The year 2013 winds down with two crises that make me sad for the state of affairs in this grand country and world. Justine Sacco was PR director for InterActive Corp, which owns the Daily Beast, Vimeo and other hot Internet properties. She isn’t anymore. She made one too many outrageous comments on her personal Twitter account just before boarding a plane and the s-storm that resulted on social media erupted into typhoon-force before she even landed. Next day, she was fired, and all traces of her had been removed from IAC websites.
While the comments she made are indefensible, I find it ironic (and very sad) that the vitriolic attacks against her are not causing the outrage that her comments. One tweeter suggested her problem was watching too much Duck Dynasty.
Which brings me of course to Phil Robertson and the decision of A&E to suspend him from the wildly popular (and wildly wild) show Duck Dynasty. Here’s the irony: much of TV and virtually all of reality TV has devolved into the modern day equivalent of Barnum and Bailey’s freak shows. The more outrageous and extreme the behavior the better TV and ratings apparently. Duck Dynasty has developed a vast audience because whether it is shooting all kinds of animals, building duck blinds out of RVs hosted high into the trees, or eating coon poop instead of berries, these people are not the common ordinary Chicagoans or New Yorkers. They’re different. And its good to be different except when you say something that is deemed to be politically incorrect.
I won’t comment on the substance of either Sacco’s tweet or Phil Robertson’s GQ interview–those are readily available by reading the links.
The irony of political correctness is that while our cultural values honor diversity in nearly all things, political correctness is there to ensure uniformity of thought and action in certain highly selective things. I vote for diversity and recognizing that people have a right to their opinions regardless of whether or not I agree with them. In this regard I consider the over-reaction of the Twittersphere and A&E to be unAmerican and unhealthy for our future.
I suspect many will disagree.
And so 2013 ends with powerful lessons about crises and crisis avoidance:
1. Think before you tweet.
2. Understand the current cultural values and understand that if you say anything publicly that violates those values even to a minor degree, a storm will almost certainly ensue.
Along these lines I note that Chip Wilson has resigned his position with Lululemon. Another casualty.