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Another collaboration with Becky Hawkins.
I particularly liked the way Becky, inspired by some photos of ceramic art galleries, colored the backgrounds. She also created a recognizable aesthetic that’s carried through on all three of the pieces seen on display – certainly not something I called for in my script! Seeing details like that, which I hadn’t even thought about, is a big pleasure of collaboration.
I wrote this cartoon over two years ago, the same day I wrote “The Five Stages of Finding Out Your Fave Is Trash.” Although I liked both scripts, they cover similar ground, so I drew one and put the other in my “to be drawn someday” folder.
Coincidentally, the issue of enjoying art made by people who say or do terrible things, has been on my mind this week. And on my shelf.
Among the many nerdy little figurines decorating my room are a couple of Harry Potter figurines – one of Harry, and one of Hermione. I got these figures both because I like the characters (especially Hermione), and because I liked the artistry of whoever sculpted them – the choice to use a cartoony approach to create humor and energy.
I’m planning to get rid of them. Not because I’ve stopped admiring the sculpt, or because keeping them would mean I’m transphobic.
I’m getting rid of them because when the plague ends, I hope to go back to occasionally having friends and acquaintances over, and I worry that some guests – especially those that don’t know me well – might see the figures and wonder if that means I agree with J. K. Rowling’s anti-trans views.
To be clear, I’m not saying that enjoying Harry Potter books and films and figurines, makes anyone transphobic. And I’m not worried any of my guests would “cancel” me or even say anything aloud. I just value not making guests (in this case, especially trans guests) uncomfortable more than I value looking at these two figurines.
After I took the photo of the figurines for this post, I noticed that they’re displayed above some Tintin figurines, which I’m not getting rid of. The Tintin series, of course, has been rightly criticized for racism. So why aren’t I getting rid of those figurines?
Well, for whatever reason – perhaps because the series was created so long ago (Tintin began in 1929), and so there’s no live controversy keeping the problematic aspects of Tintin in the news – Hergé isn’t as associated with racism as J. K. Rowling is with transphobia, so I don’t worry about those figures making guests uncomfortable.
This is an unusual strip for me because I’m not really condemning anyone in the strip. The main character is clumsy and hypocritical, yes, but in what I think is a human and understandable way.
I’m sorry you haven’t heard from me lately. I’ve been making slow progress on a few strips, but I’ve also been having what I think of as an “AHDD meltdown,” where I usually feel unable to get work done – even though I want to work, and I like working, and I feel better when I’m working.
I’m wondering if the combination of anxiety due to covid, and staying in my house due to covid and winter, is making my ADHD worse (or at least, making me less effective at dealing with it).
I’m just going to do my best and hope I’m able to be more productive going forward.
TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON
This comic strip has four panels. There is an additional small fifth panel, the “kicker” panel, underneath the comic strip.
This panel shows a man with a van dyke beard, a cable knit sweater, and a fisherman’s cap (although the man doesn’t look at all like a fisherman!) in a fancy art gallery. The gallery is displaying artistically wrinkled pottery; we can see two pieces on pedestals, and a third piece hung on a wall in the background. Soft spotlight lighting picks the art out.
The man is leaning his elbow on a pedestal, looking confident and happy as he lectures a small crowd of people in the gallery.
MAN: John Smyth is the biggest influence on my pottery. Whatever I know as a potter, I learned studying Smyth’s work.
A longer shot as the man continues to smile and speak. However, he’s interrupted by a glasses-wearing person in the audience, who raises a finger.
MAN: No one potting today is as innovative and exciting as…
GLASSES: Did you see four women just came forward with #Metoo accusations against Smyth?
The exact same shot as panel 2, but now the man is no longer confident; he is wide-eyed, his mouth has dropped open a bit, and he’s sweating. The audience looks at him, waiting for his response.
A closer shot as the man puts a hand over his heart as he speaks to the crowd. His eyes are shut; he’s trying to look sincere.
MAN: I never liked Smyth’s work.
SMALL KICKER PANEL UNDER THE BOTTOM OFTHE COMIC STRIP
A blonde woman with nice earrings speaks directly to the viewer, looking just a bit angry.
WOMAN: I know nothing about Mr. Smyth or these allegations… but clearly this is yet another anti-male witch hunt!
I don’t really understand the distinction you are drawing between Herge and JK Rowling. The fact that there’s no “live controversy” kind of seems morally irrelevant. Herge still did what he did. If anything there’s no controversy because it’s basically settled that Herge was a racist.
Görkem, to me the distinction between Rowling and Hergé makes sense because the latter is not (to my knowledge) popularly used as a symbol by racists or those advocating racist policies. However, Rowling is definitely used as a symbol by transphobic and anti-trans activists. Here’s an example from my neck of the woods: I Love J.K. Rowling sign makes brief, controversial appearance in Vancouver
And also? A lot more people with recognize Harry Potter figurines than will recognize Tintin figurines.
In addition to what dragon_snap says, I think an important difference between the two is that Hergé while included explicitly racist visual and story tropes in his work, and worked for a Fascist-aligned newspaper for a while, he did not (to my knowledge, at least, supported by a quick google now) actually engage in racist advocacy. Rowling, on the other hand, is actively pursuing a transphobic agenda. And she’s doing it right now.
Also, Hergé has been dead for nearly 30 years. His work, racism and all, endures, but he himself is not creating any more of it. There’s no Hergé-led racist movement right now. If a racist group would arise that would adopt Tintin as a symbol, I assume Barry will feel differently about his figurines. But it seems to me that the issue isn’t whether the specific artist in question held problematic views, but whether they are a proxy for an extant movement. Rowling currently represents transphobes, but Hergé was just a racist, not a racist figurehead.
“A lot more people with recognize Harry Potter figurines than will recognize Tintin figurines.” This makes me sad. Probably true. But there are a lot of literary figures who are way, way worse than etiher Rowling or Herge, but more obscure…
“he did not (to my knowledge, at least, supported by a quick google now) actually engage in racist advocacy.”
I would argue that Tintin au Congo is explicitly racist advocacy.
” it seems to me that the issue isn’t whether the specific artist in question held problematic views, but whether they are a proxy for an extant movement.”
That is kind of a strange criteria, for me, because I can think of many figures who were far, far worse than either Rowling or Herge (and just to be clear I think Rowling and Herge were both pretty bad), but who are not engaged with any extant movement, and would therebefore be fine? E.g. we are judging figures not for what they do, either as individuals or as artists, but by how other groups engage or do not engage with them?
No, we judge figures by what they do, as individuals or artists.
But this isn’t about judging the figures. I think Rowling is a terrible person, and I am pretty certain Barry thinks the same. This is about the messages we want to send about ourselves.
To give an example with another domain – if you had asked me in 2010 whether I would go to an anti-war protest with the banner “all lives matter”, I would have probably agreed. It’s a statement I believe in – there are no lives that don’t matter. But now I would never hold a banner that says that, because since 2013 that phrase has been co-opted by anti-black racists. But the fact that I won’t wave that banner doesn’t change my view of the literal, connotation free, meaning of the slogan – I still do not believe there are any lives at all that don’t matter. But I will find other ways to advertise that belief, because I don’t want to be associated with the movements that use the slogan.
So, if I read Barry’s original thread correctly, his beliefs didn’t change. He still feels both Rowling and Herge are bad. And he still feels comfortable about having a relationship with their art. What he doesn’t want to do is give the impression he agrees with them, and that’s a different calculation when one of them *publicly represents* their ideology in the current public discourse, and the other one does not.
I totally understand why one would want to have a relationship with Herge or Rowling’s art despite them being bad people. Or not to have a relationship with their art because they are bad people. Or, just to cover my bases, not to have a relationship with their art because one doesn’t like their art, regardless of how good or bad they are as people.
I just don’t get the idea that Herge’s “badness” is lesser than Rowling’s.
I don’t think that’s what Barry said. He said that having Tintin figurines is less likely to make people believe he aligns with Herge’s views than having Harry Potter figures is likely to make people believe he aligns with Rowling’s views. That is not a relative assessment of their “badness” but of their role in current discourse.
I wonder if perhaps JK Rowling is special because her work was so beloved by progressives previous to her views on trans people becoming public. Back in 2015, Potter references were so popular among feminists that “Read another book” and “Watch another series” became a meme.
I think, and I could be convinced otherwise, but I think that this kind of issue represents a kind of purity test that exists almost exclusively on the left side of the political spectrum. This idea that in order for art to be valid, it ought to be inoffensive, not only in and of itself, but as a function of it’s creation, it’s creator, and the platforms that carry it. If conservatives held the same kind of standards towards art, they’d have a hard time figuring out a movie to watch, a book to read, or a song to listen to, seeing as how so many creative personalities seem to gravitate towards the left. Perhaps… And I’m thinking in real time here, this isn’t necessarily partisan, but it just seems that way as a form of “beggars can’t be choosers”, and progressives just having the privilege of more options? Like I said, I don’t know. But it seems self evident.
