Are Bigoted Private Thoughts Now A Crime?

Donald SterlingI know almost nothing about Donald Sterling. I don’t think I’d ever even heard of him before the current scandal that has taken over the media these last several days. He is the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, and apparently he is a bit of a bigoted asshole, as he was recently recorded making a number of racist remarks. As a result of those remarks, Sterling has been banned for life from any association with the NBA or the Los Angeles Clippers. He cannot attend any NBA games or practices, and cannot be present at any Clippers facility or engage in any form of business involving the team. He has also been fined 2.5 million dollars. Additionally, there is an effort underway to force him to sell the team.

I have no doubt that Donald Sterling is an asshole and a bigot. And the Clippers and NBA are well within their rights to punish Sterling and seek to distance themselves from him. But why does the media brouhaha not also include some discussion of the manner in which Sterling’s remarks came to light? He seems to have been secretly recorded in a private discussion by a girlfriend who was very much leading the conversation. He seems to have been set up! At least in some of the states of the US, the manner in which he was secretly recorded is a crime. California is one of the states that requires both parties of a conversation to be aware that it is being recorded. So where is the outrage there?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar seems to be asking the same question:

And now the poor guy’s girlfriend (undoubtedly ex-girlfriend now) is on tape cajoling him into revealing his racism. Man, what a winding road she led him down to get all of that out. She was like a sexy nanny playing “pin the fried chicken on the Sambo.” She blindfolded him and spun him around until he was just blathering all sorts of incoherent racist sound bites that had the news media peeing themselves with glee.

They caught big game on a slow news day, so they put his head on a pike, dubbed him Lord of the Flies, and danced around him whooping…

Shouldn’t we be equally angered by the fact that his private, intimate conversation was taped and then leaked to the media? Didn’t we just call to task the NSA for intruding into American citizen’s privacy in such an un-American way? Although the impact is similar to Mitt Romney’s comments that were secretly taped, the difference is that Romney was giving a public speech. The making and release of this tape is so sleazy that just listening to it makes me feel like an accomplice to the crime. We didn’t steal the cake but we’re all gorging ourselves on it.

It was a private conversation! I don’t think I’m a bigot, but then again we’re all a little bigoted from time to time. I’m sure I’ve said countless things in private conversations that would have offended one group or another if my remarks were made public. I’m sure that’s the case for all of us. But most of us aren’t billionaires with dozens of enemies out to get us.

It’s one thing to post your bigoted thoughts on Facebook or announce them on TV, but it’s an entirely different thing when those bigoted thoughts are expressed in private conversation with a person who you think you can trust. I find it awfully troubling that this particular aspect of the story has seen virtually no discussion in the mass media.

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Endnotes:

  1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s original op-ed is at Time.com.
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One Response to Are Bigoted Private Thoughts Now A Crime?

  1. Rattlesnake says:

    It must be nice to be able to destroy someone so conveniently. Have an enemy? Just get him or her to say something at least mildly offensive and then get your friends in the media to blow it way out of proportion until it becomes a liability to be affiliated with that person in any way. It’s a good thing that the people who have that kind of power are looking out for everyone’s best interests, so there is nothing to worry about.

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