever been a slave.
    I spoke of the deep, dark, bloody stain of slavery that still taints the USA. That stain isn’t going away by ignoring it. That national disgrace is as strong as the national honor of freeing ourselves by force of arms from the strongest colonial nation on Earth at that time. We have done brilliant, amazing things (“One small step…for Man…”) and we have done horrific things.
    We need to stare deep into our national history and not flinch from the ugliness we find. I am confident that we will also find stories of courage and sacrifice that will amaze and embolden us for generations. We are a strong, sometimes clumsy giant with a history shot through with both dark and light streaks.
    We will be the better for looking with clear eyes at our nation and moaning our disgraces as well as shouting our triumphs.

  23. themadlolscientist

    @ RayCeeYa: It’s “secede.” Otherwise, I like your plan. Great idea! Welllllllll…….. except that they’d take all their oil with them………

    As for the quibble that G-Dub-the-Shrub is originally from CT: True, but I doubt very seriously that CT really wants to claim him. They’d probably be more than happy to oblige by revoking his birth certificate. Only humans and Cabbage Patch dolls are entitled to those anyway.

    Meow. =^.^=

  24. Perhaps astronomers need to find a new term now, as the previous one is considered racist.

    Some years ago, the term, “nitty-gritty” was deemed racist when a government minister used it at police conference, he was told in no uncertain terms that if a police officer used it they would have have been on a disciplinary charge. It is believed to refer to detritus that was left at the bottom of slave ships, but this is disputed

    The other word we are no longer allowed to use is “picnic” as some consider this refers to lynching partys when african Americans were lynched by white men. Although some authorities, such as snopes says the word has nothing to do with this, because people believe it is the case, it is therefore to be considered racially offensive and should no longer be used, just like that word that sounds similar to the N word. DO NOT USE IT EVER

    At work we have been officially instructed, not to criticise political correctness in any way shape or form as it is trying to do the right thing.

    Astronomers will not be allowed to be seen to trample on people’s feelings, and if the term is judged by some to be racist, as what happened here, then it will be considered to be so, just like the other words we have been told are no longer acceptable. Astronomers will just have to come up with a less offensive term, just like in the UK where we also had to replace the term blackboard with chalkboard and Brain Storming with thought shower.

    So who has a better, less offensive sounding alternative to the term the first commisioner used.

    BTW when will they extract his resignation for using that term.

    BTW2 Stop the world I want to get off!!!
    :-(

  25. Ryan

    @ Phil Plait:

    Does that have anything to do with UT of Austin’s Astronomy program?

  26. In the UK we often joke that absolutely *any* word can be made into a double entendre. In fact most of our humour derives from this!

    Similarly, any word can be made to be abusive if the inflection is correct or if the recipient is looking to be offended for political gain.

  27. This story was written a while ago by the Daily Redunancy (like The Onion) about “super high gravity locations”:

    http://www.dailyredundancy.com/archives/1018.html

  28. I’m very proud of being white (an ethnic white, BTW), but we must be very conscious that the self-victimisation of whites from a perceived anti-white racism can be easily played by neo-Nazis and xenophobic far right. Of course, we need to denounce and fight any anti-white racist aggression (either violent, legal or verbal), but we must care about our own feelings because white supremacy is still ongoing in the social-economic sphere.

  29. Kirkburn

    “To the Minutemen who fought and died to free us from rule by a foreign nation?”

    How different would that be to, say, New York people “freeing” themselves from rule by Washington DC? When does something become “foreign”? It wasn’t foreign until they freed themselves, so if the US split in two, suddenly one side would also be bravely fighting to free themselves from foreign rule.

    Nothing is ever as black and white as you think.

  30. Jose

    Well I guess I’ll move this response from the Original thread (minus the spelling errors, of course). It’s no fun if I don’t get yelled at.

    @Irishman said
    It is one thing if the remark really is an offensive remark, or is meant to be offensive (used in an offensive manner). It is quite another for a completely innocent remark to be taken and offensive, and an apology demanded. If I didn’t mean to offend you, why should I apologize for you being offended by my innocuous remark? Your oversensitivity is my fault? And how am I to keep from offending you if you take anything I say as an offense? “I like bananas.” “STOP BEING OFFENSIVE!”

    I’m not saying anyone should apologize. All I’m asking is that people be less quick to cry “He’s playing the race card” or “reverse racism”. I don’t know if anybody has explicitly said that in a post here, but it’s certainly implied in many of them.

    I don’t know the players involved in this case, but I can think of many scenarios where this could have been racism. When Phil wrote this, he clearly didn’t have enough information to know either way, yet he’s immediately accusing people of “all-too-ready to be offended”. It may be that he’s absolutely spot on in this case, and from the posts of people familiar with these folks, maybe he was. But that’s not the point. The point is that there’s was a definite chance that this post was a knee jerk reaction to some misleading headlines and blurbs.

    I know that there is nothing inherently racist about Ba Ba Black Sheep and never suggested such. All I said is that it’s possible to twist something non racist into something that is. Imagine if a school banned it’s singing for the very reasons I’d detailed in my previous post. When the news media and blogosphere got a hold of the story, I guarantee that the headlines would be things like “Political Correctness Gone to Far”, “Black People Will Make Anything a Race Issue” or “White’s Facing Discrimination at one Elementary School”. Very few would dig deep enough to get the correct headline “Little Girl Tortured by Racist Classmates Because of Her Ancestry”.

    This is exactly what happened in the case where the woman was awarded a millions of dollars after she spilled coffee on herself. Only then it was headlines decrying frivolous lawsuits. For weeks she was talk show host fodder. Dig a little deeper, and it’s not so clear cut. Here’s a quick summary of the case. McDonald’s had received hundreds of reports of severe burns caused by the fact that they kept their coffee way to hot, and the lids of there coffee had a tendency to pop off. It was a long standing problem with a simple solution (turn down the heat, or get more secure lids), which they chose to ignore. In 1994, The woman in question simply went through a drive through, got her coffee, and while she was securing it, the lid popped off. She was horribly burned on her legs (If you can find the photos, they are quite gruesome). All she asked for was that McDonald’s pay for her medical bills. They refused, so she sued. 12 perfectly sane jurors saw how irresponsible McDonald’s had been, and decided to send a message by awarding the woman $2.9 million dollars (which was later reduced to $480,000 thousand dollars). The facts of the case are out there, yet even today people will cite it as proof of what’s wrong with our legal system.

    And if there’s anyone still reading this thread, please answer this part of my comment. How are your lives negatively impacted by refraining from using a phrase or symbol that might be offencive to someone? Why the outrage? Why is political correctness always a negative?

    Growing up, I would used the term “jipped” to mean ripped off. When I learned that it was a gypsy slur, I was pretty surprised. Now, I don’t ever think I’ve ever even met a gypsy, but I immediately stopped using the term. And you know what, my life is exactly the same. There’s no sense of loss. No gaping hole that the rest of my vocabulary was unable to fill. The “burden” of being politically correct is minuscule compared to the amount of energy people spend railing against it.

    But even if this story was absolutely true, I’d have a problem with news stories and posts like this that boil down to “Silly minorities get upset over nothing”. It falls into the same class as the “I didn’t get the job because I’m a white guy” story. They’re isolated incidents with issues that 99% of white American will never encounter. But these stories aren’t harmless. They foster an unjust feeling of resentment and hostility and towards minorities. Many times throughout my career people have stated or implied that I have a leg up on the competition when it comes to getting a job, when in fact my name makes it difficult for me to even get an interview. Of course, my interview problems went away one day when I thought, “I wonder what would happen if I changed the name on my resume from Jose to Joe”. Thank god my last name isn’t a dead give away like Gomez of Martinez or I might still be unemployed.

  31. No living American is guilty of slavery. No living American has ever been a slave.

    Somehow I doubt that. People trafficking and sex slavery is a huge industry and definitely exists in Australia. I’d suggest that the US would have similar issues.

  32. Perhaps we should use the term “Super High Gravity Locations” and Mega High Gravity Locations for the bigger ones as those terms are less racially offensive, since the term currently use did cause offence.

  33. andyo

    # Christopher Ambler Says:
    July 10th, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    I hate to tell you this, Phil, but “twinkie” is a racist term according to a friend of mine.

    It is a term that means an Asian person who rejects their heritage and, instead, adopts mannerisms of Caucasians.

    The descriptive is, “Yellow on the outside, but white on the inside.”

    Stupid? Hell yes. But there you go.

    I am ethnically Asian (Japanese), and I laughed at that. What does that make me? I guess I am like the Korean wife of one of the subsequent commenters. Probably since I and others like me don’t have a horrible history of racism against us, it’s not that big of a deal for us. Although, I’ve also seen black people using “oreo” humorously. I’m not making any kind of point, I don’t really know what to think. If a white man used those terms, I can see people being offended.

