I saw an article posted on Facebook the other day about well, guess who? Anyway the headline implied a quote, a quote which I cannot now remember. No matter, the actual quote is less important than my reaction to it. The quote was quintessential marketing-speak, one of those quips that is supposed to sound cute or wise or true or “catchy”, but when you break it down is either based on ‘facts not in evidence’, scary, or completely meaningless. I almost made a knee-jerk comment: “Great. So we’ll go down in history as having elected Marketing Slime as our next President.” I hesitated, at first because I wanted to fact-check that Mr. Trump had actually said what was quoted. Then I hesitated again and stopped myself from fact-checking. Why? Because I elected not to comment at all. I was a bit ashamed and had second thoughts about name-calling, at least in a public forum. I was ashamed that I came so close to becoming, the person “Who cares not to come up any higher but rather get you down in the hole that he’s in.”
Sure, among friends Facebook can be fun, free form, and a venue for the well-placed quick quip response. Some issues though are a little too volatile or sensitive to comment without thinking twice. There is already a lot of negativity out there right now. I even feel vulnerable to its contagion. I find myself feeling uncharacteristically angry at times. So, I hesitated and asked myself what good does it do to add negativity to negativity? To add another sound bite that may sound “cute” but is nothing more than yet more name-calling, seemed puerile at best. What purpose is served if not followed by some positive suggestion or dialog? Going from a quick internal thought to writing that thought down adds just enough validity to have an impact.
I see evidence of a kind of social law of thermodynamics out there where even just a little quip perpetuates derision and mudslinging of the “rat race choir”. Maybe just for my own personal amusement, the label, the name-calling is OK. Maybe even OK shared verbally with a small circle of friends who know me well and know the origin, at least from my world, of the term “Marketing Slime”. But I realized that putting it “out there” in print fails my “right thing to do” test. I don’t want to be one more voice adding negativity without solutions out there. I sense a weird sort of herd-animal instinct gone awry. “Safety in numbers” shouldn’t dictate that we all agree and pattern-match our peers to see who can “out clever” the next with a good insult, but I see a lot of this. Nor should we lapse into some bizarre and imagined ‘tribal conflict’ where one good slur “deserves” another and, if the slur is offensive enough, it may even deserve an escalation answered by another escalation…
I decided to emulate Oddball: “Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don’t you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don’t you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?”
I’m not promoting ignoring vile actions and rhetoric, but countering it with more of the same, even if in the name of “the good cause”, fuels enmity, friction, and hatred. When someone says something outrageous, counter it with the facts, not another outrageous remark. Or, you could be like a cat and studiously ignore it. Which has its own way of invalidating those being ignored.
But some things cannot be, should not be ignored. The practice of complacency with certain groups and schools of thought by giving them an innocuous title particularly irritates me. Let’s face it: “Alt-Right” is far too lightweight. Let’s call it what it is, American Nazi Party meets the KKK. And “ISIS”, has a strange way of legitimizing terrorists. To quote the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius: “This is a terrorist group and not a state. I do not recommend using the term Islamic State because it blurs the lines between Islam, Muslims and Islamists. The Arabs call it ‘Daesh’ and I will be calling them the ‘Daesh cutthroats’.” I digress.
I’m only human so I may well add fuel to the negativity at some point, but I’ll try not to. I’ll try to hesitate and instead of name-calling, if I can think of something helpful, useful, hopeful to do or say I’ll say it. I’ll remember Bob Dylan’s “It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding”…and, yes, Oddball. One more quote from Oddball about leading his tank battalion into battle: “…We got our own ammunition, it’s filled with paint. When we fire it, it makes… pretty pictures. Scares the hell outta people! We have a loudspeaker here, and when we go into battle we play music, very loud. It kind of… calms us down.”
Dylan, Bob. “It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding. Bringing It All Back Home, Columbia, March 22, 1965.
Kelly’s Heroes directed by Brian G. Hutton. Oddball played by Donald Sutherland. MGM, June 23, 1970.
Quote from Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. French govt to use Arabic ‘Daesh’ for Islamic State group. Wassim Nasr. France 24 – International News 2015 12-05