Friday, January 16, 2015

"good taste"

Inch by grudging inch, I get the sense that "good taste" is losing its grip.

"Good taste" is what those wishing to escape some "bad taste" pat each other on the back for.

But the truth is that "good taste" stuff has its appeal. Good taste in art. Good taste in literature. Good taste in clothes. Good taste in companions. Good taste in cars. Not everyone wants a tattoo of a heart pierced by a dagger and dripping blood over the assertion: "I love Mom."

Good taste can be beautiful and it is not something someone with "impeccable taste" would want to be without. It's one of those Boy Scout badges that tends to lack attention ... right up until someone or something tries to take away that badge.

Good taste means something, but what it means is hard to come by ... which doesn't mean it doesn't mean anything and could be dismissed out of hand. The popularity of "Downton Abbey"  or the unending documentaries about the queen of England and her consorts underscores the argument.

Depending on the day of the week, good taste may merely mean civility or knowing the differences among various wines.

But the Internet has been relentless and today, a news story announces that a writer for the Boston Globe's Internet arm had been sacked after he mocked the story of an FBI arrest of a bartender who remarked that he might poison Republican congressman John Boehner. Boehner is apparently a man who likes his booze, but it's really not journalistically de rigeur to mention it.

Associate Editor Victor Paul-Alvarez allegedly did so in a "news story" (I can't find the entire original article) and was promptly sacked. Among the assertions of the original article was this:
Had he been poisoned as planned, perhaps his pickled liver could have filtered out the toxins. issued a treacly mea culpa using words like "transparency" to distance itself from the bad taste/unprofessional gaff. It was hard not to imagine that a hoped-for good-taste/high-standards reputation was under threat.
Rather than remove any reference to [the article] or pretend it didn’t happen, we are handling with transparency and self-awareness.
News organizations, like people, would like to be believed, to be credible and to be principled. There are unwritten rules that often boil down to, "I won't mention you're fat if you won't mention I'm ugly."

The Internet has dug deep holes in the civility and aggrandizement of "good taste." It may mean less than it once did, but to suggest that it is lacking brings yowls of protestation.

The problem seems to rest on the fact that those asserting their trustworthiness and good taste are unwilling or unable to do the work that would prove the assertion. Instead, the instantaneousness of the Internet leaves those who would like to be liked gasping like fish on a dock. The best they can muster is the assertion that "I tell the truth because I say so."

How tasteful is that?

1 comment:

  1. I am torn between "nice people don't say such things" and "fuck 'em if they can't take a joke".