Misbegotten or badly-worded opinions were popping up all over last week, and none received more analysis than actress/comic (and imaginary Jew) turned TV pundit Whoopi Goldberg’s statement that the Holocaust wasn’t “about race,” and was just white folks being cruel to other white folks. It was a careless, historically ignorant thing to say, but Goldberg doubled down on it, resulting in her being suspended from “The View” by ABC. It’s arguable that more metaphorical ink has been spilled over Whoopi’s gaffe than it deserves, including here, on Ethics Alarms, but also elsewhere, including efforts to make Goldberg’s comments seem more perceptive or significant than they were, as with this much-quoted Andrew Sullivan piece.
Some other notable commentary on Whoopi are here, here and this essay by Charles Cooke, pointing out that it was wrong and hypocritical for ABC to punish her (I agree completely).
Below is Extradimensional Cephalopod’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Welcome February Ethics Warm-Up, 2/1/22: Yes, Whoopi Is Officially An Idiot” (Item #4).
The whole Nazi movement started with “We deserve better than the Treaty of Versailles and the Great Depression.” Then it quickly went off the rails into, “We will build a glorious society by forcing people to conform to our notions of what members of society ought to be like, and we’ll eliminate anyone who doesn’t conform. …And then we’ll take over the world!”
There are several problems with this entire line of reasoning. Even if they hadn’t so narrowly defined “desirable member of society,” and even if they hadn’t handed power over to a cult of personality of corrupt maniacs, there still would have been problems with forcing people to conform or leave.
I think humans haven’t gotten used to this whole “democracy” thing. They’re still making beginner-level mistakes. Just because the person you voted for wins doesn’t mean they can’t turn out to be evil, or incompetent. Or both.
Regarding Whoopi Goldberg, I’m willing to accept her semantic convention of “race” as a visible ethnic difference, whereas “ethnicity” in general might not be easily distinguishable just by meeting someone. My question is… why is that important here? Why does she feel the need to emphasize that the Nazis were not only racist by anybody’s definition, but also bigoted against other humans who looked similar enough to them that they could pass for members of Germanic ethnicities? Does it make an ethical difference? Why would it make more or less sense than bigotry that keys off of skin color?
After all, bigotry doesn’t start with appearances. It starts with cultural differences. It starts with, “I don’t think these people contribute to the society I want to live in. I think they will interfere with it, so I want them to go away. I don’t value them, or how they think or live, so I don’t care what happens to them.”
Then appearance gets tied in with this general contempt, as soon as someone figures out how; sometimes it’s immediate and other times it’s trickier. With ideological bigotry, “they look just like everyone else”, so the bigots place emphasis on differences in behavior and values.
Therefore, to dispel bigotry, we need people to understand what they all have in common.
If realizing how all this works is the train of thought that Goldberg has boarded, I think it’s in our best interests as constructive thinkers to encourage her to make it to the end of the line
3 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “Welcome February Ethics Warm-Up, 2/1/22: Yes, Whoopi Is Officially An Idiot” (Item #4)”
I know this is about Ms. Goldberg but mand a lot of what you said here has some scary and striking parallels to our current societal predicament. I found these snippets to be especially profound:
— “We will build a glorious society by forcing people to conform to our notions of what members of society ought to be like, and we’ll eliminate anyone who doesn’t conform”
— “I don’t think these people contribute to the society I want to live in. I think they will interfere with it, so I want them to go away. I don’t value them, or how they think or live, so I don’t care what happens to them.”
— With ideological bigotry, “they look just like everyone else”, so the bigots place emphasis on differences in behavior and values.
— Therefore, to dispel bigotry, we need people to understand what they all have in common.
On that last one I wonder though. The things that have had in common, a form of government, a form of economics, a shared idea of our history, the constitution, feeling that our institutions are functioning within their boundaries, when all that becomes “racist” and anathema to half of society, how do we come together? It seems like all of the things we have in common are being systematicity thrown to the side or cast as illegitimate of evil. I mean we cannot run a society on Cardi B and “The Bachelor” or whatever other vapid pop culture icons are popular at the moment. We need a deeper connection and that feels like it is being pulled out from under us.
For some reason, the NAZIs calling the industrial murder of millions of men, women and children of all ages because of the religion they adhered to in one degree or another “The Final Solution,” takes the undertaking beyond white people being mean to other white people. At least in my mind. And thousands of black guys fought in and died in the effort to defeat the NAZIs even though they suffered discrimination in doing so.
The introduction to the COTD describes Sullivan’s piece as among: “…efforts to make Goldberg’s comments seem more perceptive or significant than they were”.
Yes, viewed in isolation, her comments are simply dumb and of not much interest. Their significance stems from the light they shine on the CRT-inspired ideas that are trickling into the public consciousness. I doubt that many who read this blog take such ideas seriously, but, unfortunately, many young people do:
As tedious as it may be, it is important to try to understand the CRT movement that is likely to only grow in strength. This post persuasively argues that the recent push back (the Youngkin win, for example) are likely to be short-lived: