Some communications tips for you public and not-so-public figures out there:
Don’t compare someone, especially a political opponent, to Hitler.
Stay away from remarks that suggest your personal situation, dire as it might be, is like “slavery.”
And don’t joke about how it might be a good thing if the president were dead.
That’s what film actor Johnny Depp did this week. In remarks Thursday at the Glastonbury music festival in the United Kingdom, Depp quipped: “When was the last time an actor killed a president?”
It was a foolish thing to say, but especially a week after a gunman opened fire at a congressional baseball practice in Virginia. Our political anger has moved from verbal to violent, with the Virginia shooting the most extreme and recent example. Public figures – or anyone, really – shouldn’t be stoking the outrage or suggesting further violence, even if they’re joking.
Depp, of course, isn’t the only celebrity to step in it. Comedian Kathy Griffin lost her New Year’s Eve gig on CNN after holding up a fake, bloodied head of Donald Trump in a video last month, and rock and roller Ted Nugent has displayed an especially violent streak, declaring among other things that President Barack Obama should “suck on my machine gun.” (Now that Nugent has a president he likes, he’s conveniently asking that everybody tone it down a little.)
Not included as an offender: A New York City production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” in which a Trump-like Caesar is assassinated. The performance has riled conservatives who’ve missed the point of Shakepeare’s play – that there’s a terrible price to pay for such a deed. That was the same message in a “Caesar” featuring Obama five years ago in Minneapolis.
Depp, of course, has the right to send his own message about the president. Saying something dumb is a form of expression, too. It just says a lot more about you.