Before reading what I have to say, I would appreciate it greatly if you would please turn-off all cameras, voice recorders, cell phones, and anything else that could possibly record and/or photograph me and what I have to say over the next thousand words or so.
It’s nothing personal, mind you. I trust you. No, I really do. You’re a good guy/gal. A friend. It’s just that society today seems completely hell-bent on destroying those who veer a shade left or right of the big white morality line. Stay on course. Don’t have any kind of personality. Don’t relax. Stay on guard at all times. Always question someone’s motives.
All unfortunate rules of the road at this point for public figures in 2013.
Let’s take a moment, and recap for a smidge, OK? You’re here because Ohio State University president E. Gordon Gee has been fired stepped-down from his position as head of the nation’s largest University. He stepped down because… well… just watch the video and we’ll reconvene after the break.
OK, so Gee went and said some stupid things. Nothing new. Gordon Gee is the same guy who made the infamous wise-crack “I’m just hoping the coach doesn’t dismiss me.” while discussing the tattoo-for-memorabilia scandal in 2010ish that eventually brought down the said coach, Jim Tressel. But that’s nothing out of character, GG’s very well known for eating a steady diet of boot-in-mouth after speaking with the press for any length of time. Give Gee a prepared statement? He’s rock solid. A champ. None better. Allow Gordo to venture-off the ranch a little bit though, and he makes national headlines. So it is now with E. Gordon Gee, so it has always been.
Now I’d like to branch-off the main thought a bit, and take a second and talk about humor. Humor is a very difficult thing to define to an exactness that fits into written words. It’s kind of a vague emotion, and I’d venture to say that the actual definition of humor differs from person-to-person.
For example. Is this image funny?
How about this one?
Did you find any of the preceding photos funny? One of them? Two of them? All of them? It’s OK to be honest, I’m not keeping track. I’m not rolling tape.
Just so we’re clear about this, all three of those photos above are cut from the same kind of humor that Gordon Gee was busy disarming the OSU Athletics Council with in December. They all make fun of people in different nationalities, sexes, and religions. Kinda like Gee did when he blasted Catholics, Southerners, and people from Kentucky. Now, my moral compass being where it is in life, I don’t find those pictures particularly offensive, much like I didn’t find Gee’s comments about Catholics and the old stereotype about athletes in the SEC being morons particularly offensive – but that’s just me. Your milage may vary. Oh, and by the way – I’m Catholic. So there’s that. I have perspective. Polish too.
Ever told a pollock joke?
I would also like to point out that in the video above, you can clearly hear the members of OSU’s Athletics Council LAUGHING THEIR HEADS-OFF at Gee’s little stand-up routine. They thought it was hilarious. Sure, they could have been just going along with it out of sheer WTFiness, but it’s now June 2013, and this audio was recorded in December of 2012. Doesn’t seem to me like the members of the Council were burning-up the internet trying to turn Gordon Gee in for offending their delicate sensibilities, does it? I don’t know how the tape got out, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it wasn’t leaked by any of the council members. Would have happened sooner. Maybe a media member? A waiter? Someone in the kitchen? I don’t know. Mark May? Probably (not). It’s been six months though, so that should tell you how offended the people in attendance were at the comedic proceedings.
But I have to be honest here, my issue with what’s happened to Gordon Gee honestly has nothing to do with the content, or more specifically, my lack of offense to the content. It has to do with privacy. With big brother. With society’s addiction with bringing people down and ruining their lives, just for the “lulz”. That’s where this situation offends me greatly.
Now, maybe I’m just some a-hole, but I can recount many-a-night in my youth (and adulthood) where the friends were many, the alcohol was flowing liberally, and the humor was blue. Like, smurf blue. And racial. And ethnic. And sexist. And it was hilarious.
