Thursday, September 22, 2011

on spreading unwelcome stories

I wrote this down a while ago and then totally forgot to post it:

Recently, Tracy Morgan ‘got in trouble’ for spouting a few offensive homophobic remarks while on stage at one of his shows. To be fair, his comments were certainly offensive, and I can understand why so many people reacted so poorly to them. However, I recently read the reaction of Louis C.K. to the firestorm surrounding the story, and I thought he had a very valid point that seems to be gaining weight within the anti-sensationalist news community.

Louis C.K. pointed out that all the people that paid to attend the show knew exactly what they were getting themselves into. They likely were familiar with Tracy Morgan’s brand of comedy, and not only that, appreciated it enough to pay a high ticket price to attend the show. I’d be very surprised if any people in the audience were offended by what he said; if they were, they probably shouldn’t have attended the show.

Louis went on to point out that the people who then took Tracy Morgan’s jokes and spread them around on the web in order to earn money from the ensuing outrage are really the ones to blame. They took something said within a private venue and delivered them to a public audience that wasn’t ready to hear it – and as the broadcaster of those comments, they’re as much to blame, if not more.

I’ve recently witnessed a similar battle on Scott Adams’ (creator of Dilbert) blog. I love his blog for its wit, it’s rather frank appraisal of American society, and perhaps most of all for his comedic yet thoughtful thought experiments. The whole purpose of a blog is to put ones thoughts down for others to read in a very opt-in way. No one who doesn’t want to read your blog has to – if you’re reading this right now, you’ve made a very conscious decision to do so.
Yet Adams has been subject to a similar type of sensationalism – his posts have been broadcast across the web by those seeking to earn money from people who would be upset by them. It concerns me that journalists make a living in this way, and as each new story about an off-color comment comes out, I’ve begun to question who’s at fault – the commenter, or the one who forced the offended parties to hear those comments.