Skaters performing in “Black Face” in 2010?

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Here, I’m mainly responding to commentary I heard run prior to this appalling performance… you know, the back story on the athletes.

This is not hard. The word “aboriginal” means native. The Mohawk Indians are aboriginal to parts of New York State. The word “aborigine” is a noun that refers to a person who is aboriginal. The Mohawk Indians are the aborigines of a certain region of New York State. The word “Aborigine” means a native of Australia. An aboriginal person of Australia or Tasmania is an Aborigine. Things that have to do with Aborigines are Aboriginal Things, like French Fries are … French.

Let me put all the words together in one place so you can see the similarities and differences: Aborigine Aboriginal aborigine aboriginal

This is not hard.

The Aborigines (that would be the aboriginal inhabitants of Australia) do not kiss by rubbing their noses together. The knee-spread hip drop dancing motif is pure National Geographic. The skeleton painted on the outside of the body is a bit Aboriginal looking, not that this matters one tiny bit, but men and women performing in the same ceremony might as well be hard porn in a church, and a woman wearing red during a ceremony (and Olympic ice dancing counts) is like taking your most sacred Russian icon and shitting on it in public.

The real goatfuckers here are the announcers at the Olympics who gave the Russian skating pair a hard time … and I appreciate that … but not a hard enough time, and the referees for the competition that allowed them to perform at all.

The use of the terms that I heard told me that these Russian skaters put on a performance of “Primitive People” that offended the primitives (aborigines) of Australia known as the Aborigines, but clearly they are incorporating (nose rubbing, etc.) other non-Australian themes and dancing like grade school kids going “Boonga boonga boonga” as they wave around bones like the cannibals do. This is not a respectful ethnically oriented presentation.

That the obnoxious racist Russian skaters stopped by and gave the Canadian aborigines some beads in exchange for blankets (I’m not sure about the beads) is really not sufficient. The Canadian Olympic Committee did not absolve itself of being goatfuckers by having giant totem poles and hundreds of dancing aborigines at the opening ceremonies. None of those token actions obviate the fact that these ice skaters intended and were allowed to give a performance at the Canadian Winter Olympics in the equivalent of a performance in black face.

This. Simply. Should. Not. Have. Been. Allowed.

Comments

  1. #1 Ellie
    February 21, 2010

    Ahhhhhh, “totem poles” is THAT what they were…

    But yes, I broadly agree.

  2. #2 mandas
    February 21, 2010

    Sorry Greg, you are WAAYYYY off-base with this one.

    Before your sensibilities get offended on behalf of someone else, you might actually go and ask the other people what they actually think of it. Here are a couple of links to the Canadian aboriginal four nations regarding both the opening ceremony, and the ice-dancing performance:

    http://www.fourhostfirstnations.com/

    http://www.fourhostfirstnations.com/joint-statement-from-the-four-host-first-nations-russian-olympic-committee-the-figure-skating-federation-of-russia/

  3. #4 Greg Laden
    February 22, 2010

    Mandas, I am not even a tiny, itty bitty bit interested in what the Canadian First Nation people have said about this display of racism directed at mainly tropical “primitive” cultures as depicted for a century and a half in our colonialist literature. This dance of the bunga-bunga primitives was not about Canadians. The idea that the Canadians, or visits to the Canadians, somehow would obsolve this Russian team for their digression is part of the problem, not an excuse for it.

    Several groups of offended people have spoken out against this team. As I stated in my post, this is reaction to the commentary on the Olympics coverage, which inadequately and clumsily discussed this. A real critique of this situation would take a whole book. Suffice it to say that I have “asked” the people involved and they were not happy. Try googling it, or click on the picture to go to a link from the Sidney Morning Herald that discusses the Australian perspective.

    I have to ask what do you personally lose if a couple of racists Russians make horrible fun of dozens of relatively helpless societies around the world, spreading ignorance? Nothing. What do you GAIN from this? Well, I think I can guess. You can feel good about things in your own life that maybe you should question.

    You are the status quo, man. As you said of the critique of the Dawkins Oxford volume: “Yes, and while we are at it, let’s make sure we get some writing from black people, and homosexuals, and left-handed, and chinese, and polynesians, and people over 60, and people under 25, and…., and…., and….. Or wait – let’s save ourselves all that trouble, and just do exactly what was done this time – picked what was considered (subjectively!!) to be the best. ”

    Rich, yes, I admit, this was a bit rambling, but as stated in the piece was a reaction to specific discussion on a TV show. I just wanted to get my thoughts out there. But for the crime of coming to my blog, spamming it with links to your site stupid, and telling me how to blog, you can KMA.

