They Just Couldn’t Do It…Critic Wesley Morris And The New York Times Blow Up Standards, Ethics And My Head To Try To Excuse Will Smith

Two graphics are called for to introduce this ethics horror. This:

..because I had hoped against hope that I wouldn’t have to write another post about Will Smith’s attack on Chris Rock during the Oscars broadcast. But it is obviously and ethics train wreck now, and I have no choice. And this…

…because I am stunned, shocked, and disgusted, and think, or perhaps hope, that we have reached a tipping point where the sensible people in this nation say, “Enough!”

Spuds had woken me from a sound sleep up to go outside, good boy that he is, and though I was ready to go back to bed, I made the mistake of picking up the New York Times from my lawn. Then I made the bigger mistake of taking it to the bathroom with me, and the bigger mistake yet of turning to the Arts section. And there it was: an epic, head-exploding, all-in screed by Times critic Wesley Morris explaining why Will Smith was not really to blame for his astounding, incredible, unethical, unprofessional, unjust, infantile, and criminal attack on comedian Chris Rock (who will get his Ethics Hero award from me today). but just about everyone else and everything else was.

I’m taking a pause now because my head feels ready to go off again…

They just couldn’t do it, could they? The Left, the race-baiters, black activists, the news media and the opinion-making elite could not stop themselves from turning an attack by one black celebrity on another into another bigoted weapon in the “antiracism” war against American culture. I’m such an idiot. With everything we’ve seen, I just didn’t see it coming. Oh, I expected the racists and bigots on the right to try to make Smith actions symbolic of something rotten and predictable in black culture; except for the hypocrisy of its source, I agree with the assessment of Bernice A. King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King wrote, “Anybody who thinks ‘Black people look bad’ after the #Oscars already thought Black people look bad.” But I should have seen this stage coming, the desperate need to make Smith the victim instead of Rock, and someone, something, the wrongdoer instead of Smith. The big clue was the Oscar audience giving Smith a huge ovation after he had slapped Rock for an award he should not have been allowed to accept. I should read what I write sometimes: I already mused in one post about how different the response would have been if it had been Alec Baldwin slapping Rock.

I had further clues late last night, when I read an article in Forbes’ new, pandering, cowardly “diversity, equity, and inclusion” section by another race-baiting PhD who wrote as part of an essay too absurd to be published outside of high school independent paper:

When reflecting on the incident between Smith and Rock, some on social media have used words like “extreme,” “excessive” and “violent” to describe Smith’s reaction. Some may say it was “just a joke” but why are jokes always at the expense of Black women? America’s favorite public sport is berating Black women; it has become social currency. There is a long history of Black women and femmes being dishonored, disrespected, denigrated, and degraded, especially within Hollywood. Misogynoir and the media go hand in hand.

Then she somehow used the recent confirmation hearings for Judge Jackson to make her idiotic point: remember all those jokes at the hearings? Worse, if you can believe it, was a Medium head-blower that appeared yesterday by Maia Niguel Hoskin, also PhD. and another Forbes “diversity, equity and inclusion writer,” a specialist in Critical Race Theory who claims to be a college professor but the evidence of that is elusive. She wrote that the reason Smith attacked Rock was…well, guess. You can guess, can’t you? Here’s the answer:

…[P]erhaps what we should question as a result of this incident is why Blacks in Hollywood have routinely been expected to grin and bear embarrassment and degradation without expressing any discontent or risk being viewed as angry? Furthermore, why is it permissible for a Black woman’s health condition to be made content for a few cheap laughs at an award show and how will this incident overshadow the hard work of Will Packer, the Black man who produced the award show along with an all-Black team…This is about a much larger systemic issue rooted in White supremacist culture designed to police the behavior of Blacks amongst the who’s who in Hollywood and beyond. Respectability politics suggest that equity and fair treatment require that Black people — both inside and outside of Hollywood — conduct ourselves in a manner deemed acceptable to Whites. Furthermore, expressing any emotion other than complacence, apathy, or agreeance directly violates those norms, disqualifying us from receiving the same equitable treatment that Whites enjoy as a birthright.

I was considering writing about the ethics void and poisonous logic of that screed today, but you can find outrageous and badly reasoned opinions on anything and everything on the web (and at Medium). Hoskin is a nobody (like me). Morris is a major critic for “the U.S. paper of record.” Now we know why the first Times report on the Oscars didn’t mention Will Smith at all. The paper set Morris on the task of exonerating him, and it took him a few days.

