Thursday, September 24, 2015

How clueless can some people be?

Dan Piraro's 'Bizarro' strips occasionally hit too close to home
Admittedly, I have a bias – I spent my time in college studying history (that is, when I wasn’t writing copy for assorted newspapers) and got my B.A. degree studying the foreign policy of the United States.

But it always manages to amaze me when the historical cluelessness of the masses is exposed.

WE LITERALLY ARE in danger of being sentenced to relive our mistakes because we didn’t study our history. Or so said the Italian philosopher George Santayana.

Take WGN-TV, which earlier this week wrote up some copy for a news anchor to read about the start of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

Rather typical coverage that would fill a few seconds of airtime. The presentation was supposed to be enhanced by an on-screen graphic beside the news anchor’s head depicting the Star of David – the universal symbol of the Jewish religious faith.

Except that someone, in picking through assorted stars of David to find one to use on-air, managed to screw up by picking out an illustration of a yellow piece of felt cut into the shape of the Jewish star, with the German word “Jude” on it.

IN SHORT, THE badge that the Nazi-era German government used to require Jewish people to wear so as to make them stand out in the general public – and therefore more open to harassment from what that government considered to be the “real” people.

What WGN-TV intended
Not exactly the symbol that Jewish people want to be reminded of on one of the holiest of holidays in all of Judaism, although the resulting WGN apology was certainly an act of atonement.

Now I don’t think that WGN-TV is employing anyone with neo-Nazi sympathies or who is interested in pushing the idea of an Aryan master race. No one there is pledging allegiance to Adolf Hitler (or not even propagandist Josef Goebbels).

It’s someone who was vacuous enough to think that anything connected to a six-point star somehow is symbolic of Judaism. By that line of logic, many law enforcement officers are Jewish.

What WGN-TV gave us
ADMITTEDLY, THIS IS a symbol of Jewish harassment. But once again, not the concept that was meant to be pushed. All because someone probably took as few history courses as possible while being educated, and probably thought even those were too many.

Of course, this kind of vacuous thought isn’t a one-time incident.

I still recall a moment from a couple of decades ago when the Northwest Herald newspaper in suburban Crystal Lake ran a story about an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., about the use of the atomic bomb to bring an end to the Second World War.

The first of those bombs was dropped on Hiroshima in Japan by an Army Air Corps bomber called the Enola Gay – named as a tribute to the pilot’s mother.

BUT SOME COPY editor had no clue what Enola Gay was, and the resulting headline referred to the “Enola Homosexual.” Probably based on some higher-up’s editorial decision that gay people aren’t gay, they’re homosexual. Or a whole bunch other pejorative slurs too crass to put in the newspaper.

The reality that somebody forgot
Aside from the fact that it was intended to not put a positive spin on gay people, it bothers me that someone was so unaware of what brought that world war to an end. A little more attention to our past would have allowed for better comprehension.

The sad part of all this is that I fully comprehend that such gaffes are going to occur again. Our attitude toward the past – many think something happening in 2001 is ancient – can be downright depressing.

We’re in for a lot of misery as a result, all because too many people think we, ourselves (that is what history is about) are too boring to study in depth.


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