    For those of you who don’t know who Rich is, he’s just some guy who spammed this post and is now in the spam filter.

  4. #5 Greg Laden
    February 22, 2010

    Stephanie has obviously provided yet another link to the topic, for your edificaiton, Mandas.

  5. #6 Barn Owl
    February 22, 2010

    I agree, Greg – I’m surprised that they were allowed to perform this at all. As far as I can tell, their source material for the costumes and choreography was the 1930 Disney cartoon Cannibal Capers. All involved should be forced to read the Ewan & Ewan book Typecasting. For starters.

  6. #7 mandas
    February 22, 2010

    Thank you for your comments on my post, and (belatedly) on my previous post re Dawkin’s book.

    Not sure on what basis you have drawn the conclusion that I am “the status quo”, or that this issue “makes me feel good about things in my life”. I think it would take knowing me a little better before you could even make the slightest attempt to either psychoanalyse me, or to know the nature or my views on a whole raft of issues.

    On any issue like this, it is extremely easy to find people who will be offended, just as it is easy to find people who will find offense in something that wasn’t intended, and to find people (like yourself) who will find offense on the behalf of someone else. You made loud pronouncements about the opening ceremony (calling the committee “goatfuckers”), despite the fact that the Canadian Abooriginal First Nations were co-hosts of the ceremony, and gave it their specific endorsement and were involved in its development. Seems to me if the aboriginal people were in favour of it, its a little rich – and VERY paternalistic – for a non-indigenous foreigner to be ‘offended’ on their behalf. If there is any racism going on here, it is from poeple like yourself who won’t accept the ability of people to make their own decisions on how they should feel.

    It’s also patently ridiculous to suggest that it is racist for someone to perform a stylised act which draws on another’s culture. Once again, if there is any racism going on here, it is from people who continue to see race and racism and think that culture is immutable and cannot be either commented on, copied, used or critiqued by someone from outside that culture.

    You ask “.. what do you (I) personally lose if a couple of racists Russians make horrible fun of dozens of relatively helpless societies around the world, spreading ignorance?” It seems to me that the one being racist and – I’m sorry to say – VERY American, here is you. Helpless societies? Do you really believe that about other cultures? I showed that to one of my Aboriginal colleagues at the next desk to me, and he thought it HIGHLY offensive that you thought about his society in that way.

    Maybe you should stop thinking about the perceived superiority and ‘dominance’ of your own society and stop acting in a paternalist manner towards the rest of the world. Most of us (and I am Australian by the way, and work extensively with Indigenous communities) neither want nor appreciate that inteference.

  7. #8 mus
    February 22, 2010

    blame the ice skating organisation: they set the theme for the competition, and that theme (“ethnic folks” or somesuch nonsense) shows the idiocy that prevails in the organisation.

  8. #9 AnneTanne
    February 22, 2010

    French fries are… Belgian.
    The origin of ‘French’ in fries is an old english verb (to french) that means: to cut in strips.
    French fries were ‘frenched’ fries.

  9. #10 Pinky
    February 22, 2010

    I once, as a supervisor, overheard a man make a sexist remark to a woman. I got after the man for it. The woman told me later; “I don’t mind, I can handle it.” I replied politely that I had a mother, a wife and a daughter – I was the one offended.

    I don’t need permission from others to be offended about what is wrong.

  10. #11 Stephanie Z
    February 22, 2010

    mandas, I’m confused. If Greg is offended by the same thing that the Australian press is reporting Aboriginal elders found offensive, that’s bad. Paternalistic. If you show up and say that you and the Aborigines are offended by his feelings, based on you showing his words to a buddy, this is good and not paternalistic? If you think it’s important that people speak for themselves, perhaps you should let them do just that.

  11. #12 csrster
    February 22, 2010

    I hear that for their next performance they’re going to wear enormous false beards and tallitot for the Jumping Jews of Jerusalem.

