Tag Archives: Racism

Why The Outrage Over Brie Larson And “Captain Marvel” Is Misguided (And Counterproductive)

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Celebrities sometimes say dumb things. I doubt most people would contest that. Sometimes, celebrities say things that aren’t dumb, but badly taken out of context. I imagine most people would agree with that too. However, in an era where outrage is a national pastime and social media makes it way too easy to blow things out of proportion, it’s easy for a celebrity to cause controversy for all the wrong reasons.

Brie Larson, whose star is set to rise considerably with the release of “Captain Marvel,” is learning this the hard way and a large consortium of angry people on the internet are intent on making it harder. What should’ve been a culmination of a young woman’s career and a female hero’s ascension to the superhero A-list is now mired in the ugliest kind of gender politics.

The origin of that controversy actually had nothing to do with Ms. Larson’s role on “Captain Marvel.” Back in June 2018, she made some overly political comments while accepting the Crystal Award for Excellence in Film. While celebrities making political statements is nothing new, Ms. Larson’s statement was hardly extreme.

It wasn’t some radical feminist tirade.

It wasn’t some angry rant about the outcome of 2016 Presidential Election.

It wasn’t even some act of elaborate virtue signaling by some smug celebrity.

All Ms. Larson did was advocate for greater diversity among film critics. She didn’t just make such a statement on a whim, either. She did so in response to a study published by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism that revealed a significant lack of representation in the industry of film criticism.

That’s not an unreasonable concern. The western world is becoming more diverse and the success of movies like “Black Panther” and “Crazy Rich Asians” shows that there’s a market for such diverse tastes. Advocating for greater representation in the field of film criticism makes a lot of sense.

Unfortunately, that’s not the message that some people gleamed from Ms. Larson’s comments. All they heard was that she doesn’t want to hear from white men anymore. They somehow got the impression that Brie Larson resents white men and her movies, including “Captain Marvel,” aren’t made for them. They’re not even welcome in the conversation.

Who these people are and the politics they represent is difficult to discern. I don’t think it’s accurate to call them conservative, liberal, feminist, anti-feminist, leftist, or any other political label. Outrage culture rarely gets that specific, but given the heated politics surrounding movies like “Ghostbusters” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” it’s a frustratingly familiar narrative.

While I can understand some of the outrage surrounding “Ghostbusters” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” in this case I don’t think it’s justified. That’s not just because I’m a big fan of Marvel Comics, superhero movies, and all things Captain Marvel. It’s because the actual substance of Ms. Larson’s words don’t warrant the controversy she has generated.

For specific reference, here’s what she actually said during her speech in June 2018. Read it very slowly and try to understand the context of her statement.

“I don’t want to hear what a white man has to say about ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’ I want to hear what a woman of color, a biracial woman has to say about the film. I want to hear what teenagers think about the film. If you make a movie that is a love letter to women of color, there is a chance that a woman of color does not have access to review and critique your film. Do not say the talent is not there, because it is.”

Remember, she said these words after learning how little diversity there was among movie critics. Unlike most people, she was actually in a position to do something about it. Being an Oscar winning actress who was poised to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe, her words carry more weight than most.

Even so, those words were construed as racist and sexist, two exceedingly loaded terms that bring out the worst in people, especially on the internet. Never mind the fact that she made clear in her original speech that she did not hate white men. Never mind the fact that she has since clarified her words. She is still being attacked as some angry radical feminist who hates men, especially those who are white.

It would be one thing if she had said outright that white men should be banned from criticizing certain movies. Many celebrities, including a few still relevant today, have said far worse. However, that’s not what Ms. Larson said. She never, at any point, advocated disparaging white men. She didn’t even say that people who hate her movies are racist and sexist, something the “Star Wars” crowd is painfully familiar with.

Again, all Ms. Larson spoke out against was a lack of diversity among film critics. That part is worth emphasizing because it renders the outrage surrounding her statement as utterly absurd. It also makes the targeted attack on the fan reviews for “Captain Marvel” both asinine and misguided.

Even though the movie isn’t out yet, the movie is being targeted with negative comments on Rotten Tomatoes. Since it has only screened for a handful of audiences, it’s unlikely that any of these people actually saw the movie or were inclined to see it in the first place. Some are even claiming that this has already impacted the projected box office for the movie.

Whether that impact manifests remains to be seen, but it’s worth noting that when “Black Panther” was targeted with similar attacks, it failed miserably. At the moment, early reactions to “Captain Marvelhave been glowing so the chances of these attacks hurting the box office are probably minor at best. If the pre-ticket sales are any indication, the movie will likely turn a hefty profit for Marvel and their Disney overlords.

Even if there were an impact, it would be for all the wrong reasons. It would send the message that there’s a large contingent of people who are willing to work together to tank a movie because of comments a celebrity said that had nothing to do with that movie and weren’t the least bit controversial, when taken in context.

In this case, it was simply twisting someone’s comments to make them sseem like they said things that they never said or even implied. Then, those who bought into that narrative simply use that as an excuse to disparage a movie that they haven’t seen. That’s not just absurd, even by the skewed standards of outrage culture. It sends the worst possible message from those who think they’re protecting their favorite movie genre.

