T Nation

Politically Correct: Life Imitates Monty Python

I stole this in its entirety from law professor David Bernstein, who posted it on the Volokh Conspiracy. It seems that for all the people running around worrying about the hypothetical loss of civil liberties related to the Patriot Act, people would pay more attention to the complete evisceration of the First Amendment taking place at the hands of the people attempting to use anti-discrimination laws as bludgeons.


You may have already seen that a University of Virginia employee is in hot water for using the N word in the midst of a PC diatribe denouncing the use of perceived racist language (story can be linked here: http://www.cavalierdaily.com/CVArticle.asp?ID=17929&pid=1086). A reader points out two interesting things about this story. First, it was reported by the Cavalier Daily, which itself used the N word in its story. So why isn’t the Daily also being denounced? Second, the incident is reminiscent of the “Jehovah” scene in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian:”

OFFICIAL: You have been found guilty by the elders of the town of uttering the name of our Lord, and so, as a blasphemer,…
CROWD: Ooooh!
OFFICIAL: …you are to be stoned to death.
CROWD: Ahh!
MATTHIAS: Look. I-- I’d had a lovely supper, and all I said to my wife was, ‘That piece of halibut was good enough for Jehovah.’
CROWD: Oooooh!
OFFICIAL: Blasphemy! He’s said it again!
CROWD: Yes! Yes, he did! He did!..
OFFICIAL: Did you hear him?!
CROWD: Yes! Yes, we did! We did!..
WOMAN #1: Really!
[silence]


OFFICIAL: * * * Now, where were we?
MATTHIAS: Look. I don’t think it ought to be blasphemy, just saying ‘Jehovah’.
CROWD: Oooh! He said it again! Oooh!..
OFFICIAL: You’re only making it worse for yourself!
MATTHIAS: Making it worse?! How could it be worse?! Jehovah! Jehovah! Jehovah!
CROWD: Oooooh!..
OFFICIAL: I’m warning you. If you say ‘Jehovah’ once more-- [MRS. A. stones OFFICIAL]
Right. Who threw that?
MATTHIAS: [laughing]
[silence]
OFFICIAL: Come on. Who threw that?
CROWD: She did! It was her! He! He. Him. Him. Him. Him. Him. Him.
OFFICIAL: Was it you?
MRS. A.: Yes.
OFFICIAL: Right!
MRS. A.: Well, you did say ‘Jehovah’.
CROWD: Ah! Ooooh!..
[CROWD stones MRS. A.]
OFFICIAL: Stop! Stop, will you?! Stop that! Stop it! Now, look! No one is to stone anyone until I blow this whistle! Do you understand?! Even, and I want to make this absolutely clear, even if they do say ‘Jehovah’.
CROWD: Ooooooh!..
[CROWD stones OFFICIAL]
WOMAN #1: Good shot!
[clap clap clap]

Ha! Pretty fucking funny Bostonbarrister!

I still don’t like the Patriot Act though. Can’t stand PC bullshit, but I would put up with that any day compared to some of the things the Patriot Act does.

Thanks for the Monty Python refresher… Loved that scene!

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I’d say that going to extremes in each case leads to unfavorable results.

But in the case of the Patriot Act, I fail to see how the FBI being allowed to examine one’s library records, then being allowed to prosecute the librarian if he/she doesn’t comply qualifies as hypothetical.

That is clearly a step backwards

Kuri –

It’s hypothetical until it actually occurs – by all reports, the Feds haven’t used any of the powers people seem to be harping about. Not that it’s bad to be concerned – I’m happy to see people care about this.

However, the First Amendment is being infringed upon all the time via these insidious anti-discrimination laws. Conceptually it’s all fine and good – it’s bad to discriminate. But the problem in application occurs when the expressive rights of private individuals are lessened, because that is an end-around of the First Amendment protections for free expression. The problem is basically that whatever the standard set, the government then becomes arbiter of what violates that standard, and that’s exactly what the First Amendment guards against.

BTW, I would think that if some of the loudest voices pushing for strong anti-discrimination laws that override free speech were to look at how such laws have actually been applied, they might think twice about it – such laws are generally used against the minority once the majority learns it has such power.

BostonBarrister,

You make a very valid point! Glad you brought it to the attention of the Forum.

An excellent point. I especially liked the Monty Python excerpt. I have Life of Brian on DVD. think I’ll have to go dig it out and watch.

Thanks.