Proprietors of the Newseum in Washington could use a history lesson and a sense of humor.
Over the weekend the Newseum, which is dedicated to commemorating a free press and the First Amendment, pulled merchandise off the shelves that included T-shirts that proclaimed “You Are Very Fake News” and “Alternative Fact — a false statement delivered with deliberate intent to mislead or deceive,” as well as caps that read “Make America Great Again.”
“We made a mistake and we apologize,” Sonya Gavankar, director of public relations for the journalism museum, wrote in a statement emailed to Ad Age. “A free press is an essential part of our democracy and journalists are not the enemy of the people.”
A couple of days earlier, Gavankar had sent an email to Ad Age saying, “As a nonpartisan organization people with differing viewpoints feel comfortable visiting the Newseum, and one of our greatest strengths is that we’re champions not only of a free press, but also of free speech.”
But Twitterdom lit up with profanity-laced criticism, such as: “This is a very bad idea @Newseum — you exist to honor, examine and protect the news media, not embrace the bywords by which others seek to undermine it.” The Newseum caved.
Perhaps someone should explain the term “reappropriation” to those at the Newseum and on Twitter.
That’s when someone calls you a pejorative name, you embrace it. The Brits called Americans Yankees, a term used by the British to refer to Dutch pirates, but Americans proudly adopted it. When people called Southerners red necks, they embraced the term. When the Society of Friends were dubbed Quakers, they latched onto it. Likewise terms like Cavalier, Tory, Whig, Paddy and Methodist.
Reappropriation is a time-honored method of turning the tables on those who taunt you.
Lighten up already. Laugh at those who denigrate you by laughing at yourself.