It’s time for the mailbag and I apologize for it being late today. I went over to watch the introduction of the new SEC commissioner, Greg Sankey. I’ve gotten to know Greg pretty well over the past few years and I think he’s going to be an outstanding commissioner for the conference. (And I’m not just saying that because he got me started in the brutal Iron Tribe workouts that I really enjoy now. These workouts are making me look so much better that one of you said I now resembled Abraham Lincoln with AIDS when a I posted a Twitter picture last night.) Seriously, Greg is outstanding and will be a good fit for the conference.
I’m going to write more on this next week, but our beaver pelt trader of the week — which is probably the least illustrious award he has ever received — goes to the outgoing SEC commissioner Mike Slive. In my life I have never met someone who is so smart yet simultaneously so kind and well respected by a tremendous collection of accomplished coaches, athletic directors, and presidents with tremendous egos. I mean this honestly, I have never heard someone who knows him say a bad word about Mike Slive. Not off the record. Not after ten beers. Think about how rare this is for someone in a powerful position. The only person I can ever remember reading this about is Robert E. Lee. Anyway, I’m going to write a column on Slive next week, but I thought I’d go ahead and add this today since I just came from the new commissioner’s announcement.
Now let’s dive into the mailbag.
Auburn grad lawyer writes:
“Love your stuff. Keep it up. This whole “OU president violating constitutional rights” situation taken together with the reactions of the social media mob to any who questions the actions of OU’s president has allowed a reoccurring question to pop up in my head:
What is it about the law as a profession that makes people believe that they are able to fully understand any given legal situation without any formal education?
No other profession that I can think of is like this: Medicine? I don’t tell my surgeon how to operate and wouldn’t dream of doing so. Architects? Engineers? Accountants? None get the “I’m a semi-intelligent person therefore I can speak on complex legal matters with confidence and authority” more than the legal profession. I don’t really understand this phenomenon, but perhaps the insight of gay, liberal Muslim (now, apparently racist too?) who is licensed to practice can shed some light on this.”
This is a great question. There’s something about the law that makes people who have no comprehension of the legal process think that their opinion is valid in a way they never would if, say, an ACL had to be repaired. If Dr. James Andrews was on Twitter would people be Tweeting him saying, “I think you’re wrong about the ACL being torn.” That’s the equivalent of many of the Tweets that lawyers get on first amendment cases.
I suspect it’s because everyone learns the most basic level of the bill of rights in high school social studies and American history. This knowledge is rudimentary, unrefined, and simplistic on its most basic level, but they literally don’t know enough to realize how dumb they sound analyzing legal issues. Let me give you a couple of examples of how I used to think, up until about 13 or 14 years old I didn’t understand how the Constitution could be so complicated. I mean, everything was written down, right? Constitutional law should be easy. You read the Constitution and then apply it to the law. I bet 90% of people still think this way. So they may have read the first amendment and they think they know what it means, but they have no clue.
The First Amendment is incredibly complicated and fascinating. Even highly trained lawyers can get lost in analyzing it. That’s why the fact that every Constitutional scholar agreed that Oklahoma violated the first amendment is so rare. Generally these guys and girls can’t agree on anything.
Most regular people only use the first amendment when it suits their end. So if someone gets fired for saying something that you agree with, the immediate response is, “What about the first amendment?” Well, the first amendment doesn’t apply to private employers. People kind of have this vague sense that it also just prevents the government from putting you in jail for your opinion. So if someone isn’t in jail for what they said, then they think there’s no issue at stake. Again, it’s a very basic level of understanding. You don’t have to be a lawyer to understand the first amendment, but you have to have devoted dozens of hours of rigorous study, probably hundreds, to have a pretty good grasp of the law. Even then you can still be stumped. At a minimum, if you haven’t ever read a full book of on the first amendment — not just an article, a book — then you probably don’t even know enough to know how little you actually know.
Somehow that knowledge applies when it comes to medicine, architecture, engineering and accounting — at least I think so — it just doesn’t compute. Although, who knows, there may be active accountants on Twitter who are writing about the complexities of the tax code and then people Tweet them that they’re wrong because they use TurboTax one day a year.
