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Can’t You Keep Your Mouth Shut – No Wait, Please Don’t

Posted Mar 09 2011 1:47pm

Sometimes I don’t know whether to be amused, amazed or appalled by how stupid really smart people can be.

The latest example of a really intelligent person who seems to only open their mouth to change feet is Ron Schiller, the senior vice president for fundraising at National Public Radio (NPR). Or as the NPR website now calls him, the “soon-to-be-departing” senior vice president.


Full disclosure here – Shirley and I are avid NPR listeners, addicts really, and members of local NPR stations KQED and KALW

Schiller got into trouble after being secretly recorded telling a couple of lads posing as members of a non-existent group called the Muslim Education Action Center Trust that:

“Tea Party people aren’t just Islamophobic, but really xenophobic. I mean basically they are, they believe in sort of white, middle-America gun-toting, I mean, it’s scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people.”

Now the fact that the people posing as belonging to this group were actually members of a group called Project Veritas (http://www.theprojectveritas.org/node/36) ,who specialize in gotcha tapes that catch liberals saying things they really wish they hadn’t, is neither here no there.

The truth is Schiller made these and other remarks that were, how shall I put this, rather less than flattering to members of the Tea Party, essentially calling them fascist, racist, idiots. Hardly the kind of measured remarks you would expect from someone so closely associated with National Public Radio.

Which could explain why the folks on talk radio and Fox News are so filled with glee at this. It helps take their minds of the equally indiscreet and inept remarks made by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker a few weeks ago when he thought he was having a phone conversation with a billionaire backer of his, David Koch

The call was actually a radio station prankster who recorded Walker making remarks that Wisconsin Democrats are now alleging were not only dumb but also illegal, and were an attempt to incite disorderly conduct and violated state labor laws.

Now Gov. Walker, as you may know, is not only trying to get public unions in Wisconsin to pay more towards their health and retirement benefits – which they have agreed to do – but he is also trying to strip them of pretty much all their collective bargaining rights.

In the prank phone call Walker says he considered seeding the crowd protesting his moves with “troublemakers” to help discredit those against him.

Walker even later joked that he would use a baseball bat in his office to go against opponents

When I read these transcripts, and there are many many others like them on both sides of the political aisle, and in showbiz (hello Charlie Sheen) and in fashion (sieg heil John Galliano) I thought ‘come on chaps, you are smart, you know you shouldn’t say these things.”

And then I thought. What kind of world would it be if none of us ever said what we really feel. No matter how dumb.

Now, as a media relations person my job is to help coach people not to say stupid things.

But as a spokesperson for a major metropolitan hospital (OK, California Pacific Medical Center) I have made more than my own fair share of gaffes. So I know how easy it is to let the tongue say what the brain is screaming out – in the immortal words of Amy Winehouse – “no no no”.

It’s never fun to think “oh crap, I really shouldn’t have said that.” But where would we be if people spent their entire time holding back, not saying what they think, not saying what they mean, all because they were afraid that someone was recording them or videotaping them.

What a boring, ridiculous world that would be.

It would be a world where every interview, every conversation would be like those with athletes at the end of a game where they simply spout inane stuff – “I just didn’t have my game today”, “it was a game of two halves”, “the lads played well but we just didn’t get it done” – without really saying anything.

Is that a world you want to live in?

So, I say go out there and say what you mean. Say what you think. Say what you believe.

So what if you end up once in a while saying something you wish you hadn’t.

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