It tells the world that they don’t care what a celebrity actually says. They actively look for an excuse to hate someone who doesn’t completely buy into their preferred status quo. It would be one thing if that status quo was just and reasonable, but that’s not the case here.

All Ms. Larson did was advocate for more diversity among film critics. If that is somehow too extreme, then the problem isn’t with her or celebrities like her. It’s with those determined to hate her. There are a lot of issues in the world of celebrities and movies that warrant outrage, but advocating for more diversity in film criticism isn’t one of them.

I can already hear some people typing angry comments stating that if she had said those same words, but changed the demographic to something other than white men, then it would be an issue. However, the fact remains that this isn’t what she said.

It also doesn’t help that Brie Larson identifies as a feminist and that term has become incredibly loaded in recent years. However, she has never embraced the kind of radical rhetoric that other, less likable celebrities have espoused. Until she does, those determined to identify her and “Captain Marvel” as racist, sexist propaganda are only doing themselves and their politics a disservice.

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Filed under Celebrities and Celebrity Culture, extremism, gender issues, Marvel, media issues, men's issues, movies, outrage culture, political correctness, superhero movies

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day And Escaping Hate

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To everyone out there who values peace, justice, and equality, I wish you a happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day. To some, this is just a day where kids get an extra day off school. To others, it’s a reminder of just how far we’ve come in the struggle against racism, injustice, and bigotry. Even though it seems like we’re stagnating at times, we’re still world’s better than we were in the days of Dr. King.

It’s hard to for young people today to understand just how entrenched racial attitudes were 60 years ago. For generations, inequality and bigotry wasn’t an aberration. It was the norm. Fighting that was like fighting the tides for a lot of people, but unlike the tides, hearts and minds can change.

That’s something Martin Luther King Jr. believed in. He dedicated his life to confronting hate and pursuing justice for everyone, regardless of race. His legacy lives on today for minorities of all kinds, from the LGBT community to immigrants. It may seem like an uphill battle at times and even after Dr. King’s death, there are still plenty of bigoted attitudes in the world today. Some people cling to those attitudes more than most.

However, it is possible for someone to let go of their hatred. It’s not easy, but it does happen. In the spirit of this day that I’m sure brings out a lot of conflicting passions in today’s society, I’d like to share one of my favorite Ted Talks.

This one is from Christian Picciolini, a former Neo-Nazi and white supremacist who managed to leave his hateful past behind. His story is one that’s especially relevant on a day like today because it doesn’t just reveal how people end up in hate groups. It shows just how difficult it is to get out. It can be done, though, and Mr. Picciolini’s story is one worth telling.

Whatever your politics, prejudices, and attitudes, we are all still human. We all inhabit this planet together. We all want a better future for ourselves and our loved ones. Ultimately, we can achieve much more by working together than by hating one another. That’s what Dr. King fought for and his legacy is worth celebrating, now more than ever.

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Filed under extremism, human nature, media issues, men's issues, outrage culture, political correctness, psychology

Why We Should Accept James Gunn’s Apology And Support His Re-Hiring

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In the spirit of honesty and transparency, I’m going to admit something that should surprise no one.

I, Jack Fisher, have said horrible, offensive things in the past. For that, I sincerely apologize.

I’ll give everyone a moment to recoil in shock. Now, I’ll turn off the sarcasm and get serious because this is an issue I’ve already done plenty to belabor. People say offensive things. People write offensive things. I know I have, given some of the sensitive topics I’ve covered.

I’m certainly not alone. These days, it’s hard to go more than a day without reading something horribly offensive on social media. Not all of the offense warrants the same outrage, though. Some comments are just trolling. Some trigger reactions that lead to actual crimes. Not all offensive speech warrants immense outrage is what I’m saying.

That brings me to James Gunn, the man who made movies about a talking raccoon, a talking tree, and the goofy guy from “Parks and Recreation” that went onto make over $1.6 billion at the box office. His star really rose fast after the unexpected success of “Guardians of the Galaxy.” He’s credited with taking the Marvel Cinematic Universe to cosmic heights. He has accomplished a lot in the past four years.

Now, he’s been fired. He’ll have no part in “Guardians of the Galaxy 3.” The circumstances, context, and fallout from this huge turn of events is astonishing, but for all the wrong reasons.

The particulars here are striking. Mr. Gunn was not fired because he committed a serious crime or got embroiled in a disturbing scandal. He got fired because someone who didn’t agree with his political views dug up some old social media posts from 10 years ago that were lewd, offensive, and downright disgusting.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Gunn apologized for it immediately. He didn’t make excuses. He didn’t whine about fake news. He didn’t claim his account was hacked. He took ownership of the things he said and apologized.

Many people who have followed my career know when I started, I viewed myself as a provocateur, making movies and telling jokes that were outrageous and taboo. As I have discussed publicly many times, as I’ve developed as a person, so has my work and my humor.

It’s not to say I’m better, but I am very, very different than I was a few years ago; today I try to root my work in love and connection and less in anger. My days saying something just because it’s shocking and trying to get a reaction are over.

In the past, I have apologized for humor of mine that hurt people. I truly felt sorry and meant every word of my apologies.

