This week, NATO personnel accidentally burned a pile of Korans while trying to dispose of incendiary propaganda. One account says the two workers who set the fire “were oblivious to the significance of what they were doing.” Although accidental, the fires of Afghan rage were fanned. So long as blasphemy has been committed, intent seems irrelevant in Islamic culture. They live in a culture of fear. Obama sent an apology to their president and made it clear that those responsible will be held “accountable.”
Across the pond, an insider tells me a Chinese website ran into some internal trouble recently when a story’s first draft used images of concentration-camp prisoners to illustrate a stripe trend during fashion week. I can’t verify it but I’m told their boss (who is American) flew over to China to fire them all but was stunned to discover they didn’t know what they had done. These twenty-something Chinese computer students were only using Google Images to find pictures of people wearing stripes. Their boss found himself in the awkward position of having to explain what the Holocaust was before firing someone for trivializing it. Instead of letting them go, he let it go.
The question of intent also surrounds a controversy over a movie poster for The Little Mermaid. There are a few versions of this story, but it appears the artist did not intend to draw one of the towers surrounding the Little Mermaid as a penis. He didn’t see it as a big deal either way, and Disney agreed (though today the poster is decidedly less phallic than the artist’s first draft).
ESPN editor Anthony Federico recently used the colloquialism “Chink in the armor” in a headline discussing Asian basketball sensation Jeremy Lin. Despite his apparent innocence, Federico begged for forgiveness but still lost his job.
Should a person be fired for mere obliviousness? The word “Santorum” is known to Google as the disgusting sludge that comes from anal sex, yet some genius decided it would be prudent to feature presidential candidate Rick Santorum in an ad covered in wet mud. It’s hard to think that was intentional. Should heads roll?
It’s easy to say people shouldn’t be fired or persecuted for innocent gaffes, but what if someone was doing it on purpose? What if a New York Post editor used the headline, “Obama’s Cuts Not Nearly Niggardly Enough” knowing that it would offend people? Should he be fired?
The answer is “yes” if it can be proved beyond doubt that some internal saboteur is trying to destroy your company. Dozens of urban myths surround Disney’s artists, and it’s been confirmed that employees have snuck in naked ladies, the word “sex,” and even Michael Eisner’s home number.
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