Tuesday, November 16, 2010

When Snark Backfires

Back in July of this year, Sarah Palin mistakenly combined two words in a message on Twitter, and the world ended.  The sky fell.  The Rapture began.  At least, you would have thought so, upon seeing the amount of attention that a simple gaffe received.  Twitter users, bloggers, pundits, all had a field day because she was off by one letter in a tweet.  In response to all the unwarranted hullabaloo, Palin had a little fun with it, stating that, "English is a living language," and comparing her error to coining a new word, in the vein of Shakespeare.

Outrage swept across the internet.  Sarah Palin compared herself to Shakespeare!  People stood in line to bash Palin like the panic scene in Airplane!  Critics and comedians quoted her mistake and subsequent tweets repeatedly, because catching someone in a simple typo is such comedy gold.  Well, guess what?  Thanks to everyone using that word as often as possible over the last few months, they've proven her right.

Yesterday, the New Oxford American Dictionary announced its word of the year, and, thanks to all the vicious publicity it received, Sarah Palin's goof is it.  Because it was so widely used in criticizing her, the word had to be added to the dictionary, thereby proving that English is indeed a "living language."

There's a lesson to be learned here, and it's one most people should already know:  pick your battles.  Those who sought to bring Sarah Palin down a notch by highlighting her mistake, instead made her point for her, giving her even more credibility.  Focusing attention on such petty foibles served no good purpose, and in the end took valuable time and attention away from the real issues that needed more intelligent discussion during this past election cycle.  We're better than this, or at least we need to become better than this if we intend to solve some of the complex problems our country currently faces.  The qualifications and policies of Sarah Palin--or any other politician--should be vetted by us all, but save the vitriol for when it matters, when there's more on the line than spelling.