I’ve had a gripe with Mitch Albom for a long time. Like many, I used to be a huge fan. Tuesday’s With Morrie made me cry and The Five People You Meet in Heaven made me wonder, gasp and smile. He used to be “our guy” on ESPN’s Around the Horn or Outside the Lines. And—as a New Jersey transplant—he was the champion of Detroit when others were kicking us while we were down.
Then he lied about a little detail in a Free Press article…
It was a small detail, but it was lying nonetheless. And since then—-
A once staple column in the Detroit Free Press, Mitch Albom’s weekly Sunday pieces have tended to follow a stagnant, boring and Kale-infuriating formula in recent years. If he isn’t writing books about how scared of death he is, or he isn’t dropping an article touting how much charity he is giving (After tragedy, Filipinos still cling to love of reading), you can bet Mitch’s Sunday column is something along the lines of how terrible the world is today and how nothing will ever be as good as the old days; as if children born in the mid to late 1950s were part of this country and this world’s greatest generation—a parabolic peak on its way to an inevitable valley of rap, Apple and reality TV doom.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a sample of recent to not-so-recent articles that illustrate Mitch’s inane and irrational generational supremacy…
In this article, Mitch makes outrageous claims about the state of listening to music, claiming that it was so much better back in the day, when you had to set up a bunch of equipment and hook up wires and clean vinyl records. He makes ridiculous presumptions about the ways people today listen to music, especially in college.
What does Mitch know about music, I wonder? I graduated Michigan State in 2012, and more than once my friends and I had a vinyl record player in our apartment. Yes, we know what a turntable is. Because we are educated. Don’t school us on MP3 vs vinyl. I ask, Mitch: what do you know about MP3? FLAC? Wav files? How much study have you done on the effect of the internet and music? Where is your article championing the excellence of sites like Pandora and Spotify, that democratize music and expose future generations and demographics to all different kinds of music that they never before had access to?
You knew when Miley Cyrus went up on stage and starting twerking on Robin Thicke that Mitch Albom would be headed to his typewriter (he still uses those, right? Because even though it’s old and primitive, it makes him feel young again!) to tell everyone how no one would have done anything like that in his day. Yeah! Because back in the 70s, everyone was just straight-laced and square. Literally, according to this article, every guy back in Mitch’s day didn’t know how to dance, and no one cared. Which is like; speak for yourself. Was Mitch just under a rock during the disco years? Did he never see “Saturday Night Fever”? Literally, Mitch! You say that your generation was kind of lost in its dance identity, which is so off base and wrong. Look, I’m not advocating twerking. It’s stupid. But it’s not the downfall of children in this country. And it’s nothing new. People have been dancing provocatively FOREVER:
In this one, Mitch claims that facebook, this time, is going to be the downfall of America because one asshole decided to kill his wife and then confess to it on facebook as if there is no other way in the world to confess to killing someone and he only even killed her to get facebook likes.
Mitch uses this to segue into how kids today don’t even interact with people, which is the most absurd correlation I’ve ever heard of in my life. If it wasn’t obscene that Mitch thinks that some guy killed his wife because he could post about it on facebook, he wants to equate this to his boring nephew not talking to him at Thanksgiving dinner because he’s on his iPhone instead.
I wonder if Mitch does research for articles. He’s trying to say that social media and technology like facebook are going to make us more attention-hungry, angry and then violent. Right. Like video games and action movies made us more violent.
Look at that. When Mitch was my age, violent crime in America was three times more prevalent than it is now. I would love to hear the post from him spinning that fact to make it sound like things just aren’t how they used to be. It would probably be something like, “back in my day, when you killed a man, you did it personally with a knife or an axe. Nowadays these kids are shooting people with guns from a distance. It’s so impersonal.”
This is the most recent. I—I can’t even. There is nothing to say. Instead, I am just going to perform it in old man voice, which is how I am hearing it in my head when I read it:
I’ve actually tried more than once to let Mitch know how stupid he sounds. I’ve sent a few e-mails in the past. Mitch once put together this ridiculous article criticizing Apple’s Siri from encouraging families not to talk to each other.
I sent Mitch the following e-mail. He didn’t respond. He probably didn’t even look, because, I mean, he’s too busy doing thoughtful journalism as such above.
Dear Mr. Albom,
Somehow, I stumbled across your anti-Siri article on freep.com and I’ve just got to ask: what—what is this article? And I ask this with all due respect, of course. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t own a single Apple product, I think that talking to a phone instead of typing it in is kind of a time waster for fast typers like myself, and I absolutely cannot stand these annoying, hip and quirky Mac commercials featuring some of our favorite “celebs”. But the way in which this article was written sounded unintentionally hilarious and if I didn’t know who the author was, I’d have thought it to be quite the satire.
