New Orleans If I’m feeling uneasy, and I’m not the only one, about what politicians and public officials are thinking these days, that’s almost pales compared to what some folks are saying. Social media is generally a hotbed on the cra-cra side of discourse, but most of that is pretty easy to ignore until it spews out of someone at a high school reunion or Thanksgiving dinner, where you can usually just practice your eye-roll and walk away. Unfortunately, from all reports, it could get so much worse.
Take Ye, nee Kanye West, please! He got himself kicked off of Twitter and Instagram in a spit fight with Sean “Diddy” Combs, for an antisemitic claim about how his business was controlled. Ye at least has abandoned my birth state of Wyoming, which is a relief, and has been a pain in the anatomy of many from his business partners to all of us when he also made a quixotic run for president, so in some ways this isn’t something new. Surely his fifteen minutes must be way up by now, but more on this later.
Fighting for space in the news, the president of the Los Angeles City Council stepped down from that role, while keeping her seat in the 15-member body, at least for now, after making a couple of racist remarks in a telephone conversation with political allies. The call was recorded, though unclear by whom, and it stuck on her shoe. The president of the Los Angeles AFL-CIO, one of the most active and effective in the country, also stepped down because he was party to the conversation and didn’t act to stop it or hold her accountable.
At one level, I have to wonder, as many of you must, how in these days and times, why anyone even near a telephone, microphone, or camera, doesn’t have more mouth-control? How many times can public officials and others in the public eye watch the mighty brought low because they can’t keep their pie hole shut. I had an ACORN leader in the early 1970s, who famously said to me, “Wade, if I thought it, I’ve already said it.” I should add that that was self-criticism, not a boast, and the moral was, think first, before you speak, just as most of our parents preached endlessly in our youth.
For the Ye-people, who court attention and controversy, pushing the envelope is something they monetize. The closer these celebrities and influencers get to the edge, the more chances they will take to offend to keep eyeballs on their game. For them it’s a business model, but for public officials and others, self-control should be a low bar as a minimum standard expectation.
Experts warn that, hey, it’s all free speech, and the libertarian excesses will wreak havoc on public discourse of all kinds. Elon Musk in his pursuit of Twitter has promised that everyone will be off the chains, unless there’s a law against it, and in the USA, free speech is pretty much the law.
On one hand, we might be shocked and shout “What did they say!” On the other hand, our friends and colleagues might caution us to keep cool, because we haven’t heard anything yet, compared to what we are about to hear.