  12. #13 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    February 22, 2010

    In 1998, I was talking about the Cleveland Indians with a Cleveland fan and he told me that the logo they use is in reference to a specific person and not American Indians at large. He also told me that the Atlanta Braves should be honored because of the use of the word “Brave,” and we didn’t even get to the Washington Fucking Redskins before fists were swung. His position was that since some Indians weren’t offended, then none of them should be offended.

    What Pinky has said is exactly right. I couldn’t even watch this whole cartoonish event (granted, I am not in favor of the whole Ice Dancing as a sport especially since NBC chose to cover that crap while the US was playing against Canada in a real sport. I tried to catch that game on CTV.ca but CTV streaming video is blocked outside of Canada which infuriates my Canadian friends to no end because they have to watch this completely botched NBC coverage which would indicate that the US is the only important country involved in the Winter Olympios – run-on parenthetical rant concluded.)

    I don’t know why the Americans involved didn’t go ahead and do a routine set to Jolson singing “Mammy” if we were going to sit back and honor cultures. I hated the silly hillbilly costumes. If you want to make this about art as sport, stop with the damn Saturday Evening Post characterizations of them. Go back to the elegance and beauty of motion and form, with evening wear style cosutumes. Not that his would make me watch.

    Mandas, maybe you should stop with the “They are so cute when they are angry” attitude towards this, perhaps the IOC should take a look at the image that they are trying to present of a gathering of the best athletes in hopes of promoting peace. The presentations used are not promoting peace but a reminder of the subjugation of natives by colonialists.

  13. #14 rgall
    February 22, 2010

    Greetings:

    I agree it was insensitive..

    A link to a Australian Broadcasting Corp discussion on the subject. Its a bit more informative.

    http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/2010/02/aks_20100207_1005.mp3

    As with most sports its probably the International Ice Dance Federation that sanctioned the routine.

  14. #15 Greg Laden
    February 22, 2010

    Mandas, this post is about the ice dancers, and we should keep the focus there. It is too confusing for you to deal with more than one issue at a time, and you are confusing and conflating my statements about different issues. Yes, the opening ceremony is interesting and important, and perhaps we can discuss that, but I perceive at this moment that you are using that issue to evade the real issue.

    There is nothing inherently wrong with using existing cultural symbols and tropes in an artistic work but there are risks and limitations to what one should do. There is the possibility of cultural rip-off … of being the one artist (perhaps named Paul or something) to make the first real money from an exciting and vibrant and amazing style of music because you are the first willing to cross a boycott boundary and the first willing to record the style in your American studio with your big name and promotional budget, while in the mean time the original practitioners of that music are in exile and quite available to get “discovered” rather than overlooked. There is also the issue of specific details where one should either be respectful of the relevant issue or be prepared to admit that you are striking a blow against some religious dogma. If there is a claim that this is in part Australian Aboriginal in style (and I’m not certain that claim can be made) then the red skirt could have been changed to any other color, and it would be less like using a cross as a dildo on stage. Or, they can use the red and it would be just as severe as using a cross as a dildo on stage and they can make it clear that they are telling the Australian Aborigines to fuck off, their religion sucks. But ignoring the fact and pretending it is perfectly normal is not OK.

    Following this dance there was a program based on a South Asian dance tradition. It was respectful. It might have been cultural ripoff but I think south Asian dance traditions are not hidden gems being stealthily transported to an out-country studio for remixing and resale. It was not denigrating.

    The symbology and decorative details of this performance were insulting and obnoxious. They were the “Primitives” version of a Jim Crow performance. This was, essentially, a black face performance. There is I suppose room for some variation in opinion on this, but not much. Or at least, not enough to include your absurd statement that everything is fine and that I should be ashamed of myself for making trouble for these poor kids.

    csrstr: “I hear that for their next performance they’re going to wear enormous false beards and tallitot for the Jumping Jews of Jerusalem.”

    Very funny. Two or three performances later, there was a program based on Hava Nagila. I thought to myself…

    “Self, some racist shit is going to show up and yell at you for defending Bushmen, Pygmies, Pacific Islanders and so on by saying that ‘it is patently ridiculous to suggest that it is racist for someone to perform a stylized act which draws on another’s culture,’ and it would be nice to bring this case out (which, like the South Asian one, was done well and respectful) and use it as an example.”

