Watching this lengthy discussion with the YouTube host Joe Rogan, it’s hard not to feel some sympathy for the disgraced American comedian and actress, Rosanne Barr. Whatever her past misdeeds, one is left with the strong impression that the pariah status of the sixty-five-year-old celebrity is partly the result of her becoming collateral damage in the ongoing ideological culture wars in the United States. In the eyes of her staunchest critics, her greatest sin was not her ill-judged or offensive tweets and subsequent dissembling but her well-known admiration of Donald Trump, and her role as a Trump-supporting lead character in the revival of a surprisingly well-received sitcom on ABC, a mainstream television network in the US.
To her detractors this made the Utah-born writer-producer guilty of “normalising” American populist-nationalism, however tangentially, and consequently she had to go. And gone she was, and by her own hand. I’m not sure what it says about the United States and many other countries around the world that people cannot apologise or make amends for their public mistakes or missteps. Apparently such individuals must live in perpetual disgrace however minor their transgressions. We wouldn’t impose such adolescent punishments in our personal lives, unless socially or emotionally maladjusted, so why do we expect them in the public sphere?
Oh boy! Having been an American political activist since some time between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, I don’t know quite where to begin on this topic. My views on the matter are anything but simple-racism, political correctness, polarization, “culture wars”.
With Roseanne Barr, I can accept different opinions on whether or not she should have been sacked like that, or given a second chance.
However, I know of some people who’ve been punished as badly as Barr for much lesser offenses.
One controversial cases in the city I was living while protesting Iraq had a controversial case. A rookie teacher was fired over a bad mistake with an African American HS student. Basically the student didn’t want to do his writing assignment. When the teacher was like “If you don’t bring in that assignment by tomorrow your mother will hear about it.” The student said “I won’t do it. It’s gay.” (From the 1980’s until the 2010’s it was common for teenagers in much of the West Coast to use the term “gay” to mean “lame” or “stupid”.) The teacher said “Don’t say that B. How would you like it, if one of your classmates said ‘I won’t do that paper. It’s for n****rs?’.”
There was a fair amount of controversy over whether firing that teacher had been the correct move. One local columnist with pretty good progressive credentials defended the teacher. He argued that most people who were not raised in integrated communities from a very young age need to have a chance to learn from their mistakes or else they will never truly function in anything but segregated environments. The doctrines of “critical race theory” argue that intent doesn’t really matter, only impact. (Many believe you can never rule out racist intent, because it can be subconscious. Or even that subconscious intent should be presumed.)
Advocating mercy in American political conflicts (especially over “race”) has a history of not ending well for those who do it. Poor old Abe advocated “Malice towards none.” over the Civil War a mere 42 days before getting a bullet in his head. MLK. Malcolm X soon after he renounced some of his “white devil’ rhetoric. Robert Kennedy as the prime anti-war candidate.
And since the Civil Rights movement it’s become notably tricky to figure out who is racist and who isn’t. It would be stupid to suggest that school integration, changes in popular culture, and various efforts to educate the population out of racism, have had no effect at all. But difficulty know somebody’s true intention made a doctrine (like Critical Race theory) which declare intent and conscious belief more or less irrelevant very seductive indeed.
Agreed, some flexibility is needed, learning from mistakes, accepting that not all misspoken words are meant from a place of malice – not every misstep should be the end of a career (some perhaps should be, if for example someone came out as a convinced neo-nazi etc or supported same – and don’t get me started on Morrisey). Barr is a curious character, once very progressive – and Roseanne was a fantastic show. Now… not so much. But I can’t help but think that her views have changed as she became more and more of a celebrity to the point where she just detached completely.
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Roseanne Barr is a very strange woman indeed.
Her family sort of went back and forth between Judaism and LDS (aka Mormon). Their heritage was indeed Jewish but at that time in some parts of Utah anything but LDS meant you faced a good deal of discrimination. She had a lot of odd and unexplained/never diagnosed neurological conditions as a kid and then got severe TBI from being hit by a car at 16. She had a child at 18 who was hidden and given up for adoption (when Mormons ruled Utah again.
She also had a big thing in the 90’s about repressed memories of sexual abuse but partly walked away from that.
Believe it or not I had distant LDS relatives in Belfast. They came over from the English branch of the family in the early 70s. Always wondered if that was a tactical adoption of LDS because they were CofE IIRC before that.
I remember that re the 90s repressed memories thing. It would be difficult to deny she had it tough at times.
Whoa!!! I do believe you. Mormons in Belfast? That’s the kind of thing, that just seems to crazy to make up.
As for it being a tactical decision, I would imagine that for that to work in Ulster, they would have both be somewhat lax about a number of rules and requirements of the LDS religion, AND depend to a heavy degree on the fact that most folks in NI, are relatively ignorant about Mormonism-like my relatives in Boston.