I don’t understand the mindset of removing something from your life that brings you enjoyment, not even because you personally don’t think that there are political statements inherent in the work, but because you fear that someone else might see that and be offended by it, but perhaps I don’t need to.
I’d never heard of the “Read another book” meme before today, so I looked it up. According to the links I’m reading, it had nothing to do with feminists and had to do with criticizing, “…the overreliance on comparisons to Harry Potter in mainstream politics, particularly by Resistance Twitter users.” (Found here and at several other links on a simple google search.) The evidence I’ve found explaining the meme has nothing to do with politics and, as such, I find your opinion to be somewhat at odds with the evidence I’ve found on the internet.
As far as I can remember, Harry Potter was insanely popular with EVERYBODY except for the wacky Xtian sects that believed it promoted satanism. I’m pretty sure that the record reflects that.
It’s not like conservatives didn’t try to cancel the Chicks or anything. It seems like this kind of behavior is found across the political spectrum and isn’t something that only select groups do.
Maybe you’ll understand this example….
I’d been listening to Laura Love’s music ever since I first saw and met her in Portland in 1996. She has one of the greatest voices I’ve ever heard, her bass playing is amazing and she writes (and covers) really good songs. Then I reconnected with her on fb. After a few years she started in with “trans isn’t real” and “trans women are men” and “trans women think that lesbians must have sex with them.” Nothing that many of her friends told her about trans people was accepted. After a while, it became heartbreaking that this woman who believes strongly in social justice was explicitly excluding people like me. As a result it became too painful for me to hear her sing and I purged the dozens of songs I’d been listening to for decades from my playlist. She had stopped bringing me joy and started to bring me pain. I’d imagine that this is true of many of the people who stop listening to or reading or watching art that they loved when it begins to bring them pain instead of joy. I know I’d feel pain if I went to visit Barry and he was playing Laura Love in the room.
Or it could be that I am unique among the 7 plus billion of us in this respect.
My immediate reaction to this was that if Wagner can be played in Tel Aviv by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra I should think that we can agree that appreciation of someone’s art does not constitute an endorsement of the artist’s politics and advocacy activities. In my opinion good or great art stands alone from the artist. What little I know about art history shows me that a lot of great artists were amazing assholes – but what they produced has stood the test of centuries.
I’m sorry you have to deal with visitors who do not take this view and who might take your appreciation of a particular artist’s art personally, as if you were endorsing them. You should do what’s right for you in your situation, of course. It’s difficult when one is put in the position of “What will other people think?”
You’re right, I misremembered: #Restsiters used Potter. I think my confusion was in part because Rowling as seen as something of a feminist icon for years, being one of the most successful women in what was seen as (and really… still is) a largely male dominated field.
I would guess so. Harry Potter was an interesting franchise because the characters and the actors basically grew up with the audience, and because grades didn’t match up to Hogwart’s years, it was easier for people to relate to a character. That generated a micro generation of people that got the Potter Experience, people who took “which House do you belong to” or “what kind of wand do you have?” or “What’s your patronus” tests on Facebook. People who played the cringey flash games or named their cat Crookshanks. I’m currently 35, Potter was always about my age, particularly in the films and I have some really nostalgic memories of the time. But despite my nostalgia and general fondness for the series as a whole…. I managed to go my entire life without attempting to make a political metaphor to American politics out of it.
More to my point though; at 12, most kids aren’t exactly plugged into politics. I generally assume that I’m not special, and most people fell in love with the franchise without even knowing that JK was a woman, nevermind her position on social issues. But sometime after the movies wrapped up and she was safely sitting on a nest egg of what I like to think of as “Fuck you, I’m rich” money, she became loudly progressive… Or perhaps that’s just how I remember it. Interestingly, Counter to your point re: The Chicks below, aside from the Christians who, as you say, always had issues about satanic messaging, conservatives generally still watched the movies and bought the books.
I think if you have to go back 20 years to find an example of something, you’ve probably made your opponent’s point for them. And sure, obviously, there were people trying to cancel them, but the Dixie Chicks went on that year to perform the most lucrative country tour done to date and that was perhaps because they were being heralded as “Free Speech Heroes” on both the left and the right… Looking back on 2003, that was a very weird time. As opposed to a left/right political divide, it was more of a “pro” or “anti” war divide, and nowhere near as polarized; Remember that Joe Biden was one of the 77 Senators that gave Bush authorization for Iraq at a time when Democrats controlled the Senate. I think in the last two decades, the pro-war camp has waned in both membership and power, and that’s probably a good thing.
Definitely different than me, but I doubt either of us are unique. We absolutely consume media differently. One of my favorite bands is Billy Talent, and it wasn’t until I went to my first concert and saw the names on a shirt that I realized that there was nobody named “Billy” or “Talent” in the band. I still don’t know much about them… I don’t have to… knowing more about them wouldn’t make their music better or worse, and I’m not listening to them for their politics. It’s possible that one day they’ll do an interview I happen to see, and maybe they say something awful about a group I identify with. Honestly, I don’t know what I do with that. Perhaps my response wouldn’t be any different than yours.
Which is why I wouldn’t seek it out. I’m sorry, but I don’t understand why you would put yourself through that: The more you know about someone, the more likely you’re going to find something out that disappoints you, and then you’ll have one fewer artist to enjoy. I still don’t understand why you would go about seeking information about someone’s political leanings if you’re just looking for them to sing?
I can see how you took this from my post, but this really isn’t my primary worry at all. This more accurately conveys what I meant:
I’m not worried that people would judge me; I’m worried about guests being made uncomfortable.
There is also, for me, a difference between “I’m enjoying reading this comic even though I know the cartoonist and he has some terrible opinions” and “I’m going to put this on display where I and anyone else in this room has to see it whether or not that’s what they’re seeking.”
I’ve been watching a TV show from years ago. One of the stars of the show, after the show ended, was arrested for possessing child pornography and then committed suicide. Knowing that doesn’t keep me from enjoying the show – I can compartmentalize well.
But I’m also not about to put a poster of that actor up in my room.
” Looking back on 2003, that was a very weird time. As opposed to a left/right political divide, it was more of a “pro” or “anti” war divide”
ah yes I remember 2003 well, with all those anti-war conservatives and pro-war lefties. Definitely not a left or right divide, no sir.
“The evidence I’ve found explaining the meme has nothing to do with politics and, as such, I find your opinion to be somewhat at odds with the evidence I’ve found on the internet.”
I just read the Knowyourmeme page you linked and it seems like the meme is very much about criticising Harry Potter metaphors as over-used in political discussions, and the vast majority of the examples seem to come from liberal politics.
I think Corso is right (and I don’t often agree with Corso), while it doesn’t explain dislike of Rowling, I think it does somewhat colour the general response (if not particularly Barry’s response) that Rowling was seen as “one of us”, e.g. somebody who was reliably on the right side, and when that perception turned out to be kind of faulty, there’s a backlash. Something similar to Joss Whedon.
To me the lesson is less about engaging or not engaging with art, as it is with looking to people who are famous for art as people who can provide role models for political work. Or, more broadly, that political progress can be accomplished through deep engagement with popular art and its representatives.
And J. K. Rowling’s most recent book reached #1 on Amazon.co.uk’s best sold books within a week of its release. What’s your point here?
By the way, you don’t have to go twenty years back to find someone “cancelled” by the right. What about Chris Kaepernick? Or, for that matter right now, Liz Cheney?
I get what Barry is talking about here. When something is on display, everyone who comes into the space experiences it. I disagree with JKR (and many other artists), but for now I still enjoy their art. For now. When an artist has more association with things that cause pain, I will stop engaging with their art (a la Jacqueline Onassis Squid). As an example, I used to enjoy Bill Cosby’s comedy, but now I can’t watch him with any pleasure at all so I don’t.
RonF’s example of Wagner is very interesting – I know many Jewish people who will attend Wagner concerts/operas or listen to Wagner at home. But I have never been to a wedding involving a Jewish person where “Here Comes the Bride” was played. Most Jewish people that have been raised with Jewish culture know that there are plenty of Jewish people who have uncomfortable associations with Wagner. Therefore most Jewish people who like Wagner ‘s music choose to enjoy it in venues other than a family celebration so that they don’t impose that experience on others who might experience Wagner with pain rather than pleasure.
Barry seems to be doing the same thing with his figurines – thinking about the comfort of his family and friends for things he has on display. I don’t think he is saying that JKR is “worse” than Hergé, just that visitors to his house are more likely to experience discomfort upon viewing Harry Potter figurines than Tintin figurines. Since Hergé is long dead and not making new racist statements, and Tintin has no where near the popularity of Harry Potter in the US, I don’t think this is too unlikely an assumption.
