The Great Smith-Rock Rumble Ethics Round-Up!, Part 1

As Glenn Reynolds often says, “You’re going to need a bigger blog!” But there are many ethics alarms a-ring in this fiasco, so attention must be paid.

Let’s get to it:

1. Will Smith’s apology, posted last night on Instagram:

Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally.

I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.  

I would also like to apologize to the Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees and everyone watching around the world. I would like to apologize to the Williams Family and my King Richard Family. I deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us.

I am a work in progress.

  • There are some acts that cannot be apologized for, and this was one. “I’m sorry I hit a fellow performer in the face during the live TV broadcast’ is required pro forma, but nobody should treat it as anything more than that. The conduct can’t be excused or forgiven.
  • As Tim LeVier noted in his Comment of the Day yesterday, Smith is obligated to apologize to his victim, Chris Rock, face-to-face. He did not mention Rock in his half-mea culpa while accepting his Oscar. Rock will be professionally obligated to be gracious, of course, when and if that happens.
  • Do not think for a second that Smith composed that statement. I wonder how much he paid for it. I would have written him a better one for less. I’m sure.
  • I would have, for example, omitted: “Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally.” Jokes at Jada’s expense are also part of her job: she’s a celebrity, actress and talk show host. Furthermore, the joke was abut her shaved haircut, not her “medical condition”—this advances the dishonest “It’s Chris Rock’s fault” spin the Smith lobby is pushing. Hair loss is a medical condition, but as I wrote yesterday as a target of bald jokes and before that, “losing your hair” jokes since my early 20s, women are not exempt, by their own rules.

Oh, you acted emotionally by dashing up on stage, smacking Rock, and then shouting for him to keep the name of your wife out of his “fucking mouth”? Thanks for that clarification.

  • Also nauseating: “my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be.” That might have flown when Smith was still “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” (though probably not even then), but he is 53 years old. He is that man he is, and we learned what that kind of man was at the Oscars.
  • And “I am a work in progress” is pandering to the faithful, as well as a transparent effort to duck accountability. Yecchh. I’m not taking this from a 53-year-old man. It means, “Gosh, I am still learning not to do that.” Good to know, Will. Stay 50 years away from me and my family
  • The fact that Smith happily partied and danced the way the night with his wife after his actions are more indicative of “the man he wants to be” than his professionally ghosted apology.

2. The Academy issued its own statement after initially only saying that it does not condone violence:

“The Academy condemns the actions of Mr. Smith at last night’s show. We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our Bylaws, Standards of Conduct and California law.”

This is easy: he should be banned from the Oscars and consideration for future awards. Taking away the Oscar he won, as many have suggested, is not justified. He won the award based on his performing skills, not on his pugilistic proclivities. But based on the orientation of the Academy’s members, statue-topplers and historical air-brushers (almost) all—remember, Kevin Spacey was  replaced in an already completed movie based on accusations of misconduct—Taking the Oscar wouldn’t rattle too many ethics alarms.

My guess, however, is that “The King’s Pass” will once again prevail, aided by the fact that Smith is black, and he will get some kind of slap on the wrist (“a slap for a slap,’ as the Bible says) and maybe have to be in a movie with Mel Gibson or something.

Can you imagine what the reaction would have been if Alec Baldwin or Sean Penn, hot-head white stars, had attacked Rock?

3. The show’s producer Will Packer has also expanded on his response to the incident after his telling initial tweet after the broadcast, which read. “Welp…I said it wouldn’t be boring #Oscars.” Hahaha! I believe the captain of the “Hindenburg” said something similar after the fireball.

Thinking again (but not too ethically) after that attempted brush-off, Packer wrote,

“Black people have a defiant spirit of laughter when it comes to dealing with pain because there has been so much of it. I don’t feel the need to elucidate that for you. But I also don’t mind being transparent and say that this was a very painful moment for me. On many levels.”

  • Ugh.
  • So now being black excuses clumsy and irresponsible public statements. Good to know. I’ll file that.
  • It wasn’t about you, dude.

I have to go have a gagging fit now. Part 2-10 (kidding!) will be along soon.

29 thoughts on “The Great Smith-Rock Rumble Ethics Round-Up!, Part 1

  1. Jack wrote:
    The conduct can’t be excused or forgiven.

    Excused? No. Forgiven? Yes, anything can be forgiven.

    I would have, for example, omitted: “Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally.”

    This line is what broke the apology for me. It’s an excuse, and it’s wrong to boot, as you point out.