    About the original story,

    This is just beyond ridiculous. I don’t want to not be able to refer to black holes as such. And by the way, what’s so negative about black holes? They’re super cool.

  34. Ralphie

    I thought “twinkie” was similar to a rusty trombone.

  35. Thanks to this incident I am now afraid to use the existing term, in case I am branded a racist now, even if it is a scientific term. That is how bad it is over here in the UK.

    :(

  36. Here’s what *really* offends me: The FOX “news” report, of course. The reporter signs off with “you decide,” and while I know that is their mantra, it is nonetheless *offensive* here in that it implies an open question on the central issue. It embodies all that is wrong with journalism … in just two words.

  37. Eddie

    ‘histrionics’ folks!

    word of the day.

  38. The Yorkshire Sceptic

    He-hee! Ain’t language fun? 😀

    Over here, ‘twinkie’ means a barely legal pretty boy, too.

    As a writer, I was amused by my American beta’s pointing out that a jumper in the U.S. is not a synonym for a sweater but is a little girl’s pinafore dress. I had to change that one pretty smartish! LOL!

  39. On the other hand, I feel obligated to point out that in Canada they have an interesting term for African-Americans. They call them “black people”.

    That’s because most black people you see are no more African than I am. In fact, the ONLY African-Canadian that I know is a white guy whose family moved from what was then Rhodesia when he was 7.

    The term “African-American” is near the acme of silly for a number of reasons:

    1. Not everyone with dark skin in the world lives, or ever lived, in Africa. Not by a long shot.

    2. Many people you might meet did have relatives that came from Africa. However, the fact that they had relatives come to America from Africa hundreds of years ago no more makes them African now than my wife is American now because her relatives fled the American Revolution in 1775. It’s just my opinion, but if you’ve never lived in a place, and none of your parents lived in the place, then you can’t claim to be from that place. My grandparents were Scottish, but not since I’ve been around, so I don’t get to call myself “Scottish-Canadian”.

    3. If you don’t have some kind of time-limit on calling people African, aren’t we all technically African?

    Besides, in Canada, people will get much more bent out of shape about whether you speak English or French, depending on where you go.

  40. nighstalker160

    What I love is that “angel food cake,” “devil’s food cake,” and “black sheep on the family” are ALL racist terms according to this guy.

  41. Mikel

    Phil…

    Hmm. Interesting. You said, “sorry about having to link to a Fox site.” What I find interesting is that you (apparently) could not find a reference to this material on a “non-Fox site”, otherwise you would have. Could this be because Fox was the only one willing to cover it? What does this say about the other networks? Why didn’t they cover the story equally as well as Fox did?

    I happen to watch all news channels, including Fox. I like the diversity of opinions I see.

    Apologizing for linking to a Fox site tells more about the apologist than about Fox news.

    – Mikel

  42. reverse racism

    There is no such thing as reverse racism. It’s all just plain, ordinary racism.

  43. w_nightshde

    “That’s a big Twinkie.” –Winston Zeddemore, Ghostbuster

  44. kryth

    “I hate to tell you this, Phil, but “twinkie” is a racist term according to a friend of mine.

    It is a term that means an Asian person who rejects their heritage and, instead, adopts . mannerisms of Caucasians.

    The descriptive is, “Yellow on the outside, but white on the inside.”

    Stupid? Hell yes. But there you go.”

    Damn, what food item can we call this guy then?
    Fig Newton….no no I can see how that would wrong.
    Hostess cupcake…damn no that won’t do.
    Cream Puff…damn
    I grok maybe chickenhead or tweaker would work out best.

  45. Reminds me of an incident years ago when I was working in a computer operations centre at a factory. I received a call from an anonymous woman with a neutral accent complaining that her computer terminal was offline. I explained to her that we were having difficulties at the time, and there was nothing I could do. To my amazement, she then started ranting “You’re just trying to fob me off because I’m BLACK!” – and hung up.

    Now how was I supposed to know what she looked like? I reckon some people have that as a ready-made insult for when they don’t get their own way. Play the race (or religion or whatever) card, saves you from having to admit that you’re in the wrong.

  46. Todd W.

    Just another note on the term “twinkie.” In RPG gamer culture, a “twink” or “twinkie” is someone who goes for the most powerful stuff all the time, min-maxes (trying to get the best scores with the least drawbacks), and complains when things go against them.

  47. Will

    Yep, you white people have it so hard in society today. Forget this blog, I don’t need to read a bunch of comments telling me how my ancestors weren’t forced against their will over here, or how we shouldn’t refer to ourselves as African-Americans. White people today may not have been the ones responsible for slavery, but you still benefit from its results, and African-Americans still suffer from its results.

  48. Naked Bunny with a Whip

    I like the diversity of opinions I see.

    Good point, Mikel. If you want opinion, Fox News is fine. If you want actual news, it’s not so great. (And neither are MSNBC or CNN for that matter.)

  49. Naked Bunny with a Whip

    you white people

    Such palpable racism. You and Jesse Helms: two sides of the same ugly coin.

  50. Tony

    Will, you want to know why there is still racism in this country? Part of it is because there are still people like you, white, black, asian, etc, who continue to use terms like you white people, you black people, you this people, you that people. People like you create your own barriers. My grandparents came from Italy, but I do not consider myself an Italian-American or a White-American. I am a American.

    People should not forget their culture and where their family came from, but we are more than that. To call myself an Italian-American would diminish me as a person and what I have accomplished as an individual.

  51. Kirkburn

    While I applaud Tony’s comment, there are times when I feel such a sentiment does not go far enough.

    We live in a world with arbitrary borders – and on the other side someone is “foreign” – a word with surprisingly negative connotations. Patriotism can be good – but it can also be very bad.

  52. Greg

    This whole affair reminds me of the incident when an official used the word “niggardly” and was accused of racism. Unfortunately, he ultimately lost that battle if I recall correctly.

  53. KC

    Feh.

    Yeah there’s racism in this country. There’s racism everywhere. It’s not anywhere as bad as the 1960s. As a case in point, we have a black man who is going to be the presidential nominee of a major political party, and who will likely win. I don’t think that was possible in the 1990s. It certainly wasn’t possible in the 1950s. The color of one’s skin simply does not weigh heavily in the minds of most Americans these days, and that’s a huge difference from the way it used to be.

    Phil observes that racism is only going to get worse over the next few months. I disagree with that based on a limited personal observation. I only know one person who said they wouldn’t vote for Obama because he’s black. Only one. The rest of the reasons I’ve heard from McCain supporters is based on policy, not race. Yes, you’re going to get some idjuts who’ll make Obama’s race an issue, but this will not be a net increase in the number of idjuts who make decisions based on skin color.

    What I do anticipate is hypersensitivity like what we’ve just seen with the black hole comment. I fully expect any criticism of Obama’s positions on the issues to be dismissed as racism. The net effect, I fear, is going to be like the little boy who cried wolf: Real racism could be dismissed as more hypersensitivity.

  54. Dave

    While everyone is crying racism and tossing around suspiciously racist terms, I thought I’d offer this: http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com

  55. Andy

    Neil deGrasse Tyson needs to go have a talk with these people.

  56. Mikel said (July 11th, 2008 at 4:52 am):

    “Apologizing for linking to a Fox site tells more about the apologist than about Fox news.”

    I should hope so. It tells you that I understand that Fox News is a propaganda organ of the right, they lie constantly, they shill for neocons, they slander the left, and they hire demagogues with almost no grasp of reality.

  57. Adrian

    This “twinkie” and “oreo” talk has me thinking (my Asian friends like to use “banana” or “white-washed”)…

    My mom’s parents are Dutch, my dad’s mom is British, and my dad’s dad is Chinese. My parents and I were all born and raised in Canada.

    I guess that makes me a weak lemon snow cone.

  58. Tony

    Kirkburn, I didn’t mean to imply that anything foreign is bad. I certainly do not believe that.

    I am not sure I understand what you mean by my comments not going far enough.

  59. Michael

    At work we often perform “black box tests” and “white box tests”. Doesn’t that make us all racists and sexists at the same time?

  60. Jose

    Once the headline is written, the damage is done. The anti-political correctness anti-reverse racism folk come out in force (I realize that reverse racism is a stupid term, but it’s not mine, and if I didn’t use it, you wouldn’t understand what I’m saying). Stories like this cause people who aren’t being persecuted to feel they are. They reinforce an us vs them mentality that does exists, but shouldn’t. The “us” and “them” in this case equate to people who perceive they’re being hurt vs people who actually are being hurt. Of course, this was not Phil’s intent, but looking at the comments here and other places on the web, this is exactly what happened.