You mean Colin Kaepernick, right?
I didn’t search out her beliefs in the way you seem to think I did. It’s important to know that I met her, in 1996, as a person at the same time I discovered her as a musician. Back then, however, it was much more difficult to keep in touch with people – especially people who weren’t particularly settled. In the meantime, I kept buying her albums. All of her albums are political, so it’s not like her politics aren’t relevant to her art. When I found her on fb, I became her friend, not her follower, as she wasn’t popular enough to be followed at the time. After a few years she started becoming virulently transphobic. It was something that happened long after we’d renewed our association, not something she’d espoused all along.
I find my relationship with Laura Love to be similar to that with my friend Caroline who over time became more and more loony right wing. I was forced to end a 35 year friendship with she started pushing the idea that the insurrection – which she had been supportive of -was actually an antifa false flag operation.
Generally, though, I agree with you. I have no desire to know about the personal lives of people who make art I enjoy.
I was reminded just this morning of how it’s sometimes impossible to avoid. I’m going to be watching a musical tomorrow, and a key actor is someone I’ve never heard sing. I was curious to hear his voice, so I went to YouTube and searched his name, since virtually any Broadway-quality singer will have singing videos on YouTube. The results of that search – just seeing the titles of the videos, no need to click through – told me that his politics are focused on being (for lack of a better term) anti-SJW.
It doesn’t mean that I’m not gonna watch the musical, or that I won’t enjoy his performance. But – unless I resolved to never do something like try to find videos of a singer singing – it does illustrate how you don’t have to be seeking information about an artist’s politics to find out their politics.
Oh, and he sings very well. (He doesn’t sing as well as Mandy Patinkin, who originated the role, but almost no one does.)
Well, yes. How am I supposed to avoid Rowling’s hateful bigotry? I don’t follow her, I’m not on twitter but I can’t avoid the news 100% of the time. I never had any interest in Rowling as a person but she used her unimaginable wealth and fame to force me to hear her hate. I can’t really be blamed for knowing about this.
Yes I did, thank you.
I’ve never been a huge Michael Jackson fan, but I was a teenager when he was at the height of his popularity, so of course I know his music, and I like a lot of it. Very catchy.
I also have some experience dealing with child sexual assault, both in my personal life and my past professional life. I don’t think about it a lot, but sometimes things remind me of it. When that happens, it’s not traumatic or awful, but it’s also not pleasant. I wasn’t thinking about child rape, and now I am, however briefly. I did have in mind the person who assaulted me, and now I do, however briefly. I’m fine. I’m just not enjoying myself quite as much as I was before, and it will be a minute or two before I’m focused entirely on something else again.
So ever since the documentary came out and Jackson’s alleged acts with children filled the news, when Michael Jackson’s music comes up on the radio or someone’s playlist, it’s fine and catchy and reminds me of my youth, and also of the fact that Michael Jackson almost certainly groomed and sexually assaulted children.
A friend of mine and I work out regularly together (well, we used to, pre-pandemic). She likes Michael Jackson’s music very much. When she sets the playlist for when we work out, it’s likely that a Michael Jackson song is going to come up at some point. I always go to her phone and hit “skip”, but of course at that point it’s too late; I’m just shortening the time until I’m focused on something else and forget about it. She sometimes rolls her eyes. She explains to friends of ours who are also working out that I don’t like Michael Jackson. She doesn’t tell them why, because that’s my business, but she knows why, because I’ve told her. For some songs, she argues that it’s young Michael, before he did all that. That’s beside the point. This isn’t anywhere near that complex; it’s a simple association. I don’t particularly like to be reminded of child rape when I’m enjoying myself with friends, and so I’d appreciate it if she didn’t play the music of someone my brain associates with child rape. We work out often together, and she often listens to music when I’m not around. It would be easy to have different playlists.
I think she’s hoping that I’ll get over it. Exposure therapy, maybe.
Maybe I will. But in the meantime, it doesn’t exactly brighten my day.
What I hear Barry saying is that when he has friends over and all else is basically equal, he will choose not to provide them with stimuli which will make their day less enjoyable.
This strikes me as a courtesy which Barry tries to extend to his visitors.
There’s a story I heard a long time ago about a very high society host, possibly in upper-crust England, who learned that one of his guests had lost his luggage, and therefore did not have a dinner jacket. The host immediately took his jacket off, which was Simply Not Done, and continued his hosting duties in his shirt sleeves. He wanted his guest to feel at ease, and in his mind, his guest’s comfort was the higher principle.
It’s like that.
Ron, your analogy is a bit different. People presumably choose to go to the concert. But Barry is talking about whether his guests are going to have a chance encounter. He’s not hosting an exhibition, where the whole point of attending is to see the figures under discussion.
To Barry’s other point,
In my sports league, I initially chose the number “88” for my jersey. It’s easy to say, easy to hear, and I like the number 8 for no conscious reason. But then, after playing for a year, I ran across a mention of the fact that “88” has white supremacist connotations, because “H” is the eighth letter of the alphabet, and “HH” can be short for “Heil Hitler”. I had known this, because of gang training, but I had forgotten it. I am white, tall, and blonde. And it suddenly occurred to me that people might wonder why I had “88” on my jersey. Anyone who got to know me would soon know that I did not choose “88” as white supremacist code, sure, but what about spectators and members of the opposing team?
So I looked for a new number, and I changed it to “588”, in honor of the 588th Night Bomber Regiment, the “Night Witches”, a completely badass cadre of Russian women who flew wooden open-cockpit crop-dusters to bomb Nazis, in the winter, using hand-me-down equipment, with no guns, no radar, no radio, and no parachutes, because all of those things were too heavy. They would go in teams, with the first pilot deliberately attracting the attention of Nazi spotlights and anti-aircraft fire, while the following pilot idled her engine and glided in to drop a bomb. They would switch roles and do it again, and then fly back to get more bombs. The Nazis came to hate the Night Witches so much that they awarded an Iron Cross medal to anyone who shot one down.
That, I thought, was a MUCH better number.
It was a little trouble to change my jerseys, but it was worth it to me not to have people wonder if I chose “88” to honor Hitler.
Barry would prefer that his guests not have to wonder if he’s transphobic, or if he’s still supporting Rowling by buying her books.
I get it.
This is an aside, but by GOD the Night Witches sound badass!
Often, I wonder why Americans get so excited about female warriors, and talk about Amazons as if they were real. Then I realize that they have never heard of the perfectly historical, and quite numerous women who took up arms when their people were under constant raids, in desperate rebellion, at the verge of annihilation, etc. When the knife nears the bone, everyone fights (actual Bulgarian proverb, but not one aimed specifically at women) I guess the contemporary men never liked to talk about it, not because they did not know women can fight, but because endangering the future of the nation was seen, correctly, as a failure.
As an aside, I checked the Wikipedia entry on the Night Witches. I wonder what kind of moron decided that there should be a paragraph about how the sexist Russians denied the poor female pilots, I quote, the “luxury” that the male soldiers received with their tools (for example, radar, guns and radios)
In case you are wondering why he is a moron… The Night Witches’ planes were Polikarpov U-2s. The U stands for учебный, i.e. training. It had a maximum load of 200kg. In comparison, the only on-board radar the Soviets had in WWII, the Гнейс-2, weighted 500kg. Radios and guns were also extra weight that would have cut into the combat load. The Night Witches flew as many as a dozen missions some nights, because their planes could not carry much. There were also other reasons for not carrying parachutes. Practically all of the time spent in flight was at altitudes too low for a parachute to deploy successfully.
There were at least two other mostly female (none were all female) aviation regiments. The ones who flew Yak-1s (a type of fighter) certainly had radios and the ones who flew Pe-3s (heavy night fighters) even had radars. *gasp*
A friend of grandfather liked telling a story about meeting a Night Witch who parachuted on the Bulgarian side of the river during the Oder offensive. He said that she was a bit freaked out, because she had not yet gotten the message that we had switched sides. By that time, they carried parachutes, but still no sidearms, which I guess was lucky for everyone involved.
Mention one thing that JK Rowling wrote that was factually incorrect.
In the first Harry Potter book, a snake winks at Harry. But snakes don’t have movable eyelids and are incapable of winking.
This. I can’t stress enough how much I agree with this.
Maybe what I’m struggling with is where the line is, or what the line is… Rowling seems like low hanging fruit; Her comments are very public, very well known. But I’d guess that were we all to go through our collections, we’d find some level of problematic connections for almost everything. If the goal is to remove all things that might cause someone offense, or to think less of you, you might as well clean your shelves and whitewash your walls. Just like Grace’s experience re: “88”, there’s all kinds of things that might have negative connotations that you just don’t know about. At what point should someone be expected to know about a connotation? How much research ought to be put into your living room accoutrement?