For the record, when I made these shocking jokes, I wasn’t living them out. I know this is a weird statement to make, and seems obvious, but, still, here I am, saying it.

Anyway, that’s the completely honest truth: I used to make a lot of offensive jokes. I don’t anymore. I don’t blame my past self for this, but I like myself more and feel like a more full human being and creator today. Love you to you all.

It still wasn’t enough, though. He still got fired and there’s a very good chance that the career he worked so hard for has been damaged beyond repair. It’s all because of horrible things he said 10 years ago. That’s worth emphasizing because the person someone is now and the person they were 10 years ago can be very different.

People grow, develop, and change over the course of their lives. I certainly have. In that time, people will say and do things that they don’t realize will have major consequences 10 years down the line. We can’t even know what kind of person we’ll be a week from now, let alone 10 years.

We’re going to do and say dumb things. That’s just a part of being human. However, now that the internet and social media document these things, our worst moments and most ill-advised decisions are there for all to see. We can no longer trust people to just forget. In Mr. Gunn’s case, someone went out of their way to dig up these horrible comments and that continues a dangerous precedent.

That precedent was already set with Rosanne Barr and this effectively raises the stakes. Now, even when you don’t blame sleep medications and give a sincere apology, you can still lose everything you’ve worked for. All it takes is someone with enough free time, resources, and hatred to do it. For celebrities, these are dangerous and unforgiving times, indeed.

Now, I know it’s hard to feel sympathy for celebrities, who live in big mansions, get preferential treatment wherever they go, and never have to worry about their next mortgage payment. Mr. Gunn is probably going to be okay thanks to the millions he’s already made. At the same time, though, what does undermining his career accomplish?

It doesn’t undo the things he said. It doesn’t undo any of the offense people felt. If anything, it sends a message to aspiring celebrities that anything they say and do will be used against them in the future. Even if that makes some people more careful about what they say online, it doesn’t change the fact that people will say and do dumb things every now and then.

It’s a no-win situation. If you can’t make excuses or offer a sincere apology, then what is the recourse? What was Mr. Gunn’s alternative? Short of going back in time and punching himself in the throat, there was nothing he could’ve done. How is that fair? How is that even logical?

On some levels, I don’t blame Marvel Studios and Disney for cutting ties with Mr. Gunn. They’re a multi-billion dollar media conglomerate that is very sensitive to the value of their brand. They’re also a private entity and not a government so the first amendment does not necessarily apply to them. They can fire whoever they want for whatever reason they want.

Even so, there doesn’t appear to be much effort to accept Mr. Gunn’s apology. While some have expressed understanding, there isn’t much effort in terms of undoing the damage. It’s as though this is the new normal. This is what happens to anyone who dares to let their stupidity end up on the internet. There’s no forgiveness. There are no second chances, either. If you mess up once, you’re finished and your career is over.

Think about the larger implications of that situation. If that’s how we’re going to deal with people who say offensive things, then where’s the real incentive for people to learn from their mistakes? Why would anyone even try to apologize or show regret if the end result is the same?

That’s not to say the situation is hopeless. There is already a Change.org petition to urge Marvel and Disney to rehire Mr. Gunn. As of this writing, it has over 150,000 signatures. Whether that’s enough remains to be seen and the fact that something like that is necessary to accept someone’s apology is still saying a lot.

I already worry that the next time a well-known celebrity says or does something offensive, they won’t even bother with apologizing. Why would they if it’s just going to sink their career or require a petition to keep it going? What kind of excuses will they resort to and how much more damaging will they be?

Accepting apologies aren’t just good values to live by. They’re critical to helping people grow as human beings. I believe Mr. Gunn meant it when he apologized, but I worry that he and other celebrities like him will come to see it as an empty gesture that won’t save their careers.

There are plenty of cases where accepting someone’s apology just isn’t warranted, especially if they have a history of saying and doing terrible things. Mr. Gunn is not such a case. If ever there was a time to set a precedent for accepting someone’s sincere apology, this is it. Even if it’s too late for Mr. Gunn, it’s still a precedent worth setting.

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Filed under Celebrities and Celebrity Culture, censorship, Current Events, human nature, media issues, psychology, superhero movies

Free Speech And The Long-Term Fallout Of The “Rosanne” Cancellation

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When it comes to free speech and freedom of expression, I consider myself somewhat of an extremist. If I were in charge of setting the standards, I would permit un-bleeped profanity, unfiltered hate speech, unblurred nudity, and anything else that One Million Moms finds offensive. That’s how much I believe in free speech.

It’s probably for that reason that I would be woefully unqualified to establish a legal framework for what constitutes free speech and how it would be enforced. I’m not a lawyer, a legal expert, or some colorful TV personality who pretends to be one. Despite my qualifications, though, I do feel like I have something worth contributing to an ongoing debate surrounding free speech.

If you’ve been anywhere near the internet or a TV over the past few weeks, you’ve probably heard about the scandal surrounding Roseanne Barr. Simply put, Rosanne Barr made some offensive tweets that she blamed on sleeping pills. The tweets triggered a major outrage across social media. As a result, ABC canceled her hit show, which had been generating strong ratings since its return.

