Welcome back! I’ve decided to take a break from prepping for the bar by once again reading through the silliest articles on the Internet. Updates will likely be sporadic for the next few weeks, given that I’m taking the bar exam here pretty soon.
But! I found some good ones this week, so let’s get right to it:
Most Useless Article
Lauren Theisen, “K Corners Aren’t Racist, But They’re A Little Weird,” Deadspin, 7/5/2017
Baseball has a lot of weird traditions. Among them: the “K Corner,” a corner in the baseball stadium where a scorekeeper keeps track of the number of strikeouts (marked as “K,” because reasons), that the home pitcher gets over the course of the game. Sometimes, the pitcher has a total of three strikeouts, which means that there’s a little sign in the corner that reads “KKK” until such time as the pitcher gets a fourth strikeout, when it reads “KKKK.”
A woman went to an Atlanta Braves game on July 4th and happened to notice the SunTrust Park K corner when it happened to feature three strikeouts. She got publicly Mad Online about this, arguing on Twitter that it was racist and amounted to a tacit endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan. A lot of people made fun of her for it. A few sports blogs mentioned the whole fiasco with a wink. This writer decided to try to spin a Take out of the whole thing, but wound up with one of the limpest, silliest things I’ve ever read.
“When the guy on the mound has three swinging strikeouts, however, things get a little bit awkward. Seeing a sign that says “KKK” at a baseball game is, well, seeing a sign that says “KKK.” For any knowledgable baseball fan, that’s basically irrelevant and easy to ignore, but for newcomers to the game, it can raise concerns.”
Perhaps I have too much confidence in my fellow Americans, but I would submit that most people who see the sign that says “KKK,” realize that earlier it said just “KK,” and then there are spots next to the sign for it to include many more Ks, and figure out pretty quickly that a major metropolitan city’s stadium is not endorsing the Klan.
“The weird part of this whole misunderstanding is that there’s absolutely no reason for it other than tradition. . . As anyone who’s tried to explain a K Corner to a non-baseball fan before knows, there’s no logic behind it; the novice just has to take it on faith that Ks, occasionally tripled, are the way it is. The iconic K Corner is simply the result of history, like all sorts of other baseball stuff.”
There’s no reason for ANYTHING in baseball, or, indeed, most of life, other than tradition. This paragraph could be replaced with the phrase “language and cultural traditions are based on contingent circumstances and have no underlying, metaphysical meaning.”
“I’ll admit that the “K” is a tall, strong-looking letter, and that backwards Ks when a batter is caught looking are awesome. But an X could look imposing, too! And an R could be reversed quite nicely. A variety of symbols would continue to do the job.”
Do you think having a sign that reads “XXX” in the middle of the baseball park isn’t going to cause some very silly people to ask questions, too?
“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with K Corners. The sheer randomness of their inception, though, means it would be totally fine if we one day decided to change them, too.”
This whole article could have easily been replaced with a gif of the author shrugging noncommittally, and it would have communicated about the same amount of information.
Ross Douthat, A Tweet, Twitter, 7/4/2017
Ross Douthat has appeared here before, when he wrote what is still my favorite tweet-length Silly Take of all time. In case you’ve forgotten, Mr. Douthat is the New York Times Designated Conservative Columnist, and thus manages to attract a lot of hate from both major partisan camps. His Twitter account is mostly not that interesting, but every so often he lets off a blast of pure #genius. Like this tweet:
I don’t know who Lyman Stone is, and judging from his Twitter bio, neither does anybody else. I will say that his tweet (to which Ross is responding, to those of you new at Twitter) is also Pretty Silly, but he’s not a columnist for the Times, so I hold him to a slightly lesser standard.
Let’s just admire the beauty of this Douthat tweet. (Douthweet?) It’s a response to Some Rando that opens with a #actually, which is perfect. It takes a bizarrely contrarian position and offers no support for said position. Its timing is excellent — who else but Ross Douthat would feel the need to defend monarchies on Independence Day?
In short, Ross, you’ve still got it, and I admire your excellence in Take Silliness. Carry on, good sir. Carry on.
