April 16, 2010

JAMES TARANTO:

Yesterday we examined the latest evidence and concluded that there is still no corroboration for three black congressmen’s claims that tea-party protesters yelled racial slurs on March 20, the eve of ObamaCare’s enactment. Today we’d like to step back and ponder the meaning of this alleged event.

Why are racial slurs such a taboo? . . . Free speech notwithstanding, there are circumstances in which legal redress is available to people who have been hurt by racial slurs. The most obvious cases are those in which slurs are wielded by an authority figure like a boss or a policeman, who is legally obliged not to discriminate in the exercise of his authority.

That is the opposite of what happened, or didn’t happen, on Capitol Hill. There, three powerful men allege that anonymous members of a crowd yelled racial slurs at them. The Associated Press’s Jesse Washington reports that the lawmakers claimed to have heard the slurs as they were walking toward the Capitol. Some time later a widely circulated video, which depicted an angry crowd but on which no racial slurs could be heard, was “captured by the black lawmakers’ cameras” as they walked away from the Capitol, Washington reports.

If the congressmen had felt threatened by the supposed slurs, they could have taken the underground railroad that connects the Capitol to congressional office buildings. Instead, they went back into the crowd, armed with video cameras.

It seems fair to surmise that they were hoping to gather evidence, and this would be an entirely reasonable thing for them to do under the circumstances as they described them. But it illustrates a salient point: If racial slurs are weapons, in a political context such as this they are weapons only of self-destruction.

Read the whole thing.

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