UPDATE: It’s been fascinating to watch the many, fast-moving reactions to Roseanne Barr’s Twitter-fueled self-destruction, all in the space of one day. (Roseanne herself is asking fans not to defend her and blames her racist jibe at former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett on tweeting at 2 a.m. while on Ambien. That sounds like a great idea. For all the criticism of the old Hollywood studio system, at least they understood how dangerous it was to let certain stars appear in public without a PR expert at their elbows to cover their mouths when they went off script.
It’s not as if ABC didn’t know what a ticking time bomb Roseanne was. They could have looked at her Twitter feed over the last few years, or her original series, where she went through showrunners and writers like a baby goes through diapers, doing pretty much the same thing to them. Speaking of that series, one of the reactions is that Viacom announced it was pulling her old show from its cable channels. That tweet was so powerful, it apparently went backward in time and tainted reruns that people have been watching for 20 years. It shows how deadly social media missteps have become: it took 60 women accusing Bill Cosby of sexual assault to get “The Cosby Show” erased from history; with Roseanne, it took one racist tweet.
But the first reaction came from ABC, which swiftly canceled her current series. That must have hurt, since it was a #1 hit at a time when networks are desperate for those. They didn’t have much choice, since most of the cast and creators refused to work with her anymore. It’s a shame all those people are unemployed due to the star’s lack of self-control (I know from experience that the folks on camera are only the tip of the iceberg in creating a TV show). Besides, it was doing something unique. Even as the left is trying to use Roseanne’s offensive tweet to tar all Trump supporters as racists, the show itself mostly hewed to the typical liberal slant of most sitcoms, but at least the writers tried to present a reasonably fair depiction of a blue collar, Middle-American, Trump-supporting family who had a legitimate beef with the way liberal policies had harmed them, like turning a blind eye to illegal immigration (a point once made by liberal hero, Caesar Chavez.)
Dan Conner (John Goodman) was a hard-working construction contractor nearing retirement age with no savings, and his wife needed a knee operation he couldn’t afford. In the season (now series) finale, even though he and his partner (who was African-American) bid the union minimum on a must-land drywall job, his competitors beat him out by hiring illegal immigrants. Dan didn’t blame the illegals; he said they were also desperate for work and were being exploited. But that still left him and his partner unable to support their families and at the end of their ropes.
This was an honest depiction of a real problem many Americans face. Yet when they complained about it, the left called them racists. In truth, they didn't "hate immigrants." The system failed them, and Trump simply promised to enforce longstanding immigration laws that protected them. That was a viewpoint that needed to be seen on network TV. Now, Roseanne’s erratic behavior has muddled it.
Other commenters mentioned the sharp contrast between the media cheering ABC’s axing of Roseanne and how other celebrities who’ve said offensive things about Republican women or Christians not only kept their shows but were celebrated for refusing to apologize. These included Keith Olbermann (now at Disney-owned ESPN after repeatedly calling Trump a "Nazi"), Joy Behar (who called Christians mentally ill on ABC’s “The View”), and the alleged comedian who viciously and unapologetically attacked my daughter and other female White House staffers at the Correspondents’ Dinner and was rewarded with praise for her “courage” and a Netflix series. But MSNBC took the “Clueless” Award by bringing on Joy Reid and asking what someone has to do to get fired from a network these days (click the link for a refresher course on what Joy did on Twitter, yet she’s still on MSNBC.)
Granted, many of the liberal comments cited weren’t racist, but were incredibly offensive, and in some cases, were based on perpetuating ugly, negative, false stereotypes about large groups of people different from them. Plus, you could ask Condoleezza Rice, Clarence Thomas, Dr. Ben Carson and other prominent black conservatives how many times they’ve been the targets of racist slurs by liberals in the media and how many of them lost their jobs over it.
Still other commenters pointed out that many of the same media figures who praised ABC for taking swift action to silence Roseanne over making a statement that offended and alienated viewers were just last week savaging the NFL for infringing on the players’ free speech right to make a statement that offends and alienates viewers. At least Roseanne had the excuse that she made her offensive statement on her own time, not right in the middle of the show.
