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Reasons why some things are best left unsaid

In our past editorials, we have touched on the topic of political correctness (PC), concluding that Taiwan as a nation could use a good dose of PC. However, it appears that the United States, the “Land of the Free” and arguably one of the most PC-striving countries in the world to which we look up, has shown some deeply abhorrent behavior, from high-profile radio personalities to university students who should know better.

U.S. conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh is undoubtedly no stranger to public scrutiny. Earlier this year, when U.S. President Barack Obama met with Chinese President Hu Jintao, the man with one of the most highly rated on-air shows mocked the Chinese president’s speech by launching into a 17-second-long imitation of “Chinese” saying “ching chong, ching chong cha.”

As if the backlash that his juvenile antics incurred from Asian Americans failed to teach him anything, Limbaugh proceeded to make fun of the current Japanese crisis in a March 15 segment. While the rest of the world was praising the stoic and orderly responses of the Japanese people in times of chaos, Limbaugh found it fit to point out the irony in the fact that relief shelters for displaced people had assorted recycling.

His quotes warrant publishing: “The Japanese have done so much to save the planet. ... They’ve given us the Prius. Even now, refugees are still recycling their garbage, and yet Gaia levels them, just wipes them out. Wipes out their nuclear plants, all kinds of radiation. What kind of payback is this? They invented the Prius. In fact, where Gaia blew up is right where they make all these electric cars. That’s where the tsunami hit. All those brand new electric cars sitting there on the lot ... what is Gaia trying to tell us here? What is the mother of environmentalism trying to say with this hit?”

Also on March 15, political science major Alexandra Wallace at the University of California in Los Angeles released into the cyber sphere a 3-minute YouTube rant against the un-American manners of Asians students in the university library. While she is not a high-profile personality like Limbaugh, the content of Wallace’s video was offensive enough to go viral and hit news broadcast stations. Aside from the obligatory “ching chong ching chong” imitation, Wallace also brings up the Japanese tsunami and how Asian students discussing it on their cell phones in the library should take it outside.

There are a number of shocking things about this situation, one being the fact that Wallace is apparently in her third year at a university where Asian Americans make up over 40 percent of the student population. If three years at a liberal and highly respected institution with a diverse student body still results in such ignorant remarks, what then will it take to foster both tolerance and critical thinking?

The other incomprehensible act is that Wallace willingly and intentionally posted her comments on YouTube, forever disseminating her one-time frustration to the judgment of countless viewers.

What makes people commit such foolish acts as to publicly air anything from blind insensitivity to outright racism? Haven’t they learned anything from the fiasco of former Christian Dior designer John Galliano, who is facing trial in a French court for making anti-Semitic comments? In Galliano’s defence, however weak: at least he never intended to make public his statements as he was very drunk when other people recorded his racist comments without his knowledge or consent, which later served as court evidence.

Is there another, self-seeking purpose? Many have already accused Limbaugh of intentionally making controversial comments for the sake of ratings. In the same way, is it possible that the UCLA student was perfectly cognizant of her impending infamy, despite her publicly released apology that she would do things differently if given the chance?

While both cases have generated a lot of publicity, is there enough outrage and substantial repercussions (aside from public admonishment) that would show other would-be YouTube posters that this is a bad idea? Whenever a monumental event occurs, there is always someone waiting to ride the tide of media hype. Let’s hope after the public lashings, that these ones fade into dark oblivion.

(The China Post, March 21)
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