Read the whole despicable thing, but maybe my excerpts can save your head.

First, and cheaply, Morris blames the pandemic. The essay begins:

This pandemic is still killing us. The virus at its center is one of the body. But it’s also costing us our minds.

Next, he blamed Rock:

And surely, the crack that Rock had just made about Jada Pinkett Smith’s short, sharp haircut — that it looked like Demi Moore’s in “G.I. Jane,” a 25-year-old work of crypto-feminist trash — wasn’t the sort of joke one risks his reputation for.

In a LA Times piece not worth linking to, another author accused Rock of making fun of “black women’s hair.” No, he joked about a single black woman’s haircut. Rock could have, and probably would have, made the same benign joke about any newly shaved celebrity actress—and maybe actor—of any shade.

Then Morris issued his first reminder of what a nice, harmless, sweet person Will Smith is, so obviously something made him slap Rock:

The source of Sunday night’s disruption is the winner of 10 individual Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards.

Will also was arrested in 1989 over an alleged vicious  that took place in Philadelphia.  Smith, who was 20 at the time, was arguing with his record producer and punched him, almost causing him to lose the sight in an eye.  He was arrested, but the “King’s Pass” held: all charges were dropped.

Morris and the Times didn’t feel this information was relevant; it undermines “the narrative.” From here Morris briefly deflects from Smith’s latest assault to extol the Oscars for concentrating disproportionately on black artists, in order to lay the groundwork for exonerating Smith…

A lot of odds had to be beat for these men — raised poor, lower-middle-class — to converge in this strange moment, as affluent shapers of culture. But an arc on that circle has marred the whole. And I don’t think that it’s overdoing it to identify that blemish as a tragic drama.

Then he exuded over the acceptance speech Smith should have never been allowed to make:

He used it to explain that playing Richard Williams, the father of Venus and Serena Williams, had awakened in him an understanding of himself as a protector and defender — of women, of Black women. A couple of weeks earlier, he’d watched Jane Campion insult the meaning of the Williams sisters’ importance and could do nothing. And last year, he reconvened the cast of his show, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” and wept over his failure to save the job of Janet Hubert, who spent three seasons playing Aunt Viv. At the Oscars, as he spoke through tears and clutched his Oscar,

In truth, Smith’s speech was narcissistic, self-aggrandizing puffery.

Then Morris turned to pop psychology, and Smith’s childhood:

Since November, Smith’s memoir, “Will,” has been one of the most popular books in the country. Its psychological centerpiece involves his guilt over seeing his father badly beat his mother when he was 9. But its prevailing psychological metaphor is the brick wall he learns to build alongside his father, his Daddio. What seemed to break on Sunday night was a kind of cycle. He watched his wife wince and perhaps saw his mother. Snap. Trauma can’t exonerate Smith: The combined age of the three people involved in this triangle is 160. But maybe it can explain that, for a few rueful minutes, a wall had come down — or gone up. Smith might have left his body. He was no longer 53 but 9 again; and poor Chris Rock, he was Daddio.

Next, using (hearsay) Denzel Washington’s reported advice to Smith as a departure point, Morris actually says that “the devil made him do it”:

As Smith recounted in his speech, Washington said, “At your highest moment, be careful. That’s when the devil comes for you.” A shallow piece of me assumed the devil to be Rock. But we all understand what Rock was doing that night: his job, not well with that hair joke, but he was working. The devil is deeper than that. When something breaks, he gets loose. He got loose at the Oscars.

And more pop psychology to make us feel sorry for poor Will:

Watching Smith up there on Sunday, burying his behavior in the Williamses’ story, I’m not sure he was entirely back in his body. I’ve never experienced a victory that feels this much like defeat. I suspect he knew this, too. He wondered whether he’d ever be invited back. That feels right. He wasn’t accepting an Oscar so much as trying to turn himself in.

Sure. No mention by Morris of Smith’s blithely dancing and partying after the show as if nothing had happened…I guess he was happy to be back in his body. Or of his late and thoroughly unsatisfactory formal apology authored by someone else.

Morris…

Sunday’s incident involved someone experiencing a private episode that we should never have seen.

Who made it a public episode?