    I will now do so with your inspiration. So, yeah, one pair did a respectful and effective program with Hava Nagila. Had they done that as The Jumping Jews of Jerusalem with giant false beards and tallitot, wild eyed and exaggerated with a nice hand to the forehead “Oi Ve” subtext, that would have been similarly disrespectful.

    mandas: I was trying to avoid using my secret knowledge that you are an Aussie, but you’ve let us know that. Which, I’m quite sure people will find interesting. You claim “I showed that to one of my Aboriginal colleagues at the next desk to me, and he thought it HIGHLY offensive that you thought about his society in that way.”… OMG, man! I’ve been working in South Africa for decades. This is the place where a white minority was in charge then a black majority took over. Do you know how often I’ve heard whites tell me “Yes, just the other day a black told me that he wanted apartheid back.”

    Mandas, you are acting a lot like a lying shitbag racist goatfucker.

    Mike, you touch on a lot of other, interesting and intersecting related points. America appears to have several different sub-ethnicities of hillbilly vs. cowboy vs. whatever. Given the themes we increasingly see in American Politics, with Rogue Texas insisting that the rest of the nation toe a conservative line or else, it was starting to feel a little like watching a remake of Springtime for Hitler.

    I apologize in advance if anyone thinks I’ve accused them of being a Nazi.

    By the way, this is supposedly the first time US beat Canada in an Olympic game since like forever, yet US has gotten Teh Gold more recently. All that really happened is that US got the buy (or by or bye or bai or whatever it is). Canada may still win. The real games have not been played yet.

  15. #16 momkat
    February 22, 2010

    After picked my jaw up off the floor watching this last night, I made a similar comment to my equally appalled daughter about the appropriateness of a blackface performance. Their whole performance was an offensive amalgamation of many of the worst stereotypes that white people retain about aboriginal cultures. Even I (white and not an anthropologist) found so many laughable elements (not amusing ones) of the performance that I just had to say WTF.

    I don’t agree with you about the opening ceremony. The First Nations participants were part of the planning. I would think that the dancers were in fact aboriginal individuals in a joyous celebration of their heritage.

  16. #17 A Canadian
    February 22, 2010

    Greg: “By the way, this is supposedly the first time US beat Canada in an Olympic game since like forever, yet US has gotten Teh Gold more recently.”

    No they haven’t. Sweden won gold 4 years ago, and Canada won it 4 years before that in Salt Lake.

    That said, Ryan Miller was unbelievable for Team USA.

  17. #18 James
    February 22, 2010

    “So, yeah, one pair did a respectful and effective program with Hava Nagila.”

    FYI: that was the Israeli pair. It was a good bet it was going to be a respectful and effective program with Hava Nagila.

  18. #19 Greg Laden
    February 22, 2010

    I don’t agree with you about the opening ceremony. The First Nations participants were part of the planning.

    I have not made substantive comments on the first nation performance at the opening ceremony. It is not possible to agree or disagree with me on this at all. All I have said is that I’m not interested in what may or may not appear to be an endorsement of the Bone-In-Nose Cannibal dance by the First Nation. During the discussion last night, and again this post was a response to that, it was noted that the Russians “toned down” their costume (what they did was to make their skin look less black, as far as I can tell) and met with First Nation leaders and got some blankets. I am not impressed.

    I have commented that the Native aspects of and involvement in the opening ceremony is itself a potential subject of detailed analysis. I have not said anything, nor have I implied anything, about what that analysis would be. There are many potential aspects, especially the regionalization of tribal identity and the foregrounding/backgrounding of various historical and cultural features. To me, there are two broad ways to approach this: 1) look only at the ceremony and 2) look at the ceremony in context of the sociology and politics surrounding it.

    I am at a disadvantage here, though. Canadian First Nation politics and ethnic identity are different than US Native American politics and ethnic identity. I know lot more about the latter than the former, so this would be very difficult.

    My real expertise is in dancing cannibals with bones in their noses. So I stuck with that.

    BTW, momkat, as I read your post, I was thinking that your reaction seemed a bit like that of the commenters on the TV. In fact, I may have been a bit hard on the on this post, they probably had little choice to do what they did and they did in fact provide at least one snarky take down of the Russian pair. Also, as far as I can tell, we were never shown their scoring. Did I just miss that, or did they really skip past it?

  19. #20 Greg Laden
    February 22, 2010

    A Canadian: I heard “the US has not beaten the canadians in fifty years.” Yet, I know the US has gotten the gold in the last fifty years, because of the very famous time they got the gold that no one will ever forget (remember?).