    Oh, you acted emotionally by dashing up on stage, smacking Rock, and then shouting for him to keep the name of your wife out of his “fucking mouth”? Thanks for that clarification.

    I know, right? This is a total self-awareness fail. Whenever we act, our minds consider factors like the situation extant at the moment, the potential consequences, and our options — these are part and parcel of the survival instinct. Saying he “acted emotionally” is, in my personal opinion, a deception. Will Smith is a full-grown adult with three decades plus as an adult. Adults may act impulsively or emotionally, but they always have considered the things above to some degree or another.

    In other words, he knew exactly what he was doing and intended to do it. Couching that as an emotional reaction is an attempt to make people believe he couldn’t control himself because the provocation was so powerful. It wasn’t, or shouldn’t have been.

    Also nauseating: “my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be.” Right again. Too late, Will. You are that man.

    And “I am a work in progress” is pandering to the faithful, as well as a transparent effort to duck accountability. Again, self-awareness fail. How pathetic is it that a man must work on not rising from a crowd during a formal affair and assaulting someone in front of millions of onlookers?

    • Yes. I said yesterday that I believed Will Smith in his acceptance speech was signaling that he didn’t feel his conduct could be excused or justified. I was wrong. This instagram apology proves that he’s self-excusing / self-justifying his actions. It’s fine to explain yourself and give reasons, but he moved into the arbiter role and giving himself a pass. He’s tone deaf and too far gone to be saved.

      His humiliation at this will continue for years unless the Academy explicitly instructs future hosts not to mention it. Then it will just be the elephant in the room.

  2. “Oh, you acted emotionally by dashing up on stage, smacking Rock, and then shouting for him to keep the name of your wife out of his “fucking mouth”? Thanks for that clarification.”

    I’m waiting for a scripted cameo appearance by Will Smith’s mother where she defends her “baby.” He’s just a child. He’s only fifty-three. What a toxic strategy: infantilize a large segment of the population.

    The primary demand of the current anti-racist push is that people of color be treated differently. Ironic, non? It’s essentially a black separatist movement with a seasoning of reverse Jim Crow thrown in.

  3. “I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be.”

    You have to admit, though, it is one step above the Pazuzu Excuse.


    • “I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be.”

      Smith went out after the Oscars and did a bit of partying.
      That is not indicative of shame or embarrassment and is a huge PR blunder.
      I like him less post apology and after Oscars behavior.
      He could us some quality time with Jocko Willink.

  4. I’m normally against violence but did Chris Rock not–mere moments before being slapped–invoke the name of the Scottish play in a theater? I mean, come on. There are lines one DOES NOT cross.

  5. I think his apology was good for a public one and even if he didn’t write it, I am hopeful he meant it.

    Yes, Jada is an actress, etc and it’s part of her job too, yet, as her husband, It’s different hearing it about his wife. (if that’s true, which since I saw him laugh)

    Maybe the sting of the joke wasn’t felt til he saw her face…. and knew it hurt her. that’s understandable. my husband is like that too and he may think something was funny but if he saw me hurt over it, he would immediately want to protect me and make sure I was ok.

    Look, I fully agree it was out of line and so wrong I can’t even put it into words. The yelling after was even worse to me almost. He sat there just like uh… a male of any species, like a rooster, crowing loud so that the others would hear him.

    This was a LOW moment for Will and sadly it happened in front of millions of people. We aren’t all that unfortunate… and we all have had low moments where we acted outside of our ideals. Even you, Jack on this site have brought up times where you did not act how you wanted and apologized.

    Yes, you or I never slapped a person, or interrupted a televised awards show and had your weak moment in front of the world. But, don’t you see at all his apology as a good first step in moving forward?

    We don’t know if he and Chris have spoken and my guess is they will or have and it’s not any of my business. Things like this can take time to work out and maybe they decided between themselves to handle it like this and then later, have a public statement?

    Or maybe they are trying to smooth it out with Jada still? Or maybe their lawyers said to do it like this? Or, or, or, or, or?

    We just don’t know.

    I can only imagine the shame he is feeling right now. And the wake up call this is for him.

    I had a cousin who attacked my brother at my dad’s birthday party some years ago. And I mean ATTACK him, push him to the ground, choke him and yell “I’m gonna effing kill you!”

