Final thoughts on the Willow Palin brouhaha

In my post from yesterday, I included a link to a Slate article about a recent kerfuffle involving the older Palin girls, some detractors, and Facebook. Sully, unsurprisingly, thinks the girls' comments are fair game, while some of his readers are taking him to task. Even though I think it's pretty clear that our friend Andrew sometimes goes off the deep end in his hatred for all things Palin, I tend to take his side on this.

First, for those of you lacking sufficient interest to click through to Slate, the crux of the story is that Willow Palin (who is 16 and in high school) and her older sister Bristol ("do as I say, not as I did" abstinence proponent, dancing "star") got into a heated online exchange with various critics on Facebook. During the course of this back-and-forth, Willow called someone a "faggot," as well as "gay" in a clearly pejorative sense.

Second, some background on me. When I was 15, I made a series of prank phone calls that ended up getting an entirely innocent friend into trouble. I did this because, in the manner of many 15-year-olds, I was an incredible dumbass. My mother did not chalk it up to youthful indiscretion, but instead marched me through our neighborhood to my friend's house so I could have the privilege of apologizing to him and his parents in person. By doing this, she engaged in an ancient practice known as "parenting."

I gather from the Slate article that Bristol has apologized. (I cannot access the link from my current computer, so you'll have to see for yourself.) Good. Willow should also be expected to apologize, and any failure to do so is, in my opinion, fair game for public commentary.

I believe this for two reasons. First of all, 16 is plenty old to know better than to use a hateful slur. If she had used a racial or ethnic epithet, I cannot imagine anyone defending her based upon her age. "Faggot" is absolutely unacceptable for use by anyone, and the daughter of a political megastar and potential presidential contender is, fair or not, held to an even higher standard. The average kindergartner knows not to call someone nasty names, and a high school student has no excuse.

Finally, if anyone has a publicly accessible Facebook page, that person should expect the public's attention and judgment. If that person is (or is related to) a celebrity, all the more. This is an intrinsic risk to its use. If your teenager wrecks your car, you take away the keys. If your teenager uses a word that denigrates not just the intended target but an entire category of people in a public manner, your teenager should apologize in a similar manner. Using Facebook is not a right, and if you feel your daughter is being unfairly scrutinized for her immature and inflammatory use thereof, then she should not be using Facebook.

Do I think this should go any further than an apology from Willow? No. She did not ask to be her mother's daughter, and her transgression is commensurate with her age. (See above re: teenagers, dumbass nature of.) An apology will suffice. But the young woman displayed her poor judgment for the whole world to see, and now the whole world has seen it.

Them's the brakes.

1 comment:

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