Editorial: Short takes on bad messaging, bad jokes and bat-poop archaeology

Editorial: Short takes on bad messaging, bad jokes and bat-poop archaeology

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No place for ‘no war’ message

People might be well justified in opposing the Trump administration’s dangerous actions against Iran, but nothing justifies defacing the Soldiers Memorial with “no war” graffiti. Exterior walls of the memorial, which reopened in late 2018 after a lengthy renovation, were spray-painted red last weekend, as if to suggest that veterans of past wars somehow bore responsibility for the decisions made by the current president. The “no war” message was accompanied by a childish artistic attempt to spray-paint a communist hammer and sickle.

“Whether people are for the war or against the war or for Trump or against Trump, there’s no need to graffiti a national monument like the Soldiers Memorial,” Thomas Maier, who helped to remove the graffiti, told KMOV.

Whatever the motivation, the graffiti should never be confused with the exercise of free speech. It was vandalism, pure and simple.

None dare call it humor

Comedian Ricky Gervais stated from the outset of last Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards ceremony that he didn’t want to be the host anymore. His tasteless and offensive effort at joke-making virtually assured he’ll get his wish. Don’t take our word for it; just Google the video of actor Tom Hanks’ reaction to some of Gervais’ worst wisecracks, most of which weren’t funny and several of which were downright gross.

In fact, one involving Dame Judi Dench was so over-the-top gross, even Gervais stopped in the middle of delivering it to question whether he should continue. (He did, of course.)

The criticism from actors, directors and reporters who cover Hollywood came fast and furious, prompting Gervais to lash out on Twitter, saying in part, “I always knew that there were morons in the world that took jokes seriously, but I’m surprised that some journalists do.”

Weirdly, conservative gun-crazed commentator Dana Loesch came to his defense: “Oh garbage,” she wrote, contending that Gervais “demonstrated that good comedians go after everyone. No one should be safe, but the prevailing thought these past 10+ years is that one group IS exempt. [Hollywood elitists] can lecture from the stage but he can’t mock their inconsistencies? You prove his point.”

Perhaps. But there were no inconsistencies in the Judi Dench joke. It was just pure, unadulterated bad taste.

Going for broke on misinformation

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., doubled down when he was caught tweeting out a doctored photo depicting former President Barack Obama shaking hands and posing for a photo with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. No such meeting or handshake ever happened between the two leaders. Not only did Gosar try to further the myth perpetrated by the fake photo, he included in the caption, “The world is a better place without these guys in power.”

Wrong again. Rouhani is still very much in power.

Rather than retract it or clarify that he was duped by the photo he found online, Gosar tweeted that “No one said this wasn’t photoshopped. No one said the president of Iran was dead. No one said Obama met with Rouhani in person.”

Sadly, “no one said” is the new criterion for politicians spreading deliberately misleading photos online.

Hallmark moment

Hallmark, the storied greeting-card company based in Kansas City, is laying off 400 workers and making other major changes to the century-old, family-owned business. It’s perhaps a sign of an era in which consumers are opting out of both printed material and sentimentality.

Hallmark began in the early 1900s as a small postcard company based in a Nebraska bookstore. It moved to Kansas City by 1910. The company would subsequently be credited with inventing not just the greeting-card industry but today’s notions of gift-wrapping, Christmas ornaments and a bevy of new holidays. By the 1950s, the “Hallmark Hall of Fame” was bringing to television the kinds of emotional oomph that it had long been printing on its cards. Today, Hallmark has its own cable television channel, whose programming seeks to match the syrupy sentimentality and romance of its cards.

The latest layoffs represent less than 1.5% of the company’s 30,000 national workforce, but still are a significant indicator of change. They are in response to what a company statement called “the rapidly evolving retail and consumer environments.” Kind of hits you right there, doesn’t it?

Stinky piles of science

What good is guano (also known as bat poop)? Missouri researchers are using it to better understand the long-term effects of climate change. As the Post-Dispatch’s Bryce Gray reported this week, researchers from Washington University, the Missouri Botanical Garden and Virginia Tech are working in Missouri caves, collecting and analyzing samples of the guano from accumulated piles several feet deep and thousands of years old.

By taking “cores” from the piles (the same concept as glacier ice-core samples), the scientists can learn all kinds of things about what the bats’ environment here was like millennia ago. They hope to better understand what the carbon and nitrogen levels were in the air, what kinds of pollen the bats were cleaning from their fur, what kinds of plants the insects were eating before the bats ate them.

All of it adds to the record of knowledge about how Earth’s climate has changed with the advent of human activity. As researcher Rachel Reid of Virginia Tech put it: “With a big enough pile, you can go back a long way.”

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