    This case boils down to two men who believed something racist has been said; when in fact they just know nothing about astronomy. The inordinate amount of attention given to this case and other isolated cases like this, give people the impression that political correctness and reverse racism are rampant problems in our society. They’re not. The reality is, very few people are actually hurt by them, while many people are still hurt by real racism.

    And for god’s sake, somebody please explain how you’re hurt by political correctness. Once you do that, feel free to complain.

  61. nighstalker160

    No offense Phil, but the media in general are ALL shills for one side or the other nowadays (witness the Obama love fest that is occuring in many news outlets today). Even though I support Obama and will probably vote for him, the adoration occuring in the media…slightly…disturbs me.

    Bottom line, its all about ratings and money now. I was listening to an Eagles album the other day and Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry” came on…best line ever…

    “Bubble-headed bleach-blonde comes on at 5, she can tell you about the plane crash with a gleam in her eye. It’s interesting when people die…”

    That’s basically what media has become today a bunch of airheads and pundits talking about celebrity divorces instead of oh…real news.

    Fox might be the worst (and probably most obvious) example of this…but well…not by as much as you might think.

  62. MH

    “Just another note on the term “twinkie.” In RPG gamer culture, a “twink” or “twinkie” is someone who goes for the most powerful stuff all the time, min-maxes (trying to get the best scores with the least drawbacks), and complains when things go against them.”
    Isn’t that “tweak” and not “twink”? I’m pretty sure ‘twink’ is only a boyish gay man (and I’ve never heard ‘twinkie’ used to describe such a person, either, only ‘twink’).

  63. Bruno Domingues

    It looks to me that some afro-americans believe that the word black refers to them, no matter what the context may be… … and even worst, they get attention and media time because of that…
    I am increasingly worried about your country general behavior. The number of crazy people getting lots of coverage is rising. If you were a small, no power country I couldn’t care less, but quite the opposite, YOU GUYS are the Americam Empire…
    It’s sad… No. It is TRAGIC. And the whole world is paying for your loony behavior.
    And sorry for the you guys, you this, you that, all that generalization. Actually all the Americans I’ve meet so far are great people, smart, funny. Maybe I got lucky to meet these ones abroad, never meet “real local ones”.
    And also, great work Phill. I love your blog and have been recommending it to everyone I can. It never hurts to spread some science around.

  64. speaker2a

    Phil: It is not the Fox News cable channel that ran this report. So apologizing for linking to the site is a bit silly. This is a local channel covering a local story. This is a local Fox network affiliate’s local news program. But your comment does illustrate that there other words that folks can be ultra sensitive about.

  65. I’d best be careful. I regularly stir people up at work by suggesting they are a black hole of intelligence – then I make loud sucking noises whilst gesticulating with a motion that suggests my brain is being sucked out in their direction.

    It’s funnier than it sounds. Trust me, I’m in advertising.

    In future I’ll refer to it as a chromatically-neutral hole but I think that might confuse the people I direct it at.

  66. Quiet Desperation

    Hmm. Need a science or sci-fi angle… ah!

    I think I’m going to stick with what Uhura said on Star Trek, and not fear words anymore.

    Everything else in the thread is ideology, tomfoolery and intellectual kerfufflery. Yeah, I said kerfufflery. I went there.

    I’m sorry, but saying “Slavery was bad!” does not earn you any brainiac points. We know that. Everyone knows that. Even the slavers know it at some level. They either rationalize it or justify it one way or another.

    If you’re so worried about slavery, here’s a link to somehwere you can do some actual, real world good:

    http://www.iabolish.org/

    Grow up, make the *current* world a better place, and live your own lives.

  67. farstarz

    Will accept your apology for the link to FOX.

    The Dallas morning news, in an online column by Steve Blow (www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/localnews/columnists/sblow/stories/071108dnmetblow.41f4132e.html)
    06:53 PM CDT on Thursday, July 10, 2008, has an alternative description, whick says:

    “They love to get their digs in. But they also engage in a lot of humorous banter.

    “And all this began as just the typical half-playful, half-pointed jab and nothing more.

    “Unfortunately, we live in a time when some will pounce on any racial issue for their own gain. And that includes a lot of white folks as surely as it does the Al Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons.

    “The conservative blogs and right-wing radio shows are having a field day with this tiny incident because it serves their purposes so well.

    “I talked to Mr. Price on Thursday and he’s astounded that this has become such a big deal. He said it’s unfortunate that Judge Thomas escalated things by asking for an apology.

    The event as described in on dallasnews.com does not sound like either cosmologic or linguistic counter-dogma. It could have even brought a wry smile to the lips. Goofy comment, perhaps Clemens-esque, certainly with some truth behind it, but not malicious nor dogmatic.

    But, when read according to FOX, this story somehow becomes the harbinger of doom to science and language and to common sense itself. FOX would rather push the “hot buttons” of fear and vulnerability that could be “milked” from a story, than to relay the event and circumstances actually involved. (see Steve Blow, above).

    So, there were alternative, even, Mikel, better, sources to quote, Phil. Shame on you for relying on FOX. In view or your otherwise impeccable choice of sources, will accept your apology for the FOX link.

  68. Jose

    People like you create your own barriers. My grandparents came from Italy, but I do not consider myself an Italian-American or a White-American. I am a American..

    My mother is Caucasian of English and German descent. Here ancestor came over on the Mayflower and signed our constitution. My father is ethnically Puerto Rican. He was born in New York City, as were both of his parents. I grew up around white kids in the suburbs with no notion that racism still existed. I was just a regular American kid. However, as I got older, my name and skin color caused other people to identify and treat me as something different, to the point I don’t feel American any more. Now I feel left out. I desperately want to get that feeling back, but I don’t think it’s possible while I’m living here. When I lived in England for a time, one of the best things about it is that I was finally an American again. Nobody looked at me and thought “Puerto Rican” (Occasionally, they thought “Canadian”. Close enough). That American pride came back. It left again as soon as I moved back home. My point is that I didn’t create my own barriers. The frame work exists outside of me. I just live in it. I’m still proud of Puerto Rican heritage, but as for my American heritage it’s hard to feel anything other than ambivalence.

  69. Quiet Desperation

    @Eddie

    Sadly, I think “histrionics” is going to be the defining word of the 21st century.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Histrionic_personality_disorder
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissistic_personality_disorder
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borderline_personality_disorder

    There. Those three articles cover just about every politician, activist and other “newsmakers” in the country, if not the world.

    I’d like to follow up “God Is Not Great” by Christopher Hitchens with “Ideology Is Not Great” where I present modern political systems as vast, collective personality disorders. :-) Actually, I’m mostly serious. It’s one of the projects I have planned for my hopefully early retirement.

  70. nighstalker160

    @ Jose

    I think what you’re seeing the effect of multiculturalism. There is no such thing as “American” anymore:

    You, for example, are definied as Latino or Puerto-Rican

    ANYONE of Asian decent is “Asian-American”

    And any black person is “African-American”

    It’s not ok to be plain old American anymore because then you’re not being “multicultural”

    My brother in law recently came to America from Jamaica. He absolutely HATES that he is defined as “African-American” as he says:

    “I’ve never been to Africa, I don’t know anyone from Africa, I don’t know anything ABOUT Africa…”

    But because he is black he HAS to be “african-american” because its not ok to call him “black.”

    I think it’s even MORE racist that now we’ve decided you are basically one of 4 things:

    African-American (applies to all black people as if they are ALL the same)

    Asian-American (applies to all asian people regardless of where they are actually from)

    Latino (all hispanics as if they are all the same)

    White (applies to everyone of European descent regardless of where they are from)

    I mean how racist is it to say

    “well, you’re from Jamaica and you’re from Congo, but because you’re both black we’re going to call you African-American and decide you have the same culture”

    You can replace Jamaica and Congo with any combination such as “Vietnam and Japan” or “Mexico and Honduras” or “England and Italy” and change African to “Asian, Latino, or White” and basically get the same thing.

    Why can’t we be “American”? Makes no sense to me.

  71. Irishman

    Jose said:
    >And if there’s anyone still reading this thread, please answer this part of my comment. How are your lives negatively impacted by refraining from using a phrase or symbol that might be offencive to someone? Why the outrage? Why is political correctness always a negative?

    Depends on the term, phrase, or symbol. Something that actually is racist/sexist or has racist/sexist roots, then I agree with you. But terms that are completely innocuous getting accused of being offensive is offensive to me. So there! It’s stupidity, and agreeing to stupidity is agreeing to be stupid.