    You need to dig deeper. I assuume it is possible to win the gold without playing every other team, so this seems quite possible. But there is a larger point: It must be understood that if Team A never plays Team B but still wins the tourney, then Team A has indeed beaten Team B. N’est pas?

  20. #21 Greg Laden
    February 22, 2010

    FYI: that was the Israeli pair. It was a good bet it was going to be a respectful and effective program with Hava Nagila.

    That is a true point, but it does not obviate the example at all.

    It would be interested to examine cross-ethnic vs. parallel-ethnic performances.

  21. #22 James
    February 22, 2010

    Greg wrote:

    The real goatfuckers here are the announcers at the Olympics who gave the Russian skating pair a hard time … and I appreciate that … but not a hard enough time, and the referees for the competition that allowed them to perform at all.

    [...] None of those token actions obviate the fact that these ice skaters intended and were allowed to give a performance at the Canadian Winter Olympics in the equivalent of a performance in black face.

    This. Simply. Should. Not. Have. Been. Allowed.

    (Emphasis mine.)

    I watched the performance last night. Yes, I thought the Russian pair’s choice of performance was offensive.

    The pair had received very negative responses after doing a similar performance earlier this year. What we saw last night was a toned down version, with different costumes and makeup.

    So I think we agree, the Russian pair made a really big mistake in performing that routine.

    But I’m concerned about the suggestion that the Olympics Committee should censor the performers. If you say the Olympics Committee should not have allowed that performance, that implies there should be a line. Where do you draw the line? I thought the French pair’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” performance was pretty insulting. If the Committee shouldn’t have allowed the Russian team, they shouldn’t have allowed the French team. What’s next? Who’s to say what performances get banned? On what grounds? How do we know that a performance was banned for legit reasons, rather than “my country will do better if you aren’t allowed to compete”?

    Yes, the Russian pair was thoughtless and their performance was offensive. But I don’t think it’s right to say they should have been banned from competing because people would be offended.

  22. #23 wreaver
    February 22, 2010

    @Greg Laden said,
    The Canadian Olympic Committee did not absolve itself of being goatfuckers by having giant totem poles and hundreds of dancing aborigines at the opening ceremonies. None of those token actions obviate the fact that these ice skaters intended and were allowed to give a performance at the Canadian Winter Olympics in the equivalent of a performance in black face.

    This. Simply. Should. Not. Have. Been. Allowed.

    Are you familiar with Jonathan Haidt’s Moral Foundation theory?

    I’d like to draw your attention to his 5th pillar. What he calls: purity/sanctity.

    From a psychological point of view, I find your reaction interesting because it seems like a demonstration of a 5 pillar moral framework. Specifically, what looks to me to be a purity/sanctity reaction.

  23. #24 James
    February 22, 2010

    >> FYI: that was the Israeli pair. It was a good bet it was going to be a respectful and effective program with Hava Nagila.

    > That is a true point, but it does not obviate the example at all.

    You’re right, I was just pointing it out.

    There were several good examples last night of successfully borrowing a cultural reference and incorporating that into a routine. The [American?] couple right after the Russian couple, that ones that did the Bollywood-themed ice dance, I thought they did it really well. And interestingly, was received very positively in India.

  24. #25 Greg Laden
    February 22, 2010

    f you say the Olympics Committee should not have allowed that performance, that implies there should be a line. Where do you draw the line? I thought the French pair’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” performance was pretty insulting.

    On one hand it is difficult to know how to handle such things. I don’t want this thread to turn into a discussion of how we have to throw our arms in the air and give up every time someone does something racist because for every racist act there is a slightly less racist act, and therefore there are no lines that can be drawn. On the other hand, there are clear cut cases and this is one of them.

    The “Country Boy” performance is an interesting one to bring up in this regard, but it is not the same thing as what the Russians did. I’m not sure what it was. I wish I had never seen it.

    The Russian performance was thoughtless and offensive. There is a point deduction for being thoughtless and offensive. This particular point deduction is usually pre-determined, but they were told in advance that it would not happen if they toned down the costume. Therefore the performance went on with a little bit of the blackface smudged off.

    The officials acted poorly. What should have happened is this: The referee team should have told the Russians that they would have points deducted if they carried out a racist performance, and that there would be no pre-determined level of what is OK vs. not, simply because it is hard to draw the line, but it could be determined during practice (and by that time it is too late, of course). That would have encouraged the Russians to simply change routines. The world skating community should have seen to this a long time ago.