I grew up in a situation where the LDS was a strong local force. While discrimination against non-LDS was uncommon and violence all but unheard of, (very different from Utah today let alone the 1950’s!!) even a six year old kid going out to play, did not have the luxury of being unaware of the LDS/non-LDS divide. And for kids of Irish Catholic origins whose parents opt not to convert to LDS(mine didn’t), you pretty much grow up much like Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke, the Senatorial candidate from El Paso, Texas.
So sure. Color me, very, very familiar with Mormon religion and culture…..it’s surreal to imagine them anywhere in the UK or Ireland-especially Belfast.
One thing, and you’ll get this but it was only years later I realised was that the names of the kids, which were pretty exotic sounding, were not English but a Mormon thing. One of the parents did a bit of proselytising – gave the Book of Mormon to my Gran who was CofI by then and she promptly ignored it. I think the other wasn’t that committed. Then again on the English side I also had fundamentalist Christians who used to send long letters to my poor old Gran annotated with select quotes from the Bible supposedly meant to enlighten her on actually quite dull stuff in their lives. I offered jokingly that if she wanted I’d be happy to mine some quotes from Marx which she could use.
Well it’s no surprise they’ve gotten a toe-hold in Belfast: They DO require all males born into the faith to go on a two-year mission where they are stationed at any corner of the globe and required to “spread the word”. (The requirement is relaxed for converts and women doing missions is allowed but not required-with different bishops and stake Presidents having different views on whether it should be encouraged or not.)
It’s just that they’d seem to stand out quite a lot culturally anywhere in Ireland or the UK (before Belfast’s sectarian issues come up). But to be fair that’s probably true almost anywhere they aren’t a plurality or majority.
Where I come from there were not only obviously quite a few mainstream LDS, in the community, but settlements of breakaway FLDS (Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints) were not far away. And by that I mean these were folks who often practice polygamy, don’t believe in vaccines and frown on modern medicine, still wear 19th split crotched Temple Garments (vs the modern type from the 70’s), dress like pioneers, rarely if ever attend public or LDS schools, put children to work by the age of eight, and have the lower ranked Sister Wives living on little but potatoes like Irish tenement farmers did in the 19th century, and more.
I remember reading an Egyptian woman talking about how having spent some time in Saudi Arabia “traumatized [her] into feminism”. To a certain degree I can relate.
I can well believe it. That’s kind of grim. One thing about Belfast is the sheer volume of smaller religious denominations so perhaps they didn’t stand out quite so much. Unless I’m mistaken was only in the last two decades that the fundamentalist guys standing on street corners came to Dublin on a regular basis (though of course Dublin had fundamentalist Catholics who fulfilled that function prior to that – there was a woman who used to stand in O’Connell Street all day long). But I remember visits to Belfast in the 80s, and I was in and out of the place fairly regularly for a few years at the end of that decade and they were a regular feature.
If by fundamentalist guys standing on the corner. If you mean FLDS, I would tend to doubt that. For one thing FLDS don’t do as much missionary work and generally don’t send people abroad like the mainstream LDS does. Also FLDS aren’t as big to trying to find and posthumously baptize dead relatives as regular LDS-another major reason for them to show up in Ireland!! (Potentially for controversy noted.)
Generally LDS and FLDS dress very differently for one thing. While on a mission the Gentlemen wear nice trousers, white blouses (sometimes short sleeved), conservative ties, and possible a black jacket. The ladies if present will usually wear conservative but utterly modern dresses or skirts and blouses, that will be below the knee but well above the ankles with modern dress shoes. The hair styles, make-up and any jewelry will be highly conservative, but again modern as can be. They will also wear name tags saying who they are.
While not on mission, Mormons will generally dress in ways that largely conform to the local norms and culture, although they are required (except when in a bathing suit or something) as adults to wear clothing that fully covers their Temple Garments. Around here they men and women will also wear jeans, very long shorts, t-shirts, you name it. Clothing for regular church (vs Temple Robes) tend to be very formal and modest, but again utterly modern.
In FLDS the men and boys typically wear jeans along with button shirts in bright or dark colors (sometimes plaid) that cover their wrists, and are buttoned high up to the neck, with thick belts and boots. The women and girls wear single piece, light colored or plaid, home-made dress that cover their wrists and ankles, and are buttoned high up on the neck. Often they will wear trousers, sweat pants, or stockings prevent accidentally exposing their Temple Garments. They may wear sneakers, sandals boots, but their hair will usually be at least partially tied back behind their heads in some fashion-and they don’t wear make-up or jewelry. Women might wear smocks or aprons while doing dirty work or cooking, and both sexes might wear entirely modern jackets, vests, or raincoats.