    Political correctness is negative precisely because of these silly, pointless cases where a good thing is taken to the extreme. Sometimes words have negative connotations not because the word itself is negative, but preciesly because the topic it addresses conveys negative connotations to people. The term “retarded” means “developmentally delayed”, but of course immature and crude people apply it in a rude and offensive manner, so now the word is offensive. Not because the word was bad, but because the concept it applies to (people with mental development issues) is something that a lot of people look down on and use as an insult. So any word used to describe people with that condition will become a derogatory word, precisely because the crude and obnoxious people won’t stop their behavior just because you change the term. Just like the word “special” to apply in the same case.

    > But even if this story was absolutely true, I’d have a problem with news stories and posts like this that boil down to “Silly minorities get upset over nothing”. It falls into the same class as the “I didn’t get the job because I’m a white guy” story. They’re isolated incidents with issues that 99% of white American will never encounter. But these stories aren’t harmless. They foster an unjust feeling of resentment and hostility and towards minorities.

    That was exactly my point. The idiots making these statements are the ones creating the hostility and resentment, though certainly the media can be culpable in they way they cover these stories. In this case, it is factually correct that a couple of silly minorities got upset over nothing. That’s their fault, not the white guy’s and not the media’s, and certainly not Phil’s.

    Sticks said:
    > The other word we are no longer allowed to use is “picnic” as some consider this refers to lynching partys when african Americans were lynched by white men. Although some authorities, such as snopes says the word has nothing to do with this, because people believe it is the case, it is therefore to be considered racially offensive and should no longer be used, just like that word that sounds similar to the N word. DO NOT USE IT EVER

    This is precisely the stupidity that occurs because sensible people give in to stupidity in the name of being nice. What it takes is sensible people standing up and saying, “No, picnic is a longstanding word for eating a portable meal outdoors, and if white lynching parties liked to throw picnics, that isn’t the fault of the picnic.”

    Jose, there’s an example for you. “Picnic” is a great word, very useful, and now you would have us come up for another word to replace it because some moron is ill-informed.

  72. White people today may not have been the ones responsible for slavery, but you still benefit from its results, and African-Americans still suffer from its results.

    Compare and contrast:

    The standard of living and the amount of suffering of a dark skinned person living in the USA today, whose ancestors were taken from Africa 200 years ago by whatever negative means you can think of…

    … with the standard of living and amount of suffering of an average person living in the Sudan right now.

    Perhaps I’m jaded, but I hardly call the sum of all the mistreatment – real or imagined – that all the minorities in the USA are subjected to “suffering”, at least not when measured against a global standard. It may not be the perfect American dream, but you don’t have secret police breaking into your house at night, raping your mother and sister while hacking off your limbs and executing your father, while you starve during the day because the local warlord stole all the foreign aid.

  73. Brian

    Mmmm mmm m mmmmmm mmmmmmmm mm mmm. Mmmmmmmm m mmm mmmmm mmmmmm mm mmmmmmm m mmmmmmmm mmm mmmmmmm!

    (The author of this comment wanted me to let you know that he is afraid to use vocabulary to communicate and asked me to append this explanation for the above post.)

  74. And for god’s sake, somebody please explain how you’re hurt by political correctness. Once you do that, feel free to complain.

    1. Political correctness impedes the free expression of ideas. It creates, in effect, thought crimes. That is a bad, hurtful thing in a free and democratic society because the unexpressed but distasteful ideas don’t go away, they just go underground. When people are vociferously expressing their ideas, you always know where they are. When you force them underground, you never know where they will pop up and what they’re going to do. In addition, political correctness prevents open discourse about distasteful ideas which allows them to persist when exposing them to the light of reason and debate can, over time, kill them off for good.

    2. Political correctness presumes offence where none is intended. That creates tension and strife out of nothing solely for the purpose of supporting political correctness.

    3. Political correctness allows people to abrogate their personal responsibility to deal with the world around them by shifting the responsibility onto the world around to deal with that person. When we give up personal responsibility for our feelings, we’re giving up our personhood.

  75. TheAntiChick

    I know this thread has gotten a bit off the original post, but as someone subjected to Dallas politics since childhood, let me just say that John Wiley Price is a TWIT, always has been, probably always will be. He’s never been known for being bright, what he HAS been known for is pulling the race card at EVERY opportunity, and showing what an enormous TWIT he is.

    Since I’m quite certain that SOMEONE will pipe up and inform me that ‘twit’ is somehow a racial slur, I feel like taking a page out of the movie “Little Man Tate” and calling him a ‘lepton’, but since the moron doesn’t know what a black hole is, I’m quite certain he hasn’t a clue about sub-atomic particles, either.

    My kiddo is 11, and we’re stuck here with a custody order until she goes off to college (hopefully out of state), then we can flee this reason-forsaken wasteland.

  76. Mikel

    Phil said:

    “Fox News is a propaganda organ of the right, they lie constantly, they shill for neocons, they slander the left, and they hire demagogues with almost no grasp of reality.”

    Phil, I believe this type of hyperbole will get you nowhere. It makes you sound like a bug-eyed fanatic to people who expect sanity and reason out of learned scientists such as yourself. My eyes are wide open to the world of political reality, which means that, no matter what you say, it can be argued against with equal passion by the other side. I watch all the news channels, I read voraciously about the world around me, and I can tell you one thing I do know. Your comments, voiced in such a crazed manner, will not help you. Once you state something like the above, no one with any calm and reasoned intelligence will listen to you on that topic anymore.

    – Mikel (Not a Republican or Democrat, but a registered Independent)

  77. Jose

    @nighstalker160:
    I don’t think that’s it. My problem there’s an undercurrent of “Not quite as American as me” some people associate with being Latino.

    @Irishman
    Jose, there’s an example for you. “Picnic” is a great word, very useful, and now you would have us come up for another word to replace it because some moron is ill-informed.
    I’m not arguing that we stop using words like “picnic”. You act like I’m saying these people were right to misinterpreted “black hole”. I’m saying that a perfectly innocuous word or phrase can be used in a racist manner, so don’t jump to conclusions so quickly. The example I used of a word to stop using was jipped or gypt. It’s no great sacrifice to stop using words like these.

    @Evolving Squid
    I think your definition of political correctness is very different than mine. To me, it’s avoiding words like “retard” and saying things like “women belong in the kitchen”. It’s stopping the tomahawk chop, and removing the confederate flag from state buildings. I don’t think this impedes the free expression of ideas, presumes offence where none is intended, or allow people to abrogate their personal responsibility.

  78. Sticks

    @Irishman

    It is not that we are being too nice, it is that if we use the wrong word, we can be hounded out of jobs, branded a racist so we have to move out of our homes, be picketed where ever we go and seen as a general pariah, Remember what happened to that person that used a word that sounded like the N word!

    Since reading about this I for one do not feel comfortable using the term referring to a collapsed star now, as it has been branded as being racially offensive. As there is another term usable, Super High Gravitational Locations, I will now have to use that instead to avoid all of the nasty stuff mentioned.

    I also suspect that if Phil were to use the old name in his coming book, there could be book burnings and denunciations. You cross that lobby at your peril, from what we have been told.

    We have to face it, the term is now unacceptable and can no longer be used, if we know what’s good for us. It is just not worth risking our jobs and livelihoods .

    :(

  79. @Jose

    If you choose to avoid words like “retard”, etc. and are happy with that, it’s your choice and you should be welcome to it. When you try to force OTHER PEOPLE to abide by your choice, you are absolutely impeding free expression, presuming offence where none is intended and abrogating your personal responsibility as well as encouraging others to abrogate theirs.

    Nobody, absolutely nobody, has a right to go through their life unoffended.

    Even if you hide the words, the idea lives on. It makes much more sense to have those ideas out in the open and spoken where they can be subject to ridicule, than to suppress them by pretending the words don’t exist.

  80. nighstalker160

    @ Jose

    You’re absolutely right there is a “not as American as me” and I think it relates back to what I was saying.

    The identification of everyone as “African-American,” “Italian-American” “Asian-American,” “Hispanic American,” “German-American” etc etc etc.

    Allows a small (I hope) group of people to say “Well I call myself AMERICAN so all these other grounds aren’t really American because they don’t consider themselves full American since they’re holding on to being Hispanic, African, Italian etc…”

    I really think that all this focus on ethnic and racial differences is hurting the country way more than helping it. Our greatest strength is that out of many different groups we get one nation (E Pluribus Unum) but we’ve decided that isn’t ok anymore. You can’t say “You’re American” everone has to be a hyphenated American now.

  81. BMcP

    As I said in the previous post: we have enough real racism problems in this country, and they’re going to get worse in the coming months. We don’t need histrionics like this demeaning the issue.

    Curious why you believe that racial tensions will only become worse in the coming months? I have ideas why but I do not want to assume and rather hear what you are thinking.