What I mean, of course, is that you seem to be going out of your way (quite irrationally, I might add) to attack a particular type of technology that is not only very useful, but clearly has a future as a part of our everyday lives. You could have attacked Mac’s latest iPhone craze in somewhat of a (backwards, but) constructive manner if you really wanted to, but you didn’t. Your criticisms of Siri are pointless, stubborn, and seemingly without great thought or effort. The article attacks Zooey Deschanel’s persona in the commercial for asking her phone to remind her to clean up the next day as if by doing so, there is some sort of huge opportunity cost in her life like she shouldn’t have to or wouldn’t have to remind herself to clean up—which back in your day was probably done quite often, but instead of setting a reminder to clean up on one’s phone, one simply wrote such a reminder on a piece of paper (which wastes paper, trees and hurts the environment. So far, the Siri way of doing things is better).
Then the article—whose title implies that by talking to Siri, people will talk less to humans—attacks Samuel L. Jackson for asking his phone to find him a store that sells organic mushrooms. I’m trying to figure out why this is bad, and I’m going to assume by the title of the article and the article’s last paragraph, that you think Sam Jackson should do it the old fashioned, good way and ask a human to help him with his organic mushroom inquiry. What? Your last paragraph suggests that technology like Siri’s is taking us away from the simplest of conversations with human beings such as our most cherished family members (by the way, if I called and asked my mother how many ounces were in a cup, she’d probably hang up and sue the school district I went to). But I don’t see how Siri’s technology is doing any of the sort. If Samuel L. Jackson didn’t have Siri to ask about mushrooms, he’d probably go on his laptop and type it into google. But you’re suggesting he ask a cherished family member where to find organic mushrooms.
First of all, it’s ridiculous to assume that any of his family members have the time, knowledge or insight to help him with his organic mushroom problem. Secondly, Jackson has one daughter, Zoe, who is 30 years old and probably doesn’t live at home. She may not even live anywhere near where her father lives, much less grocery shop there enough to know who the hell sells organic mushrooms. Jackson has a wife, as well, who he probably could ask about his lack of mushrooms, but who is to say he isn’t preparing a wonderful surprise dinner for his wife after a long day of work? He does tell Siri to have the night off, PROBABLY SO HE CAN TALK TO HIS WIFE!
The other thing that really bothered me about this article, and many other articles written by yourself, is the tone: the I’m-older-and-things-aren’t-how-they-used-to-be-you-kids-don’t-understand-everything-about-the-past-is-always-better-than-the-present-and-the-future-including-technology-technology-is-always-bad kind of tone. I mean, it was just kind of ridiculous. I felt like you could have easily replaced “Siri” with “CDs”, “DVDs”, “Cell Phones”, “Power Windows and Locks”, “The Refrigerator” and placed the article in the right decade and time and it would have sounded equally ridiculous. I mean what you’re telling us in this article is it’s better to yell at your car for the engine failing rather than getting a bit frustrated because it misheard “Jeff” and called “Beth”, simply because back in the good ol’ days, that’s the only time one ever had to talk in their car when they were alone. That’s irrational and stubborn and in many ways offensive to the great job companies like Ford, GM and Chrysler are doing to bring quality voice technology to vehicles to prevent people from having to use their phones in an unsafe manner—technology that you reduce to a quick fad that people are only using because their favorite famous people are doing it too.
But let’s be honest. We know that this article wasn’t written for people with iPhones and those who use Siri. It wasn’t written to teach the 20-somethings and the 30-somethings a lesson about relationships and talking and interaction. This article had no intention to change the minds of consumers or have the folks at Apple question the morality of their product. This article was written for the 60+ crowd to get a chuckle, a head nod and a “man, Mitch really gets it, technology like this is stupid and it’s going to ruin the way we interact as a people” out of them. Which is cool—-I guess…
However, I’m not trying to be mean, angry or rude about this. In fact, I’d love to hear your response. Or maybe we could talk, have some discourse on the subject. Maybe you should try things like Siri. Maybe it’s actually not that bad. Or, maybe I’m just part of the problem. Maybe I just don’t get it, I donno. But I want to leave you with three pieces of advice from a loyal reader:
(1) Don’t let hip commercials get to you
(2) Don’t be afraid of technology just because it’s technology
(3) Buy a new car whose engine is reliable
Thanks. I look forward to hearing from you,
So you can see what I mean: Mitch Albom thinks he is superior to the younger of us because of the generation that he comes from. And, until this week, I could just let it pass and roll my eyes at it and write up angry e-mails for my own creative enjoyment.
Until this week.
Until Mitch went from ridiculous ageism to less-than-subtle bigotry in a time when our state needs people like him—those in the local media spotlight—to be on the right side of history. This week, Mitch Albom wrote this “article”:
Put aside the fact that this article is offensive and ill-timed; most of all it’s just lazy. Read the article, then come back.
Okay. Here’s my problem with it: Mitch has an issue with marriage today (like everything today). Divorce rates are higher than ever and Mitch is concerned that people today no longer value the sanctity of marriage like they used to. Which, you know what? Mitch might have a point here. He might even have a quality piece of journalism in here somewhere if he did some research, thought and study about why or how divorce is more common as time goes on.
