A Short Primer In How to Handle the Deaths of Public Figures

Win Mcnamee/PoolPrensa via ZUMA

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

It is times like this that make me hate social media more than usual. However, better to light a candle than curse the darkness, right? So here’s how the ordinary world works, folks:

  • When someone dies who is not Idi Amin or Adolph Hitler, it is customary in public venues to be at least minimally respectful toward their memory—or to shut up and say nothing—for a few days.
  • This is because their family and friends are in mourning, and they deserve a bit of time for their grief.
  • Obituaries will generally mention all aspects of a person’s life, good and bad, and this has been the case with George H.W. Bush. However, the fact that an obituary is not sufficiently savage on a particular point that especially irks you is not a good excuse to write a 50-part tweetstorm educating all the rest of us.
  • Just generally, being critical upon someone’s death is OK. Really! Being brutal generally isn’t.
  • After a few days or a week, feel free to say anything you want.

That’s about it. Easy, isn’t it? This is considered common courtesy, and does not mean that (a) nobody is ever allowed to say anything bad about the establishment, or (b) everyone has forgotten what a bad person this was. It just means that out of respect for a grieving family, we lower the howitzers for a few days.

I hope this primer has been helpful for those of you who need it.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate