Anatomy of a slur

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on December 28, 2009

The Chicago Tribune’s Clarence Page is feeling some heat for using a sexual slur to describe the Tea Party movement. Like many of his brethren in the largely liberal mainstream media, he feels that because some early Tea Party movement members were ignorant of the sexual connotation of the slur, it’s OK for him to tag them with it.

I posted my response on his blog, and I reproduce it here because it may not be approved for publication at his site and my comments at external sites have been getting removed lately.

Three things:

First, Clarence even if I were to concede your version of the history of the origin of the term re: the Tea Party movement, does that somehow make it OK for that term to be used in civilized public discourse in mainstream "family" newspapers such as the Chicago Tribune and prominent cable channels such as PBS, CNN, and MSNBC?

Second, I've heard numerous rap and hip hop songs authored and performed by African Americans which use the term n*****. Using the Clarence Page logic, is it OK for me to actually spell out that word? Have it published in a newspaper? Uttered on a cable news show?

Third, exactly where in your decades in journalism did they say it was OK for you to copy and paste an entire column from another source and attach it to something you've written? I doubt that National Review gave you permission to reproduce that column in toto. A link would've sufficed.

Finally, did you read Nordlinger's column for content? Why don't you take his advice and grow up?

Posted by: Matthew Hoy | December 28, 2009 at 08:27 PM

UPDATE

Well, Mr. Page has responded.

CLARENCE RESPONDS:
1. Yes. This is not a newspaper. It's a blog. My blog. No paper. Nothing but Internet. I thought you liked free speech.
2. If you want to compare T-word to the N-word, good luck with that.
3. I included a link, too. You should thank me for the convenience.
4. Your idea of "growing up" is agreeing with you?

And I have responded to him.

1. This started due to an utterance you made on a PBS show. Not nothing but Internet.
2. One offends you (and me, for the record), the other apparently just offends me.
3. A link that no one need follow because you copied and pasted the entire article, depriving NR of an indeterminate amount of advertising revenue. Writing as a recently laid-off newspaper journalist, the Web advertising model depends on people looking at those ads. When are newspapers hurt most? When bloggers or Chicago Tribune columnists cut and paste entire articles effectively stealing necessary page views. I'm sure the Chicago Tribune will have no problem if I cut and paste entire columns of yours on my blog so they don't need to come here and read it.
4. My idea of "growing up" is not using the "he said it first" whine of a third-grader as an excuse for your own use of sexual slur to describe those you disagree with.

For the record, since my comment was submitted, Page has removed the entire text of the Nordlinger column and left simply a description and a link – which is what he should’ve done in the first place. He does not acknowledge the change in his update.

UPDATE 2

Page has apparently declined to approve my riposte, having approved comments by others that were definitely written after mine. I must say that I’m unsurprised, but it’s just a little hypocritical considering that Page suggested I was anti-free speech for chastising him for using a vulgarity in the public political discourse. It turns out that one of us is anti-free speech, but it’s not me.

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