Ethics Observations On The Roseanne Tweet Fiasco

1.  It is possible, after all, to revile Roseanne Barr’s gratuitously vicious “joke” about Valerie Jarrett, and to question the extended reaction to it. I feel especially emboldened, perhaps because you couldn’t have forced me to watch that show or anything associated with Barr had you been credibly threatening to blow up Fenway Park unless I tuned in. One of the ways the enemies of free discourse and thought further their agenda is by setting up these dilemmas, where to even suggest that a genuine miscreant’s punishment has exceeded reasonable bounds is to risk shunning and other serious cultural consequences—it’s the Cognitive Dissonance Scale again. “See, then we make them defend someone who would tweet something like that, and we’ve got em! Then they look like racists too! Bwahahahahaha!

2. No, I don’t think ABC and Disney were looking for an excuse to cancel “Roseanne” 2 because it was perceived as pro-Trump. The show was making money, and corporations place money above politics. However, there is no doubt that a conservative show has less margin for error in today’s biased media environment. It was up to Roseanne to understand that and moderate her conduct accordingly. This recent post is relevant.

3. I was not aware, until ethics alarms reader  Sue Denim pointed it out here, that Barr may have physiological reasons for her lifetime addiction to ugly humor:

“At 16, Barr was hit by a car; the incident left her with a traumatic brain injury. Her behavior changed so radically that she was institutionalized for eight months at Utah State Hospital. While institutionalized she had a baby, which she put up for adoption.In 1970, when Barr was 18 years old, she moved out by informing her parents she was going to visit a friend in Colorado for two weeks, but never returned.”-wiki

So she went back to being a good kid for the most part until the day she was hit by a car when she was 16 years of age. Apparently the hood ornament actually imprinted and went through her skull and into her brain. She was in the hospital for six months and when she woke up her personality had changed so radically that it was like the difference between night and day. The brain injury she sustained changed her so much that by the time she was 17 she’d had a child that she quickly put up for adoption, something that seemed entirely unlike her before her accident. Plus, who in the world is able to get up the gumption to get frisky that soon after an injury to the brain? Someone who’s controls just got scrambled a little while before, that’s who”

Or someone whose ability to foresee consequences rather than acting on impulse is damaged. Textbook symptoms.

Having worked with the brain injured – and having suffered a brain injury myself (yes, it shows, right?) the impulsivity resulting from lesions in the frontal lobes can be compensated for in most cases. It’s just harder for those with such injuries to think before acting, and they need practice in doing this to rewire the cortex, or at least compensate using higher brain functions rather than the learned instinct most people have. Takes many years.

Does this mean that Barr deserves some special consideration and compassion? It’s a hard case to make, since the changes wrought by the brain damage evidently make her rich and famous, as well as a habitual asshole. In addition, Barr has had a lifetime to understand her malady, if it really has physiological  roots, and  take measures to control it. That’s still her responsibility. Alcoholism isn’t an excuse for everything foolish or irresponsible an alcoholic does, either.

4. I was tempted to mock Roseanne’s attempt yesterday to blame her outburst on taking Ambien, the sleep-aid. Then I read this, from Ann Althouse:

“While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of” Ambien.

Tweets the manufacturer of Ambien, quoted in “Sanofi, the company that makes Ambien, rebuffed the assertion Wednesday on Twitter.” But “racism” is an abstraction, a label applied to what Roseanne did — which was to tweet “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj” in reference to Valerie Jarrett.
We don’t know what motivated those words. Perhaps it was real racism, but it could also have been a wild, reckless urge to outrage or a confused angry silliness. What was Roseanne’s emotional state at the time of the tweet, and does it have any relation to any of the known side effects of Ambien?The American Addiction Centers website discusses the possible cognitive impairment that Ambien users have experienced, and I’ll just excerpt some of the things that could be related to a stupid expression like Roseanne’s:

