Monday, January 07, 2008

The Andy Rooney Internet Hoax

Thanks to the one and only MagnetBabe for pointing out that the email making the rounds purporting to quote Andy Rooney was a hoax. I should have known. Every time I get an email from my cousin I normally double-check it for accuracy. This time I just assumed it was true.


I remember watching Dennis Miller on his HBO series having an entire episode to rebelling against racial sensitivity, but it wasn't totally revolutionary because it is the kind of thing you would expect from a comedian whose job it is to pick at the scabs of status quo. Someone like Andy Rooney -- well, it was too far from the norm to have accepted it at face value.

I promised a reply to MagnetBabe's comment, which as I've come to expect from her, is intelligent and passionate. Here it is:

Opinions that are not grounded in reason and are instead the influence of ignorance should be stamped out rather than given a forum. One could say that in the first comment here Alan stamped out "Rooney's" opinion that the United Negro College Fund and Miss Black America represent reverse racism, as he very should have. That was an ignorant opinion that "Rooney" was either too lazy to look up the history of or too racist himself to care. Or just trying to cause a stir, in which case it worked.

The statement about homosexuality didn't directly imply that the writer thought homosexuality was wrong. But in a similarly dangerous manner, it displays tolerance of people who think homosexuality is wrong. To me, shrugging your shoulders at someone attempting to exert moral authority over a population of people is not acceptable and rather than simply taking it at face value as opinion I would argue that this thinking ought to be stamped out rather than perpetuated throughout society. To me, "homosexuality is wrong" accepted simply as opinion bears an unsettling resemblance to the "opinion" that "evolution is just a theory", another opinion that should be stamped out rather than tolerated a minute longer.

I would counter by saying that while the above is well-stated, it is some pretty fancy stamping. And before anyone thinks I'm opposed in any way to homosexuality, or that I am applauding the opinion that homosexuality is wrong, please reconsider. I tolerate different opinions, not just the opinions that I feel are worthy of consideration. I know plenty of people that think homosexuality is wrong, as well as people who are prejudiced. They are most certainly ignorant, and easy marks in conversation. The only way to get through to people like this is through discourse, not by treating them like lepers and banishing them to a white supremicist commune. You are an idealist, Nat, and I really admire that about you. Your parents raised you to see the world as it should be, and have backed that rhetoric with action. But you can't bully people into your way of thinking. It's not realistic. In fact, it's a perfect recipe for lifelong frustration and bitterness.

On the opposite end of the family spectrum is my grandmother. She hates everyone who is not white, and I'm assuming homosexuals as well. She used to use the n-word with regularity until I brought my kids around. We were watching an Eddie Murphy movie Daddy Day Care when my grandma, right in front of the kids, said "That n--- sure is funny." The kids didn't hear because they were too focused on the movie.
Grandma, don't use that word in front of my kids.

Why not?

Because it's disrespectful, and they're my kids and I'll raise them as I see fit.

Well what do you call them?

I just say 'that man' or 'that woman' and point. I don't refer to anyone as a white man or woman and they seem to understand who I mean. Names help too. Like, 'Eddie Murphy sure is funny.'

She looked at me with a gleam in her eyes. I'm not sure if she was proud or just thought I didn't get it, but I think it was the former. I have to admit that if she would have persisted I would have threatened to leave, but my point is that I talked to her about it, and hopefully made her understand just a little.

And as for exerting moral authority over a population of people, that's some pretty strong stuff. If I am not allowed to do this, then I must accept polygamy, or men who treat their women as chattel, and a host of others that I can't think of, simply because they are a population of people, and that I object on moral grounds. I don't think so. And I hardly see the correlation between the denial of evolution and moral objection. One is felt in the heart while the other is denying an entire body of science.

And don't start thinking I'm a creationist (not that you would!). The whole thing is absurd. That's not an opinion. It's a close cousin of conspiracy theory. Religion has no place in schools, just as it has no place in government.


magnetbabe said...

Thank you for calling me a bully in your blog post. Nice job. I'm glad I have the opportunity to make the first comment to defend myself a little.

My comment about people exerting moral authority on others was a thinly veiled reference to religion. It has been my personal experience that the only people of the opinion that homosexuality either as an act or a lifestyle is wrong has come to that opinion from their religion. Let me first say that I have met many religious people that are not only tolerant of homosexuality but activists for the gay rights movement. Unfortunately 100% of the people I've met who haven't been tolerant are also religious. None of people I have met who feel that homosexuality is wrong have been either agnostic or atheist.

I can easily tell you that spousal abuse is wrong because there is a an injured party. Polygamy is wrong when people are taken advantage of and oppressed. These are situations that are clearly ethically wrong because there are physical and emotional victims. Oh yeah, and those situations violate human rights as well as those granted to us by the US Constitution. This is not me exercising moral authority, but making an ethical statement. Simply the act of wanting to be in a relationship with the same sex is not anything like either of those situations, but some people want to say it is wrong because an ancient text tells them so, not their own common sense. And unfortunately, no amount of discussion friendly or otherwise will change their mind.