Corso @28 – You seem to be ignoring the main point here, which is that the distinction being made is excatly between the “low hanging fruit” and the rest. That was the reason Barry distinguished Rowling and Herge. The goal isn’t to “remove all things that might cause someone offense”, and no one claimed it was. It’s to remove things that associate one with specific public personas that you no longer want people to associate you with.
So Amp went to see … Evita? Sunday in the Park with George? Secret Garden? Mamaloshen? The Wild Party? Paradise Found? Hamlet? (Ok, he might not have been originating that role….)
I’ll guess … Secret Garden. (A sentimental choice. The show’s best song is “Lily’s Eyes.” Back in the day, I re-wrote the lyrics to be about the eyes of Harry Potter’s mom, Lily Potter. “She had those eyes–she has Lily’s emerald eyes….”)
You are correct! (But technically I didn’t “[go] to see” it – it was online. Also, it wasn’t a full production – it was just the workshop, which was interesting. I’ve never seen a workshop before.)
I did wish the actor, Clifton Duncan, had a more magnificent singing voice. I’ve gotten chills listening to some singers do “Lily’s Eyes” and “Quartet.” (There are actors other than Patinkin who have done the songs justice – Philip Quast was wonderful in the same part, for example).
But Duncan’s singing was very good, and his acting in the role was excellent, and by the end of the show I was a fan of his performance.
Eytan Zweig @ 29
I think asking where the line between the low hanging fruit and something that is acceptable by definition recognizes that there is a distinction being made.
But what you’re ignoring is that Barry has said he’s doing it because of what people around him might think of him on seeing those items. If what you’re concerned with is the impression your collection leaves with other people, how much effort do you put into that? There’s going to be some number of people out there that are, in fact, made uncomfortable by Tintin, or Wagner, or something you don’t even know the context of that makes it objectionable. Understanding that we aren’t about to clear our swag shelves off, What are the things that makes something unacceptable or not? Or is Rowling unique? If she isn’t, what are other figures you’d pull off your shelves?
Surely that’s up to him, though. I realize that the fact that Barry posts about it publicly makes this a not entirely personal issue, but I fail to see how to read his post as proposing a general rule for behaviour. He was talking about his personal judgement about what he’s comfortable with.
Note that he put this in the context of a cartoon that is critical of knee-jerk groupthink in this matter.
It seems to me that the principle should be that the line between who deserves to be taken off a shelf and who gets to remain, assuming the shelf is a private one, should be set by the person who owns the shelf. And it further seems to me that Barry’s reasoning – both the desire to avoid association with someone he does not want to be associated with, and the desire to be sensitive to his visitors’ feelings – is perfectly valid reasoning.
Corso, I don’t think here’s such a thing as “the line.” The line is inherently subjective and fuzzy.
It’s partly me worrying about making guests uncomfortable, and it seems self-evident that some things (Harry Potter stuff) are more likely to cause discomfort than others (Tintin stuff).
But other things, not mentioned in my original post, are also in the mix.
1) It’s also a matter of, “how much do I love this thing?” I might be more willing to risk guests being uncomfortable for something that I really love and is more important to me.
2) It’s also a matter of, “do I think my guests are right about the underlying issue?” Meaning, I think people who are anti-transphobia are correct. On the other hand, even if a conservative Christian guest were to come over, and were made uncomfortable with the statue I have of Korra and Asami from “The Legend of Korra” because it depicts a lesbian couple, I wouldn’t consider taking it down to avoid them being made uncomfortable.
3) It’s also a matter of, and thank you J Squid for articulating this, that sometimes there’s a painful association. I’ve taken some Michael Jackson songs off my playlist because if I listen to “A B C,” it’s because I want a moment of pure fun, and I now know things that make “A B C” not pure fun for me anymore.
When I got the Harry Potter figurines, they were pure fun. They’re so well-sculpted and cartooned and they reminded me of novels that I enjoyed a lot, despite their imperfections. Now every time I glanced at them (before I took them down), I still admire the cartooning, but it also reminds me of things that aren’t so fun, and that’s a strike against them. (The six – 6! – Joss-Whedon-related things I have up in my room are facing a similar problem now.)
4) Also, I don’t want to remind guests of a painful or sad or annoying association.
5) Also, how much is (the creation) really created by the particular artist who created the painful association? Harry Potter – which, for me, is about the books, not the films – is overwhelmingly a creation of JKR. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a collaboration between hundreds of people, and a bunch of them (actors, writers, co-producers, etc) were essential to the show, not just Whedon.
(Incidentally, I can still enjoy some HP fanfic. I guess I find fanfic – which is often written to criticize or oppose something in the author’s narrative – removed enough from JKR that I still enjoy it.)
So all these factors and probably more got mixed up in my mind, and what it came down to is, the Harry Potter figurines weren’t giving me enough unmitigated joy so it made sense to keep them. And “is this giving me enough unmitigated joy?” is something that’s subjective and fuzzy, not something that I can draw a clear sharp line for.
A question: Why does it matter to you if I have a clear line I can describe, or not?
Ok, I had to look. Great moments in wasted time….
Amp @ 34
It doesn’t. But thanks for laying that out!
Something like this, it seems obvious is going to be personal. Not only are your tastes going to be different, but you’ll know your friends, and how they’re likely to react a whole lot better than I do. I was kinds of interested in what people’s thought processes were, because with things like this it could be as simple as “I know it when I see it”, or as complicated as a small novel.
That didn’t *need* to be answered by anyone in particular, but I think we got here because it seemed to me that Etyan was suggesting that I was making up topics that weren’t relevant, and I was circling back to pointing where they were.
Corso @36 – I didn’t mean to suggest you were making up topics, just that in your reply @28 you were over-generalizing, and that your search for a line overlooked the distinction present in the text.
Also, it’s Eytan, not Etyan :)
Well, it’s good to learn at least one new thing everyday, and today I learned I’ve been mispornouncing Eytan’s name in my head for… over a decade? I’m sorry, Eytan! Won’t happen again :)
Barry, I take your point. That makes sense.
I had no idea “Here comes the bride” was Wagner!
“By the way, you don’t have to go twenty years back to find someone “cancelled” by the right. What about [Colin] Kaepernick?”
I realize the big hue and cry made people think that the reason Kaepernick didn’t get a job at QB was because of patriotic resistance to his political actions, but has it occurred to anyone that there’s really not a big market in the NFL for a quarterback who went (IIRC) 4 – 11 in his last two seasons after sustaining injuries that affected his play and was benched in favor of his team’s other QB?
Plus, he put his other teammates on the spot to commit publicly regarding their politics, which seems rather divisive to the locker room environment. I wouldn’t want a QB or indded any team member who put his own interests ahead of the team on the field.
At least some people who know the sport disagree with you.
So the question isn’t just, is Kaepernick good enough to be signed? It’s, is he so incredibly awful – so much worse than every other quarterback – that through May 2017, at least, not a single team would have considered him even worth viewing or evaluating based on his skills?
Kaepernick was absolutely cancelled. The fact that right-wingers won’t admit this, let alone oppose it, shows that conservative opposition to “cancel culture” is a hypocritical sham. Conservatives are huge fans of “cancel culture,” so long as it’s people they dislike getting “cancelled.”
By the way, I could provide many, many more examples of conservatives “cancelling” people.
1) Football is a team game, not an individual one.
2) As Barry points out above, pretty much everybody who reports on football (and a number of people IN football including other players) disagrees with that proposition.
3) Kaepernick wasn’t a great quarterback but was he better than any of the 32 backup QB’s in the league any of these last few years? There is no question that he was.
All of which leads to how obvious it is that Cheney, er, Kaepernick got cancelled by the right wing outrage machine.
Also, nothing about Kaepernick’s cancellation was “patriotic.” His harassers, elite blacklisters, and public detractors don’t have any particular or exclusive lock on patriotism. Few expressions of advocacy and activism present as more patriotic than those launched by and on behalf of all those Americans lacking the equal protections the nation is supposed to regard as sacrosanct and partially in defense of which it has apparently fought several hot wars.
The notion that our national anthem and the act of kneeling during it while on a court, field, or sideline in defiance of violent policing is an attack on the country (soldiers? even if soldiers or veterans are somehow synonymous with these things, what does that have to do with civilians with badges running apeshit in our cities?) is dubious and irrational. Fighting to make your country live up to its lip service and mythology is, in fact, healthy for the body politic. Rightwingers do understand this in the main because their resistance to protest for progress, change, and reform for the better is always to bellow at their enemies to Just Leave the Country. Well, now it’s sauce for gander time: whose country? Our country.
One of the more positive international contributions the American Century did wrought was the lessons (failures, successes) of our civil rights movement, both heir to some and inheritor to other movements within the global fight for democracy, equality, and self-governance. As candidate for a better national pastime, I can think of few contenders able to so precisely fulfill that dualistic American impulse for the appearance of wholesomeness coupled with the agony of bloodymindedness. We do it because it’s hard, right?