Difficulty concentrating
Disorientation to place or time
Loss of emotional affect…
Excessive sedation
Confusion and disorientation…
Impaired judgment

Sanofi’s snark is first rate, but it doesn’t exclude the possibility that Ambien was Roseanne’s problem. That said, blaming Ambien sounds lame — and yet, ironically, making a lame excuse could be caused by Ambien. Lame excuse-making could be the result of confusion or disorientation or impaired judgment….Roseanne’s offense is chiefly to have violated a particular well-known social norm against any suggestion that a black person looks like an ape. Looking at a human face and seeing likeness to an animal is very common. We often think someone has a “horse face” or looks like a chicken or — in the case of Mitch McConnell — a turtle. Apes have the most resemblance to humans, so this common way of seeing animal faces in humans is most likely to happen with apes. Donald Trump was famously called the son of an orangutan, and George Bush was often pictured as a chimpanzee. I had a colleague at the University of Wisconsin Law School who posted on her office door a set of pictures of George Bush and chimpanzees making various faces. It was stock humor at the time. But everyone is supposed to know that you just do not do that with black people.

Roseanne transgressed that social norm. Had she forgotten about it? I doubt it, but comedy often involves an outrageous transgression. What’s one thing you absolutely should not say? That’s a question you might use to brainstorm a comic routine. Shock the bourgeoisie is the old artist’s credo. But the bourgeoisie shocks back. You get the consequences. Some jokes won’t be taken. “Roseanne” is/was a network sitcom.

But the question here is: Could Ambien have caused it? And I’m saying that the only cause needed was the destructive impulse to violate a strong social norm that has to do with race. I do understand the argument that the racial idea had to be in her head before it could have exerted pressure to leap out, but if she’d kept the idea to herself, like so many other people who are aware of the strong social norm, she wouldn’t be in any trouble at all.

She also points us to this: The NYT addresses the question whether Ambien could caused the severe lapse in judgment or break from reality that could explain Roseanne’s tweet?

5. Many people have expressed surprise that Valerie Jarrett is black. If Roseanne was one of those individuals who somehow missed that memo, then doesn’t that change everything? As Ann notes above, using ape insults against white figures is apparently no big deal, especially when it is a figure the left detests. Calling a white person an ape or a monkey is, we have decided, not racist. So if Barr thought she was in safe territory (she wasn’t, of course: mustn’t insult the Obamas and their friends!),  and didn’t intend to make a racist joke, just an unfunny and mean one, is it really fair that she should lose her show and hundreds of people connected to it lose their livelihood?

Of course, at this point the speculation is purely hypothetical. Roseanne presumably would have played the “I didn’t know she was black!” card immediately if this had been the case.

Unless the Ambien…

6. My ethics alarms began ringing when I read last night that stations were pulling reruns of Roseanne’s old show from circulation. Glenn Reynolds wrote, fairly, “TO THE AIRBRUSHES, COMRADES! They sure do move fast to make someone an unperson now.”

The woman wrote a tweet.

She didn’t rape anyone, like Cosby, whose legitimate artistic achievements have been sentenced to cultural purgatory. She didn’t fight for slavery, like the Confederate military heroes whom the Left wants to erase from all public visibility. She wrote something offensive and stupid. No, I’m not employing Rationalization #22, “It’s not the worst thing”: I have problems with what is being done to Cosby and General Lee, but what is being done to Barr’s work is a different matter entirely. This was mere words, ten of them, quickly withdrawn and apologized for. It isn’t just out of proportion to pull the old sitcom, it chills the speech of others…and I think this is what it is intended to do.

This past week we have seen Morgan Freeman’s career ruined because of unproven allegations that he made sexually provocative comments to women in his last few movies, and now Barr’s whole comedy legacy is being erased because of a tweet. What will be the next escalation of this vindictive, intolerant trend?

Be afraid. Or better yet, fight it, because you could be next.

