Quasi-Literate Racist Asshole Jim DeBerry of Definitive Television Threatens To Sue Above The Law For Calling His Video Racist

Law, WTF?

If you want to be a quasi-literate racist asshole, go right ahead. It's a free country. There are lots of quasi-literate racist assholes around and it's unlikely you will distinguish yourself. I trust the marketplace of ideas to assign appropriate social consequences to you and your business. I may or may not help distribute those social consequences depending on the degree to which you irritate me.

But when you start threatening to sue people for pointing out that you're a racist asshole, I feel that you are going out of your way to antagonize me. I feel that it's time to put on my cockroach-stomping boots.

You might have seen the coverage at Lowering the Bar or FindLaw or numerous other sites of a breathtakingly racist caricature in a purported law firm advertisement produced by a company called Definitive Television, the vehicle of one Jim DeBerry of DeBar Holdings Ltd. The advertisement features a man dressed up in an Asian-caricature costume using an Asian-caricature voice to recommend a law firm called McCutcheon & Hamner, PC in Alabama. The caricature is a character Definitive TV offers to its clients. Definitive TV is a little defensive about it right out of the gate:

IF YOU ARE ON A SENSITIVE WITCH HUNT OUR SUGGESTION IS TO FOCUS YOUR ATTENTION TO MURDERERS, DRUG DEALERS, CHILD MOLESTERS THAT LIVE NEAR BY YOU.

So touchy!

When Joe Patrice at Above the Law reported on this, two things happened. First, the law firm of McCutcheon & Hamner PC claimed that it had been "hacked" and that it did not approve the commercial. That may or may not be true. Second, Jim DeBerry wrote Above the Law and threatened to sue for suggesting that the advertisement is racist.

The threat is a masterful example of sub-literate drivel from a self-important tool who thinks he's learned law from ten minutes on Google, seven of which were spent looking at lolcats. There's the moronic "it's not racist under this dictionary definition I chose" rhetoric:

We object to the statements of racism, as we do not fit under the legal definition, which is, The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability that a particular race is superior to others. 2. Discrimination or prejudice based on race.

There's the bizarre use of commas, odd diction, and weird capitalization that suggest that Jim DeBerry just took a break from sending 419 scam emails:

Furthermore, upon your interview request, we have read MR. JOSEPH PATRICE article/blog

YOU MAY FIND IT ODD THAT I EMAIL YOU BUT I HAVE A BUSINESS PROPOSITION FOR YOU MR. JOSEPH PATRICE. I AM THE QUEEN OF ROMANIA.

Finally, there's the barely-coherent jibber-jabber threat:

We firmly believe MR. JOSEPH PATRICE statements of racism when done with intentional malice and to damage our name for gain of revenue and promotion on his article through your business. Mr. Patrice is not stupid or ignorant, by lacking intelligence or common sense. By all appearances, He is educated and he fully understood the reckless racist statement claims with intentional malice he chose to type and for yourself to distribute when he submitted for article creation in which you accepted. We are currently consulting with another party regarding how we should pursue action against the libel statements made by Mr. Patrice, through your company, and others.

I will accept a retraction and apology related to the racist claims made by MR. JOSEPH PATRICE published by your company.

Let's be clear: Jim DeBerry's legal threat is complete bullshit and shows that he's pig-ignorant in addition to a racist. When Above the Law or any other blog or individual looks at DeBery's douchey video and calls it racist, that's a classic statement of opinion absolutely protected by the First Amendment. Above the Law didn't claim that DeBerry's company produced a racist video based on a secret review of some undisclosed videotape. If that had been the case, DeBerry might argue that Above the Law was implying false undisclosed facts. Instead, Above the Law and other commentators are offering opinions based on a specific disclosed fact — the video. You might not share the opinion that the video is racist, or that it reflects racist attitudes by the people who produced it. That's your prerogative. But calling the video racist — and calling the classless untalented hacks who shat it out racists — is classic opinion. As I have explained before, such an opinion is protected by the First Amendment:

This is not a case of opinion premised on false unstated facts, as if someone said "based on what I overheard Donna Barstow say, she is a racist." Rather it's pure opinion based on disclosed facts — the very cartoons she complains they posted. (Note that this strengthens the fair use argument.) Partington v. Bugliosi, 56 F.3d 1147, 1156–1157 (9th Cir.1995) ("when an author outlines the facts available to him, thus making it clear that the challenged statements represent his own interpretation of those facts and leaving the reader free to draw his own conclusions, those statements are generally protected by the First Amendment.") Such accusations of racism are routinely protected as opinion by the courts. See, for instance, Rambo v. Cohen, 587 N.E.2d 140, 149 (Ind.Ct.App.1992) (statement that plaintiff was “anti-Semitic” was protected opinion); Stevens v. Tillman, 855 F.2d 394, 402 (7th Cir.1988) (Illinois law) (accusations of “racism”); Smith v. Sch. Dist. of Phila., 112 F.Supp.2d 417, 429–30 (E.D.Pa.2000) (granting judgment on the pleadings after concluding that the accusation of racism was an opinion); Martin v. Brock, No. 07C3154, 2007 WL 2122184, at *3 (N.D.Ill. July 19, 2007) (accusation of racism is nonactionable opinion in Illinois); Lennon v. Cuyahoga Cnty. Juvenile Ct., No. 86651, 2006 WL 1428920, at * 6 (Ohio Ct.App. May 25, 2006) (concluding that in the specific context of the accusation, calling a co-worker racist was nonactionable opinion); Puccia v. Edwards, No. 98–00065, 1999 WL 513895, at *3–4 (Mass.Super.Ct. Apr. 28, 1999) (concluding accusations of racism are nonactionable opinion); Covino v. Hagemann, 165 Misc.2d 465, 627 N.Y.S.2d 894, 895–96 (N.Y.Sup.Ct.1995) (concluding statement that plaintiff had “racially sensitive attitude” is not actionable). By contrast, cases finding that accusations of racism were actionable defamation usually involved implication of false facts. See, for instance, Overhill Farms v. Lopez, 190 Cal.App.4th 1248 (2010) (accusation that business fired workers for racial reasons was a statement of fact distinguishable from a mere opinion that farm owners were racist). And those are just the cases I found in about five minutes whilst distracted by yelling at an associate.

