16 April 2009

Freedom of Speech

It occurred to me a couple of minutes ago that I could have been using my blog to pretend to write editorials. Opinion pages are usually really interesting, anyway, and it would have allowed me to, well, editorialize. Isn't that the fun part about being a part of a newspaper? You get to say whatever you want, whenever you end up printing something that you didn't really agree with; or when you want to add something to an on-going argument.

Since I have a couple of minutes before I get my next project, I thought I'd do my own little commentary on a guest column from Friday's Tribune (page AA4), written by Charles Martinez. He doesn't specifically mention any arguments or postings, but he does speak generally about how disappointing it is that we the people have turned instant communication gratification into some sort of monster.

I guess I at least mostly agree with the points he makes. People seem to take advantage of whatever opportunity they can to prove that they are, in fact, complete idiots. If you read almost any block of comments--and I really do mean "any"--you'll see for yourself. Take, for instance, the youtube.com video of Susan Boyle singing "I dreamed a dream" from Les Misérables. There are many videos, and each video, of course, has gotten different comments. The video hyperlinked above has what I would consider to be uplifting comments.

Another video, which I have either lost, or whose comments have been erased since my fellow copyeditors showed it to me, was literally covered with f***, c***, s***...pretty much the entire ABCs of foul, offensive language. I really hope that the reason I can't find this particular version is that someone complained and had it removed. Why does something so amazing need to be destroyed like that? Words are so powerful, from broken promises to blessings, and throwing them like mud on Starry Night is not only mindless, it's revolting.

Mr. Martinez was also referring to the fact that when it comes to web comments on newspaper articles, it seems that only those who have charged themselves with being proven to be brilliant (yet who are not) actually write anything. I always believed that deep down, everyone just wanted to show up everyone else (hurrah for capitalism! or is it just human nature?), but in all of my time editing people's essays and whatnot, I have never been so amazed with the sorts of things that people say about one another, whether anonymously or not, as I have while working for a newspaper.

"You're an idiot."
"Those silly Republicans."
"Those silly Democrats." (as if saying those two things is insulting)
"You're going to hell."

These are only summarizations of some of the things I've read. I've inserted commas to fix run-on sentences, articles to fix thoughts, and I've changed spellings so that whatever the commentator was saying wouldn't make them look like a complete doofus. Why do I even do that, I ask myself, if they're just going to do it again? Sometimes I wish I could rewrite what they've told us to print on the opinion page, but that's completely out of the question. You only fix commas, not thoughts. You can't change people. And besides, that would be censoring and hiding the truth from the people.

And, well, I'd rather the community know what kind of people were living in it. It's nice to have checks and balances on politicians; I wish we could put harnesses on normal people. Or maybe make it required for them all to have nasal septum rings. We could tie all the stupid ones together and yank on their common rope when they felt compelled to be even more rude.

Maybe that's a little overboard. OK, not a little overboard. Very overboard. Like, in the water surrounded by killer whales overboard. At least when they eat me, I will be contributing to the 100,000 (about) killer whales from around the world. My life will help them live.

Also, I got in to Western Michigan University's summer translation program! OK, so maybe it's not a huge feat, but it makes me happy! This means I'll be spending the month of July in Michigan (please, no one tell me about the humidity), learning about the business of translation and hopefully also keeping up on my French.

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