Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Political Correctness Run Amok

What it is about the simultaneity of hard lefty Democrats in the White House and the unleashing of shrill pogroms from the thought police for any and all perceived injuries and offenses to delicate politically-correct "sensibilities"?

Or as I prefer to call it : hysterical jackassery.

Perhaps I digress before I get started, but case in point : my former boss, Delaware Chief Justice Myron T. Steele (a Democrat, by the way).

The judge sent out a purportedly-racy video link in an email to 38 individuals. Obviously someone forwarded the judge's email indiscriminately such that it made its way to a News-Journal reporter. Less likely is that one of the recipients is not the friend Steele might have believed them to be.

Either way, it became a topic of news and comment in a number of fora, including letters to the News-Journal editor, varying only in their degree of self-righteous chest-beating against Steele.

I have followed with disbelief and disgust this quasi-shitstorm whipped up around the judge's wholly-inoccuous attempt at personal levity in an email to a handful of people who, presumably, are either Steele's personal friends or, presumably, many former clerks or both.

I have held my tongue about this since I am a former clerk of the judge's, with obvious personal bias, and saw no good in adding terrain to this molehill-made-mountain.

But I often thought of Danielle Gibbs, the clerk who immediately preceded me with the then-Vice-Chancellor and whom I got to know briefly in the transition taking over her duties.

I know how much respect and affinity Danielle has always had for Steele, professionally and personally...and how this is and always has been absolutely mutual in all respects with Steele.

So I was quite happy to see Danielle very-eloquently write a letter to the News-Journal to rebut the handful of knee-jerk uninformed condemnation letters already published.

Danielle said it better than any of us could, who know Myron Steele personally and know what ridiculous nonsense are all the hysterics and histrionics of those casual observers who would read some ill measure of the man, his character, or his judicial propriety from this ginned-up non-incident :

May 11, 2009

Criticism of Steele’s error is overwrought and inaccurate

I was a judicial clerk for Chief Justice Myron Steele (then a Vice Chancellor). I am now among the younger law partners in town. And I am a woman.

Chief Justice Steele is a peculiar mix of hearty humor, southern gentility, and yes, irascibility. He is as self-deprecating as he is bold. And he is as loyal as a Labrador.

The Chief Justice shows unfailing respect for the women with whom he works. Not the appearance of respect, so cheaply achieved by artifices and social codes. Real respect. How you treat an equal.

Comments that suggest otherwise tell us not about the man but about the failure of eager commentators to make well-informed, careful and fair judgments, the kinds of judgments that reside solidly in Dover. (“Supreme Court chief justice sent racy video to colleagues,” April 30)

We live in an era when, increasingly, the historically aggrieved and disenfranchised are advancing and leading. Presumptions that these individuals require behavioral police to protect them are out of date. And they offend because they disrespect achievement and fail to acknowledge personal strength.

If someone offends me, I’ll tell him – or her. By attempting to protect me, you demote me, declaring that I cannot stand on my own.

To those who want to offer such protection, I suggest that ideas thought to be compassionate, or at least socially required, may defend – but they do not fortify. They are less and less likely to do coming generations much good.

Danielle Gibbs

The critics and PC police on the loose against "offenders" of PC orthodoxy are overwrought more than ever these days. Those firing off at Steele, in particular, need to realize that, like the rest of us mortals, all jurists are human beings. They are not and should never be isolated solons on Olympus, humorless in their removal from all humanity.

They make mistakes, even in good-natured attempts at private humor on, yes...oh my great God-o-mighty..., even a special sacred state email address.

[Excuse me, but la-dee-dah...we all know what paragons of public virtue must be and certainly are all emails (all except for Steele's, of course) from any state government email accounts, and moreover that the public really cares deeply if these may not be the work of the state at all moments, world without end amen.]

The Chief Justice is someone with whom I spent considerable time, often under intense pressures (think '90 day rule' - one of the features of our Chancery Court that makes it so attractive to business litigants who seek expeditious dispute resolution over often-enormous stakes).

During and after working for Steele my frequent private thought (until it became reality) was not only that Steele should but that he would become Chief Justice someday. It wasn't because I thought him some legal genius of infallible judgment, but because of the man's essential fairness, good character, balance, and dedication to doing substantial justice in all his work.

Steele gets it right whenever and wherever it counts and that is all I care about and all the rest of us should bother paying any mind.

The News-Journal article gave Steele the final quote : "In retrospect, I never should forward any joke of any kind." It is a shame Steele, who has a great sense of humor, has to feel silenced of it.

I guess judicial "empathy" is only for politically(i.e. lefty)-correct judges these days, just as exterminationist hyperbole is A-OK...all nice and forgivable like...if you are an angry lefty.

PC thuggery's unseen damage is the prior restraint of legitimate opinions or, now, even just of simple off-handed otherwise-private frivolity in life that may be perceived as somehow offensive to someone somewhere.

Unfortunately the targets of PC faux-outrage only find out they've gone too far in the nebulous calculus of political correctness when they are already under attack for it.

So to the PC police run amok in the Age of Obama, whether busting chops on the David Fehertys, Wanda Sykeses, or Myron Steeles of this life, I say : give us mere mortals a frigging break already with all this manufactured outrage and hypercritical nonsense.


Anonymous said...

Tyler, just curious, but if one had a problem not with the content that was sent, but the fact that it was sent via the State email, would you consider that the same?

The reason I ask, is that I'm aware of certain individuals who have been disciplined/fired from the State for this type of offense. This was not the only thing that they were charged with, so it's not like they got fired just for the inappropriate email, but it was in fact on the list of charges they were charged with.

My opinion is that the inappropriate part was sending it through the state's email system, not the content. (And I didn't think it was all that racy anyhow)

Tyler Nixon said...

I think it ia unreasonable to expect any and every employee to always use state email addresses strictly for state business and for nothing personal, with the exceptions of political activities and illegal content.

I think this has more to do with lack of computer savvy on Steele's part (i.e. not thinking to get an outside personal email address, ala GMail or such, but which would nonetheless be accessed on state I am sure many state employees do (correct me if I'm wrong)). That's an oversight of circumstance to me, not an inappropriate act.

Even so, an "innapropriate" email is hardly worth such hullabloo, even over one coming from a Chief Justice. I think this is a tempest in a teapot on all counts.

But that's just my opinion. The whole issue of a state employee's, even the Chief Justice's, clearly private email, bearing in no way on public duties, is not worthy of public discussion, much less condemnation...again unless political activity or illegal content.

Tyler Nixon said...

Also, we can contrast this with accessing lurid content on state networks or computers, which would definitely be an abuse versus the content of lawful personal communications, publicly revealed by a party for whom they were not intended.

Do you know if there any state rules/regs/standards governing email content?

Anonymous said...

If I recall, each state employee is required to sign off on the Acceptable Use Policy:

Page 5 addresses personal use of the computer, and page 6 addresses the use of Email and the Internet. Page 8 indicates agencies may have some flexibility.