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Steve Rhodes over at Beachwood Reporter obtained the Lee Abrams memo that everyone was freaking out about yesterday. For a sample of the panic, here's Robert Feder:

Although it contained links to some videos that any normal person would consider outrageously inappropriate for the workplace — including one in which women identified as “sluts” were seen simulating lewd acts

The sluts were from an Onion video, which is racier than I was expecting (NSFW due to unexpected nipples). I'm not sure which others were outrageously inappropriate. Maybe the managerial claptrap video that started with "convergence"; I panicked a lot more when I saw that word than when I saw naked breasts.

The Onion video was ostensibly making fun of reality television, though as with some Onion stuff, there's a part of me wondering who they're really making fun of. While searching for the sluts video, I came across another entitled Congo Approves Economic Stimulus Package Of AK-47 For Every Citizen. Which reminded me of their story Sudanese 14-Year-Old Has Midlife Crisis.

There's inestimable value to dark humor in a godforsaken universe, but something about those stories—clever Americans cracking jokes about the horrors of violent, impoverished countries—at least gives me pause. I don't have a good answer for you. If anything I find those stories arguably more offensive than the sluts video, but would it have been "offensive" and "completely inappropriate to be sent out in a workplace setting" (Gerould Kern) to forward those? I don't have a good answer either.

I guess what I'm saying is this: whether Abrams's memo was actually offensive (as opposed to ill-timed) has a lot to do with not just with Abrams's motives (he says it's an example of what not to do—Abrams's memos are historically pretty opaque, and the context is really dependent on the Bootcamp mentioned in the memo), but also boring questions that only overeducated culture nerds like me care about, like the motives of satire in relation to class, race, and gender. Abrams's memo—specifically the one video, the rest struck me as pretty innocuous, unless the word "shit" surprises you—toes finer lines than the boorish antics of his colleagues.

But Feder and Kern don't seem to be interested in that. The hot story is "the naughty, bawdy frat house known as Tribune Tower" (Feder), so Abrams's memo has been shuffled into that narrative whether it belongs there or not.

So if we're going to talk about what's appropriate in a journalistic setting, I have other beef.

Update: One thing I'll say in defense of Abrams: the link about office furniture was neat-o.

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