The Silliest Take of the Week: 7/1/2017-7/8/2017
Roland Merullo, “In Defense of the White Male,” The Boston Globe, 7/3/2017
Roland Merullo is apparently a relatively well-received author of literary fiction, and he also appears to write columns sometimes for The Boston Globe. He also looks like this, which is completely irrelevant, except that it’s somehow the exact image you had in your mind when I told you that he was a novelist who wrote an essay called “In Defense of the White Male:”
“Everywhere I turn these days I encounter the term “white male,” almost always used in a pejorative way.”
If your article starts with “Everywhere I turn these days,” I wager it has an 85% chance of being a Silly Take.
Merullo begins his article in earnest with a little explanation of how there have been a lot of evil white men over the years, but that white men haven’t “cornered the market on evil behavior,” citing Idi Amin and “certain notorious female camp guards and serial killers,” so we’re already going some fun places. But then:
“It’s not hard to argue that white men have done more harm in history — from the keeping of slaves to the genocide of Native Americans, and a thousand other examples — than any other single group. But it can also be argued that they have done more good — in combatting evil regimes, in developing medicines, in inventing everything from the automobile to the cellphone to various methods of birth control. White men discovered penicillin, Novocain, the drug regimen used to treat people afflicted with AIDS. In many places the chances are good that if your home is on fire, it will be a white man who comes to put it out. And, if it were not for the millions of white men who gave their lives in World War II, we might all be starting the work day with the Nazi salute.
Associating us only with evil deeds, selfishness, and violence is as misguided as making general disparaging statements about any other group: women, blacks, Muslims, homosexuals. Yet, in certain circles, it has become acceptable — even laudable — to do just that. “
So, there’s several approaches to this kind of silliness. One is to get mad at it, identifying that this sort of “but white dudes did all kinds of great things, maybe even more than anybody else” rhetoric is only a few steps short of “Western Civilization? More like Bestern Civilization” Proudboyism. Another approach is to respond, more calmly, that it’s silly to try to count the achievements and sins of any ethnic group, since history is complicated, and I don’t know how to measure, say, the development of penicillin against the development of algebra, or to measure which historical atrocity is worse than another.
Or I could just shake my head and remember that anybody who pipes in with #notallmen when some woman complains about how men treat her is not really worth listening to.
Or, and this is what I’m going to do: I could point out that it’s weird to cite the white men who gave their lives fighting the Nazis as some kind of sign that white men have maybe done more good than anybody else, given that the Nazis were, you know, also mostly white men. I think maybe we can go ahead and call World War II a wash in terms of the goodness or badness of white dudes, as a group.
But Merullo isn’t done hitting all the squares on “Grouchy Faux-Sagacious White Dude” Bingo. Here’s another paragraph:
“I thought of arguing with [a student] that my right to speak on [women’s] issues derives from the fact that I have two daughters and have been married for 38 years to the same good woman. But those aren’t the true reasons. The true reason is that I am a human being, and the welfare of all human beings concerns me.”
Ah, the good old “As the father of two daughters, this tragedy really strikes home to me” line of reasoning. The simple fact of having daughters doesn’t somehow prevent you from saying silly, useless things about gender issues, Ronald. And for all that “the welfare of all human beings concerns [you,]” that doesn’t mean that you have anything interesting to say about specific, unique problems confronting subsets of those human beings.
But let’s get to our conclusion:
“From Jews to African-Americans to homosexuals to Irish, Italian, and now Middle Eastern immigrants, hatred began by tossing all of them into a group, and attributing to that group the most unattractive characteristics imaginable. What is being done to “white males” now, it should go without saying, is not on a par with what was done to those people. But the instinct to label and blame is born of the same kind of group-think.
Maybe one fine day we’ll learn to eschew labels, or at least see beyond them, and focus on the humanity we share.”
Speaking as a member of this demographic you are so eagerly defending: shut up, Ronald.
That’s it for this week! I’m not sure if I’ll have one of these up next week or not, given that I’m approaching the bar exam, but watch this space, because there will definitely be more installments of the Silliest Take of the Week in the future!
Thanks to Braden for submitting the K corner take, and please don’t hesitate to send me the silliest things you read on the Internet over to firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a wonderful week!