On some levels, I can understand this reaction. ABC is owned by Disney, a company that has one of the strongest brands in the world. They are not the government. They are a publicly traded company and as such, public perceptions affect their profits and their image. If you think that doesn’t matter, just ask the NFL what happens when a brand gets undermined.

On every other level, though, I see this reaction as one of those short-term solutions that could create many other problems in the long run. Whether you agree with Roseanne Barr’s politics or hate her guts, she was still just voicing her opinion. Yes, it was in bad taste and had some racial overtones, but she did apologize for it. The sincerity of that apology is hard to gauge, but the effort still counts for something in my opinion.

Even without that apology, the potential precedent and backlash are already in place. We, as a society, have established a process for punishing speech that we don’t like or find offensive. The process has nothing to do with an authoritarian government cracking down on its people. It doesn’t even involve the kind of mass censorship that other countries routinely practice. We’re doing this all on our own.

Essentially, we’re doing Big Brother’s job for him. We’re just not calling it censorship or a crackdown. Instead, we’re creating our own category of speech that a significant number of people believe ought not to be expressed or shared. There are no lawyers or police enforcing those standards. We’re doing that through a type of speech-based vigilante justice.

Me being a die-hard fan of superhero comics, many of which are built around vigilante justice, I’m somewhat sympathetic to those who want to right the wrongs that our imperfect justice system leaves unfinished. In this case, however, I don’t see the kind of justice that Batman would pursue, nor do I see the kind of villainy that the Joker would carry out.

I see an emerging system where a huge population of well-connected, well-informed, and generally well-meaning people want to confront people and ideas that they feel our damaging to others, themselves, and society as a whole. I don’t doubt their sincerity or their idealism. However, I seriously doubt they understand the implications of what they’re doing.

I don’t agree with Roseanne Barr’s comments. I didn’t find them funny, but I didn’t find them that offensive either. I see far more offensive comments on message boards and Reddit at least twice a day. That sentiment is out there. It exists. Even if the internet disappeared tomorrow, people would still have these thoughts and opinions.

That’s exactly why the outrage, protests, and subsequent consequences don’t necessarily achieve much beyond removing a few offensive comments from an immense network that’s full of so much worse. It does nothing to actually change the sentiments of those expressing the speech. If anything, it just makes them regret getting punished.

It’s akin to the inherent conflict we feel in accepting a criminal’s apology. We can’t know for sure whether they’re genuinely sorry for doing what they did or whether they’re just sorry they got caught. One is very different from the other. Without reading Roseanne Barr’s mind directly, we don’t know if her show getting cancelled has changed her political persuasions or just made them worse.

Moreover, her losing her show, her job, and her credibility reveals to a hyper-connected world that this is how you combat speech you find offensive. You don’t try to change someone’s mind. You don’t grow thicker skin and deal with it. You just get enough people to voice enough outrage and eventually, you can both remove the speech and punish the person who spoke it.

For those who didn’t like Roseanne’s comments or were genuinely offended by them, I doubt that seems like a bad thing. They are, after all, simply voicing their own free speech and using that to effect change from a non-government, publicly-traded company. They probably see themselves as the heroes in this story.

What happens, though, when the script is flipped? It’s not unlike the distressing thought experiment I pitched a while back that involved swapping the genders of famous movie or TV scenes. Reverse the roles and suddenly, the situation takes on a very different context.

You don’t even need any imagination to contemplate this because it already happened with Colin Kaepernick. Like Roseanne, he expressed himself in a very public way that triggered a very public backlash. He ended up losing his job and any prospects of getting another.

The same people celebrating Roseanne Barr’s cancellation likely protested how Kaepernick was treated. Some of them even protested on his behalf in a very public way to apply pressure not unlike the kind ABC faced. While the two situations are not exactly the same, the general premise is clear.

If someone expresses a political opinion that you don’t agree with, you and those like you can protest as well to silence that opinion and publish the one who expressed it. Conservatives can do it to liberal figures. Liberals can do it to conservative figures. The end result is the same. The speech is silenced and the speaker is punished, but the underlying attitudes remain untouched.

It’s those untouched attitudes that may end up having the biggest long-term impact of both the Roseanne Barr situation and that of Colin Kaepernick. Being public figures, these two made themselves targets with their controversial expressions. However, the way others confronted it is potentially damaging to the very concept of free speech.

Thanks to the internet, social media, and outrage culture, both situations make clear to those of any political persuasion that you don’t have to confront the actual substance of someone else’s speech. You don’t have to thicken your skin, evolve your thinking, or learn how to process offense. You can just protest the speech and punish the speaker, all without getting the government involved.

That’s the kind of approach that does not foster a free, open exchange of ideas. If anything, it ensures that people internalize their feelings and sentiments that others may find offensive. In doing so, that makes it even harder to confront them and potentially change their minds. Roseanne losing her show isn’t going to convince her that her critics are right. If anything, it’s going to make her hate her critics even more.

The end result of this kind of self-censorship is downright dystopian. Imagine a world where everything online, on TV, and in movies is so filtered, so watered down, and so overly polished that nobody even has an opportunity to voice anything offensive. The government doesn’t enforce it. We do.

