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I hadn't heard of Paula Deen, the so-called Southern cooking star, until her recent string of "controversies." Now I'm all in. This is one of the most interesting stories in a long time, from a psychology point of view.

I was casually following the headlines last year when it came out that Deen was promoting less-than-healthy food while she developed Type 2 diabetes, presumably from eating similar crap, while secretly negotiating a promotional deal with Novartis to pimp their diabetes drug. None of that sounds good.

The diabetes issue got her on the front page. But the recent "racism" controversy has pretty much ended her career, I would expect. That stain doesn't go away.

So I thought I would wade in and offer some context because I haven't gotten myself in enough trouble lately. My personal view of Deen, based on incomplete knowledge, is that she was a product of her environment, just like the rest of us. She did things she rightfully regrets, was honest about it and took responsibility, learned from her experiences, apologized in ways that looked sincere to me, and evolved. Hollywood makes movies about that sort of thing: Flawed person learns lessons the hard way. So now that Deen and her critics are on the same side, in terms of both healthy eating and race, that's the end of the story, right?

Not in this world. And that's the part that fascinates me.

I was watching some low-budget entertainment show the other night on which so-called "media personality" Keli Goff was ripping Deen apart while grinning in a most disturbing way. Goff, if you don't already know, is your signal that something is wrong with the context of a story. She's associated with the bottom-feeding media that includes The Huffington Post and the like. Those outlets don't just report the news; they create it by leaving out context. So, when I saw Goff, I got interested. And I wasn't disappointed.

The show I watched went like this. The host played a clip of Deen issuing an emotional, raw, awkward apology that literally included begging for forgiveness. The host and the pundits talked about Deen's apology at length. Five minutes later, on the same show, with the same pundits, the conversation turned to Deen's lack of an apology, as if they had not just watched and discussed that very thing.

Let me repeat that. They played a tape of Deen's apology, discussed the apology then complained that there had been no apology. I watched carefully to see if they meant the apology was lacking a necessary element, but that didn't seem to be the case. The apology looked sincere and heartfelt to me, albeit awkward. The problem, said the pundits, was that the very thing they just watched and discussed didn't actually happen. You rarely see confirmation bias play out that vividly. Once it had been decided that Deen was a monster, it couldn't also be true that she issued a sincere apology even if you just finished watching it. The whole thing was fascinating.

I don't know what is in Deen's soul, and I certainly don't know all the facts behind the allegations, so I neither support nor defend her. But I'd like to add some context because the bottom-feeding media is doing the opposite.

1.      Every alleged example of Deen's racism involves either a good friend of hers who is African-American, an African-American chef or general manager that she or her brother hired for their restaurants, and in one case a preference for hiring African-American servers for a particular event. (More on that later.) That's a strange pattern for a racist.

2.      I owned two restaurants. Restaurants are unusually fertile breeding grounds for bogus lawsuits and employment claims. You can't compare restaurants to other businesses in that way. You should assume 90% of employee discrimination claims in the restaurant industry are complete bullshit even if the stats are opposite in the standard corporate world. That's the context in which you should view the employee claims against Deen. Remember, she's an easy target, and any lawyer would know she has deep pockets and a need to settle quickly. I don't know the facts in her case, nor do you. I'm just giving context.

3.      Deen claims her use of the N-word was in the context of jokes long ago and not representative of her current thinking. I don't know where her critics grew up, but during my youth in upstate New York it seemed as if all jokes were at the expense of one ethnic group or another, blonde women, farmer's daughters, lepers, dead babies, and folks with disabilities. The wrongness of the so-called humor was the whole point. That was the style of the day, as despicable as it seems by today's standards. When Deen admits to being part of that culture, and evolving out of it, that sounds more like naïve honesty than racism. If you didn't live through that era, you are missing some important context.

