Kenneth Cole, John McCain and what not to say

September 6, 2013

Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to retweet it, I guess.

Kenneth Cole, the shoemaker who last made a splash on the International Public Relations Scene by suggesting that the uproar in Cairo was due to news of its latest sales, has done it again, if by “it” you mean “alienated lots of Twitter users” with a poor sense of timing.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was caught playing video poker on his phone during a Senate hearing. He played it off as a joke — hey, who hasn’t been bored during a meeting to decide whether or not to involve the United States in overseas military action? Just gambling with American lives and assets is not enough!

The essence of politeness is that there is a time and a place for everything. There is a time to mourn, and a time to make ill-timed jokes about the deceased. There is a time to laugh, and there is a time to sit respectfully through the wake. There is a time to reap, and there is a time to put down the scythe because you are alarming the dinner guests.

My point is, there is a season for everything. If you don’t have anything nice to say, maintain a neutral silence throughout dinner and we’ll talk about it later in the car. Politeness doesn’t mean pretending that you never fart, for instance. It means not doing so during John Cage’s 4’33″, as it is not part of the program. Politeness means saving it for the road.


I tried to make a chart explaining this for future reference, but the chart was so basic that it was almost embarrassing.

I know that deciding when a pun is appropriate is always a tricky proposition. This problem has existed longer than Kenneth Cole. Consider the old joke:
“The peasants are revolting,” someone runs in and announces.
“Yes,” the lord says, “aren’t they!”

No bread? Let them eat cake!
No boots on the ground? Let them wear sandals.

Kenneth Cole now claims (via a video on Instagram) that he made the tweet to provoke dialogue. Because no one was talking about Syria until Kenneth Cole made that tweet about it.

I should note that it says “Aspiring humanitarian” on his Twitter profile, which makes you wonder. Aspiring [Blank] is generally synonymous with “I think I am a much better [blank] than I am, and sometimes when I try to be a [blank] in public, like on the subway or in restaurants, people get up and leave.” So maybe this is accurate, actually.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.
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Alexandra Petri | September 5, 2013