Finally, and this is key, when you actually defend the first amendment, you’re generally defending people who aren’t popular. The first amendment is freedom for the speech you hate. But and this is a key distinction, I’m not personally endorsing what anyone says, I’m defending their right to say it. Many can’t make that logical connection. They focus on the speech and see it as defending the speech, not the principle behind the speech.
It’s a great question.
If you want a basic introduction to the first amendment, I’d suggest reading, “Freedom For the Thought We Hate,” by Anthony Lane.
“Clay, I want to preface this idea with the following: I have no background in PR. None whatsoever. But I can’t figure out why we continue to see reactionary, mob-pleasing overreactions while the most effective anti-mob defense sits unused.
That defense? Delay. Delay, delay, delay. Heck, do absolutely nothing. Promise nothing. Refer to unspecified future decision dates. Just don’t actually DO anything. Delay, deflect, and delay. For as long as possible.
Why would this work? Because mobs are impatient. They want the strongest, most decisive action available… and they want it yesterday. But that level of focus and intensity is exhausting. Demanding expulsion on five different social media platforms 24/7 takes its toll, and eventually the mob migrates their rage elsewhere.
So my question is this: Should OU have announced an extended investigation and allowed the mob to get distracted by a separate shiny object? Would it have changed anything? Will large entities start trying to wait out the mob?”
It’s an intriguing idea, but the fear is that by doing nothing the story grows. Everyone is so afraid of the story growing that they act immediately. That’s what David Boren did. He knew what he was doing was illegal, but he did it anyway. Just so people wouldn’t start to blame him.
I agree with you that most stories blow over.
But what if they don’t?
You’re basically gambling that something more scandalous happens to distract the media and the public. I’ll give you an example from my own life before social media. I lived in Washington, D.C. when Chandra Levy disappeared. This was in the late-spring to summer of 2001. Levy was an intern in Congressman Gary Condit’s office. One day she went for a jog in D.C.’s Rock Creek Park and never returned.
So this turned into a massive mystery. What happened to Chandra Levy? The media was in a feeding frenzy — as the media often is when young white women disappear — and eventually it emerged that she’d had an affair with Gary Condit. Well, everyone decided that Condit, who tried to hide the affair, might have been involved in her disappearance. At least that was the subtle intimation. It was a real-life murder mystery that grew and grew. Condit eventually lost his congressional seat over the story.
That story had exactly what you need to catch fire, a hero, young, innocent Chandra Levy, and a villain, Gary Condit. Except, it turned out that Levy was murdered by a homeless drifter and they eventually convicted a man nine years later, in 2010. Condit made a bad choice, he had an affair with an intern, but he had nothing to do with her death. Imagine how much different American history would look like if in 1999, in the midst of his affair with Monica Lewinsky, Bill Clinton’s intern had been killed on a jog through Rock Creek Park. If Clinton lied about his affair with Lewinsky during a missing persons investigation — which he probably would have done — is he impeached for that? Probably.
We’d have had a major constitutional crisis. All because an intern disappeared who a powerful man was sleeping with. Our entire history since then would be different. Al Gore probably gets elevated to President. Hillary’s unlikely to emerge from the Clinton wreckage. Does George W. Bush beat a sitting Al Gore preciding over a robust economy and having helped to heal the nation after Clinton’s affair? If Gore’s elected does 9/11 happen, do we go to war with Iraq, everything potentially changes. All it takes is the wrong intern disappearing.
Anyway, you couldn’t escape this story anywhere in D.C. all through the summer of 2001. It was everywhere.
Then, guess what, 9/11 happened.
And the Chandra Levy case totally disappeared in an instant.
That’s an extreme example, but it’s telling of our attention spans. You don’t have to be a saint when you find yourself at the center of a media frenzy, you just have to wait for someone else to do something dumber. The problem is, what if that doesn’t happen, what if no bigger story emerges for a long time?
James Carville called the media a beast because you had to feed it something new everyday.
That’s still true today.
Except now it’s every few hours.