To add to Saurs’s point, kneeling has never been seen as a disrespectful gesture in our culture prior to the flag-kneeling; it has always been seen as a sign of respect. And in fact, Kaepernick himself adopted the practice of kneeling after speaking with a friend who was a soldier, who suggested it as a respectful alternative to sitting during the anthem. Kaepernick was literally making the point that America is not living up to its ideals *without* disrespecting the flag, and that still wasn’t good enough for his critics, because they oppose any kind of protest–no matter how peaceful or respectful–against police brutality, to the point where they now see kneeling as a sign of disrespect despite all historical tradition and Kaepernick’s clear stated intent.
Chris @ 44
This seems revisionist. I can’t speak to who Kaep spoke to before taking the knee, but part of the problem was that his “stated intent” was the next best thing to gibberish. There is a raw-nerve around American conservatism and patriotism that means that responses to things like this will always be overwrought, but characterizing Kaep’s statement as “clear” is… Well, I just don’t think that has the benefit of being true. There wasn’t a universe where he didn’t face criticism for what he did, but had he actually spoken clearly, I don’t think it would have been this bad. As a refresher, this is what Kaep actually said:
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
It’s hard to argue, for instance, that Kaep wasn’t intending to disrespect the flag, when the very first words out of his mouth were that he wasn’t going to show respect for it. That might not have been his intention…. But he said the words.
Barry @ 40
I think that there are extremes, that everyone present knows that, and that generalizations like this break down when you talk about specifics. Not every cancellation is the same, and there are reasons why people would be more outraged by some than by others. I can’t answer for the entirety of conservatism, frankly, I’m right there with you for some of them; Josh Hawley’s whining, and it’s absolutely whining, is infantile.
But there is a difference between examples like Kaep, who at least knew what he was doing, even if he couldn’t forsee the fallout, and people like Kelly Donohue or Caleb Kennedy. Donohue being the person who started Jeopardy games by signaling the number of wins under his belt with a hand signal, falling afoul of progressives because his hand signal for “three wins” apparently looked like a white supremacist dog whistle, and Kennedy being the 16 year old American Idol contestant who was just booted off the show, because of a picture of him in the same room as an induvial who’s Halloween costume resembled a KKK hood taken when he was 12.
Not all cancelling is bad. This is something that the left obviously believes, or at least they aren’t saying otherwise. What they seem to be saying is that Republicans are hypocrites for saying that all cancellation is bad. And really… I’m not sure that, outside of a couple of really loud nuts, Republicans understand that some cancellations make sense, at least on some level. We need to better be able to differentiate between a “good” cancellation and a “bad” one.
-We need to stop listening to online mobs. I think that a lot of the outrage, regardless from which side of the aisle it came from, is performative. I do not believe that all the people that say they’re outraged were actually hurt the way they say they are. I do not believe that the thousands of people that contacted Jeopardy actually believed that Donohue meant to make a white supremacist hand gesture, and I don’t think they were hurt by it.
-We also need to rediscover reasonableness, I’ll never really be able to tell if someone was or was not actually harmed by Donohue’s hand gesture. But perhaps that doesn’t matter: If they were, and I know that this probably won’t be a popular opinion here, but they’re not being reasonable, and someone needs to tell them so. I know the terms was grossly misused for a while, but there are absolutely cases where people need to grow a thicker skin, and Donohue’s hand seems like an example.
-We need to look at intent. Back when I was writing college papers, we were told that teachers had access to new software that would scan the internet to attempt to find plagiarism. It actually made me really nervous, particularly when writing history papers. Things happened, there are only so many ways to present them, so many ways to paraphrase events, eventually, people are going to inadvertently repeat something that’s been written. Musicians deal with this every day. Eventually, every person here will step on a landmine. We will say something that sounds like something a racist said, or make a gesture some obscure group used 100 years ago. And there but for the grace of God go I: I hope that when I eventually do the bad thing that I don’t mean to do, that there won’t be a camera rolling, or an asshole present. Because anonymity is the only thing between me and that mob. I wish the same for you. Intent matters.
-I think we need to breathe. Even if Donohue was actually and purposefully making an obscure white supremacist hand gesture, and even if Kennedy posed beside a an actual Klansman, these guys are being written off for life. People are losing their jobs, they’re losing their homes, they’re being assaulted and threatened, a not-insignificant number of people sent Donohue death threats! People’s family members are being harassed, they’re being SWATed. This is not reasonable. Even if you disagree with someone, even if you think their beliefs are vile, there needs to be some basic humanity: They still get to live a life. There has to be room for a redemption arc. Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who pretended to be black and worked as an organizer for the NAACP was cancelled *years* ago and she still can’t even get a job as even a cleaning lady.
Sorry… This isn’t really aimed at anyone in particular, I’m just frustrated.
But he didn’t. You quoted him as saying he didn’t want to “show pride” in the flag, not that he didn’t want to “show respect” for the flag. Pride and respect are not synonyms.
Perhaps, but I think you’re being exceptionally generous. Making a point to explicitly say that you aren’t going to take pride in something comes off to me as less than neutral, but your mileage may vary.
At the very least, I think it’s easy enough to see the way someone could read that and come away with the idea that Kaep was disrespecting the flag. I have to be honest, first time I heard it, I had assumed he meant that. And despite people saying that he was clear, or he later clarified what he meant… I don’t think he actually was or did. I can’t find a quote of him ever making the points you did. And even if he did; You get a single chance to make a first impression, and like I said; That wasn’t great.
I think that people, regardless of their final interpretation, took what was a very ambiguous (at best) statement and let our biases color in the blank spaces. It’s harder for people to do that if you actually speak clearly.
Regardless, ending his career for it is a disproportionate response.
No argument from me.
@Corso: Your suggestions boil down to the usual conservative “Hey guys, yes, racism is bad, but can we put a limit on how much we care about racism actually happening today, because gee whiz, I don’t really want to have to think about it that much?”
Gorkem @ 50
[Edited a lot because I was really snarky]
They really don’t. The actions I’m talking about don’t really reflect someone that actually cares about the issues. I’ve lost patience with bad actors hiding behind their good issues.
Pretending that the people cancelling people are “merely caring about the issues” requires you to believe that the behavior they’re being cancelled for was actually objectionable.
Do you believe that “caring about racism” is synonymous with sending people death threats for inadvertently making a hand gesture with unintended connotations? Because if you don’t I don’t understand hand waving the behavior off, or rejecting criticism of it off as a conservative talking point.
Now, you might have a point with my last point. But the example I gave wasn’t a conservative bad actor. Rachel Dolezal was a true believer, she did work, good work, for the NAACP for most of her adult life. I’m not sure why she appropriated the identity of a black woman, perhaps there’s a mental illness in play, I don’t know. But at some point, she should be able to get a job again. I don’t think that’s unreasonable. And if you want to characterize that as a conservative position, I’ll not only own it, I’ll celebrate it and scream it from the rooftops: “RACHEL DOLEZAL SHOULD BE ABLE TO GET A JOB.”
Oh no guys, Corso has lost patience! Time to pull the plug on anti-racism!
I wasn’t going to respond, but I agree with Görkem. “Cancel culture” is more like consequence culture. Behavior that once got a pass no longer does. Yes, I do think people overreact, but on the whole I am not opposed to people being called out on their bigotry even if it is “unintentional”. The incidents with Kelly Donohue and Caleb Kennedy JUST happened, so it is difficult to say if there will be long term impacts. I heartily agree that no one deserves death threats, but being called out for bad behavior is not unjustified.
I hadn’t heard of either one, so I had to Google them. The video of Caleb Kennedy is pretty bad. Someone posted it (Caleb, the Klan kid, or the person filming), so they were proud of it at some point. The costume looks JUST like a Klan outfit and nothing like the characters from The Strangers: Prey at Night, regardless of what his mother says. He is 16, (and was 12 or 13 at the time of the video) and can grow out of insensitive behavior, but not if it is consequence free. Being removed from a TV show contest is hardly ruining his life forever. He was never going to advance after that video surfaced (especially since his initial response was to surpress it and hope it goes away rather than just apologize for being an ignorant 12 year old). It may be an overreaction, but the usual “boys will be boys” is a major underraction that doesn’t suggest to the perpetrator that they reflect on their behavior and its impact on others.
The Kelly Donohue thing also looks weird. There are screen grabs of his fingers. Consider the fingers he used to signify his wins: 1 = pointer, 2 = pointer middle, 3 = middle ring pinky. Why make the odd change for 3 fingers? I can see why some people may have thought he was signalling something else.
Again, neither Donohue nor Kennedy deserve death threats – no one does. I’ve received death threats for being a female good at fantasy football back when I was foolish enough to do such things under a gendered name so I know they are scary. But experiencing public censure for bad behavior is A-OK with me.