Similarly, if I said "I've reviewed his personal papers and Jim DeBerry is illiterate," that might be defamatory, because I'm implying potentially false facts. But that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that Jim DeBerry's idiotic legal threat, which I've linked, shows that he's less literate than the average penis-enlargement spammer — in addition to being a racist douchebag. That's opinion based on disclosed facts and therefore absolutely protected.

Before closing comments on the YouTube video, someone (consider the diction and grammar, and guess who) from Definitive TV wrote this:

We are respect your 1st amendment right and your freedom of opinion and speech on our comment board and will approve your comments. Due to the overwhelming feedback (50% positive and 50% negative) and at the request of McCutheon & Hamner at Law we have elected to disable the comment thread. We may open the comment section back up soon when we can reply.

Of course, this is wrong. YouTube is private and Definitive TV is private and nobody has a First Amendment right to post comments there if YouTube and Definitive TV don't want them to. But Definitive TV's mention of the First Amendment here is more than a little erratic, given their bogus legal threat to Above the Law. Maybe being a racist douchebag all the time is mentally taxing.

So: don't let the stupid threats of the Jim DeBerrys of the world chill you. Instead, call them out.

And I propose, to commemorate Mr. DeBerry's idiocy forever, that we make "We are respect your 1st amendment right!" a catchphrase for dealing with such censorious thugs.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

90 Comments

90 Comments

  1. That Anonymous Coward  •  Dec 2, 2013 @7:43 pm

    Damnit Ken. I told you to stop insulting pigs like that.
    You might hurt their feelings comparing their lack of evolution to this failed human.

  2. Ryan  •  Dec 2, 2013 @7:46 pm

    Impressive. 1 hour between first tweet referring to the censorious thug as a loathsome cockroach and a full blog entry detailing precisely why he is a loathsome cockroach. Well done, Ken.

  3. rmv  •  Dec 2, 2013 @7:48 pm

    Dear Lord that ad was racist

  4. Adam  •  Dec 2, 2013 @7:53 pm

    First Amendment right are wrong and they are libel.

  5. Bamalaw  •  Dec 2, 2013 @7:58 pm

    Roll Tide?

  6. Tali McPike  •  Dec 2, 2013 @7:59 pm

    wow…I think my 1yo (who has a vocabulary that consists solely of "diga diga" "tika tika" (and various strings of those two in random combinations) "uh-oh" "yum" "num num" and the ASL sign for "more") could make a better commercial & a more intelligent response than what Mr DeBerry has produced.

  7. Lizard  •  Dec 2, 2013 @8:01 pm

    From AboveTheLaw:

    In the world of politically incorrectness and the client’s 1st amendment right, we created this satire comedy video. Keep in mind, we live in the world of Use our intentionally Cheesy B Rate Stick to create your commercial.

    Comparing them to Nigerian 419 scammers may, in fact, be unfair to Nigerians.

  8. David  •  Dec 2, 2013 @8:20 pm

    What's going on there?

    We firmly believe MR. JOSEPH PATRICE statements of racism

    No possessive declension.

    when done with intentional malice and to damage our name for gain of revenue and promotion on his article through your business.

    Dependent clause not offset by commas. Nested parallel prepositional phrases (for gain of … and promotion on). Incorrect preposition "on".

    Mr. Patrice is not stupid or ignorant, by lacking intelligence or common sense.

    Misplaced modifier introduced by superfluous preposition.

    By all appearances, He is educated and he fully understood the reckless racist statement claims with intentional malice he chose to type and for yourself to distribute when he submitted for article creation in which you accepted.

    Inappropriate capitalization of personal pronoun. Missing comma before coordinating conjunction. Non-idiomatic adjectival use of nominative phrase. Adverbial prepositional phrase placed in attributive position. Misuse of reflexive. Non-idiomatic nominal phrase "article creation". Improper relative clause introduced by superfluous, incorrect preposition.

    We are currently consulting with another party regarding how we should pursue action against the libel statements

    Non-idiomatic adjectival use of noun. Again.

    made by Mr. Patrice, through your company, and others.
    I will accept a retraction and apology related to the racist claims made by MR. JOSEPH PATRICE published by your company.

    I think it's fair to infer that the person who wrote this piece is not a native speaker of English and to suppose that the errors of grammar and usage reflect the conventions of a different language.

