No not that f word. The other one. The one Kobe Bryant got fined for using the other day. Well at least I’m guessing it was the f word since they blur out his lips on the footage. They describe it as a “homophobic slur” though, so unless my foul language vocabulary is slipping behind the times I’m probably right. First and foremost I wish to acknowledge that bigotry is a real thing, and an ugly thing. I’ve seen examples of anti-semitism, racism, and homophobia from some surprising people who seem otherwise friendly and it’s very upsetting. So I have no intention of belittling a real problem. Unfortunately that’s exactly what I think the media furor over incidents like this actually does. Is John Galiano anti-Semitic? How about Charlie Sheen? Does Kobe Bryant despise gays? Two thoughts. One: Does it honestly matter what John Galiano thinks? I mean it matters to his personal acquaintances, and it ought to matter to John Galiano, but do we need to know? I think there is a lot less outrage surrounding these incidents than there is just plain nosiness to find out about celebrities’ private lives. Two: Not every incident where someone uses bigoted language automatically proves that person to be bigoted. It shows them to have an ugly, spiteful side or to be tasteless and tactless, yes. Many people turn to the easiest, lowest way to hurt a person when they are mad. Many people have listened to or guiltily laughed at racist, sexist, or otherwise inappropriate joke. This isn’t classy stuff. It’s not good stuff. But it’s not necessarily proof positive of deep seated hatred. Now to rebut both my points at once. Maybe we don’t need to care what celebrities think and maybe they did just get caught on camera doing something many of us have done in private. The fact remains they are public figures and they made their mistakes in public so they will have to do their penance likewise. Fair enough, I get it that the NBA needs to chastise their star because what he did made them look bad and was a bad example. I get that Natalie Portman doesn’t want to work with a man who said he liked Hitler. However, I do think it’s an unfortunate product of our overly digitized age that we have to see so much of everyone’s dirty laundry. Such a large part of our lives are recorded and broadcast in one form or another that more and more of the ugly stuff is coming out and it makes the world a more sordid place. Worst of all, it all flows together in one big stream of information with no real gauge of what is more worthy of our attention than the rest. Because there are some bigots out there we really DO need to know about. And I don’t mean Mel Gibson.