Rachel Dolezal is a really weird case. There is zero chance that someone as involved in the NAACP would not know how blackface is perceived by people of color. She has the additional problem of pleading guilty to felony welfare fraud after she was exposed, so her example is hardly typical. The reason she was capable of committing welfare fraud was because she was selling a book along with her art and other crafts, indicating that some people were perfectly happy to give her money ($84k in a 2 year period). Hardly sounds like she was prevented from making a living to me. If she is struggling to find work now, that may be more because the US makes it very difficult for ex-felons to find work and less because she was permanently cancelled.
I’m sorry, but calling it “consequence culture” seems even more dense than “cancel culture”. What, exactly, do you think the consequences should be for?
Because it’s only a “consequence” if you believe the actions warrant a consequence, and one would hope that “consequences”, if warranted, would be proportional to the offense.
I used Donohue and Kennedy because they just happened, there’s a story like that every other week. And frankly, it seems like cancel culture hits more people it shouldn’t than people it should, and it hits EVERYONE it hits harder than it should.
Well…. That sure clears that up then, doesn’t it? Forensic finger signals.
First off, and I can’t stress this enough: Kennedy was 12. If he even knew what a Klan costume was it probably said more about the adults around him than it does him, and setting him up to be punished for being in the same room as another kid who was wearing that costume for the rest of his life borders genuine evil.
Second, and I can’t believe that I’m entertaining the forensic finger signals angle… But have you ever tried holding your pointer, middle and ring finger up? I can’t do it. Either my ring finger won’t extend all the way or I can’t keep my pinkie down. That is so common that after the Hunger Games movies came out (Katniss did a three fingered salute) you saw a spat of articles like this. So either his hand musculature is the same as approximately half of humanity, or he wanted to signal that he was a racist. We’re not sure, but we’ll threaten to kill his family anyway. Anti-racism, according to Gorkem.
And for these great crimes, and great crimes like them, these two people, and countless others like them are facing financial and personal ruin, harassment and ostracization.
But so long as the people doling out these absolutely reasonable consequences are doing so only because they’re really, really concerned about racism, well that’s just great. We’re making the world a better place, right?
It means that his parents raised him in a house with a TV. Also, possibly, he was allowed to read comic books. KKK members are, among other things, stock villains in pop culture, and it would be a little strange for a 13 year old to NOT know at least that KKK outfits are worn by extreme racists.
I don’t know if you’re a parent. If you are, did you forbid your kid from studying history? Or seeing Mel Brooks movies?
I do agree with you that I wouldn’t punish a 16 year old for having been in a room with someone in a Klan costume when he was 13.
Insofar as it’s possible – and that he’s apparently on some sort of TV show complicates this, I admit – any “consequences” for minors should be at the family and possibly school level, not an online thing and not national news. Generally speaking, any consequences for minors should come from people who have an obligation to also protect the minor’s well-being. (In the same way parents might punish a child for cutting school while remaining concerned for the kid’s well-being.)
Not a parent, But if I were? I can’t imagine forbidding studying history, but depending on the movie? Maybe. I don’t know if Blazing Saddles is appropriate for a 12 year old, and I think that’s what you were referring to. Was there a KKK guy in a Mel Brooks movie made this side of 2000? Would your average 12 year old be exposed to classics? I’m trying to think of movies I’ve seen with Klansmen… Django? BlackKklansmen? Definitely not fare for 12 year olds. At 12, I like to think that I’d be more likely to associate a white hood like that with a Scooby Doo ghost villain. Maybe I was sheltered.
I don’t know, I’d like to think that if you asked the average 12 year old what the KKK was, they wouldn’t know. Maybe that’s because my education was mostly Canadian. To be fair… We learned more about the fur trade than the American civil war, and not much about slavery outside the Railroad. You might be right as far as American kids go. I’ll think about it.
I can say, from having two nieces that grew up in our house, watching classic movies with them is one of the joys of having a kid around! Who else do I know who hasn’t seen these movies already?
I wouldn’t have hesitated to show my nieces Blazing Saddles at age 12 – their parents don’t mind them hearing swearing, and nothing in that movie would have been too tough for them to understand at 12. And that’s hardly the only place the KKK show up – they were in a middle-grade graphic novel by a major cartoonist that was published last year, for example.
12 year olds might still enjoy Scooby Doo, but they can enjoy far more sophisticated stuff than that long before age 12.
It would make sense if the KKK were less well-known in Canada, since they were (afaik) mainly a US thing.
I would think that The Strangers: Prey at Night is a far more troubling movie for a 12 year old to watch than Blazing Saddles. But I think Corso is right in that you cannot assume that a child would be interested in movies that came out 25 years before they were born, especially if the adults in their life were not into classic movies.
It is very hard to find information on what the actual sequence of events was in the Kennedy situation – it appears someone went digging through his old social media looking for something to attack him by (maybe a fan of one of his competitiors), found something that could be interepreted as racist, and fanned the flames over it. This then caused a backlash, but it’s not clear who the backlash is by – no public figures (on the left or otherwise) seem to be involved, just anonymous internet people. So while I think it’s clear he was a victim of *something*, it’s not clear to me that it’s an attack by the left so much as an attack by the sectors of the internet who just want reasons to tear down any celebrity or semi-celebrity they can.
Kennedy and Donohue are semi-celebrities at least temporarily. They went on TV on shows watched by millions. They are not “normal” people going about life suddenly dogpiled by the internet. They chose to put themselves in the public spotlight.
Kennedy is a minor and I agree with Amp here that for minors, the authority figures in their lives (school and/or guardians) should normally handle this kind of thing. That said, the only reason we are even hearing of this is because he and his parents decided to put him in the public eye, and someone else decided to dig through social media connected to him. There is zero chance that a 12 year old raised in the US on movies and social media doesn’t know what a Klan uniform looks like.
With regard to Donohue, I can absolutely hold up my pointer, middle, and ring fingers. It is how I usually signal 3. Just hold your pinky down with your thumb and there you go. Same as what Donohue is doing with his thumb and his pointer finger. And I have no idea if he intended to signal for white power, but I do understand why some people thought he might be doing so. I think he was respectful to apologize. When I inadvertently offend people, I apologize. I don’t see how he has been cancelled here.
I think I was seven when I first saw Blazing Saddles. It was “only” about ten years old then. My parents were generally a lot more chill about their kids seeing swearing or sexuality than realistic violence (the violence in Saddles was so cartoony it didn’t bother them).
I remember my brother and I debating how the Klu Klux Klan got its name when I was 13 and he was 10. (We were both wrong, incidentally). We aren’t Americans.
“Cancel Culture” is just a dumb term and conservatives, especially but hardly exclusively, use it to decry criticism their cohort receives for voicing and advocating for various bigotries.
You know what was Cancel Culture(tm) as the right wing would like us to believe the term means? McCarthyism. THAT was cancel culture like nothing that’s existed in the last 50 years.
What is called Cancel Culture was called “infringing on my free speech” as recently as 10 years ago. I can’t take people who take Cancel Culture(tm) seriously, seriously. It’s like talking to adults about their fervent belief in and hatred of, say, Santa Claus. It’s like talking to adults who complain about Biden taking away hamburgers and allowing meat to be eaten only once a month. It’s futile because it is so far removed from reality as to be almost dadaist.
I think there’s a real-world problem of disproportionate responses to dissent (from left or right). It’s not as ubiquitous or always as severe as people claim, but it exists.
But I dislike the term “cancel culture” because the right has successfully defined that as “disproportionate responses coming from the left,” in effect excusing extremely similar behavior from themselves and their allies.
“there’s a real-world problem of disproportionate responses to dissent”
There maybe but it is not really relevant to what right wingers talk about when they complain about “cancel culture”.
Being anti-trans, homophobic or racist is not a form of dissent.
Pepper-spraying peaceful protesters is a disproportionate response to dissent but it is the kind of thing that the people who complain about “cancel culture” usually applaud.
Jane @ 59
I tend to agree that “cancel culture” is a bad term, but as opposed to calling it “consequence culture”, which as I said, really doesn’t apply unless you actually think that these behaviors warrant consequences, I would drop the pretext and call it what it actually is: “harassment culture.”
You’re right, of course, that Donohue’s loss and exit from Jeopardy had nothing to do with the thousands of calls, Emails and letters being sent to the show, him personally, and his family. In a month or two, once the mob has solidly moved on to their next target for abuse, he might not have lost his job, his friends might still talk to him, and he might be able to sleep comfortably. Or not. Who knows? Maybe he does lose his job, maybe his friends do ostracize him, maybe he gets PTSD and wakes up in cold sweats every time his window rattles.
But I mean, that’s totally understandable, and he had it coming. He made a hand gesture on TV that was different from what you would make. He could be a racist. We better threaten his family, just in case, right? That’s anti-racist consequence culture culture. Or harassment. Your mileage may vary.
