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Changing Font While The World Burns
The Roman Emperor Nero is famously said to have played his fiddle while a fire swept through Rome destroying much of the city around him. The fire burned for six days. Half the people in Rome were made homeless. Nero allegedly played on unconcerned
The story is unlikely to be true. Nevertheless even today to characterize someone as “fiddling while Rome burns” is to suggest that they are engaged in trivial pursuits while major issues remain unaddressed. If there were ever an appropriate use of that expression it would be today in regard to the Department of State and its focus on the font used in typing its official communications.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently sent a memo to all employees of the State Department entitled “The Times (New Roman) are a-Changin.” In this memo, Blinken our chief diplomat at this time of crisis decreed that the Department change the font for high-level internal documents to the larger sans-serif font, Calibri, from Times New Roman, which has been used for more than two decades.
Blinken said the department’s domestic and international offices have until February 6 to “adopt Calibri as the standard font for all requested papers,” the email said according to the Washington Post. Per Blinken the change is being made to accommodate the visually impaired and was recommended by the secretary’s office of diversity and inclusion.
Apparently, the change is highly controversial within the Department, where the new font is not regarded as aesthetically pleasing.
One Foreign Service officer told The Washington Post that a water cooler discussion about the font change “took up, like, half the day,” and ranged on both ends of the approval spectrum, while another said, “I’m anticipating an internal revolt.”
Another senior State Department official told The Washington Post, “A colleague of mine called it sacrilege. I don’t mind the decision because I hate serifs, but I don’t love Calibri.”
Unless you have been in a coma for the last two years you will know that American foreign policy is in free fall and we are facing dangers abroad that are unprecedented in scope. China is threatening to swallow Taiwan. Our southern border has ceased to exist and the narco-terrorist states that control what used to be Mexico are poisoning our people by the tens of thousands with fentanyl. The war in Ukraine is threatening to drag the whole world over the precipice. Afghanistan is now a terrorist super state. Iran could detonate a nuclear weapon any day.
It is sobering then to realize that the man charged with navigating our nation’s foreign policy through these dangerous waters is spending his time worrying about the font used on internal documents. It is perhaps just as terrifying that the rank and file that work for him have the time and energy to express outrage over the action.
It is perhaps worse than we thought. At the Department of State, they are changing font while the world burns.