Drawing a Line Where No Line Was Needed: GQ Editor Defends Hugo Boss

The comedian Russell Brand, at a GQ awards show in London, “joked” — according to Brand, it was a joke — that the sponsor of the event, Hugo Boss, clothed the Nazis. Fine. More interesting to me was something that happened later. According to Brand, the following conversation took place:

GQ editor Dylan Jones What you did was very offensive to Hugo Boss.

Brand What Hugo Boss did was very offensive to the Jews.

Sure, Jones was upset. But nothing in his job description requires him to defend Hugo Boss. Especially in the least nuanced possible way. In contrast to Brand’s criticism of Boss, which makes Brand look good, Jones’s criticism of Brand, if it has any effect at all (probably not), makes Jones look foolish. He did not make his remark out of carefully-calibrated self-interest.

Jones’s comment interests me because now and then something in my head pushes me to do two things I know are unwise:

1. Tell someone else what to do when there is no reason to think they want my advice.

2. Simplify a complicated situation.

Jones did both things. I try to resist — try to say nothing — but am not always successful. Maybe Desire #1 is why professors are fond of teaching what they call “critical thinking” — it allows them to indulge Desire #1. On the face of it, appreciative thinking — especially nuanced appreciation — seems at least as important, but I have never heard a professor say he teaches that.

12 Replies to “Drawing a Line Where No Line Was Needed: GQ Editor Defends Hugo Boss”

  1. Two things I am constantly tempted to do as well. Have (finally) figured out why the first is ill-advised. And, now that I think about it, the second often blows up in my face as well. But, if possible, would love your perspective on why this is.

    Seth: If I understand you, you’re asking: why is it ill-advised to simplify a complex situation? I’m not sure I understand, but I’ll say this: It leaves you badly prepared when things go wrong. Things go wrong more often than you expect. It also leads to overinvestment. You think you understand something, you don’t, you lose your investment.

  2. A while ago, I improved my life by adding what I called the cheerleader function: if anything was important enough for me to be annoyed when it went badly, it was important enough for me to be pleased when it went well.

  3. “I think that Shakespeare and Rembrandt and Mozart and Beethoven are jolly good.”

    I agree, to some extent literature classes help you enjoy/appreciate literature, art history classes help you enjoy/appreciate art, and certain music classes help you appreciate/enjoy music. Science classes help you understand science, which is surely necessary to appreciate/enjoy it. At Berkeley, at least, I didn’t come across professors who said they did this explicitly, although maybe this just means I didn’t talk to the professor who taught introductory music. I attended art classes hoping they would help me appreciate art. They didn’t — that was quite clear.

    Nancy, I like that idea. I find that seeing the positive side (seeing the good) is more challenging and less boring than seeing the negative side (seeing the bad).

  4. One of the things I keep reminding myself, as a parent of young adults in their twenties, is that they don’t want my advice unless they specifically ask for it.

    Drats. I have all kinds of useful advice going to waste.

    As for GQ’s Mr. Jones, my assumption when I first read that Daily Mail article written by Mr. Brand was that the editor was trying to save his own career. The award given to Mr. Brand was ” the ‘oracle’ award at the GQ Men of the Year Awards”. Somebody at GQ, possibly Mr. Jones himself, approved that award. And Hugo presumably is a major advertiser . . . look at the photo of the comedian standing in front of a fashion background stamped with GQ and HUGO.

    I found Mr. Brand’s Daily Mail article to be interesting and amusing. Then I watched the video and found the performance obnoxious.

  5. I love your notion of appreciative thinking. I hope you’ll mention it more often. You have interesting insights on meta-cognition.

  6. #1 made me laugh. I have often said about myself “God put me on earth to tell other people how to live their lives” I too have found this unwise but I am constantly tempted.

  7. @Nancy,

    Well, I was kind of continuing a family joke. My mother used to complain she had lots of unused advice left over after my brother and I became adults. My reaction to that impulse (to provide unsolicited advice) is instead to make an effort to ask interesting questions.

    I think this circles back to one of Seth’s original observations, which is that people don’t care for unsolicited advice when it is said directly to their face.

    On the other hand, people love to prospect for gold. We enjoy the thrill of the hunt and the pleasure of an unusual success. Which is why many of us read Seth’s blog. He introduces new concepts we might want to experiment with.

    One final observation. I find that the blog writers who end their posts by soliciting opinions gather interesting comment strings, such as the posts by Kevin Drum and Rod Dreher.

    Seth: Thanks for the suggestion.

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