Post Script: I suppose I have to mention the depressingly predictable news media reaction, which was to use this episode to bash the President. Roseanne’s tweet proves that Trump is a racist, you see, and that his existence enables racists, and that all Trump supporters are racists. Sigh. The “Trump is a racist” slur has become a classic Big Lie, repeated so often that it is accepted as fact, despite the stunning lack of evidence for the contention. Lest we forget, its origins lie in the President’s opposition to illegal immigration, and his commitment to enforcing the immigration laws. Unconscionably calling this position racist has been a progressive tactic before Trump surfaced, and now he is the most prominent victim of it. Getting from Roseanne to Trump is a stunning leap, but after all, the ends justify the means in Resistance Land.

33 thoughts on “Ethics Observations On The Roseanne Tweet Fiasco

  1. Jack wrote, “Be afraid. Or better yet, fight it, because you could be next.”

    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.


  2. Roseanne Barr, to my sensibility, is a loathsome creature. Feel the same way about Trump. Never watched either of them on TV (even the debates or speeches after elected) intentionally.

    Nevertheless, to expunge past Barr work from the public eye for her current racist tweet rant is unbalanced. Is Barr a racist? Have no idea how she lives her real life in relationship to other races personally or in general. How about we expunge Warren G. Harding’s presidency since he was allegedly (only rumored and vehemently denied being) a KKK member?

    When will Keith Olbermann get expunged for his horrible on air and social media behavior? Never is when. Same with many of his fellow travelers.

    Conservatives and moderates are correctly suspicious of the entire media culture due to its completely persistent, subjective, aggressive, leftward tilt.

    • If that had been her first response, it might have helped. Let’s see: is a racist comment when someone knows the target is black different from the exact same comment about the same person when the speaker thinks the target is white? Sure: the motive is different. But the disparity between the consequences of the two actions is ridiculous…isn’t it?

  3. I’m left shaking my head over the effort to generate second-stage outrage by digging up various other unpleasant Roseanne quotes/tweets, which are then posted as “Here’s all the things Roseanne said that ABC was OK with, they only cancelled her because this one cost them money!” Well, yes, that is how capitalism generally works.

    By Zoltar Speaks!

    Sitting back an looking at the way our society has dramatically shifted in the last few years I’ve come to these conclusions.

    The 1st Amendment is dying a very slow and very painful death and Social Justice Warriors are ones intentionally strangling the life out of it. The direct and indirect effects of Social Justice Warrior influence in our society has infected all aspects of our lives. Fear of social justice warriors attacks on our lives and livelihood have become the dominating factor in making decisions by an ever growing segment of our society. Outright intimidation towards those who speak words that Social Justice Warriors don’t agree with is quite popular now and it’s overcoming the mentality of the population and the 1st amendment has taken a back seat. Sure you may legally still have free speech right but you no longer really have free speech rights in our society, period, end of discussion.

    The same general thing can be said of the 5th and 14th Amendments. The public is literally being allowed to render vigilante justice against others and destroy the lives of individuals without due process of law and the people who are have their lives destroyed are not protected by the law. The Constitution is dying.

    As these social justice warriors gain more and more power over the minds of the masses in our society we will rapidly descend into social chaos and it will lead to blood in the streets. We are currently in a social curve that is dominated by Social Justice Warriors, it’s a curve that is rapidly beginning to straighten as it approaches a social chaos vertical asymptote. Here is a graph I just created to represent that…

    “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.” Malcolm X. Social Justice Warriors are effectively wielding the the most powerful weapon they posses – the media.

    Liberty will die with thunderous applause from Social Justice Warriors. Start stocking up for the long haul, we are in the midst of a social justice “war”.

  5. I must admit that Roseanne is a guilty pleasure of mine. A Midwest blue collar family struggling to make ends meet is something that I can relate to. Those are my people.

    The revival had a very diverse cast – both on the show and in real life. Does it matter that all those people are out of work now? Should that be a consideration?

