When it comes to the United States military, we don’t generally think of a sense of humor. So when the US Strategic Command made an attempt at humor on New Year’s Eve, it caught a lot of attention. Unfortunately, the attention was the wrong kind, as is far too often the case these days.
On the last evening of the year, the @US_Stratcom Twitter account included this message:
TimesSquare tradition rings in the #NewYear by dropping the big ball…if ever needed, we are #ready to drop something much, much bigger.
Come on! It’s actually pretty funny if you think of it as just that – a joke. But naturally, too many Twitter users didn’t see the humor, and the tweet became a lightning rod for controversy.
Critics were quick to condemn Strategic Command’s take on the event.
Former head of the US Office of Government Ethics, Walter M Shaub Jr, tweeted: “What kind of maniacs are running this country?”
Joe Cirincione, author of ‘Nuclear Nightmares, Securing the World before it is too late’, said: “At first, I did not believe this could be real. But it is. It is an industry ad doubling as a sick, bragging joke by our Strategic Command. Disgraceful.”
Surprise, surprise: the internet outrage machine struck again before anybody had a chance to laugh. Naturally, Strategic Command had to walk back the tweet.
That’s a shame, because all it takes is a second reading of the tweet to know that it’s meant to be funny. It’s also meant to convey our military’s continuing commitment to protecting our nation and its values – including the right to say what you want to say.
Social media has given us some great benefits. The problem is, we’re beginning to see that these benefits may be coming at the expense of our ability to laugh at ourselves and laugh along with others. That’s the worst tragedy of all. Maybe some folks on the internet should resolve to work on their sense of humor in 2019.