    The organizing committee, aware of this problem, including the First Nation people, should have simply told the Russians that there is no such things as a “toned down” version of this, and that they would not be given any cover or backup on it.

    With those decisions, no one is drawing a line but the importance is being conveyed. There is a good chance that given enough time (and the olympics do occur only every 4 years) that either the Russians would have changed their performance and others in the future would figure it’s a good idea to keep the bones out of the noses, or they would have gone ahead and there would NOT have been support from the First Nations and there WOULD (presumably) have been a point detuction, and then others would be strongly motivated to not put the bone through the nose.

    The fact that it is hard to draw a line between a gourmet meal and a pile of shit, as one grades into the other, does not mean that the shit is not shit.

  25. #26 James
    February 22, 2010

    The Russian performance was thoughtless and offensive. There is a point deduction for being thoughtless and offensive. This particular point deduction is usually pre-determined, but they were told in advance that it would not happen if they toned down the costume. Therefore the performance went on with a little bit of the blackface smudged off.

    For those curious, yes, there really is a point deduction for inappropriate costume. It’s called a “Costume or prop violation” and can affect your score by as little as -0.1 or as much as -1.0.

    * http://www.isu.org/vsite/vfile/page/fileurl/0,11040,4844-192306-209529-141863-0-file,00.pdf
    * http://www.isu.org/vsite/vfile/page/fileurl/0,11040,4844-191592-208815-140518-0-file,00.pdf
    * http://www.iceskatingintnl.com/archive/rules/ddeduct.htm

    I’m not a skater nor a lawyer, but it seems appropriate to me that since the judges knew of the costume choice ahead of time, that they would alert the skaters of a likely point deduction.

    I don’t really blame the Olympics Committee here. In the interests of fairness, they seemed to have stayed within the rules.

    I place the blame squarely on the Russian pair. They made a really dumb artistic decision, and it will take a long time for them to recover from the very bad PR they’ve built up for themselves. But I think they dug that hole on their own.

  26. #27 Greg Laden
    February 22, 2010

    I’m not a skater nor a lawyer

    Two of the many things I like about you.

    [te-dum-dum]

  27. #28 MadScientist
    February 22, 2010

    I didn’t know people were making distinctions based on capitalization. So an “Aborigine” must be Australian but an “aborigine” can be any indigineous person from South America, Africa, Asia, North America and so on? I think I’ll ignore that distinction because I think it’s silly.

    I don’t know about the “should not have been allowed” – obviously the people involved are ignorant of the Australian aboriginals and never bothered to learn about them either. Can you really expect people to do research on the authenticity of hundreds of routines which the skaters come up with? When I first arrived in Australia I was talking with a buddy of mine back in Indiana. “Have you seen a kangaroo yet?” she asks. “This is a city” I said, “there are no kangaroos in the city! Oh, wait. Goddamn, there’s a kangaroo bounding right down the road.” Well, it’s still true than in general you don’t see kangaroos in the cities – but many people who simply do not know might have the impression that the kangaroos are everywhere. If people have such simple mistaken notions, how are they to know anything at all about cultural practices?

    Personally I wouldn’t even advocate that the committees should be more “culturally sensitive”; I think it’s great sport to poke fun at them after the fact. The aborigines shouldn’t be upset, they should be having a good laugh at teh st00pid Russians and telling the world what the Russians got wrong.

  28. #29 Stephanie Z
    February 22, 2010

    How are people supposed to know? Well, MadScientist, the Australian team that ended up not going to the Olympics because of injury tried asking. They worked with Aborigines over the course of about a year to come up with a routine that was fairly authentic and respectful.

  29. #30 nefernika
    February 22, 2010

    “I didn’t know people were making distinctions based on capitalization. So an “Aborigine” must be Australian but an “aborigine” can be any indigineous person from South America, Africa, Asia, North America and so on? I think I’ll ignore that distinction because I think it’s silly.”

    Yes. People also make a distinction between “romantic” and “Romantic,” “Democratic” and “democratic”, “Alpine” and “alpine”, and “MadScientist” and “mad scientist.”