Again, none of this is to defend what Roseanne tweeted. Everyone should be aware that they are risking their jobs if their behavior offends and alienates customers and reflects badly on their employer (I explained this very concept last week in talking about the NFL controversy – and yes, many Americans sincerely find the players’ disrespect for the flag and the National Anthem to be deeply offensive.) The First Amendment protects you from government censorship, not from the consequences of your words.
Liberals who are trying to blame Roseanne’s tweet on the “culture created by Trump” conveniently forget that they’ve spent the past half-century or more deliberately shredding all the cultural niceties that used to prevent people from saying any stupid, obscene or offensive thing that popped into their heads. Looking over all the offensive, outrageous, insulting, racist, etc., statements over the past couple of years, it’s obvious to me that society would be better off if people on both sides not only stopped tweeting while on Ambien, but also resurrected a long-discarded piece of old-fashioned wisdom that I used to see on plaques and bumper stickers all the time when I was a kid, back before the 1960s “cultural revolution” removed all taboos on speech and behavior (except the ones the left would like to keep to silence their opponents). It went like this:
“Be sure brain is engaged before putting mouth in gear.”
MY ORIGINAL POST ABOUT THE BREAKING ROSEANNE BARR NEWS IS BELOW:
In stunning news, an extremely ill-advised tweet sent out by Roseanne on Tuesday has resulted in the immediate cancelation of her newly-revived show on ABC. As much as we might disagree politically with former (and, come to think of it, current) Obama consigliere Valerie Jarrett, and as deliriously happy as we might be that she isn’t anywhere near the White House these days, I’m sure we can also agree that Roseanne’s description of her as a genetic combination of the Muslim Brotherhood and an “ape” is indefensible. Though Roseanne apologized quickly, it was inevitable that her show, as well-executed and timely and popular and lucrative (and FUNNY) as it is, would be canceled, considering the racist connotations of a remark like that.
Reaction was immediate. FOX News media analyst Howard Kurtz described this as “a spectacular self-immolation by Roseanne Barr after an equally spectacular comeback.” Cast member Wanda Sykes announced that she would not be coming back to the show. Sara Gilbert, who plays –- played –- one of her three adult kids, tweeted that the comment was “abhorrent” and not reflective of “the beliefs of our cast and crew or anyone associated with our show.” Her talent agency, ICM Partners, has announced that it will no longer represent her. Roseanne was already known for being controversial and edgy, but this was obviously over the edge.
Predictably, anti-Trump media outlets are already trying to tie the President and all his supporters to this comment (and his compulsive Twitterstorms don’t help). Joe Scarborough of MSNBC implied as much when he tweeted, “Even in the Age of Trump, there are red lines that can never be crossed. This is one.” Get ready for an escalation of “Trump-is-a-racist” commentary –- which is also indefensible, though the media will get away with it as usual. Roseanne’s stupid remark just made it easier for the media to perpetuate their lie.
I’m not defending Roseanne’s aforesaid stupid remark in any way, but it’s hard to talk about this without mentioning the double standard for those on the left and right. To cite just one example, Kathy Griffin was condemned for tweeting a horrific picture of herself holding the bloody severed “head” of President Trump, and her career appeared to be over for a time, but now she’s back on tour for her many fans, who eat up that sort of thing and love her for being so viciously anti-Trump. Over the years, I've seen numerous left-of-center tweets that were racist and sexist (and, of course anti-Christian), but as they were aimed at conservatives, they got little if any attention. So, will Roseanne ever live this down? Not likely; odds are almost overwhelming that with this she has blown her career to dust.
There’s something about Twitter that INFECTS a lot of people, perhaps millions of us, like an insidious virus that destroys the pathways between the brain and the fingers. He who lives by the Tweet can die by the Tweet. The one way to fight the infection is to take “the pause that refreshes” and think before tweeting. The goal is not to avoid offending all people --- this will not in your wildest dreams be possible, or even necessarily desirable --- but to make sure you’ve chosen yours words carefully to communicate exactly want you intend to say while anticipating and accepting any potential consequences. Anyone who can’t do that should do what Roseanne says she has now done (too late): Leave Twitter.