Controlling the Language

| February 24, 2012

By Phil Valentine
Talk Show Host
WWTN-FM, Nashville/Dial Global 

NASHVILLE — I read Richard Neer’s piece. (“When it Comes to Ethnic Slurs, Just Don’t Go There” 2/23/12) and, quite frankly, it frightened me.  Somehow too many people have succumbed to the notion that something doesn’t have to be offensive, it just has to sound offensive.  Case in point?  ESPN.

ESPN editor Anthony Federico found out the hard way.  His headline on ESPN’s website got him fired.  The egregious headline was as follows: “Chink in the Armor: Jeremy Lin’s 9 Turnovers Cost Knicks in Streak-stopping Loss to Hornets.”

Now, you may be saying to yourself, “Ah, he should’ve known better,” but Federico says the word “chink” as a slur against someone Chinese never entered his mind.  “This had nothing to do with me being cute or punny,” Federico told the New York Daily News.  Doesn’t matter, Anthony.  It sounded offensive to the self-anointed oversensitive media watchers and you were sacrificed at the altar of political correctness.

What really bugs me is how the mainstream media have portrayed Jeremy Lin as Chinese.  He’s no more Chinese than I am.  He was born and raised in California.  He’s as American as me yet he’s offered up as some kind of Chinese sensation.  They even show large groups of people gathered back in Taiwan crowded around big screen TVs.  Sure, his parents are from Taiwan, but he isn’t.

I wonder if these same media types ever talk about black athletes in terms of being “African.”  They indeed use the PC term “African-American” but not in their wildest dreams would they cut away to some folks in Nigeria watching NBA hoops.

Portraying a guy who ‘looks’ Chinese as being from China is as stereotypical as it gets.  It’s like all this glory in which Lin is basking is being piped back to the motherland.  How about some speculation that Lin is so hot right now because he’s able to calculate the trajectory of the ball in some freakishly difficult math equation because we all know Asians are great at math.

The week prior to Federico’s headline, ESPN anchor Max Bretos used the same term, “chink in the armor,” when asking a former Knicks player about Lin on the air.  It wasn’t until the Federico headline that Bretos was called on the carpet.  (I’m sorry.  Is that offensive to Arabs?  Carpet?  Did I mean flying carpet?)

By the way, Bretos was suspended for 30 days.  No word from ESPN as to why it is that saying it is less offensive than writing it.

So, let’s just strike the phrase “chink in the armor” from ESPN’s lexicon.  Forget that it has nothing whatsoever to do with anyone Chinese.  Doesn’t matter.  You think anyone else at ESPN is going to ever utter that phrase again, to anyone about anybody or anything?

See, this is what political correctness does.  Moreover, this is exactly what political correctness is designed to do.  It’s designed to control the language and as I wrote several years ago in the book The Conservative’s Handbook, controlling the language ranks right up there with controlling the currency.  In fact, it can be said that language is the currency of thought.  So now we have the very definition of the thought police.  Each and every person who writes or reports for ESPN will forever edit themselves before they ever let that term move from their mind to their mouth.  Mission accomplished.

The politically correct have a long list of words and phrases they want stricken from the language because they’ve managed to become offended on behalf of someone else.  Need I bring up the whole ‘Redskins/Braves’ brouhaha?

The folks at ESPN are now on notice.  Even the most innocent slip of the tongue can get you fired.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the next Indianapolis 500 is begun with, “Gentlemen, start your native Americans.”

 

Phil Valentine is a Dial Global nationally syndicated talk host based at WWTN-FM, Nashville.  He can be e-mailed at phil@philvalentine.com. 

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