Humans are notoriously fickle beings. It’s no surprise, then, that we change our minds often, even contradicting ourselves completely on certain topics. But how much is honesty – and how much is phoniness? Is it common to do a complete 180 on your opinion of a person you don’t personally know, even if you’d held a strongly negative viewpoint of them only
a few months prior?
The media blitz following any celebrity’s death has become commonplace in today’s society. For at least two weeks subsequent, there will be nonstop coverage on nearly every television channel about the celebrity’s career, private life, legacy, and circumstances surrounding his/her death. To longtime fans, it is a time of mourning and remembrance. To newcomers, it is an opportunity to catch-up on ‘what they missed’ and possibly become a fan themselves. To others still, it might be seen as a nuisance – but there’s no doubt that whichever side of the proverbial fence you’re on, the rhetoric will force its way into your consciousness and probably stay there for a good long while, omnipresent on every media outlet and social networking site.
The question here is this: How much of that rhetoric is genuine? I do not doubt the influence that celebrities and public figures have on our lives, and I believe it is not one to be underestimated. They have the ability to inspire thousands of people every day, to get them through hard times without ever physically being there, to provide them with an escape from the mundane and chaotic, and those are wonderful, wonderful gifts. But how many people truly value those gifts, and how many are simply latching onto the wave of popular opinion? And are a person’s flaws and mistakes being ignored entirely?
Consider Michael Jackson, Steve Jobs, Amy Winehouse, and Whitney Houston, to a lesser extent. Google searches of their names only days prior to their deaths would have undoubtedly turned up a mixed bag of positive, negative, and rare factual (i.e.: unbiased) information. After their deaths, however, the media and social landscapes look much different. Rarely – if ever – are mentions of Jobs’ controversial treatment of employees and sweatshops brought up in discussion about the Apple innovator; they are dropped in favor of praise of his technological accomplishments and achievements. In a similar vein, those who once derided Michael Jackson for his numerous surgeries and accusations of child molestation now cite him as an inspiration, the undisputed King of Pop. The trend is slightly subverted with Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse in that a disproportionate amount of attention has been devoted to the mysterious circumstances surrounding their deaths – that’s another bone to pick entirely, so I won’t go into it – but they have received similar posthumous boosts, with record sales spiking into the top of the charts and laudatory eulogies from those who had once berated and insulted the ill-fated musicians for a history of drug use.
I’m not saying that these celebs are bad people. They are human like the rest of us, and the unique pressures of their lifestyles sometimes made them do harmful things, whether to themselves or to others. And like the rest of us, they should be held accountable for their actions and remembered accurately – in life as well as in death.
It allegedly began as a confrontation in class that got out of hand. Then school and district authorities got involved and took action as they saw fit. Rumors circulated the school, parents became concerned, and controversial headlines hit the local newsstands. Community members spoke up without all the facts, Facebook pages were made, and school board meetings became a lot more interesting.
The controversy regarding Howell High School teacher Jay McDowell’s actions in class on October 20 has escalated to become world news, putting the city of Howell on the map yet again. It is unclear whether the whole truth concerning who said what will ever reach the public, but I don’t think it really matters anymore. Most people only know bits and pieces of the issue–and that’s all they care to understand.
Interest groups and the media have picked sides; people are exploiting the teacher, the student, and the district to get their group publicity.
Personally, I am appalled as to how the local press has covered the issue. They publish only what allegedly happened, and even that information is not completely reliable. I have learned more about the issue and the community’s response by attending the bimonthly school board meetings than by picking up the daily newspaper.
As a student journalist, this disappoints me more than I can express. Call me a Walter Cronkite idealist, but I believe people should be able to trust the media to investigate and publish the truth about the entire issue, not just regurgitated, watered down accounts of what supposedly happened. This controversy could have been used as a lesson to everyone, but instead has been manipulated beyond repair.
Unfortunately for those whose reputations have been smeared, nothing can be taken back. Misused words cannot be unsaid, lost control cannot be recovered, and articles cannot be unpublished. But we can dictate our actions in the future. We can do our best to rehabilitate our district’s reputation and use this as a teachable moment for our children to learn tolerance, and our adults to remember to apply it.
If the Howell community actually wants to bury the ugly reputation of its past, then we need to stop giving people reasons to revisit it.
In recent months, the media has taken much interest in extremists exercising the First Amendment. Former Michigan assistant attorney general, Andrew Shirvell, grasped the public eye rapidly. His job was supposed to protect people from being harassed, yet, recently, he has taken upon the duty to inflict this discourse.
Extremists of today, like the assistant attorney general, are beginning to test and abuse the rights of the First Amendment.
Shirvell has recently come into the spotlight for launching a blog full of hate speeches and photos plastered with Nazi symbols against openly gay University of Michigan student council president, Chris Armstrong, 21. Shirvell’s motives are highly disrespectful. The targeted student has been cyberbullied by the assistant attorney general.
The online assault upon Armstrong states that he has a “radical homosexual agenda” to “recruit” students to “the homosexual lifestyle.” Shirvell’s hate-filled blogging is a case of bigotry, despite the fact that Armstrong has clearly found success within the university.
