Ben Stein's Diary

I Hate, Hate, Hate Racism

But is Thoughtcrime now a crime?

By 4.30.14

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Tuesday
Up around noon in Greenville to prepare for my trip. Tommy, Kitty, and Coco joined my driver and friend, Bob Noah, at the Nosedive, where I had a simply fabulous cheeseburger and egg.

Then, off to Charlotte, fast asleep in the back of Bob’s fabulous Toyota Camry, as smooth riding a car as there is. I have driven a Bentley and I have driven the Camry and the Camry is ten times the car that the Bentley is.

I bid farewell to Bob and went to the US Air counter. Shock! They had me in a bulkhead seat, which I hate, and which I had not reserved.

The men at the ticket counter were utterly unhelpful, but the man at Gate B6, Ron, asked a man to switch seats with me and the man kindly did. When I thanked him and insisted that he tell me his favorite charity so that I could donate to it, Ron cried with thanks.

Memo to US Air: this is how you make a lifetime customer.

On the plane, I read about the scandal about Donald Sterling making anti-black comments to his mistress in what he must have assumed to have been a private conversation. The mistress is terrifying looking. Really scary. I thought recording calls without the other party’s consent was not lawful in California. Hmmm.

Now, I must add here that I hate racism. I was a victim of nasty, awful anti-Semitism all of my youth. It was a hideous fact of life at every level of society. I once had a boss in an office on the Hill who told me I was lucky he didn’t make me into a lampshade. He was a black man. I was just recently turned away at a club in Indian Wells for being Jewish — in the 21st century. In high school, my date for the prom had to break that date because her father would not let her go to the prom with a Jew. In my yearbook there is an inscription from a girl aptly named “Caroline German.” The inscription says, “Roses are red, Violets are blue. I like you even though you’re a Jew.”

You get the point. I hate racism and I fought against it all of my time as a youth, even going to so great a length as to work with the Black Panthers in New Haven.

I hate, hate, hate racism.

But I also love individual liberty. I would much rather have a system where people are free to hate me because of my race as long as they don’t lynch me than one in which the government or the media tell me who I can and cannot hate. I loathe Donald Sterling for his comments and I do not want him near me. But I am terrified that a man can have such a level of media rage directed at him even though he violated no law. He expressed a hateful opinion and that’s a bad thing. But in a world where there are as many horrible things going on as in our world, the private conversations of one drunken old man would not seem to me to be worth this level of fury. Isn’t this “Thoughtcrime”? Does it scare you? It scares me. And I am really terrified that “anti-racism,” like “saving the earth” and “income inequality struggles,” will legitimate any level of anger. Isn’t there such thing as “the law”? Aren’t we supposed to be more worried about violence than private nutty conversations? 

I can sum this up easily: Isn’t Mr. Sterling being punished for his privately expressed thoughts and not for any action? Isn’t this deeply unsettling? When did privately expressed thoughts become fair game for punishment? Where does it end? In “1984.” 

However, at this point the cat is out of the bag. Mr. Sterling’s comments were in fact made public by his mistress (who says she’s not his mistress). The Clippers players and the fans are furious. They don't want to play for Sterling any longer so he has to give up the team. But, again, it sure looks as if we are rapidly racing towards the rule of Thoughtcrime. That’s the end.

One more little thing. I read in the Times that the Obama administration, fresh from total humiliation in Ukraine, in the Middle East, in Japan, unable to achieve a damned thing, will take on sex crimes on college campuses. Now, of course, rape is a horrible, horrible thing. But when did law enforcement on college campuses become a federal matter? Isn’t is supposed to be a state law enforcement matter? When did the feds become in charge of enforcing laws on sex acts and violence?

I guess in the world of Obama, the federal government doesn’t need no stinking badges. He just preens in his Evita gown and the law is what he says it is.

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About the Author

Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.