4.      One of the most damning allegations is that Deen once suggested a slave-themed event that would feature only professional servers who were African-American. To me that sounds laughably implausible. It's the sort of thing one could only believe if you already bought into the idea that Deen is a racist, diabetes-promoting monster. It reminds me of the recent Internet hoax showing a photo of Heineken banners over a dog fight. A lot of folks on the Internet believed Heineken was advertising at a dog fight, as if that was even slightly plausible. (The Heineken signs were left over from some earlier event at the same location.)

I'll reiterate that I don't support Deen, or condone anything that she did, allegedly or otherwise. It's not my job to judge anyone. I'm just adding context.

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Jul 10, 2013
Paula Deen's biggest problem is vacuum.

Whoever is trying to torpedo her managed to surface the spiel on a slow news day. And it went viral amongst people with too many ads to sell and not enough content to bridge between them.

She would have been much more fortunate had her story gotten blustered aside some day when, oh, let's say the new black panthers were putting out their hit contract on on George Zimmerman for committing the thought crime of trying to keep thieves out of his neighborhood and then not cooperating with the thug beating him, taking his own lawfully carried weapon and killing him with it. Bad man!

Certainly that day the media was too busy manipulating 911 transcripts to willfully portray the hispanic Zimmerman not only as white - but as a racist, as well as implying he ignored 911 (not police) instructions that were less than instructions to bother taking Deen out of context. Paula would have benefitted had some other fruit been hanging even lower than her.

We have 400? 600? cable channels but there is never anything on. Yet something must fill that dead air as the ads must be sold...
Jul 5, 2013
Here's the Paula Deen "context" that I anticipated: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/58077-paula-deen-s-bad-week-leads-to-great-sales.html?utm_source=Publishers Weekly&utm_campaign=b258604d71-UA-15906914-1&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0bb2959cbb-b258604d71-304644629
Jun 28, 2013
I don't always see this online but I LOVE the you disagreed without yelling and being childish. I do observe this more on the Dilbert blog than most other public forums. Kudos to all the Dilbert-ites(Dil-bites just sounds wrong) out there discussing and acting like adults.
The two scenarios I believe are the same crime. I agree the motivation is different, but the actual crime is the action. Punish actions and train, teach, encourage attitude improvement. If crimes are based on actions then I may not like followers of zues, but I learn that I better keep it in the realm of free speech and free association. If I'm a follower of zues I should feel confident that I am protected under the law the same as anyone else, but not more.
Jun 28, 2013
Scott, seriously... do you ever intend to do something about your horrific bad-words filter? It is preposterously inaccurate. I've never seen worse in my life.
Jun 28, 2013
In the first example, the guy was wronged (cheated against) and he's retaliating, and in the second example, he's lashing out unprovoked, so... I see the second as being more-wrong largely because you've equated two attacks with radically different !$%*!$%*!$%*!$ We might wonder if the cheater deserved it.

let's re-frame that.

If a white guy goes to two houses, and spray-paints "loser" on the first and beats up a white resident... and then goes next door and spray-paints the n-word and beats up the black resident, you have a more equal pair of unprovoked attacks and you have a more-proper opportunity to highlight how racism makes the second crime worse.
Jun 28, 2013
<julesmartman>My Grandmother comes to mind. She was raised very prejudiced against “coloreds” yet never did anything to harm anyone<julesmartman>

An interesting post and I have to agree that we shouldn't define people entirely by their worst trait. Especially if it's a product of the society they grew up in.

But you lost me on hate crimes. Take this example. Crime #1: A man spray paints "cheater" on your neighbor's house and hits him on the head with a bat because he cheated him in poker. Crime #2: A man spray paints "deth to followers of Zeus" on your neighbors house and hits him on the head with a bat because he worships the Greek gods.