However, these people will often want to discuss their anti-gay opinions so that they can have a forum to spread intolerance, which according to my argument is what I feel shouldn't be given to them. My comparison to evolution is valid because often creationists will think that by engaging in discourse on creation versus evolution, their opinion is by default valid. And guess what? Both these arguments will site the same source. From a logical and reasonable perspective, I find neither of these opinions worthy of discussion as there is no evidence to be presented. Simple, end of story for me.

You may call me an idealist but a realist would agree that discourse simply doesn't work in some of these situations. Did you change your grandmother's mind? Do you think you ever could?

Yes, I am passionate about this topic. I am well aware that some of my views can be considered "fringe" or "too progressive" and it leaves me with emotions that are often frustration and bitterness. But I would rather feel that way knowing that I am an outspoken advocate for something than apathetic and compliant.

Scott said...

I didn't mean to insult you. If you want I'll take the post down. You know I respect you, and I would never intentionally say something to hurt you. All I'm saying is that you can try to change people, but you can't expect to win it all in one battle. No, I didn't change my grandmother's mind, but she heard me. And out of respect, she stopped doing it. And furthermore, I'll bet she even reflects on it once in a while. My protestation was a drop of water, but enough of those can fill an ocean.

magnetbabe said...

No, Scott. Don't take it down. I know that tone cannot always come through over the internet, but the comment was made with some sarcasm and irony. I don't think of myself as bullying people with my opinions. I don't shove them down people's throats, I just don't engage in the type of discussions I just outlined above for reasons I gave. I'm sure you know that about me, we've been friends for over 2 years now. I just hope your readership knows that about me as well. I know that I can't change things with one battle. But that doesn't mean it isn't worth fighting for! No hard feelings on my end, as long as people keep it civil!

Scott said...

I scrutinized that first paragraph for any hint of sarcasm, and thought I saw it, but I had to be sure. Whew!

I was going to say that you're just pissed off because the Bucs lost, but that wouldn't have been very sporting of me.

It's funny, but your second paragraph sounds like the results of a poll. But I agree with you for the most part. I'm not sure that all religious people I've met have been intolerant, but I know of which you speak. I think in general the faithful are taught not to think but to believe. And that is dangerous, because that is exactly the problem in the radical sects of Islam, that when you just believe what you are told without question, you can be led by the nose.

And on the issue of polygamy, I'm not sure there is a victim there. The union is consentual, so there is no repression exactly. Perhaps the women are deluded, but I don't think they are necessarily oppressed. This is a situation they have entered into willingly.

And as for the end of your second comment, you are making my point for me. I think it's worth the effort to steer people away from ignorant thinking. Fortunately I don't tend to hear that kind of talk any more, having surrounded myself with friends that are a little less dark ageist.

Shesawriter said...


Great post. I especially like the part about your encounter with your grandmother. You were tactful, yet firm. Bravo. BTW, I think Andy Rooney is a whackjob.

Alan said...

Since I had a lot to say under the original post, I feel like I should say something here too. Only thing is, I'm reluctant to do so because of what might get shook out of the woodpile.

I guess I'll only share my feelings. Generally my problem with discussing politics and religion and social issues in open forums is that I only get shotgun drive-bys of people's opinions and sometimes and it doesn't give me the full picture of the commenter. For instance, there were a few responses following mine who were also largely in support of "Andy"'s statements. I didn't think it was my place to address my concerns to them. They said "Andy" represented their opinions, and that bothered me. The fact that this wasn't actually Andy Rooney's writing doesn't mean as much to me as the fact that the words in "his" quoted text resonated so much with more than one person.

Not having read as much of the commentors' inner feelings as I have Scott's, or had as much previous conversations with them as I have Scott, I just had to accept that there are intelligent people here who still might resent me and the black movements in America that might benefit me, or have a problem with me if I wanted to call myself an African-American.

Now, there have been times at my blog when I've ranted against white people in a general unfair way. Nothing derogatory or insulting, but mostly reactionary and paranoid, or jealousy-based, or whatever was crawling up my butt that particular day. I'd been called on it by commenters--Scott being one, in fact--and I readjusted my attitude.

That almost never seems to happen in the opposite direction. Once a white person gets "fed up" with political correctness and the need to be racially sensitive, and goes on a rant about it, more often than not you see equal comments of support for the ranter.

That just gives me the creeps. It's like my paranoia has a basis in truth. As if I should suspect that the white people I know have the potential to throw me under the bus should the right trigger get pulled.

I am learning to deal with this however. It may just be that we'd all throw anyone under the bus when we feel threatened. And perhaps that's why these kinds of e-mails exist and thrive so well to begin with. The writer is alerting the reader of the threat of the blacks, the homosexuals, the politically correct, the feminists, and the whatever elses. The writer is alerting the white, straight, Republican, American, monogamist, religious, males that their way of life is under attack.

To those who feel they need to be alerted, I have nothing to offer. I never intended to be a threat. I just want a happy life in the country that I was born in. I'm sorry that in order for me to do that, other people have to feel endangered.