But not today. Not this article. Because this is not the time or place to have this discussion, and it completely undermines the actual problem the state and the country is facing with this court decision. Mitch thinks the biggest threat to marriage is our lack of respect for it. But, Mitch, sir—you’re flat out wrong. The biggest threat to marriage—until all wrongs are righted—is equality. There are citizens of the great State of Michigan who love each other and want to have an equal shot at life as the straight people of this state are privileged to, but we will not allow it. And you’re worried about the fact that if these people get married they might also divorce each other? Mitch, if gay people in Michigan could divorce each other because their marriage was recognized by the law, that would be a step in the right direction!
The other thing here, with Mitch’s divorce argument, is that he is taking an issue that can be fixed legally (marriage equality), and introducing an issue that can’t be fixed legally (divorce). What I mean is: marriage right now for the gay community in Michigan is unequal, and the government can change that in an instant. Whereas divorce rates are up, yeah, but what are you going to do? That’s not something that the government can fix by doing the right thing. That’s the difference here. You aren’t going to solve the divorce issue legally. Mitch is taking one legal issue and another societal phenomenon and saying one is more important than the other. That’s like saying the potholes in Michigan need to be fixed, but the real issue here is winter storms.
I also don’t understand how more people getting married means marriage will be on the decline. That’s bad math
(As an aside, Mitch. People fall out of love. While divorce is not a happy part of people’s lives, it does happen, and sometimes people are better off because of it. I don’t think I have to explain how that happens sometimes, because I will sound like I am explaining love to a five year-old.)
Then there’s the aspect of this article that tries to be so subtly homophobic that it comes all away around and becomes obvious to cringe-worthy levels. In the article, Mitch alludes to the idea that all of those people who were happily married for the first time on Saturday weren’t actually that happy and none of the celebratory pleasantries were genuine, and that it was all just conveyed that way by the media:
“Are we better off for this ruling? Certainly the media reaction suggests we are — with heartwarming tales about couples finally having their dreams come true.”
Mitch is also very concerned that the clerks offices magically opened up on Saturday.
“And so, for several hours, we lived in a state where, like 17 other states, gay couples could marry. Dozens did so Saturday morning, in courthouses that somehow magically opened even though they don’t have Saturday hours. (Can someone explain that?).”
Yeah, let me explain for you, Mitch. These people have waited their whole lives to have a marriage recognized by the state. The least we could do as a functioning government in the wake of their marriages judged legality is wed them as soon as possible.
You don’t have to have taken 9th grade English to read the subtext in this article. Mitch is obviously peeved by the idea of two guys or two girls being wed under the recognition of the State of Michigan. Except he doesn’t have the chutzpah to come out and say that he’s against it (and he is wise to keep that opinion close to his chest because spewing that kind of ignorant bigotry outright makes you look like a big ol’ idiot).
Finally, there was this line:
“Many gays have long felt bullied by society; many heterosexuals now feel bullied by a new ideology.”
Yeah. Let’s read that again. Mitch Albom actually wrote this in the wake of equal rights for gay citizens being put on hold:
“Many gays have long felt bullied by society; many heterosexuals now feel bullied by a new ideology.”
Yeah. Yeah, this is the problem today. Not the fact that gay people have to fight for the right to get married like straight people, no. No, the real problem here is that us straight people are threatened by the potential self-destruction of the value on the institution of marriage.
Are you kidding me?
Yeah. What we really need is an organization that will protect the rights of White Straight Male Anglo-Saxon Protestants.
I’m not writing this blog to be aggressive or mean. I’m doing it to defend my friends who were very offended by this article, and by Bill Schuette and the Governor’s politically motivated moves (it’s an election year, and Governor Snyder isn’t going to get the moderate liberal vote this time around) to put a stay on the ruling. But I also wrote this blog because I’m embarrassed. I’m genuinely embarrassed for Mitch and the Free Press not only for the laziness of the writing, but because it’s times like these where we need people like Mr. Albom to be strong, wise and on the right side of history.
I hope Mitch sees this, because I think civil discussion is in order. He might not care, because, really, who am I? Mitch is a successful journalist, novelist and screenwriter; a philanthropist and a leader. I’m just a goofy Michigan State grad, struggling in the film industry, and writing 5,500 word blogs on b-level James Bond movies in my spare time. But, that’s the world we live in now. This is the future. This is 2014, not 1974. And people like me can have opinions on any article ever written, and we have avenues to express our feelings and have anyone in the world see it at the click of a button.
Some change is bad, sure. But not every kind of change is bad.
Today, I can carry 10,000 songs in my pocket, I can use hands-free technology to ask my phone where the nearest gas station is while I’m driving. I can ask my favorite celebrities what their favorite Hall and Oates songs are.
And it’s time that marriage in Michigan is equal for everyone.