  9. Chris  •  Dec 2, 2013 @8:24 pm

    From his twitter account:

    @Popehat thanks for viewing. The Catholic Church reputation as a teenage pee pee toucher is fitting your jimmy hat

  10. Ken White  •  Dec 2, 2013 @8:29 pm

    @David: if you read his Twitter feed, you'll see oddities.

  11. Graham Shevlin  •  Dec 2, 2013 @8:30 pm

    I see that he is out there bloviating away on Twitter this evening, starting to roll through his Month Python "I really did win!" Black Knight routine…but without a better level of legal writing, he and his company are going to sink without trace.

  12. David  •  Dec 2, 2013 @8:45 pm

    The tweet Chris quotes also lacks a possessive declension marker, so the author of one may indeed be the author of the other.

    Maybe I can make it work as native English by rereading the passage in the voice of Jackie Gleason in Smokey and the Bandit….

  13. SPQR  •  Dec 2, 2013 @8:46 pm

    In other news, Jim DeBerry just got a job offer from Hansmeier and Steele …

  14. Gary  •  Dec 2, 2013 @8:49 pm

    I'm married to an Asian, have a son with her, and our son is engaged to a Korean. I think the terms "racism" and "racist" are greatly overused, and I wasn't offended by this ad. However, I didn't like the ad because it is sophomoric and in terrible taste. Very adolescent. As such, I would never hire the advertiser, as the ad destroys their credibility.

  15. JP  •  Dec 2, 2013 @8:50 pm

    And I propose, to commemorate Mr. DeBerry's idiocy forever, that we make "We are respect your 1st amendment right!" a catchphrase for dealing with such censorious thugs.

    This is going to become the legal equivalent of "All your base are belong to us!"

  16. KC  •  Dec 2, 2013 @9:25 pm

    @Gary – Yeah, well I *am* of asian descent and I did find the ad mildly offensive and yes, racist. The terms "racist" and "racism" can be overused, but in this case I think they apply – that's just my opinion, of course. However, I completely agree with your assessment of "sophomoric, in terrible taste, and adolescent."

  17. norahc  •  Dec 2, 2013 @9:48 pm

    Why am I wondering if Charles Carreon is advising Mr. DeBerry how to handle this.

    CC could develop quite a lucrative practice for customers that want to experience the full Streisand Effect.

  18. Hoare  •  Dec 2, 2013 @10:00 pm

    all your base ….

  19. rmv  •  Dec 2, 2013 @10:22 pm

    "This character was inspired in the same prerogative or edgy vein as"

  20. naught_for_naught  •  Dec 2, 2013 @10:48 pm

    "Let's be clear: Jim DeBerry's legal threat is complete bullshit and shows that he's pig-ignorant in addition to a racist."

    Will someone help me cut through Ken's equivocation. Is he saying it's a "good thing" or a "bad thing?"

  21. Mikhael  •  Dec 3, 2013 @12:24 am

    Go get em. In an unrelated note, would calling someone a "cheater" (in relation to a semi-professional board game the someone plays) based on circumstantial evidence be considered protected opinion or defamatory statement of fact?

  22. Bill H  •  Dec 3, 2013 @12:27 am

    Your tagline at the bottom of your posts- "Govern yourselves accordingly!"- needs in this case to be replaced with "Snort my taint!".

    Seriously- I have precisely zero legal education, and I understand the responsibilities that go with the rights given in the First Amendment. Open yourself to criticism based on your public statements, and receipt of such criticism shouldn't be a surprise. As an aside, dude may want to visit 419 Eater if he wants to persist with writing in that style.

  23. nlp  •  Dec 3, 2013 @12:42 am

    It's interesting that the law firm insists that it did not order the ad, did not request the ad, did not pay for the ad, and knows nothing whatsoever about it. But they're definitely annoyed that the ad is not enhancing their reputation. This set of arguments (who ordered the ad, and how drunk was he at the time) should be even more interesting than Mr. DeBerry's understanding of Constitutional Law.

  24. Cat G  •  Dec 3, 2013 @2:50 am

    @Ryan – Ken writes quickly. Plus, I imagine that being able to quickly produce copious volumes of text is considered a good trait for any legal professional. Well, any ethical legal professional. The pay is in billable hours, of course, so it behooves them to show clients that they are getting excellent value on that time.

    Judging from DeBarry's grasp of language (detailed by David so wonderfully and in a way reminiscent of certain past grammar school teachers) I would hope that he is giving away his time on this one.

  25. Anony Mouse  •  Dec 3, 2013 @3:06 am

    What you say?? You have no chance to survive, make your time!! Ha ha ha. Take off every 'ZIG'.

  26. Not the IT Dept.  •  Dec 3, 2013 @3:46 am

    I had a job once where we whiled away our lunch hours inventing sentences to feed through Babelfish.com's multiple language "translator" functions. From English to French to Spanish to German to whatever and whatever and whatever. Then back to English again. Mr. Deberry's texts remind me a lot of those fun results.

  27. Dan  •  Dec 3, 2013 @3:47 am

    For great justice!

  28. Matthew Cline  •  Dec 3, 2013 @4:59 am

    Somebody set up us the Popehat Signal!

  29. piperTom  •  Dec 3, 2013 @5:35 am

    Ken: "It's a free country."

    This is, at best, an extended hyperbole. A new emigrant might consider it false advertising. Beware the "ruined life" suits, Ken!

  30. Anonymous Lurker  •  Dec 3, 2013 @6:02 am

    There is an epidemic of censorious douchebaggery.