The action of both crimes is the same but the intention and impact is different. Both are an attack on an individual but the second crime is also an attack on a group. It's designed to make Zeus followers fearful and incite others to attack them. That's why it should be considered a different category of crime.
Jun 28, 2013
KnolwItAll implies that you can't be "genuinely good people" and racist at the same time. Please stop the insanity! Large public businesses and Fed and State government offices should not participate in discrimination based on race. Other than that what is wrong with racism (bear with me on this) where is the harm? The racist misses out on knowing some wonderful people and experiencing varied facets of life. They limit themselves. Keep in mind I'm referring to racist thoughts and preconceptions, not wrong actions taken against another human being.
My Grandmother comes to mind. She was raised very prejudiced against “coloreds” yet never did anything to harm anyone she was just scared and nervous with them. She was a great lady and did many wonderful things for a great many people. Yet because she never grew beyond racism it invalidates everything else she accomplished in her life? Rubbish.
People need to understand that society is constrained on what it can reasonably do. We can make laws concerning actions not thoughts. Encourage better thoughts not mandate them. This brings up a most stupid and counter-productive topic, hate crimes. A crime is a crime is a crime is a crime. It’s the action that should be punished. If I intentionally harm someone I should be punished for that regardless of skin color, gender etc. Anything else degrades the victim, implying they’re less and not able to care for themselves.
I’ll summarize. You can be a good person, racist or not, based on your actions. I hope to see people grow and mature as we walk through life, but I won’t criticize or degrade them because they haven’t achieved perfection.
Jun 28, 2013
a) Paula Deen ate her own cooking (a good thing rather than cooking unhealthy stuff for other people and eating something else herself.)
b) Developed Diabetes (as far as I know, Diabetes is not caused by unhealty eating.)
c) Advertised for a diabetes drug (so what?)
d) admitted using the N word thirty years ago (did not lie like other respected, successful or powerful people - one of whom recently admitted he gave the "least untruthful" answer.)
Leave the poor woman alone.
Jun 28, 2013
I have not followed the Deen controversy much, but as a black man, the use of the N word doesn't frighten me, and is usually a deliberate trick by the media and/or politicians/interest groups to get you to ignore something bigger.

One good example of this trick would be with George Zimmerman's trial. Simply put, George chased a young man he did not know, who was doing nothing illegal, then shot him to death. And he did that directly against police orders... with the police recording his phone call. The media and special interest groups whipped that up as "Because he was black." I'm black and I don't fliggin care about race in that, he fliggin chased him down and shot him for no good reason... that's why it's a murder charge not a hate speech charge. People try to make it a race thing, but it's a murder thing... and that's all that matters.

Another even better one would be recent awful incidents, one in Georgia and one in Nova Scotia, where young men gang raped one of their schoolmates and then made fun of her on the internet using photos/video of the incident (the Canadian girl then killed herself). This was used to spur new anti-bullying programs, and of course censorship programs. Now as awful as it is to have such a horrendous, private affair shared, the big thing was that the girls were raped... not that they were made fun of. That doesn't matter. Thanks to their idiocy in sharing the photos/medias you know who the perpetrators are and exactly what they did... so chop of their heads. Done.

So for Deen, what did she do exactly? Insult someone? Use a word? I don't fliggin care. A friend in high school used the word "Nigerian" as a way of saying the word she used without being in trouble... but he wasn't racist and he was a good friend of me and other black people, it was just a joke for him. If she did something bad, punish her. If she said something bad, celebrate that she's in America and is allowed to.
Jun 27, 2013
You know... on one hand, I think she's being unfairly targeted.

On the other hand, I think she's been in a position of extraordinary good fortune that has very little to do with her individual efforts. Like most entertainers, her success is the culmination of thousands of people's work, and lamenting her loss is fundamentally disingenuous. Her support is being yanked, and it's not something to which I believe she is fundamentally due.
Jun 27, 2013
I heard one lawyer pundit say that Dean should have said "I don't remember" when asked if she ever used a racial slur. And that's what most politicians and CEOs would do. Frankly, I was impressed that she admitted that she had used slurs at some point in her life.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 27, 2013
We don't want facts, we want dirty laundry.
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 27, 2013
On my deathbed, I intend to lament having not paid attention to pop-culture innuendo gossip regarding people or things for which I care nothing...

