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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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+11 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 26, 2013
"Never argue with an idiot; they bring you down to their level, and then beat you with experience."

I think this applies to the sensationalist media outlets and The Bearded Taint (including his minions).
Jun 26, 2013
We have programs that report news, programs that report their own very biased versions of the news, programs that provide 'opinion' on the news, and comedy shows that bat at the issues of the day in their own ways.

The 'opinion' sources absolutely love shredding celebrities. The more a celebrity is willing to battle with them, the more material there is to cite incorrectly and create whatever picture of them is desired.

Scott, you can't win against liars, and you can't hold them up to standards because the only standard they have is making money. You are a famous, educated, interesting celebrity who is also willing to go on at length defending himself. You might as well paint a target on your back.

Yeah, you did whatever and someone mis-interpreted it. You can't go read all the forums out there and defend every dumb thing someone says about you, it's just not possible. We all have our issues/statement/situations we can't help but comment on. The lesson in all of it, for me, is this: when I find something and feel oddly compelled to comment, I instead ask myself why I feel so compelled. Think about it for a few days. Learning that about yourself is a far better result than the ensuing worthless argument with someone you don't know and don't care about.
Jun 26, 2013
The weird thing is, if you look at the most common "racial slur" used to refer to groups of people, be they African Americans, Jewish people, Polish people, etc., it is really hard to find any specific connotation implied by those words. i.e. I do not doubt that they would be offended by the term, but I am not sure they could specifically say, "He called me a ___, which means he is saying that I'm ____". For the life of me, I don't know how you would fill in those second blanks (other than with a more acceptable generic term for the race/creed/nationality).
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 26, 2013
"Those outlets don't just report the news; they create it by leaving out context."

"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.)"

Very effectively omitting the context of *Paula Deen, during a videotaped, fully-transcribed deposition describing doing exactly the thing you're describing unlikely.* (Available here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/148832518/Paula-Deen-Deposition-Testimony )

Is the experiment you're running here, Scott, seeing just how many people won't notice you doing the very thing you just condemned as sensationalistic and/or confirmation bias?

[I confess I hadn't read the full context because it was implausible on its face. Having now read your link, I interpret it differently than you do. To me it looks as if she says she hadn't thought of the look she was describing in terms of slavery but rather as professionalism. But when the lawyer pressed that if she was even considering that era, surely at least part of that era involved slaves. She agreed with the lawyer's statement of fact. That's pretty far from a smoking gun. I think she simply didn't connect the dots until the lawyer did it for her. No one is accusing her of being smart. -- Scott]
Jun 26, 2013
Speaking of politically correct, I am surprised to see Scott continuing the PC and linguistically repulsive use of "N-word." When will we collectively understand that bigotry is a mindset, not the use of a particular word? If everyone understands what "N-word" means then just use the word. If not, then you are writing gibberish for those who do not. If I were ever asked under oath, I would insist that the questioner specifically define to which "N-word" he was referring. No? Never? !$%*!$%*!$%* Of course, I cannot spell the forbidden word here as it would instantly result in the comment being blocked.

Look, if you want to demonize a particular subset of humanity then you can pick any word you want to describe them and it will quickly sink to the level of an insult via common usage. This has already happened multiple times in my lifetime. The reductio ad absurdem occurred years ago when a member of Congress apologized for having the temerity to use the word !$%*!$%*!$% (go look it up).

For the benefit of the NSA trolls reading this, I neither confirm nor deny that I have ever used any word beginning with the letter "N."
+15 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 26, 2013
You can't spoil a *great* story with facts and context; what would people do then?
Jun 26, 2013
Back in the '70's, I was in the Navy. It was a time of racial awareness, so everyone in the Navy had to go through what we would today call racial sensitivity training. The biggest takeaway from that training was that there was a world of difference between prejudice and discrimination.

The facilitator's point was that no human being is perfect. We all carry prejudices inside us that have been learned and are tough to unlearn. The key to overcoming your prejudices is not to attempt to pretend that they don't exist. The key is not to let them affect your day-to-day interactions with those against whom you hold a prejudice.

To me, the question is not 'is Paula Dean a racist?' The word 'racist' has many contexts and appears to be defined based on the prejudices of the person making the definition.

For example, the Reverend Jesse Jackson has put forth the amazing proposition that blacks can't be racists. His convoluted explanation for this is that only those with power (the majority) can be racists. If you don't have the power to enforce your racism, he argues, then you're really not a racist. Attorney General Eric Holder appeared to be parroting this position when he made the decision not to prosecute black-on-white voter intimidation cases such as the New Black Panthers' voter intimidation actions in Philadelphia.

The charge of racism has become, like so many other things, a club with which to beat those with whom you disagree. Disagree with President Obama's health care law, for example, and you're branded a racist.

That kind of thing gets old after a while. It is quite simply the kind of ad hominem attack that we have discussed here a number of times. But back to Paula Dean.

The question that should be asked is not, did she ever have prejudice against blacks? The question that should be asked is, did she ever discriminate against blacks? While the use of the 'N'-word may be proof of the former (at least as she was thirty years ago), it is not proof of the latter. And therein lies the rub.

She is being pilloried because she used a word thirty years ago that people today find offensive. Not because she discriminated, but because of something that was in her mind back then. I do not believe that to be in any way fair.

To me, the punishment should fit the crime. This woman's thoughtless use of a hot-button word thirty years ago has today ended her career. That is overkill in the extreme. I believe her apologies (there has since been another) have been sincere, and her 'cast the first stone' allusion spot-on.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that he dreamed of a time when people would be judged for the content of their character and not for the color of their skin. As long as a person's total character and good works can be destroyed by the ancient use of a single word, his dream will never be realized.

I am, as was Dr. King, a Christian. We believe that forgiveness is at the core of cleansing our soul. I would hope that, regardless of your religion or lack thereof, you can find a way to be able to forgive someone who made a mistake long ago and who has sincerely apologized for it.

Jun 26, 2013
"Even a guilt person deserves to be represented and have their side of the story heard without bias. They deserve to be punished eventually, but that doesn't mean that they do not deserve to be represented"
- Perry Mason
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 26, 2013
What does Bearded Taint have to say about Deen?
+28 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 26, 2013
The politically correct thought police is one of the most vile and insidious facets of American culture today. Bigots are the last great acceptable target group. It's okay to hate a bigot. It's so okay to hate a bigot you don't even need proof that somebody is a bigot before you are supposed to hate them. If you want to bring a world of trouble to someone all you have to do is publicly accuse them of being a bigot. If you can't find something to take out of context to support this accusation you can just make something up from whole cloth. At this point the hapless victim typically apologizes just to try to make it all go away, and they quickly find out that one or ten or thirty apologies is never enough.

There are people out there who make it their mission in life to find as many opportunities as possible to be offended on behalf of their group in order to create these witch hunts against fake bigots. I don't know anything about Paula Deen, but I've seen the pattern repeat itself countless times.
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