The first reaction to the whole Roseanne Barr kerfuffle that has overwhelmed social media and radio talk shows is that this is yet another in a long line of examples of how people who have no business making news end up doing just that.
And I don’t know the reason for that. Have issues become so confusing, so complicated and so divisive that we’ve retreated to the point where the Roseannes of the world are monopolizing the daily news cycles? Perhaps.
Roseanne Barr is an entertainer (and that’s a very loose use of the word). She’s a comic (again, loose terminology) who has parlayed her incredible ability to draw attention to herself into a career.
That has to be it, because I’ve never laughed at a single thing she’s ever said.
But for some reason, she developed enough of a following 20 years ago to merit her own sitcom series, and enough cachet to be able to tackle some heretofore unbroachable issues without being taken off the air.
It ran its course, of course, and by 2006 “Roseanne” was well set up in syndication — which is where the real money is anyway.
But it got a reboot this year, with many of the same cast members, including John Goodman, who, I’d have to say, did quite well once the show was discontinued. But when it came back, she emerged from her 12-year hiatus as an outspoken supporter of President Donald J. Trump — both on the show and off.
So far, so good. It’s no sin to support the sitting president, regardless what anyone else thinks of him. Some of us may wonder how anyone could support the sitting president. But to do so does not constitute a crime against the state, even if some feel it’s a crime against humanity.
Let’s stop for a minute now, because what has happened in the Roseanne situation involves what people today like to call false equivalencies. That’s when you might ask why is it OK for the women on The View to kick the daylights out of Trump while if conservatives do the same, they’re upbraided.
That, of course, is a familiar lament. But it’s also patently false. The caustic criticism that many detest when it’s directed toward Trump freely flowed in the opposite direction when Barack Obama was president, and some of it was equally vitriolic, perhaps even worse. You know what they say about payback.
But when Roseanne Barr tweets a nasty, blatantly bigoted remark about an African American who was a former official in the Obama administration (and comparing Valerie Jarrett to an ape certainly qualifies as such) then we’re in a whole new realm. It is absolutely a false equivalency to ask how come Barr and her show are thrown off the air while Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg are allowed to lambaste Trump with such gleeful alacrity.
I have an easy answer for that. Because that’s what we do in the United States. As long as the people who pay us are willing to accept whatever fallout comes from this type of caustic criticism, then as long as it’s not libelous or unduly defamatory, it’s fair, whether it’s slanted to liberalism or conservatism.
It’s not a free speech issue. The ABC network is a private entity, and reserves the right to do whatever it feels necessary to keep its brand from being damaged. And apparently it feels that comparing Valerie Jarrett to an ape does not do anything to enhance the ABC brand.
Good for ABC. There is no way any American entity should be forced to accept this kind of bigotry. First, it is a sad relic of an unenlightened past, and that’s where it should stay. And second, we do not need people in this country — people in highly visible and influential positions — to enable closet bigots to out themselves and pollute the social environment any more than it already is.
I recall seeing memes — just like I’m sure you did — of George W. Bush with expressions that looked similar to those of monkeys. They weren’t nice, I’ll admit.
However, comparing Bush’s facial expressions to simians, while certainly insulting, isn’t an attack on his heritage. But when you tap into the bigotry that actually does compare some people to simians, like I said earlier, you’re in an entirely different realm. And I’m sorry, but you can’t plead ignorance of the way those similarities are drawn, and for heaven’s sake, you can’t claim you were impaired by Ambien either.
Whatever you feel about Roseanne Barr, I hope people learn from this. It’s but one more in a litany of example of how insidious social media is. Become too careless with it, and you can end up giving people a more honest glimpse of who, and what, you really are than you’d have ever intended.
And I also hope that people take note that even in this day and age, making thoughts like the ones Barr tweeted public goes way, way beyond the pale.