Saturday, December 13, 2008

Somebody Call These Folks a Wambulance

From reading the op-ed page of today's paper, it appears that everyone is outraged about something, and I can't quite understand why.

First, Kathleen Parker reports that some feminist groups are outraged at a couple of Obama campaign staffers for their participation in a Facebook mini-scandal:
It always seems like fun at the time. Then the photo surfaces.

Two guys, some beer and a cardboard cutout of Hillary Clinton have created fresh grief for the young and uninitiated to Washington Rules.

In the latest blog scandal-ette, Jon Favreau, a Holy Cross valedictorian and 27-year-old wunderkind speechwriter for Barack Obama, was captured clutching the prospective secretary of state's, um, pectoral area, while a fellow reveler, wearing an "Obama Staff" T-shirt, nuzzles Mrs. Clinton's ear and holds a beer bottle to her smiling lips.

The photo popped up on Facebook for a couple of hours before being removed ... too late. The moment was captured, and the rest was instant and persistent history. On the Information Highway, alas, road-kill is never really dead.

One day, Mr. Favreau was the golden boy of silken tongue. The next, he was just another dimwitted dude

[...]Feminists groups such as NOW and The New Agenda are outraged that Mrs. Clinton – or at least her image – is being treated disrespectfully by the boys. Conservatives are outraged that there's not enough outrage, as would be the case were the party boys Republicans.

An attorney wrote on the Feminist Law Professors blog that Mr. Favreau should not be excused for "youthful indiscretion" and questioned Mr. Obama's judgment "in continuing to rely professionally on someone so young and irresponsible and offensively sexist.".
But wait--what does Senator Clinton herself have to say about all this?
Only Hillary Clinton has made light of the "incident," hereinafter known as Night of BBB (Boys Being Boys). In an e-mail to The Washington Post's Al Kamen, a Clinton adviser wrote: "Senator Clinton is pleased to learn of Jon's obvious interest in the State Department, and is currently reviewing his application."

Hear, hear. Nipping nonsense in the bud is an essential skill for a secretary of state, and Mrs. Clinton used her shears deftly. If anyone recognizes a little harmless male sport, it would be the bride of President "Is." One thing is harmful; another thing isn't.
I agree with Parker here. If something "offensive" doesn't actually offend the person whom it targets, then everyone else should just acknowledge that, simmer down, and maybe get a hobby that doesn't involve sticking their noses quite so far into other people's business.

But of course, that doesn't really happen:
Nevertheless, Mrs. Clinton's response has fallen short of what some deem appropriate. CNN's Campbell Brown charged Mrs. Clinton with forfeiting her feminist cred, especially after issuing her own charges of sexism throughout the presidential campaign. Now that Mrs. Clinton's a member of the Obama team, she suddenly has a sense of humor?

All of the above would be nonsense except that almost nothing any longer is. Nonsense is the new standard for controversy, and even party shenanigans qualify.

Puritans and prohibitionists would adore our brave new world of shutterbug infamy. The fact is, no one's having fun anymore, especially in the nation's capital, where one can't afford to let the tongue slip or risk being caught in the cross hairs of a cell camera.
At this point, I'm going to say something that would certainly cause outrage among some of these people: We should go back to Scripture on this one, specifically the verse which reads, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." All these people who are raging over a perceived slight to someone they may not even know personally (because of those pesky group-identity politics again) ought to examine their own lives first. An enterprising blogger could have a field day discovering and posting the idiotic things that the "outraged ones" have said and done themselves. (Sadly, time constraints do not allow me to be that blogger, though I'll admit it would be fun.)

Parker makes another good point in her closing paragraph:
In the meantime, feminists might channel their free-ranging anger toward, say, Iran, where yet another woman recently was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery.
An excellent point.

And on the same page, at least locally, Derrick Jackson is all in a huff over the Burger King "Whopper Virgins" commercials:
When European germs wiped out Indians, at least that aspect of conquest was unintentional. Burger King has no such excuse.

The modern colonizers currently have an ad campaign called "Whopper Virgins." Commercials are running during televised sports events, and the company has a nearly eight-minute video on its Web site.

In a bizarre parody of an actual documentary, Burger King sent a crew out to remote Hmong parts of Thailand, Inuit parts of Greenland and a village in Romania – all places where people have never seen a hamburger nor ever heard of one through advertising.

The first part of the video involved plucking some villagers to come to a modern office in native dress to compare Burger King's signature burger with a McDonald's Big Mac. Villagers are shown fumbling with the burger while a patronizing narrator says, "It's been very interesting to see their reaction to the hamburger because they've never seen such a foreign piece of food before, and they didn't even quite know how to pick it up, and they didn't know how to – from what end to eat. ... It was really interesting. We were able to see these people's first bite of a hamburger."

Remarking on the villagers' awkwardness in handling the burger, the narrator added: "It took them awhile to understand the dynamics of it, and so that was fascinating to see because we take it for granted."
OK, so it sounds like Jackson is accusing BK of being culturally insensitive. Good people can agree to disagree on that. But here's where the story really goes off the rails:
urger King defends the ads, saying it worked hard to respect cultural sensitivities. All this, to spread disease to developing peoples. The Westernization of the global diet, led by America's fast-food giants, is helping spread obesity and diabetes as it has never been seen before.

Even if levels of obesity stay what they are now, the number of people around the world with diabetes will explode from the 171 million people of 2000 to 366 million by 2030. The numbers will more than triple in places ranging from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Bangladesh to Guatemala. They will more than double or nearly triple in China, India, Brazil and Mexico. According to World Health Organization researchers, diabetes was already responsible in 2000 for nearly 3 million deaths around the world.

"Given the increasing prevalence of obesity, it is likely that these figures provide an underestimate of future diabetes prevalence," those researchers said. Translated, even more people will die.

The researchers, not surprisingly, say, "Initiatives by the food industry to reduce the fat, sugar and salt content of processed foods ... could accelerate health gains worldwide." But no, Burger King wants to colonize the farthest reaches with fat, sugar and salt.
OK, so Jackson is the Food Police now. But isn't he forgetting about a few important things?
  • It's not just diet that controls obesity, diabetes, etc.; it's also exercise and overall activity of lifestyle. It'd be one thing if Burger King came into this remote village and not only forced them to eat, but also required them to watch, say, 6 hours of TV every day. I'm guessing the villagers' more active lifestyle would preclude many of the things that Jackson is worried about.

  • And beyond that--what's the chance that Burger King is going to build an outlet in a location so remote in the first place? I doubt it makes even the slightest bit of economic sense to do that.
I just don't get all the outrage from these folks. There are a lot of problems in the world today, but I find it quite far-fetched that these two things would top any thinking person's list. Granted, Jackson is a columnist who obviously gets paid to write a certain number of columns a week, but still, if this is the thing to get his dander up, it must be a really slow news day.

I realize that I have a really high threshold of being offended--it takes a lot--and I wish this standard were held by others; it would probably cause the sale of blood pressure medicine to decrease dramatically. If anything, the only thing that I'm outraged by right now is that so many people are feeling so much outrage over such trivial matters.

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