Friday, August 27, 2010

Post No. 146d: Never Underestimate the Power of Laughter


In theory, if thoughts we share in our articles truly constitute Common Sense, then the approaches recommended should be able to stand the test of time, and be applicable to new fact situations as they arise.

Earlier this month, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, a syndicated talk radio host / personality, took some heat in connection with some purportedly "racially insensitive comments." She later announced that she would discontinue her talk radio show at the end of this year.

In June of 2008, we posted the following article, which we believe is also applicable to the comments of the embattled radio personality.

© 2008, 2009, and 2010, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

We are all aware of the numerous instances, during the past year, where prominent individuals were severely criticized for comments that some termed “offensive,” or “inappropriate.” One of the most widely covered was the comment by Don Imus regarding the predominantly black female basketball team which won the National Collegiate Athletic Association championship.

Ironically, in that instance, the Rev. Al Sharpton, who typically argues that there are numerous ways to view situations, recommended one of the harshest forms of response, thus suggesting that there was only one “right thing to do.”

Many commentators suggested various responses to deal with the offending speakers, essentially saying that we as a society need to make a statement and ensure that folks do not regularly engage in such speech.

The ladies in question were the essence of grace. They had, after all, just brought home a national basketball championship to an academic institution that invests precious little in sports championships of any sort. Their composure and compassion under attack shamed Shock Jock Imus into a rarely observed heart felt apology.

Most reasonable folks would agree that there was virtually no explanation, or justification, for his statement that would have made sense to us.

Following the revelations about the comments of Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Rev. John Hagee, the talkingheads had much to say about how the respective candidates should have responded.

However, no one suggested that their churches be “taken away.” It is our understanding that Wright is retired, and thus there is nothing to take away, and Hagee is far too integral to his church's existence to remove him from the church which he built.

However, following the mocking, by a Catholic priest, of candidate Clinton in Chicago recently, not only did the local Archbishop chastise the priest, but so did a representative of a group of Catholic women. She said, in essence, that the priest’s comments did not reflect the Catholic faith, did not reflect the Catholic Church, scandalized them, and that he should have his church taken away from him.

Ever since she reacted in that fashion, some of us thought of this issue in free speech, legalistic terms. Of course, our most senior Fellow, the Laughingman, brought us back to reality, and provided instant clarity to the whole situation.

“The worst conceivable way to silence one with whom we disagree is to stop him from talking. By doing so, you create a martyr to his similarly warped followers, and take him off the radar screen of the rest of the public.

"Had we, as a society, a bit thicker skins, we would broadcast these lunacies far and wide, with an appropriate apology to the more sensitive among us, demonstrate a little Common Sense for our fellow man, and let the fringe element drown in the laughter and public ridicule generated by their own thinking or lack thereof.

"Along with the right to free speech comes the right to make a public fool of oneself; and like the naked, fools have little or no influence on society.”

Yesterday, we heard a news report regarding some Minnesota high school kids who took a Confederate flag to school. The kids were banned from their graduation exercises because of their conduct.

One of them, as he sat on the back of a pick up truck, said that he was about as far away from being a racist as one could get. However, they both said that they wanted to make a statement about independence, and the freedom of one to express oneself.

Appearing on CNN yesterday morning, we're sure that they now have a following consisting of hundreds of thousands of sympathizers. It probably would have been better to simply let them attend their graduation ceremonies, assuming that no further conduct was involved which might have lead to violence or some other disruptive behavior.

We considered entitling this article, “Ignoring People – A Novel Thought,” and then we recalled that as Americans, we always have to make sure that we punish folks with whom we disagree. It, unfortunately, is built into who we are as a people.

Perhaps once we learn to ignore those making statements which we consider offensive or inappropriate, they’ll flog themselves, and we as a public will find no need to punish them.

In the immortal words of the famous Forrest Gump; “Stupid is as stupid does.”

© 2008, 2009, and 2010, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

4 comments:

  1. Why are there no comments yet? I happen to agree with you about most everything you said... with one exception. This passage...

    and then we recalled that as Americans, we always have to make sure that we punish folks with whom we disagree. It, unfortunately, is built into who we are as a people.

    In reality, it is the essence of being human. It is also partly why we have the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech. You see, who we are as a people should be tolerant of even the stupidest things said by anyone. We should not seek to punish anyone. Our Founding Fathers understood that and pointed it out with the First Amendment.

    All around the world, in virtually every other country, you can be punished for making the "wrong" remarks in public, many times even in private. But in the US we should not be demanding people lose their jobs.

    Many, many years ago, the American NAZI Party wanted to march through Skokie, Illinois. Now, Skokie has a large Jewish population and many of these people had survived the NAZI death camps, or had relatives who hadn't survived them. It was a very sensitive issue. My position at the time (which was virtually unknown to anyone outside of my close circle of friends) was that the citizens of Skokie should allow them to march and stand on the side of the road, pointing and laughing at the moronic NAZI wannabe's as they passed.

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  2. Thanks much Douglas. You've been a loyal follower, day in and day out. We appreciate it.

    You raised the same issue when we previously posted the substance of this article. We used a bit of "editorial license" the second time that we generated the piece. We actually considered changing that line (albeit slightly) with this most recent posting, but decided to leave it "as is" to see how others would perceive the statement.

    We have a very complicated religious history here in America, considering that so many from other places chose to "escape" their homelands, for religious reasons, and reside here.

    It will be interesting to see what others have to say.

    Thanks, as always.

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  3. Speaking of freedom of speech, Beck's 8/28 rally at the Lincoln Memorial is being televised live on CSPAN.

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  4. I agree with this: "Along with the right to free speech comes the right to make a public fool of oneself!" Dr. Laura has certainly made a fool of herself and yes, she does have the right to do that. Surely she knows that the use of the N word is offensive to a lot of people, but she used it anyway, even tried to justify it by stating that black people do use it. While I do not know the woman personally, she does come through as someone who speaks her mind freely. Looks to me, like she does not lack common sense and knows what she is doing. She might just have used the word to get more media attention. And that she did get, everybody and their mama wrote and tweeted about her. Needless to say I'm not buying her apology. Who knows, she might be picked up by fox news next year. I feel the same about Beck. It would have been better in my view if all the media-attention would have been given to MLK's "I have a dream speech" instead of the rally.

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