Ben Stein's Diary

Punished for His Thoughts

More on Adam Silver's panicky rush to judgment.

By 5.1.14

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Thursday
So, here I am, still in Denver, a lovely city, but too high up.

Herewith, a few lowly thoughts about Mr. Donald Sterling, his private conversations with his mistress, the media lynching of him, and the actions of the NBA sanctioning him severely for those private thoughts and comments.

“It’s a slippery slope,” said billionaire sports club owner Mark Cuban when asked about the sanctions. I am not sure what he meant, but he’s right.

Sterling is being punished for his thoughts. He is being punished for actions that make the NBA look bad even though they were not actions at all, but thoughts.

As far as I have been able to determine, the NBA code of conduct allows sanctions for actions. I don’t see anything that allows sanctions for thoughts. So, where does the authority for that come from?

Next, if we are to sanction private thoughts and comments by NBA owners, shouldn’t we put all of their mistresses and wives and friends and children under oath and ask about any comments they have ever made in private? Why is only Mr. Sterling being singled out for retribution for his thoughts? Why not start wholesale, Vishinsky-like Stalin show trial interrogation of everyone close to an NBA owner to find out what he has said that might be objectionable? Isn’t the punishment of Mr. Sterling just an in terrorem bill of attainder against one man otherwise?

So, while we’re at it, let’s see what actions other professional team owners have done that might embarrass their league. They are all rich so probably they have girlfriends. We know that one in the Midwest was just arrested for a DUI and drug possession. Nothing at all was done to him. Not a thing.

Are we in a world where a non-criminal thought or comment is punished harshly but an actual deed — an arrest for DUI and drug possession — is not punished ? Can that really be happening?

And while we are on this witch-hunt about racist comments, why stop at NBA owners? How about media personalities? I know some big names that have made some startlingly racist comments in their earlier days. Should we go after them, too? Why should they be allowed to sit in judgment of everyone else?

And why is it suddenly a crime to harbor racist thoughts? Note, I deplore racism and have fought against it all of my life. But when did it become actionable by a self-regulating body with the power to deprive a member of immense amounts of money to do so because of his thoughts? Actions, of course. But THOUGHTS?

And what of Mr. Obama’s pastor and his spectacularly anti-white comments? What about Minister Farrakhan? Is it allowed to make racist remarks about one racial group but not about others?

What about the black comedians I see on TV at night with their endless mockery of whites? Is that allowed? Why?

Mr. Cuban is right. Once we start punishing people on the basis of thoughts, we are in real trouble. There is no end in sight that is compatible with a free society.

And, again, why isn’t there some outcry about Ms. Stiviano and her illegal taping of a private conversation?

Next, Mr. Adam Silver, the head of the NBA. Hailed as a hero. Brave. Decisive. I don’t get it. He was just bullied into taking the path the media demanded. He made a rush to judgment without the slightest thought to the ramifications of his actions in a Constitutional democracy. He’s not a hero. A hero would have insisted on taking some time to study the consequences of his actions. But he did what the media demanded. So he’s a hero to them.

And meanwhile, out there in America, the black person’s world is in chaos. Wildly higher school dropout rates than among whites. Demolished family structure. Terrifyingly higher arrest and incarceration rates than whites. A drug plague. These are catastrophes and the media ignores them. But one lone old rich drunk who talked too much to his mistress... oh, we’ll nail him and things will be great in the world of blacks.

I am telling you, we are in a bad way here. I hate racism but I love freedom and we are throwing it away with both hands.

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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.