  6. Notes & thoughts on the Barr Debacle:

    1. Was the tweet about Jarrett really the tweet that got her in trouble? Althouse asked “What was Roseanne’s emotional state at the time of the tweet…?” Well if you look at her tweets from the previous few hours we have the answer. Barr erroneously tweeted Chelsea Clinton was married to a Soros cousin, apologized, and went on to call Soros a Nazi helper (which he was). Barr’s state of mind was one of defiance, defiance against people who you simply don’t mess with without consequences. While the Jarrett commentary is what we’re focused on, I have to wonder if this is the old magician’s tactic of having us look elsewhere while the trick is being performed.

    The Perception Institute (interesting name eh?) collaborates with The Open Society (Soros) and created Starbucks curriculum for their day of reeducation. It’s seems a little coincidental that Barr became the face of supposed racialized hate on the same day she called out Soros while a day of nationwide “rehabilitation” took place. For social engineering to work well there always has to be an enemy so the mind can focus on the problem, while so-called experts usher in the solution. In that vein it was no surprise that articles yesterday mentioned how Barr could benefit from the Starbucks “training “which of course is now open to the public. I predict similar “curriculum” is about to spread in one way or another to other institutions and corporations.

    2. I find it interesting that folks are wild about the Black Panther movie which depicts some blacks as part of a gorilla clan. I can’t remember if it was the same clan that barked like dogs at a white character but apparently it’s acceptable to conflate such animal characteristics in a Hollywood movie with a black cast but not for others. Remember what Muhammad Ali said about his darker skinned opponent Joe Frazier? “It will be a killer and a chiller and a thrilla when I get the gorilla in Manilla.” Mark Kram from Sports Illustrated observed in a pre-fight gym practice fans (including white ones) shouting “Ape! Ape!” Ali egged them on yelling “Gorilla” and “Ugly and smelly” about Frazier. It seems if anyone has a primate/black issue it’s the black community itself who needs to examine this issue.

    3. Barr is an unrepentant Jew. Black Lives Matters (supported by Open Society) collaborates with BDS, an anti-Israel hate group. Barr not only now supports a Jewish state but has criticized BDS. She has been building up powerful enemies for a while now and it was a matter of time before she became a scapegoat for all things Trump, which to our open-minded tolerant friends on the extreme Left, means a bigot.

    4. None of this is to say her tweet was acceptable or that I think she’s cool. I am saddened for all the people who are losing income and enjoyment from what good there was in the show. As I said previously, a show depicting people having differences of opinion and working it out is a positive in my mind. Perhaps my bias for such bridge-building is outweighing my desire to – in her words “lynch” her. In the end she burned that bridge by simply being too dim to know who she was messing with or how to navigate her impulses.

    5. Jack Cashill wrote this at the end of his book Hoodwinked: How Intellectual Hucksters Have Hijacked American Culture and I think it’s fitting here:
    • Progressives do not set out to do evil. They set out to do good.
    • They do their good in a world in which God is irrelevant, and “everything is permitted.”
    • With God out of the picture, they are free to do good by their own lights, better than it has ever been done before.
    • The “good” they devise quickly calcifies into orthodoxy.
    • Lesser mortals who fail the new dogma risk reeducation.
    • Reeducation can be brutal. An “over-sensibility for ourselves and an over-indulgence to our own desires,” said Burke shrewdly, leads to the “greatest crimes.”
    • Once committed to those desires, progressives don’t look back. The dead, damaged, and the aborted are ignored or quickly forgotten.
    • Unwilling to undo or even question, they respond to disaster with sad and superficial correctives like mosquito nets or condoms or more “education.”
    • Unbound by God progressives are thus also unbound by traditions that claim divine inspiration.
    • To the degree that those traditions threaten progress, progressives are hostile to those traditions, specifically Judeo-Christianity and its twin towers of resolve, America and Israel.

    • “..went on to call Soros a Nazi helper (which he was)”

      To the same extent at Winston Churchill, Anne Frank, or the entire US population before Dec 11 1941 was.