  31. dfbaskwill  •  Dec 3, 2013 @7:02 am

    What would Eric Holder do? WWEHD

  32. the other rob  •  Dec 3, 2013 @7:34 am

    Being undercaffeinated, I read the first line of the youtube comment as "We are respect your 1st amendment right and your freedom from opinion …"

  33. Dictatortot  •  Dec 3, 2013 @7:43 am

    "There are lots of quasi-literate racist assholes around and it's unlikely you will distinguish yourself."

    Must not … pick up … gauntlet…

  34. Dan Weber  •  Dec 3, 2013 @7:52 am

    There is a legal definition of racism? Suh-weet!

    That video is over-the-top racist. Sometimes you can do over-the-top racism as social commentary about racism, just like you can split the atom to get power, but you need to know what the HELL you are doing.

  35. Lizard  •  Dec 3, 2013 @8:06 am

    @The Other Rob:
    At the risk of turning this thread into a discussion about something marginally meaningful, there was a trendy idea among the Usual Suspects in the early 2000s that search engines, etc., ought to be compelled to promote "diverse" viewpoints, that web pages ought to be forced to have comment and feedback pages so that people could, for example, stage virtual protests at walmart.com (in other words, they felt that online shopping ought to feature having to smash through virtual picket lines and dodge virtual pamphlet shovers) and so on. In short, there was a time when some presumably serious (if otnay ootay ightbray) people believed you didn't have a right to be free from opinions, or more technically, that service providers should be compelled to serve you opinions in accordance with some bureaucrat's idea of "fairness", and that Ken should not be allowed to pastify obnoxious commentators. Oddly, this idea fell out of favor faster than most equally silly ideas from that corner of the political spectrum (Mixed Metaphors FTW!), possibly upon realizing that the nature of the Internet community was such that rather than having conservatives be forced to read enlightened screeds on social justice, any form of mandated "balance" would mean equal time on Gawker or Salon for the likes of, well, Mr. DeBerry, and that was pretty much the end of that.

    A similar idea, that the government ought to mandate who can call themselves a "journalist", floats to the top of intellectual septic tank every few years, where it is roundly mocked and blurbles back down in shame.

  36. Niall  •  Dec 3, 2013 @8:09 am

    I keep reading that sentence phonetically as "We are respect your wonst amendment right", (one-st) because "first" is too high a level of translation to fit with the rest of the statements. Which, even when allowing for poor second language skills, makes the logic and thought behind them poor and without merit.

    That ad is idiotic – and if done in the 1950s, would still be idiotic. The glasses with painted-on eyes is the crowning touch of crass stereotyping. I think it makes Charlie Chan movies look nuanced in comparison, although admittedly I've only seen a few scenes of those.

  37. Clark  •  Dec 3, 2013 @8:20 am

    We object to the statements of racism, as we do not fit under the legal definition,

    After how much of Mrs. Clark's Thankgiving pies I ate, I don't fit under it either…or much else.

  38. ZarroTsu  •  Dec 3, 2013 @8:28 am

    IF YOU ARE ON A SENSITIVE WITCH HUNT OUR SUGGESTION IS TO FOCUS YOUR ATTENTION TO MURDERERS, DRUG DEALERS, CHILD MOLESTERS THAT LIVE NEAR BY YOU.

    What, nothing about starving Ethiopians or other third-world countries?

    Pssh, racist.

    Also, please please PLEASE tell me Above the Law simply posted the "That's racist!" gif. That would be icing on the cake.

  39. Ivraatiems  •  Dec 3, 2013 @8:28 am

    @Clark

    I'm not sure what happened but I don't see your avatar as Clark Kent anymore. I just see Brick from Anchormen.

    I haven't yet decided if this is a good or bad change.

  40. N. Easton  •  Dec 3, 2013 @8:30 am

    If somebody made that commercial "on behalf of" my practice, I would shit my pants trying to get it taken down.

  41. B. Miller  •  Dec 3, 2013 @8:34 am

    Does trolling = stalking? I so want to troll DeBerry, et. al., on Twitter.

  42. Mike  •  Dec 3, 2013 @8:46 am

    And I propose, to commemorate Mr. DeBerry's idiocy forever, that we make "We are respect your 1st amendment right!" a catchphrase for dealing with such censorious thugs.

    I was hoping you'd commemorate it by replacing "Govern yourselves accordingly" with "We are respect your 1st amendment right!" next to the social media share icons. I think it fits perfectly there.

  43. Drakkenmensch  •  Dec 3, 2013 @8:47 am

    Anyone who's ever watched cop reality shows knows that "Why aren't you going after murderers and rapists" is doubletalk for "stop pointing out I did something I know is wrong and go look at the distraction instead."

  44. Sue Belzer  •  Dec 3, 2013 @8:50 am

    Hey! Pigs are pretty smart, buddy boy!

  45. jmj  •  Dec 3, 2013 @9:16 am

    Ken, you're really baiting this guy aren't you! Not that I mind.

  46. Gary  •  Dec 3, 2013 @9:43 am

    @KC
    I try never to use the term "racist" any more as it seems to be a liberal construct. Also, it confers victimhood on the subject ethnicity, and I am fed up with the unending supply of victims invented by liberalism. The ad certainly makes use of insulting stereotypes, but those are not limited to race. Insulting stereotypes are often applied based on gender, religion, political persuasion and geography (e.g. "Rednecks").

