Friday, June 1, 2018

Bigotry obvious in Roseanne Barr debacle; less so, the value of professional PR


    My first job out of college was writing publicity in Los Angeles. I sat in a bare office—desk, chair, window facing a parking lot—in Century City, grinding out capsule biographies of 12-year-old BMX bicycle racers, stiff-arming the creeping conviction that, at 22, my life was now officially over.
     The sun-kissed little hellions could not be expected to pause from their moto whips and 540 barspins to write their own profiles, of course. Such things were not done. Writing your own publicity was the realm of the amateur, of mimeographed church newsletters and bulletin board rummage sale announcements. A professional operation like the BMXL—the Bicycle Motocross League—was expected to hire a slick firm staffed with fresh Northwestern graduates such as myself, who would drape them in properly-spelled glory.
     A sensible dynamic which came pouring back to me this week as I sat gaping, open-mouthed, along with the rest of the country, watching Roseanne Barr's reborn career implode, along with ABC's top-rated program, after the comedian sent out a tweet late Monday suggesting that former Obama administration adviser Valerie Jarrett is the progeny of an ape.
     Since many Americans seem clueless as to why this particular insult is different than any random cruelty, a bit of history:
     The United States was founded a slave-owning nation. Our Constitution was an elaborate tap-dance lauding liberty while enabling slavery. But you need more than disingenuous laws to own slaves. You need the slave-owner's mindset. Convincing yourself that some human beings are your personal property based entirely on the color of their skin is an elaborate self-deception that requires you to believe they are inferior to you. Deciding they are non-human helps, and Roseanne said what every daughter of Dixie felt in 1850, a time when Americans eagerly hardened their hearts, perverted their religious faith and deformed their ethical standards to tell themselves this. After all, money was involved.

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8 comments:

  1. I think you've said this before, albeit just slightly different.
    Almost everyone has a book to write, not everyone should.
    "Albeit"? Where the hell did that come from?
    Sorry. Stream of.consciousness writing. I guess proving your point.

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  2. Roseanne's problem can be illustrated in the "South Pacific" song "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught." There are people raised in an atmosphere of racism that have an epiphany and realize how they were raised is wrong, like that British fellow who wrote "Amazing Grace." Sadly for Roseanne she probably doesn't recognize the inherent evil of what she believes. She just lumps the criticism in with liberals being politically correct.

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  3. I'm surprised nobody has said this yet; it's so obvious: Twitter is to blame for all our current social ailments. We, ordinary people, presidents, TV stars, are allowed to wake up in the middle of the night with a supposedly brilliant idea rattling around in our groggy noggins (that prior to Twitter we would have jotted down on a notepad and forgot about forever after) and send that half-ass idea around the world regardless of consequences. Abolish Twitter would be my suggestion. But at least if you're a person that the rest of us are going to care about what you say, hire an editor, not just to sanitize your Tweets, but to ensure they make sense. Roseanne's comments were so gratuitously off target that even if they weren't racist, they should have been purged as arrant nonsense. By the way, what the hell does she have against Valerie Jarrett anyway?

    john

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  4. It's too bad Roseanne is such an idiot. I was really enjoying the show. I might be going against the grain, here, but Roseanne has always made me laugh. Lower middle-class, blue collar, snarky shtick, delivered with a wink and a laugh. What's not to like?

    I can count on one hand how many "celebrities" I'd like to meet. I'm not enamored of actors and musicians and politicians. They're never the people you would like them to be, so it's best not to put them on a pedestal. I'm disappointed in Roseanne, not because she isn't the character she portrayed on television, but because her real-life persona is so ugly.

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  5. As a black person, reading even the first few paragraphs of the edited version of this article on the Sun-Times site is enough to dishearten me from the feelings of momentary triumph that the Rosanne skewering seemed to offer. Neils original comments about the inherent disingenuity of the constitution considering the country's shameful practice, and the perversion of peoples minds that made such an abomination possible was spot on, and even kind, considering slavery's realities. So to see the Times scrub the columns language of even that relatively mildest form of truth, to me, is indicative of why all too many people like Rosanne can feel right at home in their bigotry in the first place.

    The truth can be hurtful, but to dilute it in favor of appeasing patriotic zealots, bigots, and wrong-headed embellishers of yesteryear is a disservice to progress and the ability to learn from mistakes of the past. Truth is a necessary medicine. A shot in the arm that stings at first, but ultimately salves us to better health, It's acceptance is a mark of maturity and wellness in all aspects. So a person, people, or country who thrive on self serving disillusionment, is still a very sick entity to say the least.

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    Replies
    1. The editing on the piece wasn't done ideologically, but for space. I wrote it a little longer than usual, because I was trying to pack a lot in. I was hoping to get some extra room, but couldn't.

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    2. Oh ok. I was worried it'd fallen victim to a calculated injection of saccharine to soothe the palates of the types that can never bear the bitter truth as it relates to any harsh realities of America, past or present. But glad to hear it wasn't so.

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  6. I developed an intense dislike for the original show (and its star) thirty years ago. Never liked her as a person or as a comedienne. She managed to be rude and obnoxious decades before social media existed to spread her poisonous beliefs at the speed of light. She "sang" the National Anthem at a Padres game, and pissed off most of the country by shouting it loud and off-key, and then grabbing her crotch and scratching her behind while doing so. Never figured out whether she thought she was being funny or was actually trying to make some kind of political statement. I'd guess she was going for the laughs, since Bush the Elder was POTUS at the time.

    From print media and also from a bio on cable TV, I learned years ago that she was both Jewish and bisexual, and had had a rough life while young and had dealt with all kinds of misery and abuse. But did I ever feel sorry for Roseanne Barr? Hell, no. Instead, I chose to ignore her. Both my wives adored her show and called me a sexist. Her off-screen behavior has become merely par for the course...or would that be coarse?...in today's America. The asshats are in charge, from the Oval Orifice on down. Today's youth will have to endure so much more asshattery, which (thankfully) some of us won't be around to witness.

    Roseanne's fall from grace has only brought me joy, as it is yet another uplifting instance of the powerful being called out and punished for unacceptable behavior that will not stand, and hit where it hurts. Some, like Bill Cosby, have had their reputations shredded. Others will lose their freedom for past and present criminal behavior And some, like Roseanne, have been hit right in the pocketbook. Sadly, hundreds of working stiffs with families and mortgages will now lose their livelihoods because of her idiocy, but she will lose millions because of those disgusting tweets. She got what she deserved, and in record time, too. Perhaps "Orange World" will also get cancelled eventually. Stay tuned. We can only hope and pray that his daily shitshow doesn't run for three more miserable years.

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