August 07, 2004

Celebrate! Celebrate!

WE HAVE RECENTLY learned that many bloggers are shocked and appalled at seeing one of their colleagues wear a T-shirt they found offensive and gauche. Apparently, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit fame has modeled a shirt which has pictures of various firearms on it, along with the tagline "Celebrate Diversity." This has prompted great scorn from certain other bloggers. In the aggregate, these bloggers claim Prof Reynolds' promotion of the shirt stands as prima facie evidence that he is a) clueless, b) racist, or c) both.

The first criticism which we saw of the matter came from one Duncan Black. Dr Black, whom we understand is an economist, wrote the following upon seeing Prof Reynolds in the shirt:

oy. I've been trying to figure out how to write this post for a couple of hours. I want to make clear that this isn't a shot at instapundit, cheap or otherwise, but something I think it's necessary to point out. I'm no fan of the guy, and think he's quite frequently been the transmitter of some truly hateful ideas (blaming the victims of genocide, for one), but in this case I think he's just clueless ...

... There's a serious subtext here which is totally obvious to me that I think should be pointed out. Now, I don't think everyone who has purchased a shirt like this has purchased it with the subtext in mind, but nonetheless the message is clear.

The caption is "celebrate diversity." The colors of the caption are commonly used pan-African colors: red, yellow, and green. While, for many, the "joke" (though, I'm not sure why it's funny) is that here diversity is a diversity of guns. Ha ha. But, look, the clear message here is that the way to celebrate diversity, particularly that pan-African diversity, is to buy a bunch of fucking guns. In other words, celebrate diversity by arming yourself ...

Perhaps it's just us, but we have never much cared for this trend in which people who criticize others feel the need to slap some sort of veneer over their criticism. It sounds like a great party trick an old friend of ours once told us about in the event we needed to detach ourselves from a conversation. All one needed to do, our friend advised, was to loudly say something like this: "But, Ted, I'M NOT SAYING YOU'RE CLUELESS."

Well, Dr Black is loudly saying this to Prof Reynolds. Therefore it is a shot, no matter how much he might want to paper over it. Had he merely been concerned, he would have simply sent Prof Reynolds a private e-mail to that effect. Instead, he decided to write about it in a blog entry, an act which he could reasonably assume would cause great controversy.

Now, we admit we do not fully understand the thrust of Dr Black's complaint. For one thing, as he admits later in his post, Prof Reynolds is wearing a different version of the shirt without the pan-African colors. Oops. Gee, that would seem to discredit his entire argument, wouldn't it?

But that is not the only counter-argument one could make. Another would be that this shirt is similar to those posters, popular among undergraduates, which proudly note the opportunities one has in college to drink. Further, since the shirt itself has the firearms as its main focal point, one cannot find anything suspect in that. Lastly, we would submit that the T-shirt vendor almost certainly did not intend to use these colors in the way Dr Black seems to think the vendor is using them. Such a move would represent the type of cleverness or stupidity one usually only finds in devotees of Keynesianism.

Dr Black, however, is far more restrained in his words than other bloggers, particularly one Steve Gilliard. Mr Gilliard writes as follows:

I think Glenn Reynolds is either the most clueless law professor at the University of Tennessee or the kind of sick racist who doesn't have the balls to wear a Klan robe or burn a cross. There are thousands of gun shirts. You want to walk around with an MP-5K shirt, you can find one. AK-47, no problem. But that noxious shirt is one no decent person would wear, because there is no joke in it. A number of handguns and "celebrate diversity" on it implies something pretty dark and evil. Especially with the colors used on the white shirt, red, yellow and green. You would have to be a moron not to see the pan-African connotation with. I mean, you have easily made that shirt with the tag line "variety is the spice of life", the joke made, and not even the most hypersensitive liberal could say a word. Reynolds even jokes about wearing it to a faculty meeting, something he doesn't have the balls to do because he would be called on it ...

... Reynolds has said any number of biased, unfair and truly repellent things on his site. Which is his right. But this crosses a rather broad line. I mean, where does he keep this shirt, next to his Wehrmacht World Tour and Hitler: No More Mister Nice Guy shirts.

I think it's time we start asking people, like his boss, how his views and public statements coincide with the education provided by the University of Tennessee.

Oh dear.

Now, one can see from Mr Gilliard's words that he is a very sober person, the type who probably finds no room for humor in things he considers important, the type who probably gets frustrated when people don't see things the way he does. So we can deduce he means what he says here, even though one would have to be a moron to equate wearing this T-shirt with support for a regime which exterminated ten million people in concentration camps.

In any event, Mr Gilliard does not stop there. With a broadside that will undoubtedly depress political staff and newspaper letters-editors, he encourages his readers to write Tennessee-area newspapers as well as that state's Congressional delegation. He writes:

What to say?

Just ask them if they agree that a professor at the state's public university should be advertising a shirt which opposes diversity. Do they find the message on the shirt representative of both the school and the state's policy of allowing access for all citizens to it's law school, especially after the state's regretable history of racial bias and segregation.

I don't think anyone should call for him getting fired or shutting down his website or anything draconian like that. Just inquire as to whether they share his beliefs, if he is a fitting representative of the University of Tennessee's College of Law, and if that shirt and his public association as a professor at that school represents the values and ethos of his employer, the state of Tennessee.

After all public employees across the United States have been sanctioned for expressing racially hostile opinions...

Again we have this paper-thin veneer of civility, that curse of our modern age. One would have to be a -- well, charitably inclined person -- not to suspect Mr Gilliard's intent with his raving about. It is unfortunate that Mr Gilliard, unknown and unrecognized, sees fit to attack the learned Prof Reynolds in such a manner.

However, while Mr Gilliard and Dr Black both miss the target completely with their work, we do feel Mr Gilliard has noticed one thing which Dr Black missed. Namely, Mr Gilliard recognizes the shirt could be construed to poke fun at the whole modern way we promote diversity. The shirt obviously does not oppose diversity in itself, which all recognize as a good thing -- but it could, were one looking for such a message, be construed to criticize the way that message has been disseminated.

Of course, that modus operandi is an easy target. We note that in present-day America, celebrations of diversity do not generally involve celebrating at all. Instead, they involve dreary employee-training videos informing workers of Basic Professional Etiquette, and boring mandatory seminars in windowless rooms where workers are browbeaten into accepting that they and their organizations are inherently discriminatory. At the extreme, such celebrations may even involve Government inquiries into the conduct of private businesses -- and those despite the fact that nearly all of the businesses being investigated have been celebrating diversity with full force and cheer for years, if not decades.

We do not submit that such celebrations should come to an end, of course. But we do think that if the celebrations were done in a different manner, they might prove more effective, and would improve employee productivity and morale. A cash bar would be nice too.

(via Capitalist Lion)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at August 7, 2004 12:07 PM | TrackBack