This is the second time you’ve mentioned the thousands of emails. What’s the source for this? I read a bunch of articles and op-eds – including from news orgs that are right-wing friendly, like Fox and WSJ – without finding this element mentioned.
As far as I can tell, what actually happened was that a private Facebook group for former Jeopardy contestants convinced themselves it was a white power sign and made a petition, which about 450 of them signed. (Which I find to be an incredibly high number!) There were tweets, as well. But I’m not finding any reference to these thousands of emails you’re talking about. (Of course, it’s possible that they were reported by a real news organization and I just didn’t find it).
Just to be clear, I do agree that the petition and the pressure Donohue faced was a terrible idea and very unfair and obviously distressing to Donohue, regardless of if there were thousands of emails.
I feel like cancel culture is a name for something that:
*has always existed (at least within recent memory, but probably always)
*exists on all sides of the spectrums
*has already been renamed a couple of times during my lifetime.
Just focusing on manifestations within social justice–ten years ago, we were calling it “call out” culture and having a similar debate about it.
Sometimes it has healthy manifestations because it’s responsive to real problems. Sometimes it has unhealthy manifestations because people are jerks. Sometimes the same manifestations are healthy and unhealthy.
Is it really all that different from old-fashoned “protect the children” conservative letter campaigns?
Social media creates changes in how things unfold for sure, but I find it really trippy seeing people argue “this doesn’t exist” or “this is new” or “this is a liberal thing.”
(I feel the same about “virtue signaling.” As if Jesus wasn’t complaining about people who made a huge fuss about religiosity in public while being jerks in private.)
Please stop putting word in my mouth.
1) His loss happened months before the shows were broadcast, as is the norm for these things (they are not live) so yes, it had nothing to do with it.
2) I never said that I agreed that he should be harassed. In fact I said that death threats and harassment were unacceptable. I have no problem with some people pointing out that they were offended by something he did on a show that millions of people watch that he voluntarily went on to show off his prowess at a game and maybe make some money. From the link Barry retweeted, there weren’t thousands of emails and there is no risk that he will be fired, so I think you are engaging in some hyperbole there, yourself.
I will also say that LOADS of people were harassed online for years and they were told to grow a thicker skin when they were women, LGBT , non-Christian, or people of color. That online harassment is called “cancelling” now that it happens to white men too says something about our culture. I never bothered reporting any of the death threats, rape threats, and other foul things I was sent for the crime of winning an online fantasy football league using a female name because I knew nothing would be done. It only took a few months to blow over during which time I was very careful when out and about alone.
To be perfectly clear, I don’t think anyway deserves to be harassed online or in person. I do think that “cancel culture” is not new just that the targets have changed.
What people who complain the loudest about “cancel culture” call “free speech” is really “consequence free speech”. I am a big believer in free speech, but just because you say it, doesn’t mean I need to listen to it. Or provide a platform for you to continue saying it. Or continue to go places where I might see you and interact with you. I have never complained to the owner of a business about an employee doing things in their private life, but I have decided not to continue to shop places so I could avoid individuals I did not wish to see anymore based on their actions when off-duty.
Amp @ 65
Just for clarity: I didn’t say thousands of emails, I said;
“I do not believe that the thousands of people that contacted Jeopardy actually believed that Donohue meant to make a white supremacist hand gesture, and I don’t think they were hurt by it.”
“You’re right, of course, that Donohue’s loss and exit from Jeopardy had nothing to do with the thousands of calls, Emails and letters being sent to the show, him personally, and his family.”
My point, and I could have been more clear) was the number of interactions, not the method they used. And as to the number; Up front: I don’t have a citation for it, but I really do believe it’s reasonable. I can’t find a number past the 595 people (From your archive link) that signed the petition. And “signed the petition” is a poor description of what they did… Signatories were given room to add personal comments, and many did. I would quote them, but in a kind of ironic twist, the document has been scrubbed from the internet to avoid the signatories being harassed.
But Donohue did say that the response to his explanation, which he posted to social media (and has since deleted) was “overwhelming” and involved his family.I’ve seen calls referenced, even if they weren’t tallied. Because I can’t provide a citation on the numbers, you’re more than welcome to disagree on them. It could be “hundreds” as opposed to “thousands” of interactions, I seriously doubt it’s “tens of thousands”, but I suppose that’s possible too. But I don’t know if that’s really the part that matters though…. Does harassment become better when it’s merely hundreds of people, or even dozens of people, as opposed to thousands?
This is an odd way of saying “I made it up, I have no idea if it’s true, and I chose not to let anyone know I was pulling numbers out of my ass.”
I don’t agree or disagree on the numbers you made up. I think we don’t know.
I definitely agree that abusive harassment is wrong whether it’s an unjustified petition, or targeting someone within their community, or thousands of abusive comments that continue for many years.
I think even if we don’t agree with Corso I have to applaud him for achieving his main goal – getting the focus of the conversation shifted to what is happening to white heterosexual men through relentless “whataboutism”.
Mission Accomplished. That’s exactly what my goal was. Now I’m going to relax, twirl my villain moustache and drink one of those drinks with the mint leaves you see racists order in old movies. Muah hah ha.
While I’m sympathetic to your point, this sort of comment – because it’s about Corso’s motivation, not just about the way the focus of the conversation has shifted – is the sort of thing I’d rather be avoided on “Alas.”
OK. But, Corso’s motivations aside, I really do not think the Donohue incident justifies the level of focus it is getting here or anywhere, and it seems like a false equivalence to be discussing it as somehow parallel, let alone comparable, to historical racism, sexism, transphobia, etc.
Walk and Chew Gum, Gorkem.
I didn’t bring up cancel culture, I didn’t bring up Colin Kaepernick, and not every example I had was a white guy. I also find it just amazing how despite how we see these stories about mob harassment following some perceived petty slight come out weekly, people here can pretend that the examples I trot out are the only examples of it happening ever. If you’d prefer examples of harassment culture that targeted someone diverse, we talked about the two students who ended up cancelling eachother, a white girl who said a slur, and the black boy who posted her on social media. I didn’t draw any equivalence, I just said that a thing that I think is bad, is bad.
You have this blessed talent to read into what I say just volumes of things that I didn’t say, pretend I said them, and work yourself up over them. I would suggest that your quality of life and personal happiness would increase were you to not.
Out of curiosity, would you call the McCarthyism of the 50s “harassment culture” or “cancel culture”?
Harassment. Not only should people not be treated like McCarthy’s victims were, regardless of political opinion, most of the people he attacked weren’t even communists. There’s a reason his name is a pejorative.
But it’s an interesting thought…. Is “Racist” the new “Communist”? I don’t think so… There are obvious and material differences between the Red Scare and what we’re seeing now…. But there’s also a lot of parallels, particularly on the effects on relatively innocent bystanders, that should maybe make proponents think twice.
@Corso: I assure you my quality of life is fine, and, perhaps surprisingly, not greatly affected one way or another by what I read or write here. Of course now that I have said that it seems like he doth protest too much, but that’s the nature of the whole “Accuse your opponent of fucking goats so he has to deny he fucks goats” rhetorical tactic.
Still, I know it’s always intellectually satisfying to imagine that people who disagree with one on the internet are in fact fuming with rage and screaming incoherently as they pound their fists against the keyboard, but it actually is not often the case. Because we view ourselves as calm and reasonable, people who take a contrary position must be angry and unreasonable, right? The only reason somebody could take issue with what you write is because those people are irrational, and they just need to calm down and then they will see that hey, in fact, all that antiracism is just not that big a deal.
I’m sure you are perfectly at peace with yourself and your place in the universe, and enjoy a rich and fulfilling personal and family life, and that if you changed your views on anti-racism, or just changed the way you express them here, that wouldn’t change.
But re: walking and chewing gum – cute metaphor. I would use a different one. Yes, it is possible to care about both flower arranging and genocide. But when somebody constantly tries to divert conversations from genocide to flower arranging, and suggests that what the world needs for people to worry less about genocide and more about flower arranging, and that the world would be a better place if all those people worried about genocide were more “reasonable” when they point out that genocide is bad, the hypothetical ability of the generic human mind to harbour thoughts on both simultaneously may not be the most relevant principle to understand what that person’s ideas about the world are.
That’s not at all what I was trying to get at. Not even a little bit. Let me see if I can communicate that better…
My question is whether the persecution that McCarthy victims dealt with is the same kind of persecution (cancellation, if you will) that victims of Cancel Culture(tm) face today?
I’m trying to understand how people who talk about Cancel Culture(tm) perceive/understand Cancel Culture(tm) and why so many of them appear to think that this is a new behavior in Western history.
Jaqueline @ 78
I know it’s not what you were trying to communicate… But now that I’ve thought about it, some of the parallels are not just good, but perfect. Like I said before, not all of them, and there are some very important differences, but I think that some of the same base psychology might be involved. I can’t unsee this.
