Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Skills and scolds

fingerYEARS BEFORE THE advent of social media, a political cartoonist I knew pretty much summed up this new digital world with his definition of his work: “Everyone is entitled to my opinion.”

We’ve certainly never had more ways in which to tell the world what we think, which prompts a question about whether there should be any boundaries to our “opining,” as cable news veteran Bill O’Reilly would put it.

In recent weeks we’ve had an American footballer supporting Black Lives Matter by kneeling during the pre-game national anthem, and members of the cast of a Broadway hit using their curtain call to deliver a mini-lecture to the Vice President-elect.

While you might admire or at least respect the strength of their convictions, I wonder whether they were not confusing the megaphone given them by their profile and their platform—two overlapping but different things.

The well-known own their profile; they are given their platform.

By exercise of their talents, they have commanded a certain level of public familiarity that is theirs at work and at home. They will keep it if they leave their current employment. And they are free to use it to advocate for issues that concern them—on their own time and on their own dime.

On the other hand, their platform is provided by someone else, whether it is a stage or a playing field or a classroom. Nine-to-five office Joes wouldn’t be allowed to use their work time to espouse personal views, such as adding “Black Lives Matter” or “All Lives Matter” to their business email signature. Why should celebrities get away with it?

And then there’s the question of efficacy. Do they want to be truly heard or just to have been seen to have said something? Chances are people’s ears will remain closed if they feel they have been hijacked or taken advantage of: they paid for your skills, not your scolds.

Photo credit: TRF_Mr_Hyde via Foter.com/CC BY

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