We had many excellent nominations for this year’s Al Copeland Humanitarian Award.
I nominated Penn and Teller for their efforts in combating bullshit. But this year’s winner also combats bullshit and does so in a more gentle and perhaps effective way.
Greg nominated Kickstarter, the crowd-funding platform. Whatever its merits, Kickstarter is not a person and is not eligible. We aren’t Time Magazine, which has awarded person of the year to such non-persons as “The Computer” and “The Endangered Earth” as well as to collectives, such as “The Peacemakers,”American Women,” and The Protester.” Having personally won the 2006 Time Magazine Person of the Year Award I can tell you that we can’t stoop to the standards of a magazine like Time.
Matt nominated Bill Knudsen, the American businessman who marshaled the might of American industry to defeat the Nazis. Beating the Nazis is always worthy of praise, but I worry that some of the PLDDers might get the wrong central planning message from a Knudsen victory.
So, the 2013 winner of the Al Copeland Humanitarian Award is Pat Wolf’s nominee — Weird Al Yankovic.
Like Al Copeland, Weird Al may not have changed the world, but he has certainly improved the human condition. He’s done so by making us laugh at the the absurdity of many who think highly of themselves. My favorite Weird Al song is a little dated, but it is his song Headline News, featured at the top of this post. Anyone who doesn’t recognize how ridiculous our news obsession with the faux-celebrity of petty scandal hasn’t read Fahrenheit 451. The news chatter about missing pretty white girls, “accidental” sex tape releases, and the like seems to be as much a distracting sedative from the real issues of life as “The Family” TV show in Fahrenheit 451. Weird Al, in his gentle and entertaining way, reveals the BS of this faux-celebrity worship.
Last year’s winner of Al Copeland Humanitarian Award was George P. Mitchell, the natural gas entrepreneur who commercialized fracking and horizontal drilling techniques that have made cheap, clean natural gas plentiful.
A common theme in past Al honorees is how they improved the human condition through individual freedom, not government control. Earle Haas liberated women from several days of confinement each month by developing the modern, hygienic tampon. This expanded women’s economic and political power by given them full access to public life. This advance in civil liberties came from a private businessperson, not from a government mandate. And the fact that he and the Tampex Company made a fortune in the process in no way sullies the benefits they produced for women. In fact, that profit motive made the advance possible by incentivizing them to develop and market it. And contrary to the vaguely Marxist critique of advertising as creating false and unnecessary desires, the marketing of the tampon was an essential part of making women aware of the tampon’s benefits and helping women overcome the ignorance and stigmas that hindered widespread use of tampons.
Similarly, Wim Nottroth’s improvement to the human condition came from his embrace of individual liberty. He stood up to an Orwellian government edict that denouncing killing was the equivalent of hate-speech against Muslims. As I’ve argued before, the most serious threats to liberty come from small-minded government officials and their enablers surrendering our freedom in the name of promoting something good, not the big scary dictators whose threats are self-evidently menacing and more easily resisted.
And Debrilla M. Ratchford, the inventor of the rollerbag, was recognized for how important the quirky inventor of something useful could be to improving the human condition.
Now Weird Al joins this illustrious list of honorees. It’s almost something he’d want to mock in a song.