  82. Irishman

    Jose said:
    > I’m not arguing that we stop using words like “picnic”. You act like I’m saying these people were right to misinterpreted “black hole”. I’m saying that a perfectly innocuous word or phrase can be used in a racist manner, so don’t jump to conclusions so quickly.

    I’m fully aware an innocent word can be used in a racist manner. The problem is the racist, not the word. But in this case, the guy was picking on the word “black hole” through his own ignorance or just a twisted sense of what is important. That kind of nonsense is the attitude that is more detrimental to race relations than any amount of hanging on to terms that originated with a stereotype but the history is lost on most people (i.e. “gyp”, “gypped”).

    > I think your definition of political correctness is very different than mine.

    It’s the extremism of Political Correctness that is the burden. Look at poor Sticks’ reaction. Sadly, he’s not being hyperbolic, from what I’ve seen of him he really feels that way. Now he won’t use the scientific word “black hole” because 2 morons said it was offensive.

    Sticks said:
    > It is not that we are being too nice, it is that if we use the wrong word, we can be hounded out of jobs, branded a racist so we have to move out of our homes, be picketed where ever we go and seen as a general pariah, Remember what happened to that person that used a word that sounded like the N word!

    I submit that it is the failure of sensible people to speak up and defend the use as loudly as the attackers. That is the “being nice”, the not loudly shouting down the idiots that “niggardly” has nothing to do with racial origins, and “black hole” is a descriptive term. “Hey, it doesn’t affect me, I’ll just shrug my shoulders and scoff and go my merry way.”

    “Super High Gravitational Locations” was a parody not meant to be taken seriously. Use it if you wish, but you’ll just have to explain to people that you mean a “black hole”.

    > We have to face it, the term is now unacceptable and can no longer be used, if we know what’s good for us. It is just not worth risking our jobs and livelihoods .

    Bullpucky. Some morons opened their mouths. That hardly constitutes a consensus of social attitude. In fact, the consensus seems to be they are morons. Black hole. Black hole black hole black hole. BLACK HOLE! So there.

  83. 1. Political correctness impedes the free expression of ideas. It creates, in effect, thought crimes. That is a bad, hurtful thing in a free and democratic society because the unexpressed but distasteful ideas don’t go away, they just go underground. When people are vociferously expressing their ideas, you always know where they are. When you force them underground, you never know where they will pop up and what they’re going to do. In addition, political correctness prevents open discourse about distasteful ideas which allows them to persist when exposing them to the light of reason and debate can, over time, kill them off for good.

    ^^ THIS

    The marketplace of free ideas is vital. The American concept of the inalienable natural right of freedom of speech means that anyone can say practically anything they want, no matter how stupid or hurtful it is. Everyone must have the right to do this because, in the free marketplace of ideas, the idiots out themselves and can be taken down in rational debate, while the good ideas are supported by their intrinsic support and bubble to the top.

    If I want to say “gypped” or “retard” or “women belong in the kitchen” or do the tomahawk chop, I bloody well have the right to. I do not have the right, however, to have any attention paid to me. If someone gets offended, then they can bring it up and I can decide for myself whether their feelings are worth the cost of self-censorship. I had better not be forced to comply because some poor milquetoast has skin thinner than rice paper.

    George Carlin was right. I can say “nigger” as I run a KKK lynch mob or I can say “nigger” as I greet my good black friend who doesn’t mind me saying that to him. It’s a word, it’s a collection of phonemes. How I say it is the matter, and even if I’m being a jerk, well, sorry, but we’ve got the right to be jerks.

    That any descendant of slaves doesn’t feel honored and treasured by this nation is a disgrace.

    That any law-abiding, decent citizen of this nation doesn’t feel honored and treasured by this nation is a disgrace. If we’re to consider the sins of the father as equivalent to sins of the son, absolutely everyone has screwed over absolutely everyone else in some way, shape, fashion, or form.

    Back at university I used to edit V-Day posters, changing “dedicated to stopping violence against women” to “dedicated to stopping violence against anyone.” Institutionalized or cultural discrimination now doesn’t make up for intstitutionalized or cultural discrimination in the past.

  84. Diego

    I think this is pretty embarrassing really, not just that another commissioner took an offense of the ‘black hole’ remark, but the judge asking him to apologize?, How dumb can people get in this world?

  85. Tyler Durden

    I find it disheartening that even on a Fox website (home of institutional racism and a complete rejection of political correctness) they were able to find 240 people who agree that somehow a cosmic object which happens to be named in front of a black person = racism.

    It was out of 12,000 people, but still those 240 are out there and usually that kind of ignorance screams the loudest in my experience.

  86. Sticks

    @Irishman

    The PC brigade are scary and play hard ball, all in the name of tolerance

  87. @Sticks

    This is called “living in fear.” I don’t recommend it.

  88. Mikel, hyperbole is when something is exaggerated for effect. Sadly, what I said is provable fact. Read Crooks and Liars (www.crooksandliars.com) for example. They have documented dozens, if not hundreds, of cases of Fox doing precisely what I’ve written.

  89. Jose

    @Evolving Squid
    Nobody, absolutely nobody, has a right to go through their life unoffended.

    Who’s ever argued something as stupid as this?

    Even if you hide the words, the idea lives on. It makes much more sense to have those ideas out in the open and spoken where they can be subject to ridicule, than to suppress them by pretending the words don’t exist.

    I’m not advocating we pass laws or in any way limit free speech. The problem is that when you ridicule deserving people, some idiot comes along and complains about all this awful political correctness. It’s just a lazy way of dismissing the issue without addressing it. That’s what I have a problem with.

    Think about the awful Obama Curious George t-shirts. A lot of people were outraged, and expressed that. But there was also a large segment of the population that whined about how political correctness is ruining America. I’m sick of that argument.

    I’m not saying we should hide words or pretend they don’t exist, but I think that when we do things like remove racist stereotypes from TV, or use less racist language, people are less likely to believe in them. The beliefs don’t just go underground and fester.

    @Sticks
    The PC brigade are scary and play hard ball, all in the name of tolerance

    This is the equivalent of the creationist argument “Darwinism is a religion” .

  90. Ronn! Blankenship

    It could be worse: had the remark been made more than about 3 months ago someone would no doubt have suggested filing a lawsuit against John Wheeler for introducing the term’s astrophysical meaning (the meaning clearly intended by the first commissioner) . . .

    (Insert your own comment about added irony had it happened between 1976 and 86 when he was director of the Center for Theoretical Physics at the University of Texas at Austin . . . )

  91. BILL7718

    OMG! You played Netrek!

  92. @Jose

    There is a difference of scale between the concepts of “political correctness” and “being decent.” Let’s take the Obama Curious George shirts as an example.

    1) Person A makes a racist t-shirt.
    2) Person B complains.

    This is fine.

    3a) Person A doesn’t really want to offend Person B and so stops making the t-shirt of his own free will.

    or

    3b) Person A is a jerk and continues making the racist t-shirt.

    These are also fine.

    Compare to:

    3c) Person A does not want to stop making his racist t-shirt, but is essentially censored–not by public opinion so much as the amount of noise Person B can make–into not making them any more.

    The concept behind political correctness–that people should be decent to one another–is sound. The application makes it horribly flawed and, indeed, detrimental to society because it’s simultaneously hypocritical (due to politics) and overactive (due to its enforcement mentality). It establishes taboos based on whatever demographic has the current sympathy to have its whining heard, while still allowing similar “abuse” to occur to other demographics, and because it is all about Boolean logic of white and black, yes or no, right or wrong, it utterly ignores context (except, of course, when it does).

    White person says “nigger” in anger to a black man: racist, obviously.
    Black person says “nigger” in anger to another black man: not racist, somehow.
    Black person says “nigger” in friendly greeting to another black man: not racist, obviously.
    White person says “nigger” in friendly greeting to a black man: well, here’s your context. If the black man is offended, and the white man is decent, the black man will complain, the white man will not use that word again, and the problem is resolved… or the black man complains, the white man explains he meant well, the black man accepts, and the problem is resolved. Under the politically correct precept, however, it is always racist because of the concept of the “racial slur” automatically being racist when stated by a particular demographic.

    Realize these truths, as borne through history. Words do change. I step out into the street in the 1950s and cheerfully say I’m gay, people are happy that I’m happy. I do it in the 1970s, and I’m lynched. I do it now, and people mutter “that’s nice” and shuffle along. Racism, or at the very least irrational biases, will always exist. We don’t call the Scots not liking the English or the Basques not liking the Spanish racism, but that’s what it is–same animal, different color. People will always be biased, but as rational agents we can grow past it and control it so long as we realize it is natural and, indeed, nothing to be ashamed of, just like human sexuality. It should not be celebrated nor abused, as it is not conducive to human harmony, but the fact that it exists and it must exist, given that humans are categorizing animals, must at the very least be accepted or else we imagine ourselves to be in some sort of fairy land where reality need not apply.

