April 18th, 2012
Entertainment legend Dick Clark passed away yesterday, and literally, this morning, within the same 60 seconds I learned of his passing, I read a derogatory Dick Clark post on Twitter. What is it about social networking that causes people to lose all social grace and respect for other people?
Every time someone well known passes away, the poor taste jokes start flying on Twitter and then Facebook. (Be proud, Facebook, that you lag a bit here.) The cycle gets shorter and shorter, and today’s was the shortest I’ve ever seen.
Earlier this month, “Painter of Light” Thomas Kincade passed away. The personal attacks that plagued Kincade throughout his career persisted after his passing, and reportedly drove him to alcoholism which led to his death.
While I literally despised his paintings, I was able to separate the man from his work. I resisted the temptation (yes, there was a slight one) to make light (no joke meant there either) of his passing and his career. I may do so some day, but now is not the right time.
Thanks to social networking, the time-honored formula tragedy + time = comedy has been updated to eliminate the “time” variable. Gilbert Gottfried learned this well when he tried to make 9-11 jokes in an appearance at a Friar’s Club roast just three weeks after the tragedy. Gottfried was booed with chants of “Too soon! Too soon!” In other words, the club’s members recognized that some day it might be OK to make 9-11 jokes, but three weeks after the event was too soon.
I have given up hope that premature and uncalled for attacks on individuals will let up. (Personally I am opposed to any attacks on individuals, but the idea that these will stop is crazy.) It is an unfortunate and, sadly, institutionalized part of the dialogue found on social networks.