TOM THE DANCING BUG: An NFL Fan Defends the "R" Word


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As is often the case, Mr. Bolling has brilliantly skewered an institution that richly deserved the skewering.


There’s a deeper truth in this strip that I really like which highlights a basic tension in how people view decency. To what extent should people go to accommodate other (and often unfamiliar) views and perspectives? The golden rule completely falls apart when the first party has a pathological inability to identify where the second party is coming from.

For what it’s worth, I am a huge fan of the so-called Platinum Rule: “Treat others the way they want to be treated.”


I think the new South Park episode adequately covered all of this.


when the name brings people to the game in joke feathered headdresses the name is offensive.

(Headdresses are traditionally worn on important occasions by Native Americans who have worked to earn each feather)

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Clerks 2 covered this nicely with the “porch monkey” debate.

“No it’s cool, I’m taking it back.”

As a Kantian deontologist, I’m offended that it would even reach the stage of needing to satirize the Washington football team’s “intentions”. Kant would be rolling in his grave.

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Let’s get the obligatory weak counter-arguments out of the way:

“Who appointed those people to speak for all Native Americans? My friend’s second cousin is 1/17 Cherokee and HE doesn’t get offended by the name!”

"What about the Fightin’ Irish? What do you mean, ‘Irish-Americans weren’t subjected to genocide and the word Irish isn’t a racial slur and we’d be happy to do away with that name if a large number if Irish people took offense to it?’ "

“Don’t Native American activists have more important things to worry about? What do you mean, they can worry about more than one thing at a time?”


I want to see that family tree :stuck_out_tongue:


There was a bit on the Daily Show about this issue recently where a similar argument was made, some woman claimed to have a mathematically-impossible (or at least highly unlikely) percentage of Native American ancestry.


And quite a lot of butthurt about it, too.

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There are so many problems with this sentiment.

Perhaps the most basic is that it is very hard to know what other people want, even when they tell you (because people are very bad at knowing what they actually want a lot of the time) but far more important is that there are plenty of people who want you to treat them in ways you’d really rather not.

If you treat people how they want, you’re very rapidly going to run into people who want you to treat them as your superiors, or as a gods, or in countless other highly problematic ways.

And if we apply this rule to the very topic at hand, things get weird.

We can’t possibly apply it to both sides of the issue - one side wants the name changed, the other wants the name kept, and it is impossible to satisfy both sides.

So that leaves only one side following the rule, and the other side getting their way. So if the sports team treats their critics the want they want to be treated, the name gets changes to something else. But if the offended parties treat the sports team the way they want to be treated, the name stays the same regardless of who it offends.

So if everyone followed your rule, no solution is possible, and if only one side follows your rule, nothing is solved because the other side simply gets to have their own way, leaving the other half of the issue dissatisfied.


Purely acting as Devil’s advocate here, but these arguments work both ways.

“Who appointed the offended parties to speak for all Native Americans? There are 100% full-blooded Cherokees who don’t care what the hell a silly sports team is called.”

"What about the Fightin’ Irish? What do you mean the Irish weren’t subjected to genocide? Do you not know English history, you self-absorbed Americans? What do you mean it “isn’t comparable”? How dare you belittle our suffering?"

“And what about the association of Irishness with Fighting isn’t insulting? People are always calling us violent, stupid drunkards! And no, we’d not be happy to do away with it if a large number of Irish people took offense to it, because it’s a beloved local team name with a massive impact on the historical community of the college and changing it would upset a lot of our community.”

“We sports fans have other things to worry about. What do you mean, we should also worry about your personal complaints about things we see as trivial? You don’t like our name? Fine! You don’t have to! You’re under no obligation to support us in any way. By the same token, we’re under no obligation to cater to your whims.”

The slightly older Hillel variant of the Golden Rule is “Don’t do unto others that which is hateful to you.”

I.e., if the Golden Rule is P --> Q for P=“If you like something done to you” then Q = “Do it to others” means we should all be giving each other backrubs like Buster in Arrested Development. This sentiment makes proselytizing cool, because people love hearing about how awesome their religion is–better go tell everyone else that news!

Hillel’s version is instead ~P --> ~Q. Which means basically, mind your own business. I.e., I don’t like when folks try to change my religion, so I should probably not try to change the religion of others.

Applied here, it’s “I don’t like football teams to have names offensive to my culture” (e.g., the Florida Crotchety Crackers), so I should opt to not name a football team something offensive to others.


I was commenting on the proposed “Platinum Rule” of “treating everyone how they want to be treated” - which isn’t feasible given how quickly you run into contradictions and other problems.

So I’m not sure why you’re explaining the Golden Rule to me as if I were a child unfamiliar with it.



You don’t have loops in your tree?

You realize that xkcd is making a joke, right?

You’re making one too, yes? Not honestly invoking that strip to actually suggest that people shouldn’t “play devil’s advocate” and shouldn’t say things “for the sake of argument”?

You’re not a fan of Tyler Durden, right?

This is what is known as intractable conflict, and is well discussed in conflict management theory. One of the steps towards reconciling these conflicts is to mitigate the propensity to dehumanize their opponents and encourage people to see things from the other side of the table.

Your examples clearly identify many difficult scenarios. Of course the Platinum Rule isn’t an infallible mantra; if it was, we would not have any need for a judicial system.

But in some respects, your arguments sound a bit like “welp, we can’t make everyone happy all the time! What’s the point of seeing things from the other side if I know they aren’t going to change their mind?” The Golden Rule is lazy; Starting from the position that your actions are noble seems reasonable, but assumes too much.