You can have my tattoo when you pry it from my COLD, DEAD HANDS!

The saying “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention” needs to be reworked, based on current events. People seem to be getting more and more outraged lately, but it’s a curious set of topics that have them outraged.

The post Thursday from A regardingthe pissed off weatherman and his indignation that his job has been outsourced to Punxsutawney once a year is just one example of how Gary Busey we are starting to become.We’re worried if Mitt Romney is a “weird” Mormon or if he’s really Mexican.We are fervently debating whether Michael Fassbender was denied an Oscar nomination because he’s donging off on screen.

And now this:People are raging against a student newspaper kid who wrote that she hates tattoos.

Lisa Khoury, a first-year student at the University of Buffalo, had her column “Why put a bumper sticker on a Ferrari?” go viral this week, and not in a good way. (Question: has anything ever “gone viral” as a positive? Seems like the closest we get is a video of a cat flushing a toilet or Mitt Romney saying something stupid.)

She makes the argument that overall women have great bodies and inking them up is just a pointless exercise that diminishes their sexual allure. (Khoury’s approach seems to say that if you’re obese and look like your face caught fire and someone put it out with a track shoe, hey, ink away! Kind of disturbing…)The piece was a counterpoint to an article by another student, who explained her attraction to tattoos.

Khoury learned quickly that the Internet is an unforgiving place to espouse an opinion. Even personal thoughts that are well crafted, soundly reasoned and intensely backed by research are eviscerated on a daily basis. When you show up with a knife at a gun fight, things tend to be a lot worse.

In Khoury’s case, she showed up with a spoon.

I’ve always had problems with student papers and opinion columns. As educators, we tend to not teach opinion writing very well and in most cases, people who write columns don’t care to learn what we do teach. My opinion editor almost had an aneurism one year when she was interviewing potential columnists because of this. She asked each kid what he or she wanted to write. The answers varied, but the rationale was the same: I don’t care what you want to read. I want to write what I want to write about, even if I don’t fully understand it. When the editor asked each kid what was the most important aspect of a column, the answers ranged from a good use of vocabulary to a willingness to use exclamation points. Finally, she lost it on one kid and said, “No, you idiot! It’s research! You need some facts in there!”

This column isn’t one of the worst I’ve read, but it definitely fits the writing pattern I’ve seen: Take a stand because you like/don’t like something, offer little in the way of insight and then come across as somehow morally superior because you have a column through which you can pontificate.

In the pre-Web days, you might get a letter to the editor or two based on your ignorance. As a student who wrote really shitty columns, I know I got a few of those. Today, however, this is what you get: a backlash that could knock the asshole off Newt Gingrich.

The thing that stuck with me was the editor’s response to the chaos. He defends his decision to let it run (good call), he protects his staffer without becoming a douche (good call) and then he makes a point about where all this outrage is going (best call):

What has baffled me more than anything is how much people care about this issue. Last month, we reported that this university gave money illegally to (then) County Executive Chris Collins’ political campaign and that UB President Satish K. Tripathi broke SUNY regulations. We got almost no response.

I respect people’s attachment to their tattoos and the personal and emotional value they hold for many. But as a student hoping to make my career as a journalist, I would also like to believe that the public cares about issues that extend beyond themselves.

As an adviser, I can relate. One year, a paper I advised uncovered the way the university had set up its mandatory meal plan system to force students to fail. The way the money worked and the prices were set, almost every kid had some money that went unused. This money was then filtered into an 8-figure stash that the university used to do various things it felt were necessary. All of this was under the radar until one kid broke the story.

The response? Deafening silence.

I’m always amazed at what we give a shit about.A few months back, I wrote about how Buffalo Bills fans were raging against a local columnist who told them to chill out about the 2-0 start to the Bills’ season. The fans told columnist to get back in the kitchen, wax off her moustache and stop being a cunt. The Bills finished 6-10, losing eight of their last nine games.

Guess the view is pretty good from the kitchen…

Look, if you like your tats, fine, but a raging defense of them against an ill-informed freshman at a college newspaper is probably not the best use of your oxygen. The people I know who are really into them, including one of The Midget’s classmate’s parents, don’t give a shit what other people think about their ink. If you’ll pardon the pun, they’re comfortable in their own skin.

However, the world is bigger than the Hello Kitty my 6-year-old already told me she wants to have stenciled on her arm some day.

If our current state of vitriolic indignation is any indication, there’s enough outrage to go around.

6 thoughts on “You can have my tattoo when you pry it from my COLD, DEAD HANDS!

  1. I’ve always thought that part of the problem was that everyone can have an easy, strong opinion about the most trivial of things. (This explains the large number of sports arguments and opinions.) But when one talks about serious stuff — like, with facts! — it cuts out a lot of commenters who have none and leaves just the “Hey, well done!” responses. While it’s nice to hear those, they don’t add much to a discussion. Replies which deny facts still happen, but they are usually obvious and can be rebutted (even when tedious) or ignored.
    So, good post, Doc!

  2. I do think it is easier to write and comment on something trivial, and that’s just magnified in the internet age.
    As someone who likes to think his opinion columns back in the day were a little bit more substantial (not much, sadly), I sometimes wish I had been writing a bit further into the internet age rather than 95-96. I am curious what kind of response I may have gotten.

  3. Could you be being a little hard on the student response? I get what you mean about the lack of facts and the often trivial nature of the op-eds. But the so-called professional journalism seems already well established in similar (a trend going back decades as yellow journalism used op-eds to tell the people what to think).
    Keeping it current and for here (and my understanding and random looks at news web pages for other places leads me to believe that this is a national trend) the local TV news / Web page runs some of the most inane stories which tend to get the longest string of comments. I’d also add that the comments tend to convince me against the dignity of people as most tend to be either hate filled or totally idiotic.
    If I were a little more paranoid, I’d note that the web page has ads – and of course the more page views, the more revenue for the TV station as ads pay per page view. It obviously shows more viewers / readers which could be beneficial to the marketing department. So it is to their advantage to run stories that get the rabble roused so more folks make comments, hopefully get into a back and forth argument, etc. I also note that they spend part of the 30 minute news program listing which stories got the most page hits. They actively advertise making comments as being part of the story. They choose a story each day that they encourage you to comment so that your comment may possibly be read on the air in tomorrow’s morning program.
    And as you point out, important stories don’t get comments. You really want an inane story so that everyone has a heartfelt opinion that they need to evangelically proclaim to the world.

  4. As someone who spends a lot of oxygen (and electrons) debating some of the heavier stuff, opinion columns like the Ferrari-bumper-sticker one represent a nice, easy, brainless relaxation. I can bust out some Big Lebowski (“that’s just like, your opinion, man”), crack a beer, and enjoy my ink, rather than having to google that site for the 20th time to explain to some mouth-breather that NO, abortion and breast cancer are NOT LINKED, and scientists AGREE on this now, as well as trying to explain that citing a study from 1998 is not a scientifically sound method of argument…
    Tats don’t require scientific evidence to be awesome. Though I confess I would like my tramp stamp at leastmodified to be less… tramp stamp-y sometime. (I was 18, fresh out of Catholic school, I didn’t know what it meant to get a tat there, I’M SORRY)

  5. Not to mention she is quite right. Most people get these butt ugly tattoos that just deface them and make them look like idiots rather than rebels. Why some people think that holding this opinion demands a lynching is certainly curious though.

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