'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
IN DIGITAL AGE, EVERYTHING IS RECORDED
A couple of days before Hurricane Gustav slammed into the Gulf Coast, former Chairman of the Democrat National Committee, Don Fowler, had to apologize for joking that God must be on the Democrats’ side because the hurricane was going to hit New Orleans just as the Republican national convention was due to begin. Fowler’s remarks were secretly recorded by a passenger sitting near him on a commercial airliner and posted on YouTube seemingly about 30 seconds after the plane landed.
That same week, the president of Iowa Central Community College, Robert Paxton, was forced to resign when a photo surfaced showing the 52-year-old educator on a boat during a 4th of July party. In the photo, a shirtless President Paxton, surrounded by a group of bikini-clad young ladies, can be seen operating the spigot of a small beer keg suspended over a young woman’s open mouth. (Even though it’s a still photograph, you can almost hear a rhythmic chant in the background, “Chug, chug, chug…”) The photo was taken by one of the approximately 19 trillion digital cameras in circulation around the globe nowadays.
Earlier this year the Rev. Jesse Jackson had to apologize when he was recorded saying that he would like to, um—how to phrase this in a family newspaper?—that he would like to perform a vasectomy on Barack Obama, using a rusty steak knife and without anesthesia. Apparently the Rev. Jackson did not think his comments could be recorded, despite the fact he was sitting in a TV studio about to tape an interview, he had a microphone clipped to his lapel, and he was staring at two cameras.
These news stories are reminders of a simple 21st century fact of life: everything is being recorded. And I mean everything. If you say or do or even think something you ought not, chances are it will be recorded on some digital device and come back to haunt you.
There is another important aspect of our high-tech world. If something you ought not say or do or even think does get recorded, it surely will be sent to all 6.5 billion people on the planet via the Internet quicker than you can say, “I was just kidding!”
If intelligent adults, supposedly media savvy and wise regarding public relations, can be caught by surprise, what about naïve youngsters? Well, here in Connecticut earlier this year, the upscale town of Westport had to deal with an uncomfortable situation. Middle school girls, some as young as 12, took nude photos of themselves with cell phone cameras, and then sent the digital images to their friends. Oops, guess what? It wasn’t just their friends who ended up seeing the photos.
Psychologist David Greenfield commented on the Westport case, saying teenagers share racy images of themselves with friends simply because they can. “Kids have always played pranks,” he said, but “with the digital technology, it’s easy for them to have access and transmit this information.”
Back in the 1970s and ‘80s, a common prank among young people was to photocopy one’s naked butt (or so I’ve been told—and that’s all I’m gonna say about it). Today the juvenile silliness is the same, but the technology allows 50 million people to view the image before you’ve finished re-buckling your belt.
As I type this, it’s only been three days since John McCain announced Alaska governor and former beauty queen Sarah Palin as his running mate, which means friends of Don Fowler have been frantically working around the clock to uncover embarrassing information about her. Maybe by the time you read this, nude photos have already surfaced and created a major scandal. (Let’s just pray no nude photos of Joe Biden are ever discovered. Ewww!)
It’s likely that in two or three decades not a single person will be able to run for public office because of youthful pranks being done today—with digital images sitting patiently on some hard drive somewhere, just waiting to be uncovered and flashed around the world at the most inopportune time.
Thirty years from now the only people eligible to run for office will be the Amish. Vote for Jedidiah! He’ll clean up Washington—with a horse-drawn cart!
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