TedY: A public lack of thought

Imagine that your job requires memorizing a great deal of information and having to deliver it accurately without stuttering at the risk of being immediately fired and blindly hated by thousands of Americans. Welcome to Jeremy Kappell’s (former) occupation as a meteorologist.

On Jan. 4, Kappell was live on television when he seemed to stumble in his speech and said  “Martin Luther C–n” before correcting himself with “King Jr.” He was fired within 48 hours without a chance to apologize. This firing and the ensuing overreaction from the public is absolutely sickening and deplorable.

While I do not condone what NBC did, I have to admit that their responsiveness and awareness of how these situations play out in our modern society is impressive. However, it is extremely alarming when there is a predetermined protocol for dealing with anything slightly controversial, suggesting their commonality and increasingly trite nature.

Even after testimonials from many acquaintances, speech pathologists, and even King’s daughter, Kappell has not been given a second chance by the NBC station after his obviously misconstrued utterance. However, although it may seem like NBC is in the wrong, a different truth that is becoming more evident in our society reveals itself. Society does not allow mistakes.

This principle goes contrary to the human condition and what is so well known by even the smallest children: we all make mistakes. But it seems like the threshold for what is malicious intent and what is an innocent mistake is blurring rapidly. Kevin Hart’s homophobic comments were mistakes that came with an apology. Filmmaker James Gunn was ousted even after a public letter defended him, correctly identifying him as falling victim to the lack of “due process in the court of public opinion.”

It seems like people have become accustomed to a pattern of vaguely hearing about a story, not bothering to do any research, and bandwagoning onto the side that seems to resemble their core beliefs. With “racial slur” attached to his name in every headline, it is no wonder that Kappell’s story was misunderstood by thousands.

NBC was clearly aware of this when they fired Kappell, knowing that once the association was made, it was only a matter of time before controversy would ensue. And ensue it did. I have no doubt that the people at NBC knew that his mistake was an honest one. However, harboring someone with any controversy in a sensitive area could potentially lead to misguided backlash against the company.

Although it isn’t too much to ask, people still need to learn to read past headlines and make clear distinctions between mistakes and acts of ill intent. We need to act less like the lynching mobs of Salem and use the resources we have available in order to create a complete picture in our minds before taking action against someone’s livelihood. I urge everyone, although we’re just high school students, to strive to see the full picture and as a collective of individuals, we may just be able to make a measurable difference in our society.