I’m also going to go out on a limb here, and say that most of you reading this have similar memories in your lives. We’ve all said and done stupid things among people we’re comfortable with. And we’ve all laughed about it. We’ve all thought it was funny to laugh at whomever. Don’t lie, yes you have. Even Jesus cussed a few fools out in the Temple. Nobody is that uptight.
Now imagine that someone hanging-out in the back, drinking all the beer without bringing any cause he’s a d-bag like that, recorded these not-so-shining-moments as you let your guard down and relaxed a bit, unbeknownnst to you, and decided then at some point to forward the audio of your racist or ethnic blast humor to everyone in your social circles, including your family, your boss, and your kids. Everyone.
How would that make you look as a person? Does that “person” reflect who you truly are? Or is it a snapshot of a moment in time where you just “went with it”, whatever “it” was? After all, it was just harmless fun. You weren’t on TV. This wasn’t a press conference. This wasn’t in public view. It was just between you and a group of friends whom you trusted and felt relaxed being around.
Except, it wasn’t. And now you’re screwed.
So you lose your job, because your boss polished-off his halo this morning. Your family starts giving you that sideways glance when you come around for a few weeks. All your friends hit the life rafts and bail on you, leaving you to go down with the ship. Wasn’t their fault, you told the pollock-lightbulb joke.
I would call that unfair. Likely, it’s a bad example of a good person. But that doesn’t really matter anymore. You said it, so now you have to suffer the consequences, because when someone hits one knee in today’s society, everyone scrambles to land the killing blow. These moments in time are not snapshots of a person’s true personality. But we pretend that they are, and we treat them as such, because goddammit, someone has to pay for my feigned offense on Twitter. I need to flex my computer muscles.
I’m such a bad-ass. #FireGordonGee, right?
The measure of a man is how he is looked upon by those who know him best. Today, Gordon Gee is being mourned almost universally by the entirety of Buckeye Nation. Not because of what he did, but because of what his forced resignation represents. Privacy – especially for the successful and high-profile among us – is dead. Gone. Finished. It doesn’t exist anymore.
Just assume everything you do from this point on is being recorded. Every moment photographed. Every conversation dictated. Your location tracked, and your spending habits discussed. Welcome to our new society.
And if you are successful, make it double so. Here’s the dirty secret of being successful and wealthy in America, especially if you’re in the public eye:
People will try and bring you down, just despite you. Those people are jealous, they’re vindictive, and their lives took a wrong turn somewhere that yours went right, so now you’ll have to suffer for their misfortune. They’re going to break you. Ruin you. Humble you. They want your wealth, your fame, and your headlines. But they can’t have it, nobody else can, so they’ll take the next best thing (your honor) and try and bring you to their level. Because you’re rich. You scumbag.
And that, friends, is the lesson that I take away from the end-days of E. Gordon Gee. That people will cross barriers of hypocrisy and reasonable judgement to further their own agenda of making the strong pay for the misfortunes of the weak. Gee wasn’t turned-in by a peer, of that I would bet my (extremely tiny) fortune. It doesn’t make sense to do so, Gee was a fundraising savant for Ohio State. His ability to sip cash from the pockets of boosters was legendary. This was partly because of his personality and ability to make a donor feel comfortable. To speak their language. To make someone feel like a friend and let their guard down. This was Gee’s talent. And in the end, it was also his undoing.
Say what you want to about Gordon Gee. Flex in the mirror a few more times internet heroes, you guys knocked-off a good one. The internet showed Mr. University President what-was-what. Look at those Facebook muscles. You are all so tough. Strike a pose.
Celebrate with me then, if you will, the death of privacy and common sense. For this time, she is truly dead.
Jerry Nelson is a freelance photojournalist from America. His latest book of photography, Suenitos tells the story of the only daycare inside the dangerous Hidden City. Now based in Argentina, he continues to turn his lens on social justice issues around the globe. Connect with Jerry on MosaicHub, Facebook or LinkedIn today. Follow this link to read more of his work on Huffington Post and Examiner. Have a story that needs to reach national media? Email him today.
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