Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Assessing punishments based on objectivity, not political bias

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Which is more obscene: what Senate candidate Alvin Greene was allegedly doing that got him indicted by a grand jury, or what “Dr.” Laura Schlessinger actually did on her radio show.

There is a distinct possibility that your answer could be on whether you are African-American or a woman — but this will likely come down to your political persuasion.

Alvin Greene was indicted on two counts of obscenity for allegedly showing pornography to a female student at the University of South Carolina. For those who might wonder why such an elaborate procedure for this charge, let’s quote from The New York Times:

The first charge, of disseminating, procuring or promoting obscenity, is a felony and carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. The second charge, communicating an obscene message to another person without consent, is a misdemeanor and carries a maximum of three years and a maximum fine of $10,000.

What “Dr.” Laura Schlessinger did is not in dispute. Schlessinger openly and repeatedly (11 times) used the N-word to a caller on her radio show.

The caller in question was complaining that her husband’s friends made racist comments about her in their home. Schlessinger said the woman was too sensitive. Schlessinger said about the n-word that “black guys say it all the time,” then repeated the word several times.

Schlessinger did apologize for her actions, and was unable to finish out the show, though she did keep going until the top of that hour.

Ironically, we have a case (alleged) where an African-American upset females, and a female upset African-Americans. Again, where you fall in those groups does affect your POV in these matters. And for the record, I fall in neither of these categories.

Since I am not a member of the affected groups, I don’t have a direct connection. But I don’t think that people should randomly show pornography, and white people shouldn’t use the N-word.

I don’t think the Alvin Greene charges, even if true, should call for a 8-year prison sentence and a $20,000 fine. And I still wonder why Schlessinger has a radio career, long before this incident.

But can we objectively say “X is bad, and Y is not so bad”? Have we lost the ability to judge something as bad or good, given the political angle?

If Jim DeMint, Greene’s opponent and the current incumbent U.S. senator, had been caught doing the same thing, there is a strong likelihood that DeMint’s name never would have hit the press. That could be due to power, but you have to wonder that even in 2010, whether Greene is in this situation in part because he is a dark-skinned African American.

This isn’t to excuse what Greene allegedly did, but a grand jury indictment? Really?

After all, the alleged incident occurred last November, when no one knew who Alvin Greene was. And ask yourself whether you’ve done something at about the level of what Greene is accused of doing — not even thinking you could face jail time or a grand jury indictment.

As distasteful as what Schlessinger said, she certainly isn’t the first white person to use that epitaph into a microphone, though being on the radio is a bit more serious than a poorly taped version of a Michael Richards stand-up act.  And given Schlessinger’s past and deliberate misrepresentation of her qualification as a “Dr.,” we can’t say we’re surprised by what she did.

The good news is that you can consider both to be obscene, even if we disagree as to what the punishment should be. Right-wing media figures get way more leeway over what they can say on radio and TV than left-wing media figures. And African American men are more likely to be more severely punished for what Greene is accused of doing than white men, especially in the South.

The true objective mind would put everyone in the same category for the same offenses, but maybe we can’t quite do that. But it does seem that the punishments should be consistent, at least, within the realms of context.

If Schlessinger were left-wing, she should receive the same punishment as if she were right-wing, which she is. And if Greene were a white man, if he did what he is accused of doing, should receive the same punishment as a black man, which he is.

Time will tell us whether that will be true or not.


Written by democracysoup

August 16, 2010 at 8:19 am

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