Also while mainstream LDS totally forbids alcohol, caffeine (yes this includes tea folks!!), smoking, and all recreational drugs (any legitimate medical Rx is OK), FLDS men, women, and even children are allowed coffee, tea, alcoholic beverages, marijuana, recreational downers, you name it.
Ah definitely not FLDS – just ordinary fundamentalists on the evangelical wing of Protestantism.
The problem always has been where to draw the line. What we have right now in the US (and I think this is true in a number of countries) is an increasing polarization between an increasingly insane right wing. It’s not just that today’s GOP is no longer the party of Reagan let alone Eisenhower, T.R. and Lincoln. There’s actually a candidate running for Congress (10th district, VA) named Nathan Larson who is an open pedophile and avowed White Supremacist-and that isn’t just putting words in the man’s mouth, he has straight up claimed to be these things.
And we have an increasingly dogmatic left-wing as well. In particular much of the dogma stems from Critical Race Theory. Most people who have been punished as badly as or worse than Barr, did things that were nowhere near as bad as what she put on twitter. Perhaps having to deal with the CRT crowd as an anti-war activist, has distorted my perspective.
But it seems to me that what Roseanne Barr said was actually malicious and racist by any normal standards (not just the CRT crowd’s). One of the more shocking cases involved a professor Bret Weinstein got harassed out of his job as a professor of biology and evolution, over what was a very, carefully written and considered disagreement against HOW a particular anti-racist tradition/protest was modified in 2017.
Perhaps Roseanne should have been given a chance to apologize, but frankly, her case was not even close to being one of the more extreme.
It’s what you say, there’s a lot of retreating to barricades, seizing on any comment though Barr’s were pretty bad, and a lot of this I think is twitter driven. Also a lot is performative. I had an exposure to a lot of the roots of CRT in critical theory over the years and while I’ve sympathy for aspects of it I’ve always felt that buying into it or anything 100% is a real problem (and I think it tends to shy away from class). There’s also an issue with the efforts to map it onto contexts where it’s simply not appropriate. For example I’ve heard people apply US contexts onto those in the UK or Ireland when those contexts are radically different in many many respects.
As for CRT, I see it as assuming the the mentality of much of the US South during the late Jim Crow era, is an absolute human universal. I don’t think it’s even appropriate for other times and places in the United States-even if bigotry and discrimination do exist.
I have a huge problem with CRT’s track record of writing off things like Social Security as “white supremacist” and just “designed” to exclude and screw over African Americans. In reality, if you look at the NAACP’s position on Social Security (based on actual data for African Americans born in 1939 or later), they tell a profoundly different story. I could give many examples of cases where the CRT crowd and NAACP had very different views on various programs. Which isn’t to say the NAACP is infallible, but they do tend operate on the principles of rigorous factual due-diligence and extended public comment periods. CRT folks are more likely to base their conclusions purely on their own fairly rigid theoretical structure, and then question the motives or objectivity of anyone who disagrees.
Also as an anti-war activist with regards to the Iraq War, CRT influenced crowds were a constant source of obstruction. They and the 9/11 Conspiracy Theorists were forever trying to completely steal the microphone and take over.
Bret Weinstein, the sacked professor from Evergreen college, is in many ways very insightful as to what has gone wrong:
While my views are not 100% the same as Weinstein’s at the point around 34:00-38:00 in particular he has pretty much nailed exactly why a certain strain of CRT influenced anarchists can be so destructive. And one thing they often did was set things up to encourage the police to get violent towards anti-war activists, while mostly managing to avoid any harm themselves due to their small numbers.
That’s a perfect example of the performative aspect of this, re Weinstein’s experience. I find that very interesting re your experience of how this has played out in respect of anti-war activism.
Around what time period was your exposure to CRT? And was it in Ireland, or elsewhere?
With anti-war activism, I would never describe the “white anarchists” as fully or even primarily responsible for police brutality against the majority of activism.
But I don’t believe it’s mostly performative at all. I think this is what they honestly believe. How they got that way is complicated. But in most cases I believe it’s 100% sincere.
While it’s all rather hard to explain, I have some insight, because I actually “split” from that scene, very, very early in the recruitment process. Those who leave early typically come out unsettled, confounded, and likely more than a bit hurt. Those who are in that scene for longer periods almost have to go through a readjustment period to other segments of society, and may even have significant emotional trauma-like a domestic violence victim.
A lot of the tactics involve emotional manipulation and frankly the same tricks used by cults and batterers. I left about three months before 9/11.
But with regards to the anti-war movement these white anarchists believed 100% that by encouraging the police to get violent with a group of protesters who were about 80% white, that justice was being dished out.