Thursday, May 31, 2018

Are We Turning Into A Nation of Lynch Mobs? The Roseanne Takedown

"People are crazy, times are strange" --Bob Dylan

As most people know, I 'm not much of a TV type, so I've never watched most of the shows people talk about on social media, but I do know who some of these people are. Though I've never seen a full episode of any of their shows, I know who Seinfeld is, am aware of whom Kim Kardasian and seem to recall that Roseanne purportedly grabbed her crotch after singing the national anthem at a San Diego Padres double header, thereby creating a bit of a ruckus. (Can you believe that was nearly three decades ago?)

This week Roseanne committed an apparently unpardonable sin and had her new hit show cancelled. To learn more I did a little online exploring and found this Reason blog post to be a thoughtful response to the incident. Robby Soave, in the aptly titled Liberals Killed Roseanne. Conservatives Crushed the NFL Protests. Everybody Happy Now? writes, "It was a vile thing to say, though no one has any right to be surprised that Barr said it. The notoriously pro-Trump comedian—who is otherwise something of an ardent leftist—has a long history of offensive, nonsensical utterances."

What caught my attention in the Reason story was how this article proceeds to provide a balanced take on the matter, pointing out that conservatives can be equally squeamish about freedom of expression. (Squeamish may be too nice. Harsh may be a better word. Preceding prohibition one famously radical woman went into saloons bearing a hatchet, smashing all the bottles of demon brew she found in each establishment. Many hailed her as a hero for her smashing performances.)

As noted yesterday, I've been reading Nietzsche lately and he made the observation that people can be kept in line by the practice of shunning. It's a more polite form of lynching, though actual lynching has been an ongoing part of our American experiment.

Check this out... While working on this blog post I had Ken Burns' documentary on Prohibition playing in the background and this story was being shown: Preceding our entrance into WWI anti-German rhetoric (propaganda) resulted in sauerkraut being given a more American name, the stoning of dachshunds and, on at least one occasion, lynching a man for the "crime" of speaking German to his neighbor.

During the Cold War a relentless pursuit of Commies led to many people losing their jobs for expressing any kind of sympathy for socialism.

In Orwell's 1984 you could get in trouble for just thinking the wrong thoughts, even if you do not share them.

All this brought to mind the story My Melancholy Face by 1972 Nobel Prize winner Heinrich Böll which appeared in a book titled Continental Short Stories which I'd read in college. In this story the powers that be arrested a man for looking sad. He'd just been released from five years imprisonment for his previous crime of looking happy. (Opening sentence: "As I stood by the harbor to watch the gulls, my melancholy face attracted a policeman who walked the beat in this quarter."

Since we're on the topic of free speech, I'll cite one more incident. Last August a panel discussion titled "The Stifling of Free Speech on University Campuses" had been planned. After student protests, Ryerson University in Toronto pulled the plug and cancelled the event citing "safety concerns."

And so it goes.

Related Links
Roseanne's Racist Tweet Leads to Near Immediate Cancellation of Show
"My Sad Face" Illustrated

Meantime, life goes on... Are we supposed to laugh, or cry? 

3 comments:

David Beard said...

There is a lot of heat about the extent to which canceling Roseanne was about racism. It wasn't. It was about profitability.

Roseanne was bleeding audience, and ABC's projected long range profit was diminishing because they did not own the show.

There are few enough people who shared Roseanne's perspective who were committed to watching the show, the project wasn't going to make ABC enough money.

Had ABC owned the show, notably, and so been guaranteed rerun money when it appeared in other places, the calculations would have been different.

So, too, I think, with the NFL. When not allowing the players to take a knee costs the NFL money, those players will be on the field, on their knee.

Right now, oddly, taking a knee will make the NFL more money [in salary collected back from players as fines]. It's all-win for the NFL.


M. Denise C. said...

The stoning of dachshunds has left me very disturbed. :-(

Ed Newman said...

Thanks, David, for the insight from a financial perspective.

Denise, yes, that is a pretty disturbing piece of history...