Two stories in the news this week have stood out to me, but not for the reasons you'd think.
First was Roger Ebert. After the death of Jackass costar Ryan Dunn in a car accident, he tweeted "Friends don't let jackasses drink and drive." He immediately came under fire for the comment, and deleted the tweet. Of course, the internet is forever. Other cast members and friends of Dunn raged at him, and people are saying it was too much, too soon. However, Dunn's blood alcohol content was more than double the legal limit, and he was driving over 100 mph (I've seen reports of 130 and 140, not sure which is accurate).
I don't think it's too soon. On the contrary, I think it was needed. The Jackass cast has a huge following of young people, who, whether the show is responsible or not, try many of the same stunts. They need to be told "Look at this - see what happens." This is not reality TV, but reality. Your actions have consequences, sometimes fatal.
Then there was today's news story about the Southwest pilot who was suspended after his mic was left on and air traffic controllers heard his rant about the lack of flight attendants to sleep with. He was rude, crass, vulgar, and insulting. Many flight attendants and customers are outraged (as they should be) and say the suspension is not enough - they want him fired.
But since when is being a pig a fireable offense? If that was the case, there would be a HUGE spike in the unemployment rate. Yes, his commentary was just plain wrong. But he didn't name specific people, he didn't broadcast it to the passengers or flight attendants. A few air traffic controllers heard it, and to be honest they've probably heard much worse. I know I have at various jobs I've held. But somehow this particular rant became public knowledge, and the public is calling for his job because they are offended.
This is where I see a problem: our society is moving towards a voluntary dissolusion of our hard-won freedoms of speech and expression. Yes, someone can get offended. But is it too far when they stifle the freedoms of another person BECAUSE they were offended?
I do agree that some "expressions" don't belong in our society. But we have to be grownups, too. If I get offended at what I feel is a stupid comment from a public figure, I wouldn't support that person. Mad at Ebert? Don't watch his show (is it still on?). Unfollow him on Twitter. Don't like that Soutwest only suspended the pilot? Fly on another airline. Write a letter to the company. But everyone has to remember that what offends you might not offend the next person, and what someone else finds offensive could be no big deal to you.
Remember in 2006 when Tiger Woods had to have a press conference to apologize for commenting after a bad game, saying he (himself, not directed at anyone else) played like a spaz. In other countries, that word is a derotagory word for people with disabilites. Not here in the US. Yes, he plays internationally. But is it realistic to expect an athlete to know every possibly offensive word in every country he plays in? How could it even be possible? In the US, if someone said they fell on their fanny, we'd laugh, picturing them falling down on their behind. If that person said the same thing in the UK, I'm sure they'd get gasps in polite company since the same word there means vagina. These things happen.
Let's just act like grownups, ok?