Scott said...

Tanya - Thanks. It's difficult sometimes to face up to family or friends. I've lost quite a few friends being less tactful and more firm.

Alan - I think if you read through most of the comments, you will also see a fair amount of support for what you are saying. I hope you will always feel safe saying exactly how you feel to me, and if anyone in my estimation is being unfair to you I will jump to your side. Nobody that is white, unless they are married to someone of a different race, can have any idea what it is like. Being fed up with political correctness pales in comparison to what many have to put up with.

I certainly don't resent anyone who has a private club that I'm not invited into. That's probably because I'm not used to the exlusion, and when it happens I move along. The club in Atlanta comes to mind, that finally admitted women. I don't really care that women couldn't go, as I wouldn't have cared one lick if women had their own golf club where men couldn't go. If every club in town would only let women in, then after a hundred years, I would be pretty damn sick of it. Once all those clubs were open to all people, but now men had a bunch of clubs that women couldn't get into, I would expect the women to understand. After a while though, I would start to wonder if that was really necessary anymore, and would get sensitive to accusations that women were still doing that thing they were doing.

Boy, that was the worst analogy.

Listen, man, just bring it here and say what you have to say. I promise that you won't scare me off. It's my blog, so my rules. If you are my only reader when it all shakes out, then so be it. But if you really pay attention, more than half of my readers are liberal-minded, and as such, are extremely sensitive and extremely pc.

(watch out for flying fruit)

Alan said...

I sure did see all you guys who agreed with me, and it was encouraging. I mean, it kept me from packing my bags altogether and heading for Ghana, Mali, or Songhay, lol! Seems I'm still wired in the "squeaky-wheel-gets-the-oil" mentality, though, and I was just eager to skip over the whole shebang with a bit of a sinky feeling in my belly.

But not so much now. Thanks, Scott. Love ya, man.

Moni said...

Damn! This is deep. Thanks Scott for making me think for a while and thank you magnetbabe for creating an interesting topic for great conversation.

If I had half an inclination to jump in the intellectual deep end, I would, but I just don't feel like a swim today.

Again, thanks you guys, you sure are a welcome change from the useless mind numbing crap on the telly.


Minnesotablue said...

Leave it to Magnetbabe to find out the truth about the Andy Rooney hoax. I can see Dennis Miller saying something like that but not Rooney

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

It's all going on here!

I can't add much to what has already been said, only that homophobia seems to be rampant here in most social circles - be they religious or otherwise.

There is a trend in the UK of saying something is 'Gay' if it goes wrong. It was always prevalent in the school playground, so post-ironics everywhere have adopted it as a tongue in cheek reference to the naieve, uneducated days of old.

But, as an openly gay radio DJ on one of our main radio stations said 'Saying something rubbish is Gay is like saying that being Gay is rubbish'.

Tee said...

Ugh - I hate when I believe an E-mail and later find it on Snopes. Happens to the best of us.

I like the part of the post when you stood up to your grandma. Ignorance and prejudice is passed from generation to generation - it's learned behavior - and you stopped it from continuing on to your kids. That's awesome.

Alan said...

Ultra Toast Mosha, that way of using the word "gay" is over here in America too. Even television sitcoms that lean both to the left and right use it for laughs. It's like if a conservative character says "That's so gay" then the audience is supposed to laugh at how ignorant that character is, and when a liberal character says it, the audience is supposed to laugh with a wink and a nod, as if to say "It's wrong to say, but it's so funny, isn't it?"

Seems people just have a penchant for giving labels and making negative connotations. We also freely say that when something's gone bad, it's "gone South" and I've never understood why that was allowable. I used to dig Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" until I couldn't get around the line

Yeah I been black,
But when I come back,
You're no no no...

and I'm like, what? What happened to her when she was "black"? Was that good or bad? And why'd she "come back"? Why didn't she stay? Especially when she has a "black" sound provided by a Motown influence? And her album is called "Back to Black" isn't it? So, whatever.

Eliminating the color line seems like a good goal, but I'd be happy with eliminating the negative connotations instead. I would much more appreciate someone who accepted me in my entirety. There are things I like about being black, and there have been times I was made to feel good about myself from credible white people specifically because I was black. (Pretty rare, but I'll never forget them) And there are specific physical things about white people that I like too.

So yeah, maybe in another 200 years, we'll have it figured out. I guess when the Alpha Centurians come down and decide that humans make great finger food will we finally unite as one race and stop with the petty mental segregations.

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ultra Toast Mosha God said...


I suspect you are probably right about some kind of threat being the only means to properly unify mankind.

Most of our problems are pretty trivial, and would take marginal sacrifices from all parties to solve. But no-one wants to sacrifice anything in these most materialistic of days.

As for 'Rehab', within the context of the song, I can only assume that the blackness winehouse refers to is from passing out after some kind of excessive intoxication. Back to Black being the blackness of unconsciousness, I presume. I'm clutching at straws here.

Either that, Or she has invented some kind of magic RaceGenerator(TM) - experience all ethnic diversities! Only $150 per hour!