Talking Trash

Editorial

Published March 02, 2011, issue of March 11, 2011.
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There they go again. John Galliano. Charlie Sheen. And now maybe Julian Assange. The list is so obvious it needs no explanation, thanks to the saturated media coverage awarded these foul-mouthed celebrities. If there’s anything salutory about this parade of stories, it’s the rapid, direct way bad behavior is confronted. Sheen lost his lucrative television show for crudely criticizing the man who wrote and produced it. Galliano was dumped by fashion house Christian Dior after a scratchy video emerged with his unguarded, disgusting comments about loving Hitler and gassing ugly people.

That Assange felt compelled to quickly deny his alleged anti-Semitic rants to a British reporter speaks to the unacceptability of it all. Which in an odd way is a sort of good news.

But here’s our question: Who raised these guys? (Here we will concede that saying unkind things about Jews is not a gender-specific activity. See: Helen Thomas.)

And what kind of culture do we live in when supposedly accomplished people who skillfully perform on the world stage — designing, acting, leaking information and, yes, even reporting — hold such nasty thoughts and feel free to express them?

This reaction is not an instance of over-sensitivity or of political correctness gone awry. It’s a matter of good manners and civil discourse. A random 5-year-old shouldn’t say the things Galliano did, even in the privacy of his own backyard.

Trash talk is learned behavior. And the faster we excise it from public discourse, the faster we stop creating media sensations out of its practicioners, the closer we’ll come to a culture that, at the very least, respects the spoken word.


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