    Racism is not a disease to cure, it is a basic human trait to manage, like hate and fear. With this in mind, the crusading mindset of political correctness is naturally more harmful than the George Carlin concept of “don’t worry about the word, worry about the racist saying it” because the latter is better acquainted with reality.

  93. @Jose

    What you haven’t explained, Jose, is how Fred not liking Bob’s words is Fred’s problem? That’s what political correctness is all about… taking something that should be Bob’s problem and sticking it on Fred.

    Fred should not have to change his life to suit Bob’s sensitivities.

    The big one in Canada right now seems to be the replacement of “fisherman” with “fisher”. That’s politically correct bollocks.

    A fisher is a nasty member of the weasel family that would be just as happy to eat your face as look at it.

    A fisherman is someone who catches fish. If, for whatever reason, someone takes offence to the “man” at the end, that is wholly a personal problem.

    I see no reason whatsoever why a woman can’t be a fisherman too. I see plenty of reason why no human can be a fisher.

    Do we refrain from calling construction materials “nails” and “screws” in favour of “percussion-friction fastener” and “helical pressure coupler” because “nail” and “screw” have sexual connotations that might offend rape victims? Maybe Ritz should rename their product because “cracker” is a derogatory term for white people? What about “Ho Ho” and “Twinkie” ?

    If the answers to those questions are anything like “no” or “that’s silly”, then why is it less silly to worry about “retard” or, for that matter, “nigger” ? Because that’s the thing about political correctness… it’s unfair and hypocritical. Political correctness is unworkable if applied to everyone, so it has to be applied on a pick-and-choose basis.

    >>I’m not advocating we pass laws or in any way limit free speech. The problem is that when you ridicule deserving people, some idiot comes along and complains about all this awful political correctness. It’s just a lazy way of dismissing the issue without addressing it. That’s what I have a problem with.

    >>but I think that when we do things like remove racist stereotypes from TV, or use less racist language, people are less likely to believe in them.

    I quoted those two things because the bold part of the first quote directly contradicts the second quote. If you believe that we should change the way people use language you believe in limiting free speech. When you can’t use a word because someone might be offended, that’s limiting free speech. When you can’t express a thought because someone might be offended, that’s limiting free speech.

    One of the best political correctness examples is the banishment of “Merry Christmas” in favour of “Happy Holidays”. I’m an atheist, and I understand that someone wishing me a Merry Christmas is being nice. Only a class-A gluteal-chapeau would be offended. Nobody should even *THINK* of not saying Merry Christmas just because there might be some non-Christians around. And if there are non-Christians who would get offended, they need to get over themselves.

    Instead of looking for ways to not offend people, why not spend energy looking for ways to not be offended?

  94. Randy A.

    Racism is alive and well in the U.S., and lots of people have strong opinions on the subject (see the previous 90 odd posts for evidence).

    However, how many of you noticed that Fox had a little poll on the right side of the window. The poll asked (loose translation) “In your opinion, what is the meaning of the term “black hole?”

    WHAT THE HECK?

    The meaning of that term (and most others) is listed in dictionaries. Now sure, language evolves, and some words have slang meanings. Plus, intonation and body language can shade the meaning of any phrase. But still, the meaning of words is not subject to individual opinion.

    Problems such as racism can only be addressed by communication. Therefore, this blog is step in the right direction. Faux News is taking a step in the wrong direction, by telling viewers that they can define words to suit themselves, and then deliberately misunderstand others.

    In this specific example, I would guess that Councilman #2 is just ignorant — it seems like he actually doesn’t know what a black hole is.

    So if you teach a kid about black holes today, you might save him or her from looking like a complete jackass on national TV in 20 years or so…

  95. Quiet Desperation

    Centipede: I can say “nigger” as I greet my good black friend who doesn’t mind me saying that to him

    In that case it’s “niggah”. Big difference. Comic Artie Lange (of the Howrad Stern Show) has a good routine about that.

    Randy: Racism is alive and well in the U.S.

    Thank you, Commander Obvious. I think the point of argument is degrees of severity. You know, some old drunk in New York on the radio saying “nappy headed hoes” versus 800,000 dead Tutsis in Rwanda. You savvy?

    Saying “racism is alive and well” is about as deep as saying “human nature exists.”

    Squid: And if there are non-Christians who would get offended, they need to get over themselves.

    Agreed. I’m totally anti-religious, but use Merry Christmas. It’s almost completely secularized at this point. I don’t even care if cities put up nativity scenes, and cringe when the ACLU whines about it. There’s so many more important things to do on that front.

  96. Jose

    @Centipede
    3d) Person A does not want to stop making his racist t-shirt, becomes hero to bigots, and anti-political correctness crowd. Person A Is forced to stop making the t-shirt when Curious George owners sue threaten to sue him for copyright infringement.

    That’s what actually happened.

    The application makes it horribly flawed….

    Where are people suffering because of political correctness? Are you telling me that you’re suffering because you can’t freely use the n word and a black person can? You’ve already said in your previous post that you can say what you damn well please. And go right ahead. But if I hear someone using that word in a racist way, I’m going to call them on it. And I don’t want to hear some ass accuse me of being politically correct.

    With this in mind, the crusading mindset of political correctness is naturally more harmful than the George Carlin concept of “don’t worry about the word, worry about the racist saying it” because the latter is better acquainted with reality.

    George Carlin was complaining about the fact that the N word would automatically be bleeped regardless of context. Of course I worry about the racist saying it and not the actual word. That’s why I’m not outraged when I hear black people use the word like you apparently are.

    @ Evolving Squid

    The big one in Canada right now seems to be the replacement of “fisherman” with “fisher”.
    I think I’ve been pretty clear that I’m not talking about trite BS like this, but exactly what hardship is this silly fisher controversy causing you? I give examples of people pulling out the “political correctness is out of control” argument used in cases of overt racism, and you counter it with a lesson on weasels? Don’t talk to me about weasels.

    I quoted those two things because the bold part of the first quote directly contradicts the second quote.
    Try again smarty pants. There’s no contradiction. I’m not advocating we pass laws or in any way limit free speech. If people choose to use less offensive language or cut down on using negative stereotypes because they realize it’s the right thing to do, that’s wonderful. Nobody’s being forced to do anything. Where’s the contradiction?

  97. I think I’ve been pretty clear that I’m not talking about trite BS like this, but exactly what hardship is this silly fisher controversy causing you?

    You’ve got it backwards. I’m resisting a change. People who are trying to make the change should be justifying what hardship the word “fisherman” actually causes them… and “wah, I think it’s sexist and therefore it offends me” isn’t a hardship.

    And the lesson on weasels is quite valid. The term was changed (by the CBC and some newspapers), and in my opinion, was changed to a term that is actually WORSE than the original term, all in the name of not being offensive to people with very thin skins.

    Try again smarty pants.

    No, you try again. You want a little policeman in everyone’s head to do the work. I even agree that I should cut down on using language that I think is offensive. You’re talking about Person A cutting down on language Person B thinks is offensive, and that’s unreasonable.

  98. Pop

    Let’s see… familytree-wise I’m an English-Irish-Sotts-German-French-Dutch-Italian-Greek-American. My wife is English-Irish-German-Dutch-Indian (North American type)-American. And yet we consider ourselves none of these hyphenated Americn conditions when we think of ourselves. Rather, we think of ourselves a People and Humans. Screw all the hyphenated people and their insistance on being “special” or “different” to make themselves “better.” If you are offended by my words, go back to the first two words of the preceeding sentence. One of my ancestrial types have a really good term, not unlike our more crudely put expression, “F*** Y**” and that is Buggar All! Live with it!

  99. gopher65

    Jose, there is a difference between someone being abusive and someone being politically correct. Abusiveness should not be allowed, and neither should political correctness. They are both bad, and they both impede progress.

  100. Jose

    @ Evolving Squid
    You’ve got it backwards.
    I don’t have anything backwards. I don’t care what your stance is in the fisher/fisherman. I’ve made it clear I’m not referring to silliness issues like this.

    No, you try again. You want a little policeman in everyone’s head to do the work. I even agree that I should cut down on using language that I think is offensive. You’re talking about Person A cutting down on language Person B thinks is offensive, and that’s unreasonable.
    What I’d really like to cut down on are people like you putting words in my mouth when you have no argument. Can we try that?

    What I’m saying I’m sick of people like you popping up and screaming “political correctness out of control” if I denounce something that is clearly offensive like the Obama T-Shirt. It’s that simple. What don’t you get?