He concludes, with more misty deflection, returning to blaming the times, the culture, whatever…

That’s one thing about the last two years. We’ve been made privy to all kinds of behavior we’d rather not see, witnesses of people’s worst moments. Now we’ve been made privy to one of Smith’s. Most of us don’t know any of these people. Yet we kind of do. We’ve made them part of some cultural family — that’s part of how stardom works (TV stardom, especially, which, early on, is what Smith, Pinkett Smith and Rock achieved). The reason so many of us are asking one another what just happened, the reason we’re so disturbed — a reason — is that maybe these three are like family, and it hurts to watch them feud. To witness intense emotional and psychological frailty (call it narcissism if you must) is to be left with as many questions about who we are as about who, Sunday night, Will Smith became. It’s like every other mystery of these past two years. We’ll never know. And with respect to him, why do we deserve to?

There is no mystery for me. Will Smith is a pampered, outrageously rich jerk who thinks, like many of his peers, that he and anyone associated with him should be exempt from criticism, kidding, unwanted attention (in those rare cases when he doesn’t crave it) and the consequences of his own actions. He also assumed that in the post-George Floyd Freakout when everything seemingly must be tilted to benefit blacks, including outright lawbreaking, as a matter of “reconcilation,” he could even get away with attacking a performer on live TV. (That’s how he could return to his seat and defiantly shout at Rock.)

Having worked so hard (and profitably) to make himself a role model, Smith betrayed that status to show that it’s acceptable to express “rage,” justified or not, by violence. The other message, carried by ethics corrupters like Morris, is that if you are black, our intimidated culture might, and should, let you get away with it because its really not your fault.

[I hoped and prayed that Morris was white. He’s black. Of course he is. I’ve read him for years, but don’t care what race people are unless they thrust it in my face. I guess I have to change.]

The tipping point I hope for but do not expect is for everyone, especially African Americans, to wake up and say, as I mentioned at the beginning, “Enough!” And what is enough is the ongoing attempt to give American blacks a lifetime “duck responsibility card” using a myriad of justifications, reducing them to 9-year-olds. like Morris has done to Will Smith.

In the end, this will be disastrous for all of us, even Will.

19 thoughts on “They Just Couldn’t Do It…Critic Wesley Morris And The New York Times Blow Up Standards, Ethics And My Head To Try To Excuse Will Smith

  1. I grow weary. Can we stop with the Rock-Smith commentary? Smith is an asshole, he has always been an asshole. In fact, that descriptor could be to almost everyone involved with that production.

  2. People are not representatives of their race. They are representatives of themselves. Attributing an individual’s actions, good or bad, to some secondary physical characteristic that others might share as if that shared characteristic was causative of the actions, is magical thinking. Will Smith doesn’t represent anyone but Will Smith.

    I’m sick of all the highlighting of identity groups every time some wins an award or does something wrong. Humans are not hive minds. We don’t think with our skin color, gender, ethnicity or sexual preferences. We think with our brains, and each human on earth gets their own, individual brain to think with.

    There is no monolithic black, white or brown culture. Culture is localized to the people you interact with on a daily basis. The United States is an enormous country, with extreme variations in culture between regions, states, counties, cities and towns, and neighborhoods. Just because we watch the same television programs or movies does not mean we have much or any commonalities between our local cultures. A resident of NYC projecting their life experiences onto a farmer in Kansas is the height of absurdity.

    All these identity groups do is give a false sense of common interest based on superficial, meaningless pattern recognition algorithms. Then people run around redefining words and inventing increasingly generalized concepts trying to make reality match the nonsensical pattern they want to exist. It is an attempt to find commonalities between people who don’t have any on any level other than the most general shared human experience.

    Will Smith slapped Chris Rock because Will Smith felt like slapping Chris Rock. Will Smith’s actions reflect badly on Will Smith. Will Smith’s actions might allow us to draw some generic conclusions about the local culture he lives in, or they might not. Maybe he is an outlier in that culture. Since most of us don’t live in that culture, how would we know? Most people don’t go up on stage and slap their coworkers at the Oscars. That indicates to me that such behavior is generally frowned upon, or at least has been historically, within the Hollywood culture.

    There has been a societal push towards reordered collectivist thinking for decades, with this or that history months and highlighting of the first this or that to do something. Imposing superfluous commonalities on people with issues of the day doesn’t work, though, because those issues are neither stable, nor unifying. The media pumps out tons of daily propaganda trying to paper over the contradictions and hypocrisies of the identity group narrative to hide its falseness. I wish they would let it go and stop trying to reorder society into artificial patterns that do not exist. If you have to discard all context and nuance, and rewrite all the facts to fit the narrative, then the narrative is wrong.

