The comedian Russell Brand, at a GQ awards show in London, “joked” — according to Brand, it was a joke — that the sponsor of the event, Hugo Boss, clothed the Nazis. Fine. More interesting to me was something that happened later. According to Brand, the following conversation took place:
GQ editor Dylan Jones What you did was very offensive to Hugo Boss.
Brand What Hugo Boss did was very offensive to the Jews.
Sure, Jones was upset. But nothing in his job description requires him to defend Hugo Boss. Especially in the least nuanced possible way. In contrast to Brand’s criticism of Boss, which makes Brand look good, Jones’s criticism of Brand, if it has any effect at all (probably not), makes Jones look foolish. He did not make his remark out of carefully-calibrated self-interest.
Jones’s comment interests me because now and then something in my head pushes me to do two things I know are unwise:
1. Tell someone else what to do when there is no reason to think they want my advice.
2. Simplify a complicated situation.
Jones did both things. I try to resist — try to say nothing — but am not always successful. Maybe Desire #1 is why professors are fond of teaching what they call “critical thinking” — it allows them to indulge Desire #1. On the face of it, appreciative thinking — especially nuanced appreciation — seems at least as important, but I have never heard a professor say he teaches that.