In that world, hate and bigotry still exists. It’s just hidden and we have no way of knowing about it. History and human nature makes clear that internalizing these feelings can be very damaging. Now, we’ve just given Roseanne Barr and everyone who shares her views to be angrier and more hateful. We’ve also given them a tool with which to fight back against those they disagree with.

It’s a dangerous situation with damaging implications for the future of free speech. We could argue whether or not ABC was right to cancel Roseanne’s show or whether a company like Disney has the right to fire people who damage their brand. At the end of the day, though, the source of the outrage and conflict still comes from us. If offense is all it takes to censor speech, then speech is no longer free.

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Filed under Current Events, gender issues, human nature, media issues, political correctness

Remembering Martin Luther King Jr. And The TRUE Meaning Of Equality

Usually on a holiday, be it a major one that kids celebrate because it means no school or a more contrived one meant to sell greeting cards, I go out of my way to acknowledge it on this blog. I even try to channel the spirit of the holiday, if only to make the day feel like more than just something people mark on a calendar.

With today being Martin Luther King Jr. Day, though, I feel compelled to do more than just acknowledge it or the spirit behind it. In fact, I feel as though the spirit of this holiday is more critical now in 2018 than it has been in year’s past. When I look at the world today and all the ongoing conflicts unfolding before my eyes, I believe that the message and spirit of Dr. King is more relevant than ever.

Most people know who Martin Luther King Jr. is and why he’s such a prominent figure in modern history. He has a holiday named after him for a very good reason. He was both a leader and an icon of a very volatile time in American history. He was also a strong man of faith, one who actually took the non-violent teachings of Jesus Christ to heart. That’s an increasingly radical concept these days.

What Dr. King accomplished was remarkable, especially in the face of so much heated opposition. However, it’s how he accomplished it that really sets him apart and makes him worthy of celebrating. Like I said before, he believed in non-violence and he took them very seriously.

According to the King Center, Martin Luther King Jr. had a very specific way of utilizing non-violence to achieve the goals he sought. In his book, “Stride Towards Freedom,” he organized them into six principles.

  • Principle #1: Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.
  • Principle #2: Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding.
  • Principle #3: Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice not people.
  • Principle #4: Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform.
  • Principle #5: Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.
  • Principle #6: Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.

Take a moment, if you can, to appreciate the sheer heart and idealism espoused in these principles. Remember, Dr. King fought against some of the most extreme racism anyone can imagine. Take the most offensive, vile messages you’ve seen on social media or 4chan. Then, create a society around them and give it political power. That’s what Dr. King was up against.

However, he didn’t seek to defeat that racism through the kind of outrage, protests, and meme wars that seem to dominate the overall rhetoric today. He took these principles of non-violence and employed them. He did this, despite often being threatened with violence.

He still stuck to those principles, though. He believed that his message would transcend the violence. The fact that he now has a holiday named after him and is one of the most celebrated figures in modern history proves that his beliefs were vindicated.

What stood out with these principles and how Dr. King practiced them literally showed the power of these beliefs. Rather than pick fights with racists, he sought understanding. Rather than voice outrage, he chose to voice love. This is readily apparent in his famous “I have a dream” speech that still resonates to this day. Even in 2018, it still gives people chills for all the right reasons.

Read or listen to that speech and then contrast that with how people today are trying to fight racism, sexism, and bigotry. Think about the misguided movements from both sides of the political spectrum that operated under very different principles. Then, look at the results or lack thereof.

This is where the power of Dr. King’s principles really shows. It also reveals just how much we’ve forgotten or negated what it means to seek equality or combat bigotry. It’s articulated in the second and the fifth principle of non-violence. He sought understanding and love over retribution and hate.

This matters today because society today is more and more driven by a toxic mix of outrage culture and attention-driven economics. We’re seeing this in increasingly petty arguments within feminism, racial politics, and political groups. These days, it’s become less about actual progress and more about winning debates.

As a result, our entire understanding of justice and equality has become twisted. It’s no longer a matter of pursuing the equal treatment under the law that Martin Luther King Jr. fought and eventually died for. It’s about fighting and hating the real and perceived source of that inequality.

We see it among both feminists and men’s rights activists who seek to demonize one another rather than promote gender equality.

We see it among racial and ethnic groups who seek to elevate themselves at the direct cost of another.

We see it among religious groups, sometimes within the same religion, who seek to dominate rather than cooperate.

These are antithetical to the message that Dr. King espoused. In his preaching and protests, he didn’t demand that one group be elevated over the other. He didn’t demand that oppressors suffer the same indignity as the oppressed to balance the scales of justice. He understood, probably better than anyone alive today, that fighting injustice with injustice still leaves us with the same amount of injustice.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

It’s not always the kind of obvious legal injustice that was so prevalent in Dr. King’s time. Today, injustice takes many forms. There are those who seek to actively punish those for daring to express thoughts that counter a popular movement that claims to seek justice. There are those who seek to shame others for not being affiliated with a movement or not going far enough.

We’re getting into dangerous levels of tribalism in that it’s becoming less about pursuing justice and more about being part of a shared agenda. Thanks to the internet, that’s becoming distressingly easy and the broader ideals of Dr. King’s principles seem to get lost under the weight of all the outrage.

