Where Has All The Deference Gone: Mr. Obama vs. Obama

Seeing as though it’s Inauguration Day, I thought I’d write something about President Obama. A few days ago, I came across a note about NPR’s decision to change their style guide. Where they used to refer to President Obama as “Mister” Obama after the first mention (where he’d be referred to as President Obama), they’re now just going to drop the “Mister.” Why? So it doesn’t seem as though they’re showing favoritism. While I can understand the reasoning in this decision, I don’t think it’s a choice that I would have made. As Noah Rothman at Mediaite writes:

The vast majority of MSNBC viewers and NPR listeners, I believe, saw no evidence of conspiracy in how they referred to the president on the second reference.

This decision to change they style guide seems like it’s a bit over-the-top. Because none of the other major news organizations refer to the President simply by last name on the second reference, NPR wants to “fall in line,” so that it doesn’t seem that it’s showing favoritism. Hmm. Something doesn’t feel right about this. If NPR thought that it was right in showing deference on the second reference, then by golly, it should continue to do so. Of course, I understand if this is one of those “pick your battles,” kind of deals.

Nonetheless, it seems that the West US could do with a little more deference. In fact, I wonder if there were more deference in the American culture, would people be as disrespectful to each other? I understand that deference is part of something that America first rebelled against (British culture, titles, and all that), so it might be kind of hard for deference to succeed in American culture.

One does have to wonder: if there were more deference, would there be as much polemical writing? There probably still would be polemical writing, but my guess is there may be less of it.

When you get right down to it, though, what is deference? Respect. If we switch the word and talk about showing respect (and not offering deference), my guess is that it’s much harder to ignore. That is, if it’s a choice between respecting someone and disrespecting someone, I’d hope that we’d all choose respect.

Published by Jeremiah Stanghini

Jeremiah's primary aim is to provide readers with a new perspective. In the same vein as the "Blind Men and the Elephant," it can be difficult to know when one is looking at the big picture or if one is simply looking at a 'tusk' or a 'leg.' He writes on a variety of topics: psychology, business, science, entertainment, politics, history, etc.

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