It depends who you’re talking about. “Cancel Culture” is too big a catch all. I am speaking very narrowly about the people who are generally non-political who said or did something that was either objectively not offensive, or didn’t mean for it to be offensive, that are suddenly thrust into the online meat grinder of social media, with lasting life changing effects. I believe, and I’m glad some here agreed, that it is orders of magnitude worse when it happens to children. The fallout following “You are a racist.” in these contexts, like I said, in many ways mirrors the experience of someone being called a communist in the 50’s.
It might not be a *new* behavior when you consider how similar some of it is to the Red Scare… But I think the main differentiator, what makes it so objectionable, is the randomness with which it chooses it’s victims, and the relative obscurity of them. It’s punching down. It was during the Red Scare as well… but the levels in power between an unaccountable, faceless online mob and the people they ruin seems an order of magnitude larger. There is no one for Joseph Welch to ask “Have you no decency, sir?” to. And no one to hear it.
It matters, to an extent, whether the behavior was actually objectionable. As a very extreme example, Harvey Weinstein. If Weinstein lives long enough to breathe free air, I doubt that he’ll ever work in Hollywood again (although I’m not certain, when you consider what happened to Roman Polanski, Hollywood is weird.). Weinstein’s case conforms with what I would consider a cancellation, but I’m not going to waste ink bemoaning his treatment. It matters that what he did was actually bad, and not working in entertainment again seems like the beginning of a proportional response to what he did.
I am not talking about people who are pushed off of platforms because they break the terms of service. There is no equivalence between someone like Ben Shapiro, who says some very conservative things, but has managed to never get a community guidelines strike from YouTube, and Stephen Crowder, who seems to get one every other month. I am not talking about Josh Hawley, who is not being cancelled by going on adversarial media, national adversarial media, and being asked difficult questions. He should be prepared for them, not bitch about them.
Does that help?
McCarthyism was the government stepping on people, not people being criticized in media (although it was that, too). The government threw people in literal prison if they didn’t cooperate. The government contacted businesses and made it clear they would be put out of business if they hired McCarthyism’s targets. The FBI would go chat with employers to tell them to fire some guy, and if that guy got a new job, that employer would also get an FBI visit.
What’s happened to Kelly Donohue – which was definitely awful – is many times less severe. It’s not even the same ballpark.
Have people be subpoenaed by Congress to appear on national TV to be asked “are you now or have you ever been a racist”? Has anyone been thrown in prison for not testifying that their friends and associates are racists?
McCarthyism also involved passing legislation to further its ends, and shut up communists. It’s not as bad as McCarthyism, obviously, but the only parallel to that in the current culture wars, is the rash of anti-“critical race theory” laws written and supported by people who are explicitly opposed to cancel culture. (And also a few laws intended to silence anti-Israel speech.)
Suggesting that cancel culture and McCarthyism are equivalent is ridiculous.
Well… It’s a good thing I didn’t do that then:
I might have made a mistake in the power disparity. My thought process was revolving around how McCarthy needed to run his sham trials, and how he still needed to play within the system, and that system ultimately foiled him. The outrage mob makes their own system, and it’s self sustaining. But you’re right, at the end of the day, you can’t harass people into jail, and that is absolutely material.
My point about psychology is that I think that they absolutely would if they could though. If the people sending children death threats had the institutional power to do what McCarthy did, there’s no doubt in my mind that a not-insignificant portion of them would. The difference isn’t in mindset, it’s in ability.
Yet, most of the complaints I see about it complain about it as if it were equivalent. It’s spoken of as if people are being sought out for the slightest hint that they may be communist, er, saying true things that just aren’t woke and then having their freedom and livelihoods taken from them.
There are cries of future government sponsored cancellation (“Biden is cancelling meat!!!!!11!!”) and that any kind of consequences being faced by anybody who might possibly be part of the right is cancellation (Baffert’s Kentucky Derby winning horse testing positive for drugs is cancellation) emanating from the same crowd. Josh Hawley having to find a different publisher for his book after he was documented supporting an insurrection against the United States has been called cancellation. The term is amorphous and means only that nobody on the right should ever face any consequences (from their community or their industry or their government) for their words and actions.
It’s why I have a hard time taking claims of Cancel Culture!!!111!!!! seriously.
Jacqueline @ 82
Same advice I gave Gorkem, but meant a little more gently; Walk and Chew Gum.
All of those are great examples of idiots who are using “Cancel Culture” as a catch all description for life having consequences (“I’m being cancelled because I was caught doping my horses again.” was a particularly grievous one, although I don’t understand the political angle.) and demonstrate how the term is quickly being hollowed out and can mean very different things depending on context.
But they’re also obviously different from what we’re talking about here, or at least what I’m talking about here. If we can agree that the “flavor” of cancel culture I’m talking about, or maybe just the phenomenon I’m talking about, is bad, then let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater: Just like I’m not going to waste ink defending the indefensible, even when someone is whining about it using the words “cancel culture”, perhaps we shouldn’t defend the indefensible that’s done in the name of cancel culture, just because there are good applications of it.
I guess we were talking at cross-purposes mostly because I didn’t understand that you see this as a new thing, rather than as an old thing with a new name. People have always done this to each other. Now they use social media, and it is faster but not materially different from older methods.
That’s fair enough. Lots of failed starters have gotten second chances as backups. But then, lots have not. Whether or not Kapernick was in fact still that good is a matter of opinion; again, he had a poor record his last two years, had injuries and got benched for the last half of his final year. When it comes to making the decision to hire a backup QB there’s only a very few people whose opinions actually matter, and they tend not to make their opinions public. Don’t forget that if you’re looking for a backup QB you want one whose style of play fits with the offense your team already has – you don’t want to have to change your offense much if your #1 gets hurt and you have to put your #2 in. So a lot of the 32 teams wouldn’t want to sign him because they were happy with their #2 or else he wouldn’t have fit their offense.
Add on top of that the fact that he deliberately stirred up political/social controversy on the field. Plenty of athletes have been outspoken about the issues of our times, and good for them, why shouldn’t they? It’s a free country. But where Kaepernick offended a lot of people was that he was making such a statement while he was on the field. At that point he’s not on his own time. He’s on time bought and paid for by the owners and by extension the fans. Employees stirring up controversy in front of the paying customers is the last thing anyone running a company needs. This is a distinction that seems to elude a lot of people.
People seem to think it’s horrible that he should have not gotten offers to play after leading protests on the field. I don’t see it. It seems to me that one of the themes right here in this thread in the discussion regarding cancel culture is that freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences resulting from that speech. Refusing to hire someone because of a rally they went to or a speech they gave or a posting they made (presuming they did not propose or perform a violent or illegal act) I would consider outrageous. But refusing to hire someone because they make political statements that are likely to offend the customers while they are at work makes sense, regardless of what that person claims their intent is.
Oh leave it off Ron. Saluting the American flag, singing the national anthem, etc etc, these are all 100% part of what takes places during sports events. These are explicitly political. It’s a politics you agree with, sure, but you are claiming to be value neutral here.
If an athlete saluting, embracing etc etc the flag during a match is allowed, why isn’t an athlete expressing a different opinion about the flag also allowed? Answer: Because this rule is in fact not value-neutral. The rule is not “don’t bring political opinions into games” but “don’t bring political opinions that I, the speaker, don’t like into games”.
Only in the sense that there is no objective way to determine that. The fact of the matter is that every expert, analyst and beat reporter agreed that he was that good. The only one’s putting forth your point of view were right wingers with no particular expertise in pro football. Based on the information available to us about Kaepernick’s ability at the time he was black balled, the position that he may not have been good enough to even garner a try out to see if he was good enough is clearly a political and racist one.
RonF is conveniently demonstrating to us what one aspect of “cancel culture” is – when someone’s views or actions displease a segment of the population, and that segment doesn’t just complain about said views or actions, but they also retroactively deny all the accomplishments and abilities of that person, regardless of how relevant they are to the case.
Kaepernick did not use the correct ritual to respect the American flag, and he incurred the ire of the right. So now it’s not enough to say he’s a naughty boy – he must be a terrible footballer too.
My gut tells me that there is an equivalent to this in English, but I’ll be darned if I can dredge it up out of my brain. Maybe the sentiment is so familiar that it just seems like there should be…
Heh. I’d be almost half of that load. Perhaps not after a few months of Russian war rations, though.
I might also be too tall for the cockpit.
Tragic. My career as a Soviet bomber pilot ended before I began…
Thanks for this tidbit. I had understood that they needed to carry as little weight as possible, but I had not put it together that of course they would be flying low enough that parachutes would be pointless.
Oh, no! Rick Santorum has been cancelled!!!!!
(I’m positive that this is exactly what most people mean when they refer to “cancel culture”)