August 29, 2011
Bit of news on the ol' social media front this week, as ESPN analyst and golfer of some repute Paul Azinger offered up what seemed like an innocent enough little bit of political humor on Twitter:
ESPN, however, wasn't pleased, and reminded Azinger of ESPN's social media policy, which requires ESPN personalities to steer clear of political or other controversial topics. "Paul's tweet was not consistent with our social media policy," ESPN communications director Andy Hall told Yahoo! Sports, "and he has been reminded that political commentary is best left to those in that field."
Fine, you can understand why ESPN wouldn't want Azinger, or any of its personalities, taking tweet-shots at any president, Democrat or Republican. But naturally, since this is politics, somebody had to overreact and get absurdly offended, and in this case, various websites (noted by Local Knowledge) pointed out, in classic tattletale "but he hit me first!" style, that fellow ESPN personality Kenny Mayne served up this anti-Palin tweet:
Horrors! An anti-Palin joke AND an anti-Obama joke! What's this world coming to? Is there no decency at all?
Please. Do you know what effect both of these jokes had on anyone with a mind of their own and the ability to laugh at something outside their ideological spectrum? Absolutely nothing. Nothing at all. (For the record, Hall told Local Knowledge that Mayne was also spoken to about ESPN's policy.)
The problem here isn't so much ESPN's Twitter guidelines mandating err-on-the-side-of-vanilla communication, as Clay Travis delineates right here at Outkick the Coverage. No, the real problem, and one that can't be solved easily if at all, is the ricepaper-thin skin of so many in American life. Both sides of the political aisle whine, point fingers, play victim and character-assassinate in equal measure. Ideologically based media fans the flames on both sides to the extent that any criticism, no matter how slight or humorous, is blown up into the linguistic equivalent of a mugger assaulting your sainted mother. Naturally, ESPN wants to keep these screaming babies as far away as possible and focused on why The New York Times/FOX News is too liberal/too conservative and destroying this country/destroying this country.
It's happened to all of us in the media. People see bias where they want to see it, and if they're of a victim mindset, they'll see it everywhere. If I use a joke like "While sizing up the approach to 18, Mickelson looked more lost than Obama facing a Republican Congress," I'm accused of being a neanderthal conservative. If I use one like "Sarah Palin can't understand why there are 18 holes in golf, but you only get to take 14 clubs," I'll get lit up as being one of the damned biased liberal media. (Both are true, and neither one is.)
Bottom line: It's words, people. Words. Stop getting so offended by harmless little jokes. As long as Azinger isn't calling for mass insurrection and rioting in the streets -- and if he did, it'd be against Tim Finchem, not Obama -- let him throw out a one-liner now and then. Why are we all so afraid of a little humor?
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