It Shouldn’t Matter What They Were Thinking

February 24, 2012

Multiple Pages
It Shouldn’t Matter What They Were Thinking

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.

“By second-guessing everything we do, we more than appease and empower the enemy—we do their job for them.”

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.

But the answer is “no” if a person is merely speaking their mind and special-interest groups are pressuring you to kowtow to the control-freak tendencies that emerge from their eternally bruised feelings. Appeasing extremists with apologies only encourages them. We don’t let heads roll for such trifles—that’s not how we roll in the West.

I have a hard time thinking of circumstances where anyone should be fired for being offensive. If someone sneaks pornography into your kid’s movies then yes, they’re gone. However, if an American adult decides he is offended by a word that’s in the English language or a nonviolent action such as burning a book, that’s his problem.

Back in 2001 when I first met Sarah Silverman, she was in trouble with the Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) for saying, “I love Chinks.” The line was in a joke where she said she chickened out of portraying herself as a racist to get out of jury duty and replaced “hate” with “love.” The head of MANAA said comedians should consult with his group first before making such jokes. Silverman wasn’t falling for it. “Well, I’m not afraid to say something if I think it’s funny,” she said, “even if it’s harsh or racist.” More people should have her attitude.

I don’t like any rules that start with, “What were they thinking?” because it reminds me of the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s crusade against Ezra Levant. After being legally harassed for republishing the infamous Muhammad cartoons, he stared his inquisitor right in the eye and told her it didn’t matter what he was thinking.

I’m offended every day I walk around New York City. I don’t sue anyone for it because I’ve known since kindergarten that only sticks and stones can break my bones. That’s what I love about what’s left of the Western world. If you’re at a Glaswegian comedy club and you talk about Braveheart having sex with toddlers (Princess Isabelle would have been four if that movie was accurate), you get uproarious applause. This is what separates the West from the rest—our ability to take it on the chin.

But if you make a cartoon of a cartoon drawing a cartoon of Muhammad in a bear costume, terrorists try to kill you. By kowtowing to intolerant extremists both here and abroad we are submitting to Islam’s worst characteristics. When I heard high-school students in Utah were told their team’s cougar mascot is sexist, I was reminded of the Taliban confiscating kids’ stuffed animals because they were considered blasphemous.

I say we shouldn’t be bowing to Islamic or PC-extremist tantrums by apologizing for and censoring everything that offends them. By second-guessing everything we do, we more than appease and empower the enemy—we do their job for them. Why is every comment on the Internet shrouded in anonymity? That’s not “the land of the free.” As writer Lisa Carver put it:

The self-love, the bravery, the in-your-facery that made America great in the way it was great….Walt Whitman, Anne Sexton, flappers, expatriates, talk shows—that all came from the boldness of being a nation on the ascent. This is the descent, and we don’t know how to do it; we don’t have the manners that helped the Brits retain grace while losing their empire. Confused, we look for enemies…who did this to us? This is how the police state begins. From within.

It’s a natural impulse to want to censor things that make you uncomfortable, but to give into it is to surrender our culture. That is more than a waste of time; it’s the beginning of the end.


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