      Early in the occupation, Soros worked as a courier for the local Jewish council, which Nazis set up in many occupied countries — using Jews to identify and keep tabs on other Jews.

      “The members of the Jewish councils faced impossible moral dilemmas,” the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum wrote. They were often unaware that the Nazis’ goal was the death of all Jews, or even believed that working with the regime might benefit their communities.

      One day, Soros was ordered to deliver messages to several Jewish lawyers in Budapest, according to the biography, “Soros: The Life and Times of a Messianic Billionaire.” The letters instructed the lawyers to report to a rabbinical school, but Soros realized they would be imprisoned upon arrival. He warned them of their danger, according to the book, and quit his job with the council after carrying out the errand…

      As the deportation of Jews increased, Soros was forced to hide his Jewish identity. He assumed a fake name, and his father paid a Christian government official to take the boy in as his “godson.”

      Soros once accompanied his Christian protector on a trip out of town, according to the book, where the official had been ordered to inventory the mansion of a Jew who had fled the country.

      “George walked around the grounds and spent time with [the homeowner’s] staff,” biographer Michael T. Kaufman wrote. “He collaborated with no one and he paid attention to what he understood to be his primary responsibility: making sure that no one doubted that he was [Christian]. Among his practical concerns was to make sure that no one saw him pee.”

      • Hi. I don’t believe Winston Churchill, Anne Frank, or the entire US population before Dec 11 1941 helped the German national socialist state keep tabs on Jews. Soros did. But you are right in that he did what many other Jews (and Germans) did then to survive. War is hell and I don’t necessarily hold that against him. I simply stated a fact, not a judgement about that fact.

    • Great, if a tad unsettling, summary, Mrs. Q.

      “Progressives do not set out to do evil. They set out to do good.”

      EVERY shitty idea starts out being seen as a good, if not great idea; in the eyes of the Ideators, leastways.

      At the end of the day, it’s not what’s best for us that matters most, it’s who decided what’s best for us.

      If you don’t slow down on the book recommendations, I’ll never catch up…

  7. I haven’t followed Roseanne Barr since 1990, when I found her performance of the Star Spangled Banner offensive (I didn’t feel that her performance mandated her removal from television, or anything like that: I just “voted with my feet”).

    Since I haven’t paid any attention to her in decades, I’m curious: Does she have a history of overt racism? Has she ever made jokes or other comments that were deemed racist? She’s 65 years old: If she were actively bigoted, the evidence would have come out by now.

    In the absence of other information, I suspect that she may have made the tweet in a Ambien-powered haze. The drug is known to have side effects and trigger confused behavior: The idea that it would lead someone who is basically a jerk to make obnoxious comments isn’t far-fetched.

    • ” Does she have a history of overt racism? Has she ever made jokes or other comments that were deemed racist? ”

      Yes. Though saying blacks were apes was just one of many “edgy” “just joking” remarks.

      I suppose that you could even say she was a “controversial” commenter.

      “Susan Rice is a man with big swinging ape balls” being one of her incisive, intelligent and witty comments from December 2013.

  8. I’ve made some interesting memories while on Ambien. One time, I woke up to find a cardboard mini-drum of Morton salt with its lid sawed off in a jagged cut. I also found a video I’d made of it on my phone, wherein I was talking about needing to do this for a school chemistry lab project while hacking away at it with a butter knife. If it hadn’t been for that, I wouldn’t have known how it happened, because I don’t have even a foggy memory of having done this. Another time, I woke up in my car at a local Mobil station to a friend pounding on the window, trying to wake me up. The “Ambien trance” is a very real phenomenon.I even had Facebook battles, ranting and raving like a lunatic at people I didn’t even know.

    As far as the comments; I had no idea she was black until now, and I also think she does look like Vera, the scientist in POTA, who doesn’t even look entirely ape-like in my opinion.

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