OPINION — Comedienne Roseanne Barr has built a highly successful career over the past 30 years by joyfully sticking her finger in the eye of those who consider themselves her societal betters. While her schtick isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, it clearly has resonated with enough rank and file viewers to generate a considerable television audience — twice.
The fact that Barr sent an insensitive, politically-motivated tweet shouldn’t be surprising to anyone familiar with her brand of crass, populist humor.
What’s far more disturbing is the violent overreaction that has resulted from Barr’s tweet insulting former government official Valerie Jarrett. ABC quickly canceled Barr’s program and the social justice types went to work agitating to put a decisive end to her career.
Comparing Jarrett’s appearance to the product of an unholy union between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Planet of the Apes was petty and insulting. To call it racist is simply the latest attempt to create mountains out of molehills.
Genuine racism is rooted in a belief of one’s inherent superiority over someone of a different race. It’s a manifestation of the pack mentality that some collective narcissists still cling to as an excuse to dominate or disenfranchise anyone who is not sufficiently similar to – or supportive of – their tribe.
It’s not an accident that the most predictable accusations of newly discovered racism always seem to originate from those who are most preoccupied with race.
Like the little boy who cried “Wolf!” those who cry “Racism!” at the drop of a hat, are rendering the word meaningless through its misuse. Instead of drawing attention to situations where objectively measurable harm is being done, accusations of racism have become an ideological bludgeon used to gain power over others.
These spurious accusations stifle the open exchange of ideas in which irrational or poorly informed ideas may be superseded with better ones.
The answer to making popular ideas which are sound and to expose those which are unsound is to encourage others to speak freely. Truth is more resilient than we’re being led to believe.
As Justice Louis Brandeis explains in Whitney v. California:
The fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones. … If there be a time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.
One doesn’t have to agree with Barr to recognize that the scorched earth reaction to her insult is disproportionate, to put it mildly. Given Barr’s recent open support of President Trump, it’s likely that this jihad of outrage is a form of political payback from the left-leaning entertainment industry.
It’s a timely illustration that politics and entertainment have become leading sources of toxicity in our culture today. We’d all be wise to reconsider how much time and attention we’re willing to give them in our lives.
Barr’s tweet was a slap in the face to Muslims and a clear disparagement of Jarrett’s looks. To label it as “racist” is to attempt to weaponize the word as a catch-all with which to smear one’s ideological opponents.
Accusations of racism have become a verbal taser used by zealots to silence and shut down anyone with whom they disagree. It’s a tool to prevent wider dialogue by keeping certain ideas off limits and keeping everyone off balance as to what they may safely say or think.
Contrary to what we’re being told, tolerance does not equal uniformity of thought. That’s the characteristic of oppression and tyranny. Even when someone holds a viewpoint that others consider awful, so long as their behavior is peaceful, they have an absolute right to their beliefs.
Peter Bowerman describes how the self-proclaimed enforcers of tolerance have become the most vicious enablers of authentic intolerance:
One can only be darkly amused by the delicious irony of those espousing diversity, tolerance, inclusion, and openness being mighty intolerant, exclusive, and closed to the diverse perspectives of others.
Those doing the condemning would be wise to get a refresher in the power, simplicity, and brilliance of one’s natural rights. And to realize that, by definition, living by these rights—and letting others do the same—is the only way this grand experiment of ours can work.
The dogmatic need to silence those with whom we disagree is not a virtue. It’s the clearest possible evidence that we are not at ease with who we are or what we believe. That’s something we can fix.
Seeking to destroy others for perceived differences in opinion should never be mistaken for the higher work of trying to persuade others on the merits of our own beliefs. This is easier to do when we’ve paid the price to know where we stand.
Any time we find ourselves wishing to silence another person for merely disagreeing with us, it’s a safe bet that we don’t hold the moral high ground.
Read St. George News columnist Ed Kociela’s take on the Roseanne Barr incident here: “On the EDge: Why the Roseanne Barr and Samantha Bee comments differ”
Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events and liberty viewed through what he calls the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.
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