    The police came and my uncle begged my brother NOT to press charges, even though it was my uncles behavior that was a huge part of the whole entire drama. (yelling at my brother’s 6 year old son who he had never met)

    Anyway, my brother decided not to press charges. (I totally disagreed) My cousin would have lost his job that was at a public University and he had 4 young kids and my brother just thought due to the stresses of life, my cousin snapped and my brother thought it was best to have mercy.

    I disagreed and for YEARS have not spoke to the cousin because I think it was unforgivable what he did.

    Long story short, for years I have believed I was right, and that was that. That his behavior was unacceptable and he should have been arrested and whatever happened would have been what he deserved.

    Well last year, I got a call from my cousin telling me it had bothered him for the last 8 years that he had not talked to me about the incident even though I had not been there. (I was the only person in the family who was not able to attend) He told me he had apologized to all my siblings, my dad, and that he was sorry he didn’t call me sooner but he was unsure what to do.

    He told me the shame he still carried to that day about his behavior and how he wished that day could have been forever erased. Then he went on to share that because it happened, he had to pause and take a big look at what was going on in his life.

    It was a LOT. Far too much for one man to bear alone. And he had not shared the private challenges in his marriage with anyone.

    Attacking my brother made him realize how much support and help he needed and that it was way past time to get it.

    Since that day of attacking my brother, he has made amazing positive life changes resulting in a healthier family, and just a better life for he and his kids.

    After speaking to him I was blown away at how little I knew and how wrong I was in my judgements.

    We just can’t know what people are living with behind closed doors, and I guess I am thinking Will is going through a hell of a lot more than we know and he’s not been known to do stuff like that, and even George Bailey had a breaking point where he acted way out of character.

    Eckhart Tolle calls them pain bodies. We all have them. Others call them egos. But Will had lost his mind in that moment and my guess is he will be getting some long needed support and help and perhaps that night’s event will be used to help others NOT go there.

    I’m just not ready to be the judge and jury on it.

    I don’t think his behavior was ok at all. There’s no excuse for it. But, there could be reasons and that is where I think we can reserve harsh judgement.

    He was only that man in THAT moment. ONE moment can NOT be the sum of who we are. Other wise, why not pick the best? He had a very bad moment, and like you said before, it would be easier if he was arrested and taken away.

    Also, because he could act like he didn’t care and party all night to me shows just how much it did bug him and how much it was eating away at him. It was truly humiliating for him I think. How could it not be? He acted like a stupid child and the way no one ever wishes to act. So he had to pretend all was fine.

    And if certain acts can’t be apologized for, then how does one make amends for those acts?

    I just feel like I’m not ready to pass final judgement until this plays out longer. We’ll see what happens. This apology is a good start to me. Sure you could have written a better one.

    oh btw… since you could, would you be willing to write an example of what a proper apology would be like in a case like this??? maybe make it a post? It could be a powerful learning moment for us all. I would share the hell out of it as most people on facebook at on one side of this issue, Pro Will or Pro Chris.

    I notice sometimes the truth is more nuanced and not on either side boasting it’s right.

    Thank you! hope this comment is not eaten!

    • Almost 1/2 of all my comments over the last two years have been eaten. I now type them as a draft email instead so I can cut n paste…that way if I lose it in posting, I can try again.

  6. You know, when a comedian performs in front of 100 people, 99 of them won’t take violent offense; but 1 Will.

    Do you know what Chris Rock found on his face yesterday morning after the Oscars?
    Fresh prints.

  7. You highlighted the fact that Jada Smith is also a professional and in the public eye. In a weird sense, if you think about it just right, Will Smith’s attacking Chris Rock is an example of “benevolent sexism.” In Will Smith’s eyes, Jada Smith isn’t strong enough to defend herself or take a roasting the way a man can, so Smith has to defend her from the evil, male Chris Rock. This flies directly in the face of what modern feminists claim to stand for. In the name of logical consistency, I am hoping some progressive feminists will actually pursue this line of argument. If we are going to pursue actually equality instead of this faux equality, Jada Smith has no right to complain about anything.

    • Good point. Now I’m thinking about how radically differently this would be playing in the public sphere had Jada strolled up on stage and smacked Chris Rock.

  8. As a Christian I do not believe the slap is beyond forgiveness. But that forgiveness must primarily come from Chris Rock. Will Smith cannot demand or expect it. Others who may choose to forgive Mr. Smith are all the candidates for awards following his display of violence. Their time in the limelight was severely diminished by his violent outburst. But, to conclude, I do believe in the power of forgiveness. However, that should not and does not preclude any consequences to Mr. Smith for his actions. That is a separate issue.

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