Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Look at me! I'm ranting!

When I was a teen and even more in college, I thought I didn’t care that much about what people thought of me. In reality, I wanted people to think I was different. That isn’t too much unlike most young people though they work hard at trying to pretend they are unique.

As an adult, I find myself keenly concerned about how others perceive me. Don’t get me wrong: I still want to buck the status quo and prove myself different from what people may expect. But I also am more and more aware of what those I work with and for may believe, accurate or not. Sadly, perception rules more than reality.
So I come to this day angry about a lot of things concerning the media. And I have to admit I must go on perception, but I think some of these people either don’t really care or are ignorant about the perception they give to others.

Last night, Artie Lange hijacked Joe Buck’s debut show. There is no other way to describe it. Already many people are making a big deal about his “course humor.” That isn’t what bothered me. I don’t particularly like his brand of shtick, but I am upset that Mr. Lange took so much of the time of the show. He didn’t allow Buck to go on to other subjects or allow either of the other guests in the segment, Paul Rudd and Jason Sudekis, to speak. Lange is a selfish prick who craves attention more than a horny dog. And the horny dog is more interesting to watch.

David Letterman has had to do a bunch of backpedaling over the ire stirred up over a couple jokes he made about the Palin family. While I’m not sure the comedian should have to apologize for what really would otherwise have been a largely forgotten and inconsequential joke, I do think he did the right thing last night in addressing this the way he did, saying that he realized that the perception was stronger than the reality of his intent. But those sponsors who have threatened to pull out and Palin really got this wrong. I wonder if Palin and her jerk husband really are that oversensitive, that stupid, or just need attention so bad they have to complain their way into the media spotlight. Hasn’t anyone told this broad that she is the one who has made her daughter’s lives worse with her own foolish mouth?

I certainly would not appreciate a joke of a sexual nature about my daughters. But Palin and her cult are so unable to read and hear that they actually assumed that Letterman meant them harm. They seemed to completely miss that the jokes were poking fun at others and not necessarily the Palins. (Well, except the slutty librarian joke, and I’m sorry Ms. Palin, you bring that on yourself.) And perhaps it is futile, in a business known for being more concerned with the moment, for Letterman to suggest that his detractors “check his record.” David Letterman has had crude jokes on his show before, but never something that would suggest sex with a fourteen year old, forced or otherwise, is acceptable.

The phrase “political correctness” makes me nervous. It has become a way for all sides of political and cultural spectrums to decry other people. But political correctness is not always about being safe, but avoiding unnecessary offense. Lange doesn’t give a damn who he insults or what he does to others. His fans who think this makes him worth praising only have half the picture. He isn’t “keeping it real” (a truly meaningless phrase). He is garnering attention for himself for no other reason than to have it. Letterman, on the other hand crosses some people’s idea of the line of good taste. But he knows that offending people just to be offensive doesn’t serve him or those who work for and with him very well.

Consider another word that has lost a great deal of its meaning in the past few years: rant. For many, when a person rants, that person is angry or upset about something and saying whatever comes to mind about whatever is creating in them emotional distress. They may say things “in the heat of the moment” that they would normally not say in an environment where they would have to be careful about their words, such as on the job or at a party with people one does not know well. They sometimes use “colorful language” and even friends can tell that the person may not be totally fair. Sometimes we need to let off steam, I’m sure, but that is what friends and close relatives are for. They understand us and help us gain perspective while trying to support us.

When I tell a student she or he is ranting in an essay, I am trying to let that person know something about how the audience is likely to perceive the message. While the opinions may have merit and the ideas well worth noting, the delivery is such that the student can only appear to others as someone, not with an opinion, but one who presents that opinion as if nothing else in the world matters, not even organization of thought or the choice of words that best communicate one’s ideas.

But the word now seems to denote that a person, by jabbering and working to be as offensive as possible, has done the world some sort of service in presenting an opinion. The truth is most of what others may praise by using the word “rant” is really only preaching to the choir, only louder.

No comments: