Morgan Spurlock, the documentary filmmaker of the critically-acclaimed and somewhat factually inaccurate Supersize Me, gave a speech to 700 high school kids, including some special-ed kids, in which he swore five times, insulted the teachers, and used the term "retarded" in a derogatory manner. Spurlock justified his speech thusly: "The greatest lesson those kids learned today was the importance of free speech." [Links via Joanne Jacobs.]
Naturally, a lot of folks were spitting mad. So Spurlock issued this "apology." I use sneer quotes because it is plainly not an apology at all, but instead one of those pseudo-apologies in which the offender is "sorry that you, the offendee, were offended," then goes on to explain why his actions were correct and the offendee is wrong to take umbrage.
To the Students, Teachers, Parents, Administrators of Hatboro Horsham High School, the Hatboro Horsham Education Foundation, and anyone else who has now heard of the events of last Friday in Pennsylvania,
Throughout the year, I travel to various colleges and high schools to talk about my experiences in making Super SIze Me, the impact it has had on me and the community, and what kids can do to make a difference in their own lives. That was my goal when I went to speak to the students of Hatboro Horsham High School.
That's a laudable goal, to be sure. Just skip ahead to the part where you explain how cursing, making jokes about teachers smoking pot and japing at kids who unfortunately have to wear helmets serves that goal.
As I told both the principal and superintendent of schools after my lecture, it is never my intent to insult or demean anyone – and I understand how some of my remarks may have offended some in attendance and if you feel they did, then I am deeply sorry.
Yes, I can feel the sincerity, can't you? See, he's not saying "I'm sorry that I made a mistake." He's saying "I'm sorry that you think I made a mistake." Big difference, I think.
When I speak at schools, I try to express my views on difficult topics with humor and a joking mannerism.
That's fine and good. Humor is an age-old method of connecting with your audience. Still waiting for the part where you explain why you felt that you had to degrade others to do it.
I try to connect with students by conveying my thoughts in an accessible form, using the same speech and tone that they or I would use in any other lively conversation.
Apparently, Spurlock thinks that it's impossible to connect with teenagers these days without dropping the F-bomb. Nonsense. Hey Spurlock, try being the adult, and connecting with them through reasoned, well-articulated statements. And, by the way, not all teenagers curse or want to hear cursing. That's awful presumptuous, no?
One student even said to me, “you didn’t say anything that we aren’t going to hear later on TV,” and that was my sole intent.
Oh, well fine then. Television should be the sole arbiter of what teenagers say and hear. Also, as long as some seventeen year-old says that what you did was okay, then we shouldn't be questioning you over it.
I do, however, believe it is very important for me to address many of the points made in the media.
First and most importantly, it should be made clear that the only person I called “retarded” was myself when I was unable to hear a question from the audience. Having done work with special needs children in the past, something this hurtful would never come from my lips.
But the insult did come from your lips, you idiot. Whether you directed it at yourself or someone else, you still used it as a derogatory term. And don't give me that tripe about "[h]aving done work with special needs children." That sounds like the "I have a lot of black friends" justification uttered by bigots after using "n-----."
I have also been portrayed as someone who spewed profanity for a full hour. To set the record straight, I said only five “dirty” words during the entire speech.
The Superintendent said to me backstage that the only words he had problems with were the “F-Bombs,” (of which there were only two) so perhaps I should have toned down even those two uses, but as another student told me, it’s nothing they hadn’t heard before.
So you only swore five times, and said "fuck" twice. We're obviously all upset over nothing. I'm sure most parents and school administrators gladly adhere to the well-known "fewer than half a dozen curses, including no more than two 'F-bombs,' is totally cool" maxim. The fact that you needed to curse at all shows both a paucity of language and an insecurity in your message. If you don't have any actual content that the kids can connect with, get a new speech; don't pepper it with profanity to get their attention.
It has also been said that I insulted faculty, when in actuality, all I was doing was making a joke at their expense for the enjoyment of the students.
Staggering cognitive dissonance here. In fact, this may be one of the dumbest sentences ever written. If anyone can tell me the difference between insulting someone and making a joke at his/her expense for the enjoyment of others, I'm all ears.
During the Q&A after my talk, I asked them if they had any questions for me. They shook their heads no and I said to the kids, “You see, while you guys sit down here and watch, the teachers sit up in the balcony and smoke pot.” The students roared with laughter, and once again, that was all I wanted to do: entertain the kids.
Wow, jokes about retards, teachers smoking pot, and swearing. What, no dick and fart jokes? Again, if you can't entertain kids any other way, perhaps you should get a new presentation. Second, I think teachers have enough difficulties to deal with without some half-celebrity like Spurlock cutting them off at the knees. If his sole standard for material is whether it will entertain kids, he's setting the bar way too low.
Lastly, in the article it quoted me as saying that the greatest lesson those kids learned was the importance of freedom of speech. When saying that, I did not mean that you have the right to insult anyone at will (as many people have interpreted it.) I was referring to the fact that the group that hired me to speak asked that I not mention McDonald’s in any of my talk because one of their board members owns a franchise. That would be like asking Neil Armstrong to speak but tell him he can’t bring up walking on the moon, so needless to say, I didn’t agree to their censorship.
But you still took their money, didn't you? In taking their money, you tacitly agreed to play by their rules. Even after they relented about the McDonalds material, you still had to be a jerk. Your portrayal of your actions as bravely upholding the First Amendment would be funny if it weren't so sad.
As an individual who fights daily for us all to find some common ground in this world, I am hopeful that the work I do can continue to generate a positive dialogue, inspire action and make this world a better place.
If by making the world a better place, you mean teaching kids that it's okay to make fun of special needs kids, curse like sailors, and disrespect their teachers, then I'd say you did an admirable job.
Normally, I don't give a hang about Morgan Spurlock. But people who refuse to own up to their mistakes by simply saying "I'm sorry," bother me. People who make themselves out to be free speech martyrs, as Spurlock tries to do here, bother me more.
By the way, I know I'm all over Spurlock for cursing, and yet I used a curse word in the title of this post, and curse frequently on this blog. First, my audience isn't high school students; it's adults. And second, sometimes only a curse word can capture the exact sentiment that you wish to convey. I think we can all agree that that's certainly true at least here.