Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Kathy Griffin, Harvard, and a Universal Paradox

Last week, my Facebook feed blew up with posts about the Kathy Griffith presidential beheading photo controversy, with everyone and their brother, from well known conservatives such as Sarah Palin to unknown Joe Schmos whose posts went viral to people I went to high school with, weighing in on the issue and expressing their outrage and disgust.  Since the photo's release last Tuesday, Griffin has been fired from her CNN New Year's program co-hosting gig.  She has also lost an endorsement deal with Squatty Potty (which I had to Google because I had never heard of it before) and apparently several of her stand-up comedy shows have been cancelled.

On Sunday evening, The Harvard Crimson, the daily student newspaper of Harvard, reported that the prestigious school had rescinded admission offers to at least 10 students who posted sexually explicit and offensive memes in a private Facebook group called "Harvard Memes for Horny Bourgeois Teens." (Catchy title, huh?) Some of the memes reportedly included jokes about child abuse, the Holocaust, sexual assault, and ones that targeted minorities. The group apparently was a splinter group of the official Harvard Class of 2021 Facebook page that is maintained by the Admissions Office. On the official page, members were reminded that “Harvard College reserves the right to withdraw an offer of admission under various conditions including if an admitted student engages in behavior that brings into question his or her honesty, maturity, or moral character."

So, what do the comedian and the newly-unaccepted students have in common?

They are now members of an ever-growing group of people who have become textbook examples of the universal paradox:

As citizens of the United States, we are entitled to certain liberties, liberties that are guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.  The First Amendment guarantees us freedom of speech and that is exactly what Kathy Griffin and the students who lost their spots at Harvard were exercising.  

But, that freedom, as well as all freedoms, require a certain amount of responsibility on behalf of the individual. What Griffin and those students failed to remember is that even though the Constitution guarantees them the right to say what they want, it does not guarantee that there won't be consequences after the fact.  The are now dealing with the consequences of their choice. 

I feel for these individuals, for a moment of bad judgement has completely altered the trajectory of their lives.  I have no doubt that Kathy Griffin and the students can rebound from this, but regardless, things will never be the same. Griffin's career will always be scarred by this and those young adults will not realize their dream of attending the most prestigious institution of higher learning in the land.  Is it fair that one bad decision can have such monumental and potentially devastating repercussions?  No.  But, as we all know, life is not fair.

In this day and age, anyone with internet access ultimately has a vast platform to express him/herself. But, before we ascend that platform, it's probably best if we pause and consider the wise words of previous generations - "Think before you speak."  And, just to be on the safe side, we probably should update that old adage to this:

What are your thoughts on either issue?  

As always, thanks for stopping by!  Have a great day!


  1. I think that final quote might need even more emphasis on pausing for thought before posting on Facebook or any online platform. Once something is on the internet it seems impossible to take it back. Unfortunately not everyone is as tech savvy as they need to be and advances in technology are so fast these days that it's hard to ensure people are taught to beware the various pitfalls. I am so glad my kids are grown but now I have a grandchild I do worry about how his parents can keep him safe from these issues.

    I'm not sure about whether the withdrawal of their places to Harvard is a bit harsh. I expect actual students probably get up to things that could warrant the same treatment. It would be interesting to know if they could apply again in a year if they could show they've learned from their mistake.

  2. I think people are far too comfortable posting their thoughts, no matter the topic. They don't think about the consequences because they're desensitized and used to attention. Kathy Griffin in particular was just trying to get attention.

  3. i was appalled that kathy griffin did that and thought she wouldn't get slammed for it. i was more appalled by her reaction to the outcome.

    i'm not a fan of donald trump. i voted for him, and my reasons for doing so are mine, but i'm irked that when it came down to it, my choices were, as far as i'm concerned, both deplorable. a year ago, i would've said he's a buffoon. when he's out of that office, i'll say it again. but for the time being, he's the president of the united states. if we can't respect the man, we should at least strive to respect the office.

    that she would do such a thing... he's a father, with a young son. there's no excuse for her behavior, no sentiment that she could ever offer that could serve as a reason for pardon. none.

    and your attitude is one that i feel far too many lack these days. thank you for writing this.


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