Posted on December 14, 2007
The Ferrous Doctrine
Just one kook, that's all it took
Offendedness replaced baseball as our national pastime long ago, so what has happened in Allentown, Pennsylvania should come as no surprise. The local minor-league baseball team, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, held a contest to name its new mascot. A controversy ensued because the winning entry, "PorkChop," was deemed by an unidentified complainer to be racist.
The team predictably reversed its decision, and then not-so-predictably renamed the mascot "Ferrous," which means of, or relating to, iron. In a lame effort to validate this outcome, it claimed that the name Ferrous had been suggested by 235 entrants, whereas PorkChop had garnered a meager 32 votes by comparison. That tally could not be any less plausible if it had been verified by Jimmy Carter. For all we know, those 235 people are probably all dead, and residing in a vacant lot on the edge of town.
Ever eager to support one of the offended, the AP helpfully points out that the Urban Dictionary identifies "porkchop" as a derogatory term for Puerto Ricans. If you look up the Urban Dictionary website (which is not advisable), you'll find numerous entries indicating that the word is used as a slur against people of Portuguese descent, not Puerto Rican, but who's counting?
That site allows readers to post their own definitions, with little oversight, so it's not exactly what you'd call authoritative. Many of its definitions of ostensibly benign words are so vulgar that, if you're using it as a guide for selecting an inoffensive name, you'll have to eliminate practically all nouns, adjectives and verbs from consideration.
The local NBC affiliate quotes team spokesman Matt Provence explaining his employers' craven capitulation like this: "If it offends just one person, it's too many for a mascot name." Unfortunately, this policy does not extend to those who have objected to the name change, on the grounds that they're offended by sheer idiocy. In order to be officially counted as an offended person, you must belong to a politically protected group. As long as you can make a claim to social victimization, you instantly qualify as one of the offended, no matter how irrational or trifling your complaint may be.
The world of sports has seen similar controversies within the past couple years, and they have followed a familiar pattern. When a new Major League Soccer team introduced itself as "Houston 1836," in commemoration of Texas' independence from Mexico, it came under criticism because it supposedly recalled hurtful memories for Mexicans. Really, really old Mexicans, that is. Naturally, the team abruptly changed its name and logo before it ever took the field.
University of Arkansas coach Houston Nutt once disciplined some of his players by making them wear pink jerseys during practice. He publicly rescinded this policy, claiming that he had received complaints from breast cancer-related charities, who use the color pink to promote their cause. After having that statement refuted by those same foundations, who pointed out that they've got more important things to worry about, the coach admitted that the real source of the protests was a group of gay student activists.
Each of these concessions to the offended was followed by a backlash, but the opinions of those greater numbers of people didn't matter. That's because most people have lives to get on with, so there's no need to react to them, because they'll soon go away. The offended, on the other hand, have got nothing but time on their hands, to wage endless phone and e-mail campaigns, and, worse yet, to show up in person for a "dialogue." Many of the offended even belong to organizations that pay them to become offended by things for a living.
By announcing their one-offended-person rule (henceforth to be known as the "Ferrous Doctrine"), the IronPigs have only invited more complaints. Under this policy, all they need is for one Muslim to say he's offended by the pig mascot itself, and the team will have to replace it with something innocuous, like a walking periodic table of the elements. Next thing you know, the offended will protest The Star-Spangled Banner, Cracker Jack, and the word "shortstop."
Trying to placate the offended is like paying protection money to mobsters. You know they'll be back, and their demands will only become more excessive. The difference is that if you refuse to pay off the mob, you might be given a dirt nap, whereas if you reject the offended, all you can get is a little peace and quiet.-- Daniel Clark is a Staff Writer for the New Media Alliance. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.
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