This morning, I saw a meme that made me smile. It basically said “I don’t think about what I’m going to say before I open my mouth because I want to be as surprised as everyone else.” Unfortunately, it seems there are far too many people who actually adhere to this mantra. Then, when their words come back to bite them in the butt, they don’t understand what went wrong.
The first instance of this that caught my eye over the weekend happened when I saw a clip from Tucker Carlson’s show. In it, Lisa Durden, a professor from Essex County College in Newark, went off on white privilege and more with regard to keeping whites off campus for the BLM commemoration of Memorial Day. (I think I got that right. You can check the clip linked above) Carlson called her on it, noting that what she advocated was just as bad as a whites-only gathering.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Durden had every right to express her opinion. But, as I’ve discussed before, we have to be aware of the very real fact that our words have consequences. In this particular case, she might not have mentioned her association with the college but she was on a nationally televised news program. It was reasonable to expect that either her students or fellow faculty members or college supporters would see the interview. The fact the college placed her on leave two days after the segment aired was proof of the negative impact her words had on her situation. Three days after that, she was let go.
In this case, the college has to weigh the good of the institution, as well as its students and faculty, against Durden’s right to voice her opinion. This isn’t anything new. Employers have always taken a dim view of anything an employee might do or say that could bring negative publicity to the employer. That is particularly true in the education sector. Today’s headlines are a perfect example. Not only do we have stories about Durden but there is another professor in trouble as well. On the local level, a kindergarten teacher has been fired for keeping her second job — that of porn actress. So, yeah, if you are working for someone else, you have to always consider if your behavior or your words are such that your employer could be negatively impacted.
The second professor to find herself without a job comes from the University of Delaware. Again, this professor, one Kathy Dettwyler, had every right to say what she did. She just wasn’t very wise to do so and especially not on social media. According to DelawareOnline, Dettwyler posted on her personal Facebook page that Otto Warmbier “deserved” to die for stealing a propaganda poster in North Korea. She went on to talk about white privilege, his parents’ failure to raise him right and more.
Now, I’ll admit, when I first heard about Warmbier’s trouble in North Korea, my first reaction was, “why in hell would anyone, especially an American, want to go there?” My second was that Warmbier was a dumb fuck for trying to take the poster. Then I remembered he was really nothing more than a kid and some of the less than smart — okay, downright stupid — things I did at that age.
But right or wrong, he didn’t deserve to die for what would, in most places on Earth, be a misdemeanor. It doesn’t matter what his skin color or nationality is. His death is a tragedy and something that never should have happened.
The University of Delaware, where Dettwyler was an adjunct professor of anthropology, has issued a statement saying she won’t be returning to the school as an employee. Prior to announcing that her contract would not be renewed, the university issued the following statement:
“The comments of Katherine Dettwyler do not reflect the values or position of the University of Delaware. We condemn any and all messages that endorse hatred and convey insensitivity toward a tragic event such as the one that Otto Warmbier and his family suffered.”
The fact she had made similar comments about Warmbier’s death in the comment section of an article in the National Review probably didn’t help her case any either.
Again, another instance of opening mouth and inserting foot all the way to the pink slip.
I’m all for freedom to say what you want but you have to remember that what you say reflects on more than just yourself. Those words you just spewed onto Twitter or Facebook, in an interview be it print or audio, also splash back on your family and friends, your business and your customers. If your words are inflammatory or contrary to common decency, the impact will be negative.
We’re not talking about whistle-blowers here. We’re talking about two women who got up on their soapboxes and spoke without thinking. Now I wonder how long it will be before they start attacking the institutions that released them. I also wonder what they had been teaching their students and this, my friends, is what bothers me the most. We have an entire generation where all too many feel they are entitled to do or say whatever they want and damn the consequences because the consequences don’t apply to them.
Then reality hits and they find they aren’t prepared for how much suckage that can be. That’s a lesson these two professors have learned the hard way. Hopefully, others will look at what happened and take it as a lesson in common sense. Unfortunately, I fear there will be those who will look at what happened and take it as a rallying cry to attack the universities involved for trying to “silence” the professors’ voices.
If the universities reverse their decisions, they very well may find themselves in the same circumstances as the University of Missouri after faculty member Melissa Clark called for “muscle” to help remove cameramen/journalists from a protest. Missou is suffering a decline in enrollment that has led to budget cuts, closing of dorms and more. Again, a perfect example of actions — in this case, more than just Clark’s but hers were the culmination — having consequences.
So, while the meme mentioned at the beginning of the blog is humorous and while it is all too tempting at times to say exactly what we feel and damn the consequences, stop for a moment and think. Ask yourself if you are ready to face those consequences, be they the lecture you’ll get at home or the loss of your job. If you can’t say yes and mean it, then keep your mouth firmly closed and move on. Or at least pause long enough to phrase your comments in such a way you speak with facts and reason instead of emotion only.