So if you don’t act, you risk your story trending on social media for a long time. That’s unlikely, but it’s every organization’s worst nightmare. Unfortunately it leads to decisive and frequently misguided decisions. If you behave forcefully — whether you’re right or wrong — it takes the oxygen away from the story. It dies a natural death. Boren was just following the example set by Adam Silver with Donald Sterling. If you decapitate the villain — these stories all need a villain and racist frat boys are perfect to play the role — then most people don’t even realize that you pissed all over the Constitution in the process.
“I’m currently making my way through the new season of House of Cards and it seems that the Commander in Chief gets to hit the booze a little more than I would imagine. Do you think this happens in real life? I mean, Frank is pounding away at what I have to assume is a fine small batch bourbon on almost a nightly basis. But what happens if there’s a situation that requires an immediate response and the real President is sloshed? How many times has this happened in real life?
What are the chances that when Bill Clinton fell at Greg Norman’s house on “slick concrete” he was about 3 bottles deep on Greg Norman Estates Shiraz?
Who would be the worst offender in recent history and who would be the most fun to throw a few back with?”
I was thinking about this while watching House of Cards.
In recent reverse history, Barack Obama doesn’t seem like much of a drinker, George W. Bush was a recovering alcoholic — who I’m personally pretty certain I would have loved back when he drank –, Clinton, for all his flaws, didn’t really drink much, George Bush, Sr. seems pretty sober, my guess is Ronald Reagan was probably the last president who actually drank to excess. We know Jimmy Carter didn’t.
By the way, am I the only person who is convinced I would love all of these guys? Maybe I’m just not partisan enough, but I think I’d like all five of these guys at a dinner party. I love Clinton with a passion and sometimes I feel like the only white person in the South who really likes Obama — I know a decent number of his staff members love Outkick and he’s a huge sports fan so I’m convinced we’d get along well — but I also think I’d like W. and I’m convinced Reagan would have been incredible to hang out with back in the day.
Anyway, you know Kennedy, Nixon and Johnson drank like fishes. And unlike say, Andrew Jackson, who I picture as a guy who spent his entire Presidency with a bottle of whiskey in his hand, those guys had to make quick decisions because the technology was rapid enough to matter. Back before the telephone time wasn’t of the essence.
I’ve always wondered about this with Kennedy in particular. I picture him dictating letters to Khrushchev while banging Marilyn Monroe. Hell, we know Clinton made phone calls while he was getting a blow job from Monica Lewinsky. During the blow job! That happened.
I’d love to hear these stories. There have to have been times when the President gets woken up and he’s just shit-housed, right? Back when Ulysses S. Grant was sleeping one off, the news cycle was such that they could let him recover before he had to act. But did Nixon ever get on the phone with Mao and slur every word? It had to happen, right?
Remember Boris Yeltsin. He got drunk on a state visit and left the Blair House without pants on trying to get pizza.
I wish we knew more of these stories, I think it would humanize our leaders.
I’d also love the worst and best Presidential decisions ever made while drunk.
Your commentary on freedom of speech, the Twitter mob, education, and other matters related to social media is very intelligent, especially compared to what I see and read in the partisan media. I teach high school social studies and I have my students read some of them. This commentary, however, is significantly different than your other articles which are very bawdy. Do you worry that your intelligent articles do not get taken as seriously as they should because of your association with low-brow humor? Or do you think that the bawdy articles attract a certain type of reader and then once they’re used to accessing your content, they can then be exposed to intelligent commentary that they otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to?”
My thoughts on this are pretty simple — I believe it’s often the same people wanting smart columns as want funny ones. And I think the Outkick readers who want both are smart enough to realize the difference. Now, I think you’re right that there are some people who don’t like serious and funny stories at the same place and just want one or the other, but it has been my experience that the overlap who want both is significant. That is, tons of you who enjoyed a piece on the first amendment are also laughing right now thinking about a drunk Nixon talking to Mao.
The Daily Show proved this worked on TV, and I see our site traffic. Outkick’s top ten stories in any given month are about equally split between serious and funny columns. Do some people take my column less seriously because I’m also good at dick jokes? Sure, but those people are typically older and used to a more clearly defined newspaper space — the comics and the editorial being in different places.