In his tireless efforts, Martin Luther King Jr. fought for equality of treatment. He didn’t seek to elevate one group over the other, exchanging one form of oppression for another. He didn’t seek to destroy his opponents. He sought to make them friends and allies. He fought their hatred with love and their ignorance with wisdom. It wasn’t about winning a debate. It was about actually pursuing the spirit of equality.

That, more than anything, is the message we should heed in 2018. Pursuing equality doesn’t mean subduing opponents. It means standing with them on the same level, embracing what us similar and unique. We can never share the same outcomes in life, but we can share in the struggles.

In the end, pursuing equality requires a great deal of humility, as well as a genuine faith that people will embrace justice if you give them a chance. We’re giving ourselves fewer and fewer chances these days. In the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. and everything he stood for, we would all be wise to give ourselves those changes moving forward.

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Filed under Current Events, gender issues, sex in society

Why The NFL Protests Matter Less Than You Think (And How To MAKE Them Matter)

Whenever I talk about football, the NFL, and how much I love it, I usually do it to lighten the mood. Sure, sometimes football inspires talk of some less pleasant issues, but in general I try to avoid them and focus on the parts that make my Sundays so enjoyable.

Then, the real world has to come around and shit all over it, compelling me to talk about it when I’d rather be talking about my sexy novels or movies involving Sophie Turner and Jennifer Lawrence. I wish I could resist that temptation, but as many of the characters in my sexy novels can attest, that’s not always possible.

Unless you were in a coma under a rock inside a cave on Mars, you probably heard about the mass protests conducted across the NFL last Sunday. What exactly were they protesting, you ask? Well, that’s a hard question to answer and the fact that it’s hard to answer is pretty telling, in and of itself.

Officially, the protests were a stand against social injustice and a response to some trash talk by some high-ranking government official whose name I refuse to say, primarily because I don’t want to give him more attention than he deserves. Unofficially, it was the rhetorical equivalent of two colliding shit storms that only succeeded in creating a bigger storm.

There are many ways to protest injustice, corruption, and everything Gordon Gekko stands for. One of the perks of living in a relatively free society is that you get to attempt and experiment with a variety of ways. Sometimes petitioning works. Sometimes viral videos work. Sometimes just being Mr. Rogers and talking to people with unwavering kindness works.

Unfortunately, there are far more ways that fail instead of work. That’s just the nature of the world we live in. What Colin Kapernick did last year and what multiple NFL teams did last week succeeded to the extent that it raised awareness. While awareness is an important part of the process, especially in the era of the attention economy, that doesn’t mean that it achieved its goals.

More than anything else, it divided people within two tribes. In one, Colin Kapernick and the NFL are patriots in that they’re protesting in the name of the justice that the flag and the national anthem stands for. In the other, Colin Kapernick and the NFL are self-absorbed, virtue signaling drama queens who are disrespecting a symbol that many brave Americans fought and died for.

These are two irreconcilable ideas that kill any substantive conversation. They’re seeing the same picture, but interpreting it in wildly different ways. Instead of highlighting the egregious disparities in how the justice system treats certain minorities, it’s now a discussion about who has the a more patriotic hard-on for all things American.

That begs and important question. Which interpretation is right and which side is wrong? Who can truly say they’re being more patriotic than their counterparts? Well, here’s where it gets tricky and where I’m probably going to upset both sides. Bear with me, though. I promise I’ll try to inject some substance that both sides can use to further their cause.

First, I’ll answer those two questions definitively. I don’t expect everyone to agree with my answer, but I suspect I’ve already upset both sides already so I won’t bother making excuses.

“Both sides BELIEVE they’re true patriots. Both sides BELIEVE their opponents are anti-America. Neither side is inherently RIGHT, but BOTH are valid in their beliefs.”

I know. It sounds like I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth and a little out of my ass. Ignoring the influence of my ass, here’s where I’m certain I’ll upset both sides of the debate.

Regardless of how patriotic you feel, the American flag and the national anthem are symbols. No matter how universal you think they are, symbols are always subject to interpretation and those interpretations are rarely, if ever, agreed upon by every person in a society. Just look at all the symbols whose meaning has wildly changed over the centuries.

It’s because of this subjectivity that it’s possible for two people to look at it and interpret extremely different messages. That’s how one side can look at a flag and see the beauty of America. That’s how another can look at a flag and see the ideals America stands for and realizing that the people haven’t lived up to those ideals.

It seems impossible, but when you remember that irrational, tribal nature of the human species, it makes sense. In that context, the NFL and its players are patriots for telling Americans that they have not lived up to the ideals their flag stands for. The people booing them are patriots too for pointing out how they’re disrespecting the symbols and traditions that bind society together.

In either case, both sides can’t claim to be entirely objective. Those claiming that the NFL players are spoiled and using their positions of power to divide people probably wouldn’t feel that way if they were protesting something they agreed with. Change the message and the context and suddenly, they’re on the same side.

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Again, it’s an irreconcilable disagreement, as is often the case with such extreme tribalism. There’s nothing either side can do to convince the other that they’re the true patriots. It’s a downright tragedy because racial injustice is an important issue if we want to improve as a society. Once it becomes a discussion about who is more patriotic, then the protests and outrage behind them no longer matters.