    I think we have all been conditioned to be hypersensitive to such depictions (witness the current flap over singer Kate Perry appearing on stage dressed as a Geisha) and we need to grow thicker skins. However, I stand by my observation that the ad is in disgustingly bad taste — it just does not deserve a holy crusade, in my opinion.

  47. Mike  •  Dec 3, 2013 @9:45 am

    So the law firm's initial reaction is "We've been hacked and our IT department has been working all morning to get it removed!" And then its followup is "We've been working diligently for two weeks to find the source of this video and get it removed."

  48. David C  •  Dec 3, 2013 @9:47 am

    In an unrelated note, would calling someone a "cheater" (in relation to a semi-professional board game the someone plays) based on circumstantial evidence be considered protected opinion or defamatory statement of fact?

    Well, look at the analogy with this case:

    Above the Law didn't claim that DeBerry's company produced a racist video based on a secret review of some undisclosed videotape. If that had been the case, DeBerry might argue that Above the Law was implying false undisclosed facts. Instead, Above the Law and other commentators are offering opinions based on a specific disclosed fact — the video. You might not share the opinion that the video is racist, or that it reflects racist attitudes by the people who produced it. That's your prerogative. But calling the video racist — and calling the classless untalented hacks who shat it out racists — is classic opinion.

    Here's what I gather, based on this.

    If you play a chess match against someone and lose, and later say "He's a cheater! According to rule 42A clocks should be as silent as possible, and my clock was slightly quieter than his, but he insisted on using his because he was black!", that would be protected (assuming you aren't lying about the clocks, of course,) although a rather dubious claim. The listener would be able to draw their own conclusions on whether that was actually cheating.

    If you simply claimed "He's a cheater!" in that circumstance but refused to say why, that might be defamatory because you are basing it on a rather dubious unstated claim. The average listener is going to assume you "know something" because you were involved in the game, and is probably going to assume something serious went on.

    If you claimed "He's a cheater!" without stating anything else, but you could prove in court that he was wearing a device to get outside help, you'd be protected. That's clearly cheating. (If it was true but you couldn't prove it… well, then you'd better hope the jury likes you.)

  49. Ed T.  •  Dec 3, 2013 @9:48 am

    ALL YOUR 1ST AMMENDMENT RIGHTS ARE RESPECT BY US.

  50. htom  •  Dec 3, 2013 @10:03 am

    It was the mind-freezing stupidity that I first noticed. Only after my brain thawed out did I notice the racism.

  51. AlphaCentauri  •  Dec 3, 2013 @10:43 am

    Holy crap, he's a recurring character! What's that about being hacked?

    youtube.com/watch?v=jQdQyi07Xvg

  52. SJD  •  Dec 3, 2013 @10:45 am

    The word “racist” is overinflated in this country, which is understandable, given its history and diversity. I kind of agree with this guy’s definition (discrimination/superiority), but since the term is inflated, it simply became a synonym of “douche.” There is a fine line between ridiculing/exploiting stereotypes (which is OK) and douchebaggery. And this line crosses aesthetical rather than ethical axis.

    So, according to my vocabulary, this video is tasteless, humorless, douchy, but racist? My prerogative is not so sure.

    Disclaimer: for the sake of insult, I use charged terms disproportionally myself. By labeling copyright trolls as “terrorists,” I don’t expect that any reasonable person imply that in addition to raping productive population, they conspire to detonate bombs in public places.

    P.S. If you envision me in the middle of Siberia hugging a bear and holding a bottle of vodka in one hand, and balalaika in the other — it won't offend me. Just add a pink elephant to the background.

  53. jackn2  •  Dec 3, 2013 @10:47 am

    @gary
    You're probably correct. This isn't racism. They are probably targeting 'Orientals,' which isn't a race. I guess it is ok if is just Oriental Stereotypes.

  54. Drebin  •  Dec 3, 2013 @11:02 am

    @jackn2:

    Reading your comment, I am reminded of the oft-repeated discussion about the need for satire or sarcasm flags in comment sections.

  55. Dr. Nobel Dynamite  •  Dec 3, 2013 @11:22 am

    @Clark

    At the risk of picking a fight, Clark, I'm curious how you feel about everyone piling on Mr. DeBerry for committing the thought-crime of having a different cultural norm when it comes to racial matters?

  56. KC  •  Dec 3, 2013 @12:12 pm

    @Gary – I understand what you mean about there being "victims" here there and everywhere. For what it's worth, I don't feel victimized when I see racism or quasi-racism because it's generally not against me personally, as an individual. I'm just annoyed & possibly angered (briefly) and that's it. Katy Perry dressed as a geisha? Meh, I don't find that offensive. I agree with you about the thicker skin and the non-need for a "holy crusade." Mostly I think we're all just saying the ad is stupid.

  57. Tony  •  Dec 3, 2013 @12:17 pm

    "If somebody made that commercial "on behalf of" my practice, I would shit my pants trying to get it taken down."

    I would sue them.

  58. Malc  •  Dec 3, 2013 @12:29 pm

    @Gary, while I probably have as little tolerance for spurious groupings, to try to blame "liberals" for "inventing" the idea concept is just, well, dumb.