    @gopher
    I’ll just restate the last bit for you, but more politely since you’ve been kind enough to not put words in my mouth.

    My problem is that people cry “political correctness out of control” when people denounce something that is clearly offensive.

  101. Celtic_Evolution

    Jose –

    Understanding your point, I think the counter-argument, and rightfully so, would be against your presumptious notion of what is “clearly offensive”. Who differentiates between “offensive” and “clearly offensive”? Who determines that? You? Seems rather subjective to me.

    I’m just sayin…

  102. Celtic_Evolution

    Although… I will say, I’ve heard the argument that ultimately, the only person who can make the determination if something said is offensive is the person offended. And I guess I can’t argue that either. It’s a tough thing, and it is terribly subjective.

    Not counting this incident, which I feel is pretty clearly one-sided in its foolishness, I do often feel that political correctness and ease of offense is just way out of control… although being a middle class, 30-something white guy of distant Irish descent, I can’t exactly claim to understand what true persecution is… or what damaging hate-filled words really do to a person… so maybe I should just shut up about it… :/

  103. Jose

    @Celtic_Evolution

    I understand that these things are subjective. But “politically correct” has turned into a dismissive catch all phrase that people use in the face of almost any criticism. It the same as how conservatives have made the word “liberal” into a bad word. Label anything liberal, and there’s a certain base of people who are going to be riled and against it. It doesn’t matter what the issue is.

  104. Celtic_Evolution

    Well… as you pointed out, it’s all subjective. Conservatives haven’t turned “liberal” into anything for me. I feel no insult in being called a liberal. I see it as an accurate description.

    So, my question from above really comes down to, where is the responsability for the offense? On the person making the statement or on the person taking the offense? I guess it’s not always cut and dry. Most liberals I know really don’t consider it an insult to be called “liberal”… even when it’s intended as such.

  105. Celtic_Evolution

    And countering your point, I would make the case that “political correctness” has been equally used by those who look for a reason to be angry and lash out as a “catch all” for justifying that behavior. Don’t you see how that has been done in this case with the whole “black hole” thing? Again, how you see “political correctness” being used is also subjective.

  106. Jose

    For the record, I don’t consider liberal an insult either. I’m not say political correctness can’t be taken to absurd levels (see squids fisher/fisherman case). I don’t really think it applies in the black hole case though. I think that falls into the category of dumb people not understanding a fairly common term. My problem is that people apply the the term where it doesn’t really apply to dismiss real issues.

    Going back to the Liberal analogy. I remember arguing with some people that the Bush tax cuts were bad for the middle class a few years ago. All somebody had had to do was say something like “that’s liberal crap.” That was all some people needed to hear for me to lose the argument. It didn’t matter that my argument had nothing to do with being liberal. It was just math. And some pretty easy math.

  107. Kimpatsu

    The Marxist Republic of Lambeth (a south London borough run by hardline leftwingers during the 1980s) decreed that you couldn’t order black coffee in their cafeterias. You had to sak that your coffee was unmilked.

  108. Quiet Desperation

    Kimpatsu: You had to sak that your coffee was unmilked.

    Did any breastfeeding mothers object? 😉

  109. cthulhu

    I lived in DFW from 1984 to 1997. John Wiley Price was a Dallas county commisioner back then too, and was then a total fool, jerk and sleaze, always playing the race card at every opportunity. It’s sad but not surprising to find him up to his old crap.

    And for the person above who brought up Don Henley’s song “Dirty Laundry” – supposedly that song has a connection to DFW as well. Henley’s from Texas, and the rumor was that the “bubble-headed bleach blonde” was a certain ’80s news anchor at WFAA-TV, the highest rated nightly TV newscast in north Texas. That tune remains my favorite Henley song because it’s so deliciously nasty (although it still needs a ripping blues harp solo in it)…

  110. Larry

    Does anyone besides me wonder what George Carlin would have to say about this post if he were still with us??

  111. @Jose

    I don’t have anything backwards. I don’t care what your stance is in the fisher/fisherman. I’ve made it clear I’m not referring to silliness issues like this.

    No, Jose, you can’t have it both ways. You cannot say that you think people should be politically correct and refrain from using words that might offend people, then dismiss as silly a concerted attempt to do just that. The fisher example is precisely what you are advocating, and yet you dismiss it as silly.

    And that’s really the crux of the whole politically correct issue. What’s silly to you is offensive to someone else.

    The solution is simply to say what you have to say, and if it offends someone, that’s really their problem.

    What I’m saying I’m sick of people like you popping up and screaming “political correctness out of control” if I denounce something that is clearly offensive like the Obama T-Shirt. It’s that simple.

    No, that’s not what you said. This is what you said:

    “The example I used of a word to stop using was jipped or gypt. It’s no great sacrifice to stop using words like these. ”

    “How are your lives negatively impacted by refraining from using a phrase or symbol that might be offencive to someone? ”

    Your words, not mine. So you tell me, what is the difference between deciding to stop using jipped, and deciding to stop using fisherman (or fireman, or mailman) ? Why is one silly to you and the other “no great sacrifice” that you directly encourage? Perhaps if you can explain yourself, your point about political correctness might be better made.

    To me, they’re both silly and the hypocrisy of people who push political correctness makes them even more so.

    You want people to change how they speak and write to suit the potentially offended sensibilities of other people. Nobody is talking about burning crosses here.

  112. I remember arguing with some people that the Bush tax cuts were bad for the middle class a few years ago. All somebody had had to do was say something like “that’s liberal crap.” That was all some people needed to hear for me to lose the argument.

    Why couldn’t the tax cuts be bad for the middle class, AND the whinge about it be liberal crap? It could be argued that the tax cuts were good for the US overall (I’m not saying they were, I really don’t know and am just making a point). If it could be argued that they cuts were for the greater good, then complaining about them would, in fact, be “liberal crap”. There is no doubt that text-book “liberals” tend to prefer taxing the bejeezus out of the rich cabal (which tends to mean anyone wealthier than they are), and giving the money to the poor (which often includes them).

    So rather than dismiss their argument, I might have asked why or how the tax cuts benefit the nation as a whole. Maybe he had a good answer? Then I’d have learned something about liberal crap. If not, then I could call his argument “conservative crap” and he’d have no counter.

  113. Sticks

    @The Centipede

    When referring to the N word, it is not advisable to write it out in full, as this could be considered a TOS violation, and some forums will censor it.

    @ Others and all
    According to one source, Stephen Hawking refers to this astronomical phenomenon as a Singularity, would it not be better if we switched to that term, then we can have mini Singularity, Singularity and Super Massive Singularity.

    That way we have the endorsement of a physicist and we are not accused of being racist

  114. Jose

    No, Jose, you can’t have it both ways. You cannot say that you think people should be politically correct and refrain from using words that might offend people, then dismiss as silly a concerted attempt to do just that. The fisher example is precisely what you are advocating, and yet you dismiss it as silly.

    OK, I’m not allowed to think something about one thing, and think something different about something else? Somebody call the thought police!!! Squid………. in……….my………….. head……………… must…………. resist……… superior………. intellect…………

    Your whole argument is that if I call out someone for doing something I think is wrong, I’m trampling on their rights or freedom of speech. Why, it almost sounds you’re your trying to impede the free expression of my ideas.

    Let go back to squid’s first problem with political correctness. Political correctness impedes the free expression of ideas.

    Oh my god you PC bastard!!!

    Once again, I’m not trying to force anyone to do anything. I think not using racist slurs is a good thing. I don’t care what a person who catches fish for a living is called. That’s not having it both ways. If I hear someone using a racist slur I reserve the right to denounce them.

  115. David Marasco

    My family has been in the US since the 1800s. I consider myself a “no hyphen American”, because I think that the whole hyphen thing is stupid and divisive. But here’s the rub, I’ve got brown skin. Often if I talk to a white person in casual conversation for more than about half and hour, we’ll run into the following segment:

    “So, what are you?”

    “I’m not sure what your question is.”

    “What’s your nationality?”

    “I’m American.”

    “What kind of American?”

    If you are Italian-American, Dutch-American, (Almost anything in Europe)-American, you get to drop the hyphen whenever you want. I’d love to throw my hat in that ring (after all, it’s been four generations now), but it seems to make a large portion of White America very uncomfortable when I do. I kind of doubt that in conversations between white people there’s a segment where they probe to make sure they are both Americans. And on top of that, the “what kind of American?” question is insulting – the assumption is that a brown guy like me can’t be a normal run-of-the-mill American. Jose has feelings about “wanting to feel American” again. I can see that; when people are always asking you to qualify your “Americaness”, it makes you feel a little unwelcome.