That finally leads me to the practical part of this article. If you’re bummed out or frustrated at this point, then I thank you for sticking with me this long. I imagine some of you already hate my guts and think I’m trying to solicit money from George Soros and the Koch brothers.

I promise you I’m not doing this to win any favors with one particular political agenda. The suggestion I’m about to offer is being offered free of charge. Sure, I’ll kindly request that you buy one of my books or make a donation, but I won’t expect it. I’m still offering free insight into fixing a major problem.

With that said, and knowing that nobody in the NFL or their critics are listening, here’s how you protest social injustice effectively. It can be accomplished in one easy step.

“Make the protest easy, fun, and rewarding to join.”

I know that sounds easy on paper and for once, it kind of is. Granted, it’s not the same kind of spectacle as Colin Kapernick’s protest, but that’s kind of the point. It shouldn’t be that kind spectacle. It should be something else. Moreover, it should be fun.

The best example I’ve seen in recent years is the ice bucket challenge that briefly swept the nation a few years ago. For a brief time, celebrities and ordinary people alike participated in a fun show of solidarity that helped raise money for a worthy cause, namely the treatment of ALS.

It worked too. The ALS Association reported a record $3 million in donations because of this goofy ploy that was fun, easy, and entertaining to join. If it worked with ALS, why not racial injustice?

I’m not saying people should usurp the ice bucket part. I think the ALS folks have already branded that. Instead, protesting racial injustice should involve something different. Maybe it involves hugging someone, popping a balloon, or hitting yourself with a pie. It doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t have to make sense. It just has to be fun, easy to join, and make people feel better about themselves.

Think of it as a way to weaponize the power of virtue signaling, making people feel better about themselves by doing something inane. In this case, there would be some substance behind it. In addition to the inanity, there would be a donation to organizations like the ACLU, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, or The Sentencing Project. It doesn’t have to be much, but if it’s more than zero, it helps.

If Colin Kapernick had taken this route instead of protesting the national anthem, would he be the poster child for all that is wrong with professional athletes not named O.J. Simpson? I don’t know, but it would attract more attention for the right reasons.

It would make his stand against racial injustice matter. It would get people to participate rather than remain numb or indifferent. Now that kneeling for the anthem has just become this never-ending argument about who’s the real patriot, the protest no longer matters. However, I don’t think it’s too late to change that.

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Hard Truths: Justice, Injustice, And O.J. Simpson

I understand that not everything I say on this blog is going to be popular, sexy, or funny. I don’t doubt that there are opinions I’ve shared and jokes I’ve told that haven’t gone over well. There may be even a few people out there who have read them and felt the urge to punch me in the face through their computer screen.

I understand that. It’s just part of the internet. You’re going to say things people hate and meet people who hate your guts. I’m sure there are people who still haven’t forgiven me for my post on the mind of misogynistic men. I won’t apologize for saying what I say, but please understand that I don’t say it with the intention of hurting or upsetting people.

I say all this as a preface, of sorts, because I know some of the things I’ll say in this post are going to upset some people. If not on this post, I’m sure there will be other posts that draw anger, disgust, and disagreement. Some of these issues are not as innocent as sex robots, Wonder Woman’s BDSM origins, or the sexiness of chest hair. They’re real, serious issues.

The issue, in this case, has to do with something that’s fairly timely in the sense that it often comes up this time of year. Just this past week was the 23rd anniversary of the infamous O.J. Simpson Bronco chase. It happened on June 17th, 1994. It was one of those days where everyone remembers where they were. It’s also one of those days where everyone formed an ardent opinion that still divides people to this day.

At the time, I was fairly young and didn’t really understand the gravity of what was going on. I kept hearing the name O.J. Simpson in the news. I kept seeing people watch the trial on TV, talk about it, and obsess over it. Being so young, I thought it was annoying. All that talk about O.J. Simpson cut into time I’d rather be using to read comics, watch cartoons, and play video games.

I guess you can say I’m part of a generation that only ever knew O.J. Simpson as the alleged murderer who got away with it. Pretty much anyone born before 1982 only knows this side of O.J. Simpson. When they hear his name, they usually think of the Bronco chase, the trial, and the bloody glove. They don’t think of the larger context.

There are members of my own family, as well as major news figures like Keith Olbermann, who’ve tried to explain to me just how big a deal this was. It’s hard for them to convey to people of my generation just how beloved O.J. Simpson once was. Between his Hall of Fame football career, his acting career, and his iconic Hertz commercials, it’s impossible to overstate just how popular this man was.

There was actually a time when the name O.J. Simpson had many positive connotations. He was a celebrity sports icon whose popularity transcended race, class, and everything in between. For someone like him to be accused of a ghastly double-murder was akin to Captain America becoming a Nazi. Actually, that’s a bad example.

It’s because of that other side of O.J. Simpson, namely the one that people of my generation never saw, that his trial became the “Trial of the Century.” That trial, and the controversial verdict that followed, still divides America to this day, often among racial lines.

