I had a long day yesterday, and then had trouble sleeping because I was so annoyed about last night’s Atlanta Wendy’s shooting—which should not have happened for many reasons, and the mass stupidity necessary for it to happen is staggering—so I’m not sufficiently alert and awake for too substantive a post. This I can handle though…
In an interview on two days ago, director Spike Lee said,
“I’d just like to say Woody Allen is a great, great filmmaker and this cancel thing is not just Woody. And I think when we look back on it… we are going to see that — short of killing somebody — I don’t know that you can just erase somebody like they never existed.”
Then, after the predictable reaction by the social media mob, Cancel Culture division, Spike did a sudden reverse-backflip with a twist, added a grovel, and tweeted,
I Deeply Apologize. My Words Were WRONG. I Do Not And Will Not Tolerate Sexual Harassment, Assault Or Violence. Such Treatment Causes Real Damage That Can’t Be Minimized.-Truly, Spike Lee.
I have no illusions about Spike Lee. In one post I referred to him as a “professional bigoted ass” which is fair. His appearances on Ethics Alarms have not been ethically impressive. As a director, meh–Lee is extolled for his films’ subject matter and his politics, and the fact that he is a successful black film director in an overwhelmingly white industry with a primarily white audience, which is a substantial accomplishment. He has leveraged that accomplishment into leadership in the black community and the culture generally, and repeatedly has proven himself unqualified for that role by virtue of his outsized ego and emotionalism, and the fact that he poses as an intellectual but says far too many stupid things to be taken seriously as one.
So I don’t care what Spike Lee says in his films or his interviews. He’s a pompous jerk, and that’s a breed that transcends race, color, ethnicity and political orientation.
Now we also know he’s a weenie, meaning that he is so desperate to please the audiences he cares about that he will show neither integrity nor courage when he is threatened with disapproval, or, in this case, his own “cancelling.” If you do what Lee did in the last two days, you have no use as a leader or cultural influence. You are following parades, not leading leading them. You’re pandering to the mob, not educating it.
Neither Spike A nor Spike B were especially enlightening. In his initial statement, he channeled the worst rationalization of all, #22, Comparative Virtue, by saying in essence, “As long as an artist doesn’t kill somebody, it’s OK.” If one’s position is that the artist and his or her art are distinct from their personal lives and character, then it shouldn’t matter, regarding the assessment of the art, if an artist kills someone. If one’s position is that we should reject artists whose personal conduct is reprehensible, drawing the line at murder is illogical and infantile. Bill Cosby’s serial rapes are sufficiently minor that his career reputation shouldn’t suffer because he didn’t kill anyone?
On the other side of the argument, we have Caravaggio, the 17th Century Italian artist known as the Father of Modern Painting. The fact that he was a sociopath and a murderer doesn’t stop anyone from admiring paintings like this one, of Narcissus…
…nor should it. The painting is the same whether the painter was a saint or Jack the Ripper.
Was Lee just speaking off the cuff in the interview and not focusing on the seriousness of what Allen has been accused of, which is molesting a little girl? Possibly. If that is the case, he should have said that, not completely reversed himself. Spike B’s grovel is signature significance for someone who is only interested in his own image and personal popularity, and who lacks the guts and integrity to oppose the mob on matter sof truth and principle, which is especially essential in times like these. Such people are useless to society as role models, opinion-makers or leaders. Celebrities like Lee are particularly repellent, because he poses as a bold truth-teller. He’s not, and some of us knew that a long time ago.
I guess it was nice for Spike to spell it out for anyone who hadn’t been paying attention.