An age-old problem has only been made worse with the proliferation of technology and social media outlets. Our ability to access information and broadcast such to millions has now made the actual execution of a bad idea even more clinical. In other words, people are so removed from the pain they inflict, the question of whether they should do something becomes prey to situational ethics, if that word is even part of the thought-process. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.
An example occurred earlier this week when Jimmy Kimmel interviewed some kids about the government shutdown. When he shared with the kids that we owe China over a trillion dollars in debt payments, he asked what we should do about it? One of the children responded that “we could kill all the Chinese.” When I first saw this online, I winced. There are times when humor oversteps its boundaries and this was one of them. The footage of this video has been aired in China and plays into anti-Chinese rhetoric. Kimmel has apologized profusely on air and to protestors outside his studio. He knows now he and his producers showed poor stewardship and overstepped boundaries. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
Also this morning, I saw a political cartoon which has a line of an attack that I find offensive. The cartoon was lampooning Governor Chris Christie over his weight by suggesting he was torn between running for president and eating a dozen doughnuts. I felt this was out of line and have felt similarly when Bill Maher and others have done fat jokes at Christie’s expense. I watch Maher’s show as I like that he has different kinds of guests who discuss the issues of the day that are not discussed as much by other sources. I also enjoy much of his humor, but even Maher crosses lines that he should not cross. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
As I sit here, I don’t know why anyone would want to be in the public eye. With that notoriety comes the exposure of every thing about you online and through friends or confidantes wanting to break a story. Each of us are more exposed than ever, so beware of what you put in the public domain. Just ask the Toronto mayor about the video footage of his indiscretions that keep coming out of the woodwork. Further, it makes it difficult to be candid in public because your words can be taken out of context and used against you. So, even when you try to be good or provocative, your misused words can haunt you.
When John McCain was first running for President against George W. Bush, he was actually ahead of Bush in early polls after a win in New Hampshire. Yet, he was derailed by Bush’s political team in South Carolina. Among other things, it was pushed into the public eye that he had fathered a black child out-of-wedlock, which played right into extreme conservative views. The real story was he and his wife adopted a girl of Bangladeshi descent. From Wikipedia, “It didn’t take much research to turn up a seemingly innocuous fact about the McCains: John and his wife, Cindy, have an adopted daughter named Bridget. Cindy found Bridget at Mother Theresa’s orphanage in Bangladesh, brought her to the United States for medical treatment, and the family ultimately adopted her.” Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
I am also frustrated when people, who were in lock-step with the beliefs of a public figure working side-by-side to promote a cause, decide to do a tell all book after parting company. In other words, they air dirty laundry to promote sales of their book or create more paid appearances. If they were that aggrieved by the individual, then why did they not resign or try to change the individual’s beliefs? You tried to sell us this person as a candidate or entertainer before and now you want to make money off that exposure to tell us how many problems they had. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
Let me close with the following observation. Stephen Colbert invented a word for our times called “truthiness” which implies everyone has a his or her own version of the truth. There are so many distortions of information in the public domain, once aired they are out there for Google searches. It takes a concerted effort to ascertain whether something is a genuine source of data and if the opinion giver is well grounded. Unfortunately, while more truths can now be accessed by the many, more misinformation and disinformation is out there disguised as truth. People in power and running for office know this and many use this power to misinform or disinform you. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.