If you want to have an uncomfortable conversation about race, justice, injustice, and the legal system, pretty much every distressing element you can think of is highlighted by the O.J. Simpson case. It involves spousal abuse, police corruption, racism, media spectacles, and the Kardashian family. Even today, this kind of spectacle would check all the right boxes to become a total media shit storm.

There are so many aspects of the murder trial, the aftermath, the media circus, and the tenuous relationship O.J. Simpson had with his ex-wife, Nichole, that I could highlight. In every case, there are elements to that story that are both unsexy and controversial, dividing and enraging people of every opinion.

However, there’s only one part I want to single out for this particular post. It’s probably going to upset more people than most. I might even get some hate for it. That said, it’s one of those hard truths that needs to be said, even if it’s uncomfortable. Brace yourself because here it is.

The jury in the O.J. Simpson trial got it RIGHT.

Now, it’s my turn to brace myself. I know that opinion isn’t very popular. I also know most of the people in my own family disagree with it. I’ve talked to close relatives about it. They’re all convinced that O.J. Simpson is guilty. They all believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that O.J. brutally murdered his ex-wife and Ronald Goldman. There’s nothing anyone can say or do that can convince them otherwise.

Therein lies the problem, though. It’s one that I’ve pointed out before when I’ve talked about reasons, excuses, and the idea of excuse banking. We all like to think of ourselves as rational, logical human beings that Spock from Star Trek would get along with. In reality, we’re nothing of the sort.

Our brains don’t work through logic. Our brains can use it, but it’s only every a secondary function. Our default caveman setting is to form an irrational opinion first and then look for ways to justify it. It doesn’t matter if it’s racist, sexist, or wholly irrational. That’s how our brains work. That’s how most people look at the O.J. Simpson case.

The problem is, from a legal point of view, that our justice system does everything it can to circumvent those flaws and it’s not always good at it. There’s a reason why criminal justice reform is a major topic these days. The justice system is woefully inefficient at dealing with all crime fairly, especially those committed by minorities.

That’s part of what makes the O.J. Simpson case such an important case, but not for the reason you might think. The reason why it matters so much and why it’s such a harsh truth to digest is because the O.J. Simpson trial highlighted how the justice system is supposed to work. In a perfect world, every criminal would get the kind of legal defense that O.J. Simpson got. The fact that O.J. is black only makes the truth that much harder.

Like it or not, the O.J. Simpson trial got right one of the most important elements of our criminal justice system, at least with respect on how it’s supposed to work. It is built around the idea that a defendant is presumed innocent and must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

It can’t just be probable that someone is guilty. It can’t just be likely either. To convict someone of a serious felony, like a double murder, it has to be beyond any reasonable doubt. That’s a very lofty standard and for good reason.

Legal systems in modern western societies emphasize ensuring guilt and not punishing the innocent. There’s a callous practical reason for that too. In a society built around a modern economy, we can’t have the state throwing innocent people in prisons who could otherwise be working and contributing. That’s why if someone is accused of a crime, the system has to make damn sure that they’re guilty.

In O.J. Simpson’s case, and I know this is going to make a lot of people gnash their teeth on a cinder-block, there was reasonable doubt. Pretty much all the evidence against O.J. was either circumstantial or hearsay. On top of that, the LAPD had a sordid history of corruption and racial bias. Police do frame suspects and innocent people do get charged with crimes they didn’t commit.

Unlike most of those innocent people, though, O.J. Simpson had access to the best legal help that money could buy. Those men might be despised now for defending O.J. However, there’s no getting around it. They did their jobs. They did exactly what a lawyer is supposed to do.

They revealed the reasonable doubt surrounding the case and, as upsetting as it might have been, there was reasonable doubt. The blood evidence was immense, but so was the evidence of improper handling and corruption from the officers involved. There are a great many theories as to what actually happened, but that doesn’t matter in the end.

The mere presence of that doubt meant that the jury did the right thing in acquitting O.J. Simpson. It’s a painful truth, especially to the families of Nichole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Their story will always be the biggest tragedy of the O.J. Simpson case. However, as hard as it is to accept, the justice system was right in this case.

There’s so much more to the O.J. Simpson story that I could talk about. I’m going to avoid it because any discussion about this case is bound to trigger all sorts of anger and outrage. If you want to hear more about this topic, including O.J. Simpson, check out the Unpopular Opinion podcast. They’re usually pretty balanced and pretty funny as well.

Short of a confession, complete with photographs and a bloody knife, we’ll never know what happened in the O.J. Simpson case. It’s that inability to truly know that’s the hardest to accept. Our caveman brains just can’t deal with that kind of uncertainty so we cling to our opinions and excuses.

Personally, I think it’s likely that O.J. did murder his ex-wife and Ron Goldman. At the very least, I think he had something to do with it. However, I don’t know all the facts. Nobody knows all the facts. That’s why, in the context of justice, his acquittal was the right thing to do.

It’s for that very reason, though, that we need a justice system that works around that. We, as a people, are at the mercy of our caveman brains and its inability to use logic properly. That’s the biggest challenge of our justice system, having to deal with all these shortcomings. It’s not perfect. For the O.J. Simpson case, at least, we see first-hand how it’s supposed to work, even if we don’t like the outcome.

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