  30. #31 freelunch
    February 22, 2010

    It strikes me that Russians should take umbrage, as well. Were the Russian skaters really so bereft of knowledge of their own country that they couldn’t find any folk music or themes that would have worked well for them.

    The English cowfolk ice dancing to American Country music were almost the silliest (choosing Johnny Cash helped, “I’ve been everywhere” hurt), but I give that to the French who appear to have thought that Parisian dancehalls were an example of country or folks music.

  31. #32 mandas
    February 22, 2010

    Wow…..

    “…Mandas, you are acting a lot like a lying shitbag racist goatfucker….”

    Interesting debating style you have there greg. Do you only stoop to personal invective when you have been conclusively debated into a corner, and know you have no rational responses left, or is it a common trait?

  32. #33 Stephanie Z
    February 22, 2010

    Yes, yes, mandas, and you called him a paternalistic racist. Did you have a point to make about the substance of Greg’s comment?

  33. #34 jj
    February 22, 2010

    @Mike
    RE: Coverage from NBC

    Not too sure where you’re at or you if you have cable, but if you were referring to the USA vs.CAN hockey game, it was covered on CNBC, and was AWESOME. Probably could have found a feed on justin.tv…

    Anyway regarding the post: Agreed.

  34. #35 jj
    February 22, 2010

    Canada may still win. The real games have not been played yet.

    Give our boy’s a chance here! They’ve played exceptionally well, and not only beat Canada, but also beat the other team that Canada almost lost to (the Swiss went to S/O). That said, as long as Big Joe, Heatly, Patty and Boyle can be kept off the tally we’ll be OK (Alright, I’m biased those are my guys’, I’m just as scared of Crosby and Iginla… Pronger, not so much)

  35. #36 Greg Laden
    February 22, 2010

    MadScientist: “I think I’ll ignore that distinction because I think it’s silly.”

    I understand that it seems silly, but it turns out that it is not, and ends up being central to the issue. In this case (and again I’m responding to the commentary on TV at the time) it is not even possible to easily parse who is being represented, who is being mocked, and who is being offended. The theme of the costumes is in my view a crossover between New Guinea and Australian Aborigine, which are distinctly different culture areas (each with it’s own numerous culture groups) but there are African elements as well, and the nose-rubbing at the end is Inuit/Eskimo. So, the Russians have almagamated the forager/primitive/bunga-bunga-land people into one big group to mock them all collectively. The amalgamation itself is part of the insensitivity.

    The aA distinction is an accident of langauge and history, but it is simply one that has to be accepted and understood in order to be respectful. Imagine if the word “canadian” was used to refer broadly to all people who live in countries with substantial territory north of the 40th parallel. Canadians are from Canada, but canadians are from Scandanavia, Canada, Russia, whatever. Would ignoring that difference in terminology be OK? No, of course not.

    “South Africa” is a country, while West, East, Central and North Africa are regions. We fix this by referring to “southern Africa” as the region instead of South Africa. Silly, but ignoring it would be disrespectful for a lot of regions. Imagine being Namibian and referred to as “South African” because dealing with the distinction is a little hard?

    Well, OK, that’s my comment on the first sentence of your comment. Now I’ll read the rest….

  36. #37 Greg Laden
    February 22, 2010

    Can you really expect people to do research on the authenticity of hundreds of routines which the skaters come up with?

    Research? This is all about a loud nasty slap in the face. This is not a question of research or authenticity. This is blatant. Something like 40 percent of educated western society would get this on first glance and be appalled or embarassed. Another 30 percent would get it and think it is funny because they are overtly raccist. The rest need to be educated.

    (We will not be arguing about those numbers, which I just pulled out of my ass. Substitute your own numbers, but they are not small)

    That process of education obviously needs to advance.

    This is ALMOST as obvious as the Jumping Jews or the Step and Fetch it Nigger. Seriously.

    Just to be clear: My role here is not to point out that something appaling happened. All the people involved were well aware of the fact that something appalling was happening, they tried to cover their asses, they did some apologizing, they did some backpedaling, they did some toning down.

    So why did they do it at all?

  37. #38 Greg Laden
    February 22, 2010

    Interesting debating style you have there greg. Do you only stoop to personal invective when you have been conclusively debated into a corner, and know you have no rational responses left, or is it a common trait?

    Personal invective? When did I ever do that? Read slower, maybe you’ll have better comprehension.

    jj: I have a question, since you seem to know something about hockey. Are these olympic games relatively high-scoring games compared to regular professional games?

