Thoughtcrimes, ca. 2012

by Sonny Bunch on December 6, 2012

As it turns out, this was the thoughtcrime in question:

That’s the entirety of Tom Van Dyke’s post. The editors of the League took it down and later put up this letter explaining why they did so. The thoughtcriminal was eventually purged.

I am, of course, being a little melodramatic here. For the record: This is obviously not a “freedom of speech” or First Amendment issue, as the League of Ordinary Gentlemen is a private organization and can publish who they please. A blogger getting fired from an unpaid (I believe) gig does not herald the approach of 1984. Furthermore, group blogging is always tricky, especially when one of the members of your collective is way to the right (or the left) of everyone else. (I had some experience with this when AFF experimented with a group blog back in 2008-2009.) And the League has always felt like a welcoming place for a variety of different voices (I even participated in a couple of podcasts at the League with one-time members Will Collins and Freddie deBoer).

But, as I suggested in that tweet up top, it’s always more interesting to see what gets one kicked out of a club rather than what gains one acceptance to a club. The League has been doing a lot of soul-searching/hand-wringing recently about the, shall we say, demographic makeup of its contributors. I’ll be honest, I don’t wade into the comments sections at the League very often (they typically run long and involve a handful of people making the same argument over and over again), but I have paid some attention to the threads in which commenters tell the editors that it’s their fault they don’t have more female/minority/whatever contributors because of people like Tom Van Dyke.

The editors were, it seems, presented a choice: Tolerate a poster who asks uncomfortable questions—in this case, why have we been denied evidence that Tryavon Martin’s shooter was beaten bloody before the shooting?—or purge him to make a vocal segment of the commentariat happy and allow them to duck (for a while, anyway) accusations of racism.*

It is, well, interesting to see the choice they made. And, just speaking for myself, at least a little disappointing.

*It should be noted that there is nothing whatsoever “racist” about Van Dyke’s post. Some criticized his misspelling of didn’t in the title and suggested it was “ebonics”; as he showed, it’s slang he has used previously in a variety of contexts. The real problem with the post was that it disrupted the preferred narrative: Trayvon Martin was just walking along with Skittles and iced tea and would never hurt anyone and was a good boy who wouldn’t cause any trouble and certainly never got into trouble at school and was gunned down in cold blood and would certainly never have brutally attacked someone on the street he thought was following him and was just “walking while black” and George Zimmerman couldn’t possibly have actually feared for his life and America is racist and how dare you question the MSNBC/MMFA/Nation/Mother Jones narrative, racist.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Pat December 6, 2012 at 9:59 pm

The comment thread on that post is the embodiment of navel-gazing “white people problems” anxiety.


Tom Van Dyke December 8, 2012 at 12:34 am

This is a good thing. In The Trial of Socrates, he was accused of
corrupting the youth and of being impious towards the gods of the city.

I am guilty of both–I have not supported gay marriage. I have laughed at Political Correctness.

As did Socrates in a similar predicament, as a threat to the prevailing order, I accepted the hemlock. I did not kick, I did not scratch. I swallowed.

Cheers, you bastards.


Will December 14, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Well, this is a really lame excuse to cashier someone.


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