    F'rinstance, the Mayflower Pilgrims liked to portray themselves as victims of persecution (i.e. an oppressed minority). Historical reality demonstrates that the "persecution" they suffered was having to deal with people not adhering to THEIR religious whackiness, and subjecting the poor widdle puritans to (gasp) the sight of people having fun. Obviously, this is exactly the same level of goofiness that is infecting people at this time of year, where they get subjected to ghastly "holiday cheer" against their preferences.

    No-one would call the Puritans "liberal" (at least, not if they knew what the word meant, but by that standard no-one would call Obama "socialist").

    One major nit I'd pick with you: "redneck" is not principally a geographic term; it applies only to people with a certain set of attitudes. The staff at the Florida State University College of Music are unlikely to be labelled "rednecks", even though they are geographically well situated. I tend to think of the term as "classist" rather that "racist".

  59. Clark  •  Dec 3, 2013 @1:33 pm

    @Dr. Nobel Dynamite

    At the risk of picking a fight, Clark, I'm curious how you feel about everyone piling on Mr. DeBerry for committing the thought-crime of having a different cultural norm when it comes to racial matters?

    At the first tier:

    I think that society is well served by a tolerance for people delicately exploring "taboo" opinions.

    If someone wants to suggest – with footnotes and a study – that maybe Ashkenazi Jews have more copies of gene X at location Y because of a genetic bottleneck 800 years ago, and this might explain why test Z shows IQs 5 points higher, I think that that's a fine conversation to have.

    If someone wants to suggest – with footnotes and a study – that maybe people with Communist / French / Australian sympathies are overrepresented in our State Department, and thus our foreign policy is slightly askew in that area, I think that that's a fine conversation to have.

    I do not think that anyone other than trolls benefit by telling a Polack joke, making fun of a black person's wide nose, or doing an impression of a first generation Italian immigrant.

    The difference is

    * utility
    * sensitiveness
    * intellectual rigor

    Now, your question was about the second tier: what do I think is appropriate when someone breaks the first tier etiquette?

    I think that doing satirical racial stereotypes is none of these three, and I think that the video is in poor taste. If I caught one of my kids doing that and uploading it to youtube I'd take away the keys to the family hovercraft for a month.

    I am in favor of non-judicial punishments like ostracism and disapproval. That said, I dislike piling on. I think that it displays an unhealthy appetite for mob justice. As disgusting as the video is, it's all too easy for the one millionth person to see the storm of outrage and think that it would be fun to jump in for some drive-by snark, with out realizing that the target of the snark is a real person who is in the process of becoming public enemy number one, and probably having his career destroyed.

    I'm not perfect – I certainly snark at strangers over perceived transgressions.

    I just think that I shouldn't.

    I urge folks inclined to pile-on in hunts such as this to examine their own hearts and their own track records and decide if they are without sin.

    If so, pick up a stone and throw it in good health.

  60. Ken White  •  Dec 3, 2013 @1:38 pm

    Clark:

    Does it change your analysis when, as in this case, the person is aware that the "mob" finds the expression offensive, and has cattily pre-addressed the "mob" with rhetoric like "IF YOU ARE ON A SENSITIVE WITCH HUNT OUR SUGGESTION IS TO FOCUS YOUR ATTENTION TO MURDERERS, DRUG DEALERS, CHILD MOLESTERS THAT LIVE NEAR BY YOU"?

  61. Lizard  •  Dec 3, 2013 @1:55 pm

    @Ken: Might I suggest "The Kerry Effect" to describe the phenomenon wherein someone says "Come at me, bro!" and finds that people do, indeed, come at him?

  62. Lizard  •  Dec 3, 2013 @2:00 pm

    @Ken: Might I suggest "The Kerry Effect" to describe the phenomenon wherein someone says "Come at me, bro!" and finds that people do, indeed, come at him?

  63. T.  •  Dec 3, 2013 @2:21 pm

    And I propose, to commemorate Mr. DeBerry's idiocy forever, that we make "We are respect your 1st amendment right!" a catchphrase for dealing with such censorious thugs.

    But no wearerespectyour1stamendmentright tag for the blog? For shame…

  64. Clark  •  Dec 3, 2013 @2:33 pm

    @Ken White

    Clark:

    Does it change your analysis when, as in this case, the person is aware that the "mob" finds the expression offensive, and has cattily pre-addressed the "mob" with rhetoric like "IF YOU ARE ON A SENSITIVE WITCH HUNT OUR SUGGESTION IS TO FOCUS YOUR ATTENTION TO MURDERERS, DRUG DEALERS, CHILD MOLESTERS THAT LIVE NEAR BY YOU"?

    Not much.

    My point isn't about what the target deserves (which your point speaks to), but about what it is good for our own souls to indulge in.

    If I got hit by a bus in five minutes, I don't think Saint Peter is going to be upset at those points in my life where I failed to attack someone who deserved it.

    …I do think that he would point out the times where I was in high righteous dudgeon about the guy who was utterly clearly being an asshole…because of his own private pain, whether the death of a child, the cancer of his mother, or something else.

    I don't assert that everyone acting like an asshole has a reason to act like an asshole.

    I merely assert that if I avoid joining in it-feels-good-to-throw-stones witchhunts I will miss out on the fun of throwing stones at a bunch of guilty people…and also miss out on the mistake of throwing stones at a few questionable cases.

