- The Washington Times - Friday, February 4, 2000

On occasion baseball has had a literate commissioner. Bart Giamatti comes to mind. While president of Yale University he realized that his ardor for baseball was greater than his ardor for academic life. He gave up the Ivy League and became Commissioner of Baseball.

The current commissioner, Bud Selig, is no Bart Giamatti. Mr. Selig thinks that kids with purple hair, repeat felons, welfare moms and homosexuals with AIDS are "ethnicities." He said so when he suspended Atlanta Braves relief pitcher John Rocker for making "racist" comments about the above to a reporter for a sports magazine.

Commissar Selig in his haste to be seen as politically correct not only engaged in a fanciful expansion of the meaning of ethnicity; he also jumped to some unwarranted conclusions as to the ethnic composition of the four categories above. There is something odd about a baseball commissioner, who believes blacks make up the universe of kids with purple hair, repeat felons, welfare moms and homosexuals, suspending a baseball player for being racist.

John Rocker's remarks do not pertain to blacks. They pertain to kids with purple hair, the vast majority of which are white. They pertain to repeat felons, which is a criminal and not a racial classification. Likewise, a welfare mom could be any race. Ditto for homosexuals with AIDS. Mr. Rocker said he would find it depressing to experience public =transportation in such company. So would most people, including Mr. Selig.

Mr. Rocker did make some references to immigrants, but these included white immigrants as well, such as Russians. Moreover, Mr. Rocker's remarks were not racial in character, but more in the line of bewilderment that the voices of a tower of Babel were overwhelming the English language in New York City.

Mr. Rocker, of course, was also unloading on New Yorkers for the despicable way he was treated by New York Mets fans. Mr. Rocker's pitching knocked the Mets out of the World Series, and the Mets are, well, beside themselves. They spit on Mr. Rocker, threw dangerous objects at him, and publish on web sites vile descriptions of Mr. Rocker that are far more repugnant than anything the ballplayer has said.

Such are the genteel baseball fans for whom Mr. Rocker has set a "terrible example" and on whose enjoyment of the game Mr. Rocker has brought "dishonor."

If literacy is too much to expect of Mr. Selig, what about maturity? Mr. Selig's overreaction is childish and indicates he lacks the judgment required of a Commissioner of Baseball.

Something is going on other than appropriately punishing a baseball player. What is it?

Could it be that we are witnessing a new outbreak of political correctness? Previously it was taboo to make any remark or use any word or symbol that a member of a "preferred minority" could construe as derogatory.

The new correctness instituted by Selig proscribes anyone who is successful in life from expressing unflattering sentiments about those who are on unpromising life trajectories.

Consider the implications of this new lesson of Mr. Rocker's punishment. Can a public school teacher, or anyone subject to a commissar, express disapproval of a student's poor performance or unpromising lifestyle? Would such a demonstration of insensitivity and "judgmentalism" require the teacher to undergo sensitivity training?

Would a teacher's praise for good performance and behavior be construed as implying a negative attitude toward the opposite and sentence the teacher to psychiatric evaluation?

Can a manager fire an employee for poor performance, or would this insensitivity be grounds for firing the manager?

Unfortunately, these are now serious questions. You can bet that these concerns will filter through the schools, the family, and the workplace until it becomes impossible to reward the meritorious and to penalize failure.

With Mr. Rocker's punishment, we have entered a new era. "Racist" has been given a new meaning that goes beyond ethnic prejudices. It is now a term of opprobrium that applies to anyone who disapproves of what society has traditionally disapproved.

"Racist" and "ethnicity" will not be able to convey the full meaning of the new correctness. Will "fascist" be the new word applied to those who resist egalitarianism, who refuse to accept same-gender sex and marriage, who differentiate between illegitimate and legitimate children and between criminals and saints, and who persist in the use of language and judgments declared to be politically incorrect?

Welcome to the Selig Era in American history.

Paul Craig Roberts is a columnist for The Washington Times and is nationally syndicated.

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