    I think that cuts to the heart of this thread though. Jose and I see the same behavior. The effect on him has been very harmful; he feels cut apart from his homeland. The effect on me has been different – I still feel 100% American, but I shake my head and worry about how ignorant some white people are. The anti-PC crowd will say “Jose needs to grow up and be more like David”, but I don’t think that’s the answer. Is it really good for us as a nation for a large and growing chunk of us to have to shake our heads in frustration at the behavior of the majority on an everyday basis? Let’s address the core racism. When that fades, the rest of this stupidity will go with it.

  116. Jose

    @Evolving Squid

    “Why couldn’t the tax cuts be bad for the middle class, AND the whinge about it be liberal crap?”

    OK now you’re just arguing with me for the sake of arguing.

    Their argument was “that’s liberal crap.” That’s it. Somebody Like Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’ Reilly said as much, and it was case closed. I tried to do the math with them. I’m a nerd, so I even made up an excel spreadsheet which calculated how much anyone would save based on any salary and how that would effect the overall % of wealth they controlled. It didn’t matter because someone had assigned the buzzword “liberal” to it. Once that word was associated with the issue, they could dismiss whatever evidence I showed them. All thinking had stopped.

    People now use “Politically Correct” the same way, and I think that’s a problem.

  117. Jose

    @Sticks
    According to one source, Stephen Hawking refers to this astronomical phenomenon as a Singularity, would it not be better if we switched to that term, then we can have mini Singularity, Singularity and Super Massive Singularity.

    Oh, Squids going to rip you a new one when this. Maybe I can take some of the heat for you. I don’t think we should stop using “black hole”. If anyone is offended we can explain the term to them. If they’re rational human beings, they won’t be offended anymore. Now we just have to sit back and wait for someone to accuse me of having both ways.

  118. Corey P

    Wow. That’s freaking amazing. I love you guys. A black hole.. hooooh….

  119. learjettech

    I love all the “diverse” people here. Fox News sucks, Bush should be deported, lose his citizenship, sent to another planet. I watched the exchange of the black hole. Fox local news got it right and it is blown out of proportion. Bush has screwed up most everything he’s done, but that’s life and that is why we have elections. Y’all are diverse as long as people say what you think they should say and use the words you believe to be correct. Free speech, y’all don’t even know what that means

  120. learjettech: the irony that you were allowed to post your comment here is no doubt lost on you.

  121. Tyler Durden

    “Fox local news got it right”

    Hey, I guess there really is a first time for everything.

  122. learjettech

    Phil, again you prove my point. Someone may not agree with your point, so you slam. The sad thing is I agree with what has been said prior, I just think people should be able to disagree without be labeled. Another point for Tyler, something tells me he doesn’t even watch Fox, any news channel I watch has it bias. Including the BBC.

  123. @Jose

    “That’s why I’m not outraged when I hear black people use the word like you apparently are.”

    Wrong again, bucko. I’m annoyed that there is a double-standard over the use of a word and the assumption of the negativity of its use outside of any consideration of context.

    Let’s get back to the point here: the only censor should be one’s own conscience, and this is where, again, “being a decent person” is different from “political correctness.” Two entirely different concepts. If you, personally, decide not to use “gypped” then that’s your call and that’s fine. Were you to demand that we not use it because of its history, a history it’s pretty much been completely disassociated from in the minds of the user (sort of like no one thinks “wife-beating” when they say “rule of thumb”) then that’s a different matter entirely. “What harm is it not to use particular words” is a strawman that ignores the point of the disagreement, which is “who gets to decide what one gets to say?”

    Read Bradbury’s afterword to Fahrenheit 451 for a decent summary of where, intellectually, I’m coming from here. In short, I need my hands to wave or make fists as necessary; I need my mouth to shout or whisper. People can complain as much as they like, and I encourage it–they’ve their own mouth and hands to do exactly that–but they’d best not tell me how to use my own.

  124. Celtic_Evolution

    @ learjettech

    Y’all are diverse as long as people say what you think they should say and use the words you believe to be correct. Free speech, y’all don’t even know what that means

    Phil, again you prove my point. Someone may not agree with your point, so you slam. The sad thing is I agree with what has been said prior, I just think people should be able to disagree without be labeled. Another point for Tyler, something tells me he doesn’t even watch Fox, any news channel I watch has it bias. Including the BBC.

    Argument from ignorance.

    Spend some time reading around here, and don’t just gloss over a few posts that get your nickers in a bunch. You’ll not only find that you’re wrong in your “absolute assertion” of how people are treated around here, you might learn a thing or two about why certain people are argued against more vehemently than others. Respectful arguments are argued respectfully, if not heated. Commenters who act like jerks are treated in kind. Even the case of the discussion here between Jose, Evolving_Squid and Centipede… it’s certainly a debate, and at times a heated one, but I still think it’s a civil one, which considering the topic, is saying something. At the end of the day I think we’d all be able to sit around the table and have a beer or two (or eight) amongst ourselves.

    You are acting like what is called a “concern troll”… and I really don’t see the need for it. Save your hyperbole for when it’s actually applicable.

  125. learjettech

    Actually, I think the debate between Jose, Evolving and Centipede is great. That is what is needed. My knickers are not in a bunch, I just wanted to see what was being said at a science website and get dismayed no matter where I look when any one is told to not use a word because they are liberal or conservative. A concern troll, that’s a new one for me, actually I would probably have more than one beer with most of y’all. See, even in this discussion, I put maybe an incorrect label on some here and some turned around and labled me. Any way you look at it, have a good time. We’ll talk again.

  126. Irishman

    Jose said:
    >>The big one in Canada right now seems to be the replacement of “fisherman” with “fisher”.

    >I think I’ve been pretty clear that I’m not talking about trite BS like this,

    Wait, let’s get this straight. You consider this issue BS? But this is exactly the kind of stuff that is Political Correctness gone mad that people talk about. Except it’s really important to some people.

    Think of it this way. Think if our language had embedded in it racial designations. For instance, suppose the word was “mailanglo” or “fisherblack” or “stewardanglo”. Sure, it sounds weird, but that is exactly the context that some people see with regards to sex in our language. We have “mailman“, and “fisherman“, or “stewardess” (as opposed to “steward”, both of which being replaced by “flight attendant”). To some people, the apparent inherent sexism is an impediment to the attitude of cultural equality. And so they want to change all the words.

    But you say that’s not what you are talking about. Okay, fine, but that is what everyone else is talking about. So when you bring up oversensitivity to PC, this is what you’re stepping in.

    > My problem is that people cry “political correctness out of control” when people denounce something that is clearly offensive.

    Okay, so you’re problem is that jerks are jerks. No seriously, some jerk who thinks a racial slur is a necessary part of polite conversation and omitting the racial slur is equivalent to not calling it a “black hole” because that gives a negative conotation to “black”, and thus creates an underlying impression of black = bad, wants to complain because other people tell him that racial slurs are not polite and should be avoided. Okay, so some people are quick to accuse PC running rampant. But who is the proper judge? Who’s opinion is the right one?

    Take your example of “jipped”. Right there is a perfect example of the problem, people don’t even know how to spell the word. It is a word they have heard, not read, and has no origins or connections to anything but the definition “ripped off”. So most people would be confused to learn the root is “gypped” as in “ripped off by a Gypsy”, and it is similar to the phrase, “that guy Jewed me down” when referring to someone haggling. So is it PC madness to ask people not to use the word “gypped” because it refers to a derogatory stereotype? Where is the line?

    learjettech said:
    >Phil, again you prove my point. Someone may not agree with your point, so you slam.

    Irony alert!

  127. Steve Morrison

    @The Centipede

    Actually, it’s highly questionable that the phrase “rule of thumb” ever had anything to do with wife beating – instead it refers to the use of the first thumb joint as a rough one-inch measure. See any of these references:

    http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-rul1.htm

    http://www.straightdope.com/columns/000512.html

    http://www.word-detective.com/back-n.html#rulothumb

  128. Celtic_Evolution

    @ learjettech

    I put maybe an incorrect label on some here and some turned around and labled me.

    Just to be clear, read what I wrote:

    You are acting like what is called a “concern troll”…

    I did not label you as anything… I simply pointed out the behavior you were displaying. You were very quick to jump to conclusions about the give and take here… and I suggested you look into it a bit more before making such grand statements.

  129. Bryan

    Interesting. In Britain it would have been taken to mean a space too small and dark. During the nineteenth century ‘Indian Mutiny” (when Indian soldiers in the British Indian Army revolted) the mutineers herded a large number of British civilians into a very small space where many of them died from lack of air and being crushed. It is known as the “Black Hole of Calcutta’. So “its like a black hole” means being like the B H of Calcutta.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+