  38. #39 Anthropologist Underground
    February 22, 2010

    What blows my mind about this is considering the number of people involved in the development of the costumes and the routine. No one–not one person on the Russian team–tried to abort it?

    Did I see the guy pulling the girl around by her HAIR at one point, or was that an artifact of peeking between my fingers as I watched?

  39. #40 jj
    February 22, 2010

    @Greg
    It depends on what games your watching! A game with a total of maybe 6 goals between both teams would be a good game and might be about average (for NHL).

    In fact, looking at the numbers for last year, in 82 games Detroit scored the most goals @ 289 so average about 3.2 goals per game with an average goals against of 190 or 2.3. Wiki answers states around 6 per game.

    You’ll see blowouts from time to time, but not on the frequency you see in the Olympics. There are different rules, like no-touch icing (which I’d say has a negligible effect on the game), or the larger goal crease which would theoretically help the goalie (Offensive players can’t interfere with the goalie in the crease)

    Games like Canada vs US (sub many other teams that produce NHL players) are more likely to be close to NHL standards as the players all play for the NHL.

    Although I do not watch Woman’s Hockey (not that I wouldn’t, just isn’t a televised sport) those scores have been outrageously high.

    Case in point: Canada vs. US (or the Swiss) looked like your average NHL game, while Canada vs Norway was quite the blowout.

  40. #41 Elizabeth
    February 22, 2010

    I could not see the event, and did not know anything about this, but I can confirm that the most egregious offenses tend to happen in the area of tropical “primitives” and go unnoticed or excused more easily than with African American or Asian examples. This is why, while I thought the film itself not offensive, I had mixed feelings about Krippendorf’s Tribe. People often don’t know where tha line is.

  41. #42 ginger
    February 22, 2010

    One additional point about the “silly” distinction between “Aboriginal” and “aboriginal” – the two separate indigenous cultures of Australia are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. The group that was sort of represented by the dumb Russian skaters is the Aboriginal. The cultures are pretty different – the Aboriginal culture’s the oldest extant on the planet, at 60,000 years and counting, whereas the Torres Strait Islands have been inhabited for “only” the past 2500 years or thereabouts.

    Me, I think the judges should have punished the Russians for their stupid costumes and for the absence of any particular folk dance in their alleged folk dance routine. There are hundreds of Aboriginal groups, different enough to have 200 separate languages (*not* dialects) – and at no point did the Russians name the group whose dance they were performing. (At one point they claimed it was Moldavian, though.)

  42. #43 José
    February 22, 2010

    Did I see the guy pulling the girl around by her HAIR at one point

    Yes you did. The man also started the routine stooped over like a cave man.

  43. #44 José
    February 22, 2010

    Here’s a link to the whole routine, if anyone hasn’t seen it. The hair pulling is at 2:15.

  44. #45 Observer
    February 22, 2010

    Haven’t watched the routine but from the photo that girl is hot.

    The nose press is used by Maori in NZ and is called the hongi.

  45. #46 MadScientist
    February 23, 2010

    This is art after all – I can just imagine: “We only wanted to create a fusion of cultures to show how we are all united in harmony” or some such (excuse me while I go puke). If the skaters were claiming to actually present some authentic cultural bits then they’re just unbelievably wrong. I wouldn’t associate that routine with the Australian aboriginals at all, just as I wouldn’t associate Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado with the Japanese – but maybe that’s just me. I like the Debian logo on that skater’s costume though …

  46. #47 dave
    February 23, 2010

    If Earth had no boundaries and cultural stereotypes, you’d have nothing to talk about. I gave you the standard three article chance.. good luck with your self-loathing blather.

    ..oh and attempting to mask your opinions as somehow related to science.. find a more appropriate site for this tripe.

  47. #48 Stephanie Z
    February 23, 2010

    Gee, dave, I bet your toys were really nice too.

    Self-selection can be a lovely thing, but sometimes it gets pointlessly noisy.

  48. #49 Greg Laden
    February 23, 2010

    Dave, do you imply in this comment that you are going to go away? I find that hard to believe. I think you are fascinated with this site and secretly in love with me, and can’t turn away from my opinions without being overwhelmed by a great feeling of emptiness.

    I would love to just say to you “Prove me wrong” but that would be cruel.

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