    I'm not saying that people who join a pile on (what the question to me was about) to throw verbal stones are terrible. I'm just saying that I know my own soul and I expect that I'm a worse person than most, so I'm discussing the tactics I attempt to use to avoid further blackening my record. But, you know, watch me. Weak as I am, I'll probably break this rule within a week.

  65. ChrisTS  •  Dec 3, 2013 @3:26 pm

    The bizarre mangling of the language continues on his business website. I especially like, "Where your business matters and results are made."

  66. Chris Taylor  •  Dec 3, 2013 @3:31 pm

    I think the important lesson here is that Clark's family has a hovercraft.

  67. delurking  •  Dec 3, 2013 @3:38 pm

    SJD,

    History matters. The specific caricature portrayed in the video has been widely used in this country in portrayals of people of asian descent as inferior to white people. It is possible for racist insults to lose their meaning over time, but not nearly enough time has passed for this one. It is unequivocally racist.

  68. Rick C  •  Dec 3, 2013 @5:00 pm
  69. Mike_C  •  Dec 3, 2013 @5:12 pm

    Wasn't the original point in this case about the (remarkably un-self aware) asshattery of threatening someone for calling you out on doing something offensively stupid rather than the the offensively stupid act itself?

    Is the "Wong Fong Shu" character racist? Yeah, maybe, but frankly it offends me (Chinese ancestry here) way less than the general stupidity of the DeBar videos in general. That stuff is far more aesthetically offensive than racially offensive so far as I am concerned. (And why is no one standing up to defend overweight loudmouths with vaguely and inconsistently Southern/Texan accents who might feel hurt by the "Rowdy Roscoe" character?)

    On a purely tactical level, Mr DeBerry would do well to realize that you can push the envelope of offensiveness much further if you are actually funny in the process of being offensive. I laughed my ass off over the "Captain Sum Ting Wong" prank even as a (neglected) little voice was saying "you shouldn't be laughing about a plane crash with loss of life!" Making an important point in the process (in our example the miserable fact-checking standards of TV news) doesn't hurt either.

    Finally, Mr DeBerry needs to work on his Asian-caricature accent. Perhaps being forced to watch Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's repeatedly would be both helpful to him in his future endeavors as well as a fitting punishment. He appears to have much to learn.

  70. That Anonymous Coward  •  Dec 3, 2013 @6:15 pm

    @Lizard – do be careful comparing people to Nigerian Scammers… I did that once and got sued 3 times. :D

  71. apauld  •  Dec 3, 2013 @7:55 pm

    I don't know if anyone else noticed, but I got a chuckle out of that fact that his twit header misspells his own company's name as "Defintive Television."

  72. jdgalt  •  Dec 3, 2013 @8:47 pm

    All I've seen of the ad is the still photo posted at LTB, but that guy with goofy glasses doesn't look Chinese to me at all. He looks like the North Korean dictator.

    If I commissioned a TV ad and it had that guy as a spokesperson for my company, I'd fire the agency that filmed it for incompetence.

  73. C. S. P. Schofield  •  Dec 3, 2013 @8:54 pm

    You have, at all times, the First Amendment Right to make an unmitigated jackass of yourself in the eyes of the public, and catch a torrent of opprobrium for same.

    This is why run of the mill Western Intellectual Twits hate the First Amendment.

  74. Canvasback  •  Dec 3, 2013 @9:24 pm

    Hey, wait a minute. I'm a quasi-literate racist asshole. And I read your blog. Don't you feel dirty now? Social consequences only matter to the sentient.

  75. ChrisTS  •  Dec 3, 2013 @10:26 pm

    @ apauld

    Oh, jeebus. This man is not only illiterate, but also sloppy. Whether we call his offensive videos 'racist' or simply 'grotesque,' the guy is a triple hitter.

  76. Doctor X  •  Dec 4, 2013 @1:15 am

    Yeah, I know, don't just just hate it when you act racist and people call you a racist?

    Every time I think I see the depth of stupidity I look in a mirror . . . no . . . wait! I read about an idiot like that . . . who is not in the mirror.

    Let me rephrase this. . . .

    –J.D.

    –J.D.

  77. Patterico  •  Dec 4, 2013 @8:18 am
  78. David  •  Dec 4, 2013 @8:41 am

    Behold, a point of agreement between Clark and me.

    I, too, dislike the piling on, even though I find the initial offense pretty offensive given all relevant contexts.

    My belief that social consequences are an appropriate response to ignominious public behavior doesn't often drive me to dedicate posts to mockery. That's why I mainly post about facts, issues, themes, and ephemera rather than real or perceived offenses. But when a particular bit of imbecility does move me to respond, some flavor of mockery or funpokery is often on the menu. In that context, figuring out how much is enough and where to stop and when the cake is baked can be a tricky, error-prone business.

    On some level, it matters to me that I not take things too far, and this is in some way entangled with the Golden Rule and with a sense of my own susceptibility to enjoying too much the air supremacy that precedes and accompanies a bombardment of that sort.

    Better to err on the side of generosity and mock or satirize only till the point is made. It is enough that brother Addlewit stands pilloried for a while in the town square. Catcalls and thrown tomatoes are a step beyond and risk damaging the one who hurls them.

  79. C. S. P. Schofield  •  Dec 4, 2013 @9:09 am

    OK, a tangent.

