Regular Inky reader W.E.W. e-mails to comment on Ted Rall?s apparent effort to best Garry Trudeau in leveling racial slurs at Condoleezza Rice (see Ted Rall Enters the Condi-Slurring Sweepstakes, July 9). In this battle of the left-wing cartoonists, Trudeau had President Bush addressing Rice as “Brown Sugar,” while Rall went all the way with the N-word, as in “House N—-.” Our point at the IWF is that Rice, as a conservative African-American, seems to be fair game for a species of racial invective from the left that that would be deemed intolerable were she a liberal African-American under attack from the right. W.E.W. disagrees with our reasoning and writes:
“Remember that it is Rall’s intention to be outrageous, so don’t give him that. Just point out the inaccuracy of his assertions. To suggest that either Rice or [Colin] Powell would accept a house-n—– position presumes that they would otherwise be unemployable, which both of their previous careers and accomplishments gives the lie to. Satire needs a grain of truth. Rall’s has none. Trudeau’s barely has.”
Sorry, W.E.W., but we continue to respectfully disagree. This is not about the merits of Rall’s charge but about his civility (or lack thereof). Would it have been OK for him to have used the N-word had Rice been a welfare mother instead of a Stanford professor before she went to work for Bush? I think not. We’re not talking about the First Amendment, which gives Rall the right to use the ethnic slurs of his choosing (unlike Europe and Canada, we Americans don’t have hate-speech laws), but about common courtesy and decency. So far, of course, we have yet to see any protest of Rall’s language from those same folks who were shocked, shocked to hear Dick Cheney use the F-word a few days ago.
W.E.W. also offers a clarification to a previous e-mail in which he accused Marlon Brando of having defended a “smirking rapist.” (See Mailbag: Caitlin Flanagan (Again!) and Marlon Brando, July 9.) I had been at a loss to recall any film in which Brando played a criminal defense lawyer or a Bill Clinton supporter. (Kidding, Bill!) W.E.W. says he was actually referring to Brando’s real-life role protesting against the execution of convicted rapist Caryl Chessman in 1960. Hmmm, although Brando did get involved in wacky causes throughout his life, he might have been in the right camp on Chessman. Caryl Chessman was a despicable figure, to be sure. His M.O. was to ambush couples necking in cars at night and force the female of the couple to commit sexual acts with him. And I’m not opposed to capital punishment. Yet the death penalty seems an overly severe punishment for rape.