At least four times a week for the past several months I’ve had phone calls from Robogal.
“Hello, it’s Linda,” she begins, in her unvarying, always perfectly inflected voice. Not tremulous or saccharine; not overbold or tentative; not gruff or timid; not hesitant or strident; not cheerless or giddy; not glum or lighthearted; not solemn or mirthful, but easy, tranquil, matter of fact. Just Linda, calling to help out.
Linda is obviously much too busy to call me personally, so she has thoughtfully recorded her perfectly inflected voice to let me experience the thrill of its perfection every time she calls. Continue reading
Let’s get serious. For four years I’ve been commenting on a range of behaviors, most of them verbal outbursts, that everyone seems to agree were offensive. These have included insults, put-downs, verbal wounds, snubs, slights, and other sorts of humiliations; disdainful, derisive, scornful, and contemptuous slurs; disparaging, discrediting, disrespectful, belittling, and derogatory snubs; jibes, affronts, barbs, contumely, rudeness, and outright insolent indignities.
But why? What makes them offensive? Continue reading
Several hours ago as I write, the Supreme Court knocked out the Scandalous Clause in the Lanham Act, the federal trademark statute, as predicted here last January, though by a smaller margin than I expected, and with a loophole that could but is unlikely to be exploited, at least not soon. The vote in the case, Iancu v. Brunetti, was 6–3. Continue reading
It seems I overstepped nineteen months ago in claiming that in a unanimous ruling involving disparaging trademarks, “the Supreme Court, presumably once and for all, has green lighted offensive speech.”
In Matal v. Tam, you may recall, the Court struck down a law that banned registration of trademarks that disparage people, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols. Continue reading
The sense of offense is finely calibrated. It can detect an insult in a nanosecond and score it as a vile disparagement or a brilliant riposte, as contemptible or courageous, as harmful or enlightening, as doleful or droll, as wretched or risible, all according to the recipient’s sense of identity, community, and ideology. Such is the curious case of Sarah Jeong, Continue reading
Contrary to the fears of some, the little house on the prairie has not vanished. Well, perhaps the house itself, but not Little House on the Prairie, or any of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s other prairie books. What’s missing, as you may have read fleetingly a month ago, is her name, Continue reading
The interesting thing about ABC’s defenestration of Roseanne Barr two weeks ago when she gratuitously tweeted a racist remark about President Obama’s senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, is that it wasn’t the first time the comedian let loose. Her reputation preceded her. Why was she hired in the first place, only now to be fired because of a single short tweet? Continue reading
The Mum in this case is Barbara Bush, who died April 17. The word, in case you’ve already forgotten, was “racist.” Continue reading
Words have power. The official story (the story, that is, that we forward-looking, empirically-inclined, reasonable rationalists like to tell) is that their power stems from the ideas that our words express, and usually not one at a time but in concert, as they depict and explain. Continue reading
At first I thought I’d tiptoe around my procrastination these past three-plus months, pretending that it was some dark lump you wouldn’t see if I aimed the spotlight elsewhere. You might never have noticed my silence, since no doubt you’ve been as wrapped up in the bizarre events of daily public life as I have, thinking nary a thought about anything other than who hasn’t been fired and what’s for dinner. Continue reading