In pushing his political agenda, which one of these guys showed poor taste and poor timing?
One of the most underrated storylines of NBC’s “The Office” was the hostile dynamic between Michael Scott and Toby Flenderson, a kind-natured but tepid human-resource employee, just trying to do his job. Scott, a delusional middle manager whose mere presence was a demoralizing influence on those around him (at least in the early episodes), always assumed his verbal- and occasionally physical– abuse was exposing poor Toby to the world (or in this case, the viewers) as a reprehensible and intrusive buzzkill, while in actuality showing everyone what kind of guy Michael Scott himself was- and it wasn’t pretty.
This week in real life, we’ve seen a similar level of accidental self-reflection. It started after Jimmy Kimmel revealed the personal and painful trauma of living through his newborn son’s heart surgery. Kimmel is not normally one to bare his soul to the public, so it’s pretty clear that he felt and meant every word that he was saying. Not even the most cynical viewer could take issue with his tears. His words, however, were another story. Without getting into a detailed discussion of the speech itself (watch here to decide for yourself) there’s no denying that Kimmel has a very specific point of view on this subject- and, just like any specific point of view, it’s not going to be shared unanimously. After all, there are roughly seven billion of us nowadays, which leads to roughly seven billion different points of view. Not everyone is going to see things the way that Jimmy Kimmel does.
Enter Charles Hurt, a conservative Washington Times columnist who definitely has a different point of view from Jimmy Kimmel- and what a point of view it is. Like many of us, Mr. Hurt generally comes across in the flesh as a pleasant individual, but online often seems like a madman, writing up an angry screed on a bathroom wall (albeit with a better vocabulary). He took it to a whole new level against Kimmel, calling him- quote- an “elitist creep”, as well as a “dirty, self-absorbed, narcissistic exhibitionist”…and for what, exactly? Hoping that no parent would have to go through what he did, particularly poor ones that couldn’t afford the kind of care that a rich late-night talk show host could? While Jimmy Kimmel’s endorsement of expanded healthcare has merits that are certainly debatable, his motivation for it, much like his tears, should not have been. After all, this is a man with a newborn baby whose LIFE was in jeopardy. To paraphrase Tina Fey when discussing Dubya going after the guy that tried to kill his dad, people become superheroes over less!
A far better (if less newsworthy) approach than name-calling would have been to criticize the idea that any single anecdote should be the final word on a serious and complex issue. This is a common tactic to use in the Internet age- find a high-profile story that fits your worldview, share it on Facebook, and imply that you’ve just settled the debate, once and for all. Jimmy Kimmel has every right and every reason to share his beliefs on this subject, and the public has every right to take it under consideration. But that doesn’t mean that his experience should be the guidebook to shape public policy, any more than Kate Steinle’s tragic death should be the final say for dealing with illegal immigration.
Unfortunately, Charles Hurt didn’t take this tactic, instead deciding to malign a well-meaning individual- and by extension, the group which he belongs to. This brings us back to Michael Scott and Toby Flenderson. Assuming he’s being honest and not just trolling for publicity, Mr. Hurt seems to believe that he’s giving an example of why “America hates Hollywood” (his words), when in reality, he just gave Exhibit A for why so many Americans- and not just the ones in Hollywood, which is, in fact, a part of America- believe conservatives are heartless. Also, the like:dislike ratio is actually about 30:1 on Kimmel’s video- who knew that Hollywood was so much bigger than the rest of America?! If Charles Hurt’s intention was to expose liberals as the out-of-touch elitists, his tactic clearly backfired. By personally and viciously insulting a new father who’s just gone through a traumatic ordeal, Charles Hurt lives up to the worst caricatures of conservatives as greedy rich people, who don’t care about others- and make no mistake, a LOT of people believe that one, not just those that live in Hollywood. It might feel good to just take personal shots at people with a different point of view, but it’s a bad strategy long term- just ask Hillary Clinton.
Since Donald Trump’s victory, many people on the right have been laughing disdainfully at liberals living in their bubble. For the ones nodding approvingly at Charles Hurt’s needlessly angry column, it might be about time for them to step out of theirs.