Two days ago the Boston Red Sox played Game Two of a three game series against the Baltimore Orioles in historic Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. The game was a classic pitchers’ duel tied at two runs each until a Red Sox relief pitcher committed a throwing error and rather than getting a double play ball that would have ended the inning got two Orioles on base. The result was a 5-2 Orioles win. The Red Sox and Orioles are currently engaged in one of those AL East “rivalries” that so closely resemble WWE story lines, at least in terms of artificial media hype. In the most recent twist of this story, a hard slide into second base by Oriole Manny Machado spiked the shin of Red Sox second basement Dustin Pedroia. This was clumsily avenged by the Red Sox relief pitcher Matt Barnes throwing behind Machado’s head two days later. All of this contributed to a rather heated and frustrated atmosphere in the Fenway bleachers that night.
Against this backdrop, the Orioles outfielder Adam Jones, who is African American, heard the “N” word thrown at him from somewhere in the stands. Unquestionably, Jones, who is not only a very talented athlete, but a class act, was not making it up. Equally unquestionably, whoever shouted that word, regardless of circumstances is a racist moron. What followed was a delegation headed by Principal Owner John Henry and consisting of top Red Sox brass and players, delivering an immediate and heartfelt apology to Adam Jones in the guest clubhouse at Fenway. The Red Sox further issued a statement denouncing the behavior of that fan and encouraging fans to report any such behavior via a variety of means. Promised sanctions against future offenders included immediate ejections as well as being banned from Fenway Park for various periods up to and including eternity. Now this may be hard for non-Bostonians to grasp, but being banned from Fenway for Red Sox fans is tantamount to being banished to purgatory, except much, much, worse.
It is the opinion of this author that the steps taken by the Red Sox organization were timely, measured, and necessary. It is their duty to the public, especially the Boston public, to maintain Fenway as a family friendly venue in which everyone can have a great time, with any controversies being limited to the field of play.
On the same night that an anonymous fan shouted something he shouldn’t have out in a ballpark, an A-list celebrity, an employee of one of the three major broadcasting networks that utilize the public utility known as “airwaves” said for the record and as part of a pre-written and properly considered public monolog that the only use he could possibly see for president Trump’s mouth was performing oral sex on the president of Russia Vladimir Putin. Except he said it utilizing much more vulgar terms. In response to this premeditated abuse of his celebrity status and the platform provided to him not only by his employers, but also by the American public that had just recently elected Mr. Trump to the highest office in the land, CBS did absolutely nothing. Not only was there no apology, there was not even the slightest censure of Colbert’s remarks. Not even, “it may have been in poor taste”, not even “after all this is a late-night show”, not even “he’s just a comedian, it’s only satire”. Nothing.
There is an unspoken truth in America and this is it: the First Amendment guaranteeing the freedom of speech is, for all intents and purposes, dead. It might as well have been officially revoked. American pundits, especially those on the right often revel in denigrating the hate speech laws that exist in Western Europe, Canada, and other places. “We are so much better, so much freer”, they intone. Except nothing could be further from the truth. As anyone who’s ever been to Europe can attest, the discourse among regular folks there is much more racially charged than in America. In fact, many of the things that people routinely say in France, would get anyone fired on the spot had they been overheard saying them around the watercooler in an American office. Hate speech prosecutions in Western countries are exceedingly rare; it takes a whole lot of very public “hate” speech to be charged with a crime. In America, in contrast, folks know very well that a misplaced word that is overheard by someone who may have an agenda will easily get them fired for cause, leaving them without a source of income, an unemployment insurance claim, and the references needed to find employment elsewhere.
If one wants to speak freely in America without dire consequences, two conditions must be met. First, that person must be a member of the protected classes, i.e. the liberal entertainment or media elites. Second, the target of the “free” speech has to be a member of the least protected class of human beings that exists in America today: a Republican white male. Both of these conditions were met when Steven Colbert, a card-carrying member of the liberal media elite viciously attacked the Republican white maleness writ larger than life that is Donald J. Trump. And of course, he got away with it. One thing is certain: whoever next yells out the N word at Fenway will be run out of Boston on a rail while Colbert’s competitors are already working on doing him one better in their next monolog.