But think about your own dinner or bar conversations. Most people aren’t serious throughout a conversation and if you have good friends, most of the time you mix funny comments or conversation with serious ones. That’s what Outkick does.
Plus, let’s be honest more people do read the smart columns because I’m also good at dick jokes.
Outkick’s in a unique place right now. We’ve got a million or more unique readers coming here every month. While we’re different than ESPN or Fox’s main page or NBC or other “mainstream sports sites” in many respects, while we’re an independent site, we’ve become the mainstream.
“Clay, you racist. Just kidding. Love your commentary on the OU/SAE debacle. Thank you for being level headed. In today’s world, you’re not doing your job unless the majority hate you I guess.
My question: I asked my SO if she wanted to get tickets to the A&M/ASU game in Houston to kick off the CFB year for our Aggies. We have tons of friends in Houston & all bought group tickets together. She was really excited & said yes, so I paid $200 for two tickets with our group of 50 or so friends.
That was 2 months ago, two weeks ago I learn that she has a friend getting married that same week in Austin. She knew PRIOR to the ordering of the tickets but “oh, I forgot”.
I have never met this girl getting married, never even heard my girlfriend talk about her. Do I stand up for myself, lay down the law and take a buddy to the game, pissing off the girl in the meantime? Or chalk this one up to defeat?
PS- Couples that get married in the fall on Saturdays should burn in hell.”
Your wife blew it, this one is her fault.
Go to the game. (Or make her promise really special drunk wedding sex as well as a second night of special drunk sex at a date to be named later).
Former Alabama fraternity member writes:
“I would prefer to keep myself anonymous, but I doubt the OU story shocked anyone in the majority of southern fraternities. I pledged a big fraternity at Alabama, and became a brother. It is pounded into your head as a pledge to not let any black people into the band parties or social functions. We treat our cooks like royalty (all of whom are black), but if their relative tried to show up at a party they would be turned away.
My pledge-ship was during fall of 2006, so things could have changed some, however, I seriously doubt it. As a pledge when you’re at a band party and it is your turn to stand at the door in pairs, letting people into the party. You follow pretty simple rules, all girls are allowed in, guy is allowed in if he knows a brother and can prove it, no minorities allowed at all. So imagine standing at the back gate of the fraternity house after a football game idolizing the players on the field, chanting their names in the student section, then a player shows up at the back gate to come listen to the band and you have to tell them they are not welcome.
You are brainwashed with this mentality until you see nothing wrong with it, as well as seeing independent students as total wastes of space. The way we treated them on campus is nothing to write home about either. I am not proud of any of the actions mentioned above, and ashamed I was so brainwashed to see things so narrow-minded. People conform, I think it is part of human nature. I was in a pledge class of 45, maybe 10 came in racist. Upon initiation probably all of us were and teaching the pledges the next year all the same rules.
First year out of college and working for a big corporation was the realization I needed to understand how immature and disgraceful our actions were. I am still friends with the majority of my pledge brothers and maybe with the exception of a few, everyone has changed.
One glimmer of hope is it was nice to see UA elect a black SGA president this week that actually had the backing of a few Greek organizations. Maybe times are changing and pledge-ship practices are changing as well.
Thanks for sharing your story.
If you’re a young frat guy reading this story — and tons of you are — sometimes it takes seeing things written on a page to realize how antiquated some actions can be.
“Would you ever run a radio show live from Club La Vela? What would it take for you to consider this option?”
All it would take is the right amount of money.
Look, I’ve done radio shows from gas stations in rural Tennessee. Actual gas stations. I’ve done shows from Wal Marts and Krogers in the middle of nowhere. The kinds of places where people pull up with a dead deer in the back of their trucks and four guns hanging from the window. Club La Vela would be a step up for me.
For all of you asking, by the way, for a radio update, I’m sorry it is taking so long. we have to finalize my TV responsibilities — which are growing quite a bit — before we can announce the new radio news.
Hang with me.
I’m as ready to get going as you guys are to hear me. (I hope).