...but probably not.

Jun 27, 2013
Sadly, I've come to the point where almost nothing is laughably implausible to me anymore. I've seen too many examples of people saying and doing things that you would swear no rational person ever would. The most recent example (before this one) was seeing Kellie Pickler on "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" saying that she "thought Europe was a country". Too depressing to link to but it's on YouTube. I hadn't heard of the slavery-themed event from Deen but I can completely buy that she did have the idea.

I don't think Deen should be pilloried for the racial slur, but she already should have been for the whole diabetes thing. It's yet another example of how screwed up our value system is that the one is grounds for immediate dismissal but the other is not.
Jun 27, 2013
I find it very interest that Scott is putting Huffington Post down, lately. Not that I disagree with that, but because I seem to recall him advocating for them in the past.

As for the Paula Deen thing. Popular media sacrifices someone every few years for being insensitive about something. It happens at nearly a pace where I ponder that it's a planned mechanism. Paula is a neat target -- rich, fat, older white woman who sells unhealthy foods and is spokesperson for a pharmaceutical mega-corporation. I wonder if she had any idea what an obvious bull's eye she's been wearing.
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Jun 27, 2013
Like a certain tire commercial tag line, "Power is Nothing Without Control." American citizens that concern themselves with what they say, do, and think even if it means going back 30 years are, in essence, being controlled. Even if you are an innocent person (if that is even possible) you cannot escape the insidious effects of knowing you have no privacy. I think that is the point of the exercise and the rest is window dressing.
Jun 27, 2013
As reader "awa64" points out below, Paula Deen is *on record* as saying the things you think are "laughably implausible". Without her admitting to it, you'd probably never believe it was possible.

Yes, racist caricatures are walking around who don't even know they are racist caricatures (and probably believe they are genuinely good people). Maybe this should be a wake-up call?

Has Paula Deen ever burned a cross at a KKK rally? To reuse your words, I find this "laughably implausible". But is the cross-burner the only person allowed to be labeled as racist? Should someone's unintentional racism excuse their actions? (that seems to be what you're implying here).
Jun 26, 2013
Fix the RSS!!!
Jun 26, 2013
In this very specific case, the racism charge is a handy excuse for dumping somebody who's dangerously to the brand for other reasons. Deen has been in the crosshairs ever since the diabetes thing, replacing Twinkie the Kid as an icon of the bad nutrition industry. But Food Network couldn't very well fire her for that. Besides the legal threat, it would call too much attention to other shows and advertisers pushing equally toxic cuisine unimpeded, and show the execs more obviously as hypocrites.

No, safer to make it about racism and let her fans blame "political correctness". And only show healthy, fit people cooking and eating deep-fried butter sticks.
Jun 26, 2013
Last night I was at a public meeting as a consultant, and an 70 year-old farmer dropped the n-word. Not in a derogatory context, but as a now mostly-obsolete colloquialism. (Particular to old farmers as far as I can tell).

The proper response is, of course, to ignore this. But the recent Deen controversy made me take notice.

I doubt this guy is racist, as this is an ethnically homogeneous rural area where pretty much everyone is Caucasian of eastern-European ancestry. To him I think it's just another word without any real meaning.

I am far more interested in the things people mean, rather than what they say. A person can say something obscene and offensive without using any taboo words at all. Or a person can say a taboo word as an expletive without meaning anything at all.

Referring to someone by a name that is derogatory isn't right, but it isn't necessarily the same as being derogatory to all people who have been called that name. Negatively referring to someone as sinister is not a slam on left-handed people, nor is calling someone a 'bastard' expressing a negative opinion of all people born of unwed parents. (Though literally it is).

As such, I think people who use taboo words should be treated as though they had used any other taboo expletive, unless they are habitually using it to degrade or persecute. In which they should be treated as racist - the same as anyone who shows racist behavior or attitudes without using taboo words.
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