Shirvell, a University of Michigan alumni, has been banned from campus for having stalked Armstrong and following him around to rallies. As a paid state official (he has since taken a leave of absence), Shirvell’s expressions of the First Amendment are unethical and unprofessional. Gov. Jennifer Granholm tweeted on September 30, “If I was still Attorney General and Andrew Shirvell worked for me, he would have already been fired.”
Whether he works for the state or not, Shirvell’s actions are being called out upon by the governor of his state of employment.
Despite the fact that Shirvell has obsessively blogged about Armstrong in his own time, his unprofessional actions will negatively affect the entire attorney general’s office.
In an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN, Shirvell enlightened him on his crude-blogging hobby, stating that this really is just “another tactic to bring awareness to what Chris really stands for.” Maybe his lack of judgment outside the office really is to bring light on the “radical ideas” of Armstrong’s proposal for coed housing at the school, based on his homophobic preferences.
Regardless of the purpose of the blog, Shirvell stands by the fact that his is just a Christian citizen exercising his right to the First Amendment.
The First Amendment implies that the right of free speech can be limited for reasons of defamation of obscenity. The hateful words and statements kept in Shirvell’s blog overstep the fair and rightful boundaries of the First Amendment.
Calling Armstrong “Satan’s representative on the student assembly”, is an obscene act and morally unjust. Online blogs open up a whole new venue for libel, and Shirvell has exploited it offensively to another human being.
These extremist actions of bigotry have gone too far. Shirvell has ostracized and defamed Armstrong. His distasteful and immature blog has lost touch with what it was originally intended for. The First Amendment is exercised daily, but, unfortunately, it is strained in this digital age as extremists toy with its Constitutional boundaries and intent.
In modern day America, it seems as if everyone has succumbed to the social networking powerhouse of Facebook. Studies show that 13.4% of high school students have a Facebook page, and the percentage goes up as teens get older. Is this good or bad? The truth is there really is no right or wrong answer.
As social networking and the Internet gets more and more popular, teachers are using it to their advantage. Every class I have this year, teachers are urging the students to e-mail their assignments, to go on certain websites to study or to take quizzes.
In more advanced courses like Advanced Placement classes, social networking is a must to survive. AP Government has a group on Facebook where you can post questions, stories, or upcoming events to help out yourself and your fellow peers.
AP Government is not alone. Classes like AP U.S. History and We the People also offer groups. Even if a class doesn’t offer a group, students have the option to create one and use it just the same, and if worse comes to worst, a student can always chat with someone to get the homework for a given night.
While students have all of these utilities at their side, does it serve as a distraction? I can honestly say that if I am doing homework on my computer, I am logged onto Facebook. Even though there are so many things to help me out on the Internet, my focus lacks much of the time when I am actually trying to complete assignments.
One thing leads to the next: first, I’m on Facebook, then I see that I-Tunes is open, and the next thing I know is that I am talking on the phone with someone, completely forgetting what I was doing in the first place.
I have friends that don’t have any connections to social networking, and they’re proud of it. Without social networking, students can subtract all of the drama, and instead focus on the task at hand. The result is then thriving grades.
The modern world is taking over, and the Internet holds an infinite amount of information that can help us pass our tests and write the best report in the class. But is it really a necessity? Students need to find a balance between living on Facebook, and assuming responsibility for the work that needs to be done.
Jon Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity” on October 30 in Washington D.C. can be taken at face value. The “Daily Show” host’s mission has drawn a reception that most could have seen coming: a sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek response to conservative talk show host Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally held in August.
While the reaction to Stewart’s attempt has mostly been of that, there is an underlying meaning to it, and it can be found right in the rally’s name.
The “Rally to Restore Sanity” is a chance to actually give those in the middle of the political spectrum a voice. An actual call to reason.
Beck’s rally at the Lincoln Memorial represented the skewered influence the media has on Americans’ political views. His round-up of ultra-conservatives is no different than the constant shouting that can be heard on cable TV programs (like Fox News, Beck’s employer).
We now live in an age where those who can talk the loudest — whether siding with the far-left or far-right — have or do get a free-pass in the media. The personalities who have that free-pass have such an influence that it draws those on the fringe in and gives them a large forum to speak to.
Some acknowledge that belief, but argue that it’s just debate between conservatives and liberals. It is more than that, though, and those clashes have only escalated the ignorant and nonobjective voices.
That’s why Stewart’s ploy is perfect. It can be taken two ways: a joking response to one of those voices and a microphone for the rational thinkers in the middle.
The dialogue landscape in America has disproportioned itself so much so that all we hear are the political extremists. The extremists do not have to listen to facts and reason because the form of media has changed in a way that doesn’t require facts and reason to have an audience.
While Stewart can sometimes technically fall into that category — he is a political talk show host, after all — the fact that he’s leading the way and providing a soundboard for the rational voices proves that he fits in the demographic the rally is aiming for.
The “Rally to Restore Sanity” provides a breath of fresh air for those that have been waiting for one. It can demonstrate that logic and rationality can be used without excessive shouting and ignorance. The comedians “call to reasonableness” can hopefully lead the way in causing the monopoly the extremists have on the media to break.