    I just looked at that ad again. Yes, it is racist. On the other hand I grow weary of "Racist" being regarded as the ultimate condemnation. For one thing it somehow escapes the race narrative that Al Sharpton is, at base, a KKK Grand Dragon in reverse; he says and assumes about whites what the white bigot assumes about blacks. Asian cultures are at LEAST as racist as America. Hell, the Japanese are at least several times as racist; just watch some of their popular culture.

    The only cultures I have read about that strike me as NOT racist are those that aren't sophisticated enough to hate something as large as a race. These are, pretty much without exception, tribalist.

    Is the ad in bad taste? Yes. So are most ads and 90% of what is funded by the National Endowment For The Arts. I think that yelling "Racists" is missing the point. The problem with the ad is that it is vulgar. It imitates vulgar satires of asian movies that are tolerated because, hell there's a lot to be satirized in EVERYBODY"S pop culture so it isn't like we're saying that (say) BALLS OF FIRE or LAST DRAGON are making fun of real high culture.

    Who cares if it's RACIST. We're all racist. It's TACY.

    OTOH, the defense of this tact ad IS illiterate and ignorant.

  80. David  •  Dec 4, 2013 @9:30 am

    @C. S. P. Schofield,

    Just curious. You assert "Is the ad in bad taste? Yes. So are most ads and 90% of what is funded by the National Endowment For The Arts."

    Have you actually reviewed what is funded by the NEA? Or is that 90% claim just a figure of speech indicating that you disliked Piss Christ?

  81. Lizard  •  Dec 4, 2013 @9:36 am

    It imitates vulgar satires of asian movies that are tolerated because, hell there's a lot to be satirized in EVERYBODY"S pop culture so it isn't like we're saying that (say) BALLS OF FIRE or LAST DRAGON are making fun of real high culture.

    Except the ad isn't a satire, even a bad one, of any Asian culture. It's a repetition of an American stereotype of what an Asian-American looks and sounds like. It has no relevance to actual Asian culture, or to how actual Asian culture is transformed when Americanized (badly dubbed kung fu movies on local TV stations on Sunday afternoon, or squeeing 11 year old anime fans who have no idea how bowdlerized and simplified their transations are, etc.). It's not even a stereotype that members of the culture might admit to having some loose basis among themselves. (By definition, a cultural group is defined by some collection of traits; exaggerating one or two of those traits to ridiculous proportions and excluding all others creates stereotypes.) It's a satire of nothing, a caricature of nothing, a stock character made up from the whole cloth and repeated endlessly. Comparing it to Charlie Chan is actually insulting to Charlie Chan, who, for all the stereotypes he embodied and amplified, was one of the very, very, few non-villainous Asian characters in American pop culture in the early 20th century. (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129424778 — fascinating article. And a good example of how social position affects one's reaction to stereotyping. Compare how he's seen in China, vs. how he's seen in America.)

  82. CrustyB  •  Dec 4, 2013 @10:04 am

    We object to the statements of racism, as we do not fit under the legal definition, which is, The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability that a particular race is superior to others.

    Sound like Yoda after he's had a stroke.

  83. j. Oubliette  •  Dec 4, 2013 @1:03 pm

    WE ARE RESPECT YOUR 1ST AMENDMENT RIGHTS. GOVERN YOURSELF ACCORDINGLY. >(

    This guy is a tool of the first water.

  84. C. S. P. Schofield  •  Dec 4, 2013 @3:13 pm

    David,

    I'm picky about "art", and most of "Modern" art (modern? some of it is a century old!) strikes me as a collection of "in jokes". Did I do a comprehensive examination of the NEA funding? No. Guilty. Do I dislike Piss Christ? I don't care about it one way or another, except that, since it consists entirely of material that took no craft on the part of Serrano, I think it ridiculous to call it Art. It could have been assembled by any sufficiently rude middle schooler.

    I also think it's in bad taste to take tax money and spend it on the Metropolitan Opera. Why not fund Iron Maiden concerts the same way? Because a self selected elite decided that Opera is Art and Iron Maiden isn't?

    But you caught me. I don't like the NEA because it is used to fund tacky jokes at the expense of the people who are taxed for it. The folks who like such jokes are not, by and large, poor. Let them pay for their jokes.

  85. David  •  Dec 4, 2013 @4:39 pm

    @C. S. P. Schofield, So it appears that you're not actually acquainted in significant measure with what the NEA funds. You're just against arts funding and pretty sure that those who aren't are up to no good.

  86. Docrailgun  •  Dec 4, 2013 @5:01 pm

    @Gary,
    Thank you for making the point that racism isn't dead in the US so long as there are folks who think there isn't a problem and that the very real prejudice and bigotry most everyone who isn't a white male receives is just 'victimhood'.

  87. David  •  Dec 4, 2013 @5:07 pm

    If racism isn't dead as long as there are folks who think it is dead, then racism, by definition, can never correctly be thought dead. So if it ever does die, what are we to think?

  88. Ann Lee Gibson  •  Dec 4, 2013 @5:36 pm

    Where is the LIKE button? We are respect your blog.

  89. That Anonymous Coward  •  Dec 5, 2013 @1:47 am

    my feeling is hurt… dude said I was fake.

  90. DwidlyDee  •  Dec 12, 2013 @10:07 am

    Does this idiot even have a business license? Seems like a fraud… there's no way anyone would hire him to do anything other than clean toilets. Just seems like a delusional freak living in a made up world where he can pretend to be educated and important.