    • I concur. I think part of the problem is that people are afraid that if they aren’t part of a collective identity, they’ll be alone, or at least the connections they do have won’t be strong enough for them to support each other in times of need or against perceived common enemies. It’s a valid concern.

      That’s why I’m trying to help humans build a shared meta-culture for themselves based on constructive foundational concepts, so that they can more easily and effectively communicate, negotiate, and collaborate to fulfill common values without having to relinquish their individual value priorities.

  3. I knew the “systemic racism” angle would be played, of course. I didn’t expect “COVID made him do it” to make an appearance, though. What a refreshing surprise!

  4. “why are jokes always at the expense of Black women? America’s favorite public sport is berating Black women; it has become social currency.”

    Exaggerating frequency by speaking in absolutes like that immediately forfeits a chunk of credibility. I sincerely hope this person isn’t in a relationship, because she’d be hell to live with. “You always do this!” “You never do that!” That’s not how one communicates effectively. Whatever happened to “when you do X, it makes me feel Y”? This person needs to learn healthy communication or find a new line of work that doesn’t involve giving her opinion on things.

    Also, she put “violence” in scare quotes. That’s almost satirical. What’s next? “Some have called the the alleged punch ‘a physical attack’ and ‘felony battery.'”

  5. Hoskin has got a lot of nerve invoking the concept of “White supremacy” in a conflict between two people of color. Unfortunately none of that extra nerve is in her brain, if she can’t imagine any response to an offense other than “pretend like nothing’s wrong” and “punch somebody.”

    As it turns out, there are plenty of people of pallor who share her view that some words demand a punch in the mouth, as well as people of color who know that there are better ways to deal with hurt feelings. Hoskin takes a difference in what I’d call emotional maturity and tries to draw ethnic lines where there are none. (She’d have better luck mapping it to social class; most every country has rough people and prim people. I don’t know that either group is more ethical on average than the other, but the unethical rough ones are more likely to be violent than the unethical prim ones, who usually lean more towards corruption.)

    If Hoskin wants to define “being a responsible grownup” as some arbitrary standard enforced by a privileged collection of ethnicities (which is ironic because so few people of pallor live up to that standard in the first place), then she has no foresight. Rejecting good character traits for racist reasons will lead nowhere desirable.

  6. I have a few favorite quotes… one is “Way to make something that was not at all about you, about you.” First off, they’re both black so there’s that… second it was an awards show where people are regularly called out. Thirdly the Smith family is “famous” and have been for years. They can’t go hitting everyone or anyone because someone said mean things. 4th. Again… it was an award show. Etiquette applies. You don’t go on stage and smack the host- ever. It’s not complicated. Smith was wrong. Rock was doing what he was paid to do. Kings pass applies, clearly, because if it wasn’t a “famous” person, they would’ve been arrested right away for assault. People are experiencing a Mass Psychotic break similar to what must’ve happened during the witch hunts.

  7. So far, not a lot of people are reading this post, which isn’t a surprise.Everyone is sick of the story, and that’s how media and academic brainwashers get to do their dirty-work without most of the public realizing it. And that’s how our standards and ethics rot.

    Well, at least “A Friend” isn’t around to claim that the essay by Morris is benign because it attracted some critical comments from Times readers, and “Katie” isn’t going to tell me that criticizing Smith makes me a “parody of far right extremist. Some comments I neither need nor miss.

  8. “Some may say it was “just a joke” but why are jokes always at the expense of Black women?”
    *Always* I did not know that.

    “America’s favorite public sport is berating Black women; it has become social currency.”

    Not Football?
    Berating black women is the favorite public sport of the highly profitable, primarily black populated Rap industry.

    “There is a long history of Black women and femmes being dishonored, disrespected, denigrated, and degraded, especially within Hollywood. Misogynoir and the media go hand in hand.”

    That is a true statement. Check out the lyrics of black authored Rap songs/music.

    “This is about a much larger systemic issue rooted in White supremacist culture designed to police the behavior of Blacks amongst the who’s who in Hollywood and beyond.”

    Nope, quite the opposite. Hollywood whiteys celebrate black on black violence with applause and compassion. It just happened. You are writing about it. Sheesh.

  9. This reminds me of those fake articles people write in scholarly journals just to see if they could get published. Sometimes I feel like people just making up as many as absurdly (but related) facts as they can just to see who can win privilege bingo.

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