Bullying on the national stage
Tracy Morgan told a bunch of jokes at an appearance in Nashville, at the Ryman.
From what we can tell, it was just Tracy being Tracy. (Which is more outrageous than nearly anyone else out there by a factor of about 12.)
Of course, it all would have passed without a media firestorm had not someone named Kevin Rogers posted a lengthy rant– complete with quotes– on his Facebook page, which was then picked up by (near as we can tell) Huffington Post.
Rogers didn’t record the performance. (If he did, he doesn’t say.) But it seems that the media has taken the HuffPo account (which is based on Rogers’ account) and run with it.
Then Wanda Sykes (going by what she read in the HuffPo) took to the Twittersphere to condemn Morgan.
We wearily take to the keyboard to defend Morgan. It is truly eye-glazing to behold yet another “controversy” involving the “outrageous” and “hate-filled” comments of a comedian. The stories follow a similar pattern– comedian makes outrageous comments onstage (how odd!), professional grievance group files complaint through the media, comedian attracts defenders and detractors, detractors demand apology from comedian while simultaneously bullying supporters into retracting support, comedian issues apology, professional grievance group designs additional penance involving some sort of cash settlement combined with public humiliation/symbolic gesture, comedian is given permission to continue plying his trade, pundits use the incident to make larger points about society, all is forgotten until the next comedian steps on some sort of grievance land mine.
In this case, the supporters were CNN correspondent and syndicated columnist Roland Martin and fellow comedian Chris Rock, who tweeted, “I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in (a) world where Tracy Morgan can’t say foul inappropriate s**t .”
We’re inclined to agree with Rock. Sykes wasn’t so inclined.
Rock, after a Tweet-lashing from Sykes, back-pedaled.
Martin has doubled down. His follow-up (after he received a blizzard of hate mail for his original column) column contains a reasoned discussion of the matter.
Of course, Morgan has issued a “heartfelt” apology. It is, as are most of these apologies, worthless.
Sykes has likened Morgan’s jokes to “yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.” She seems particularly peeved that Morgan did the bit in Tennessee. And, of course, you know what that means– Tennesseeans, even ones who pay $86 to see a black man perform in Nashville’s country music shrine, are racist knuckle-dragging cretins too stupid to move out of a state that has passed an “anti-gay bill” (HuffPo’s characterization, not ours). This entire incident looks to be centered on a beef that GLAAD and other affiliated groups have with Tennessee over HB 600, which was signed into law on Monday, May 23.
Morgan is a political football. We have no doubt he was doing the same “rant” in every city he performs in. His grave mistake was doing it in a politically-charged atmosphere.
We defended Sykes when she was labeled a “lazy racist” by an imbecilic columnist for a Tiger Woods joke she told in a television monologue. We’re a bit taken aback at her bullying of Morgan and Rock, though. She seems to have put politics and group identity ahead of free expression and art in this case. Particularly appalling is Rock’s reversal.
The mangling of Oliver Wendell Holmes’ quote aside, Sykes’ analogy is seriously flawed. No person can believe that anyone would commit a violent act based on the lunatic ramblings of Tracy Morgan. Not a serious one.
Sykes’ quote, from a quote in a publication called “The New Civil Rights Movement,” gives away the game:
Sykes said, “I do believe in free speech, but for a youth in TN or any other numerous place, Tracy just yelled, ‘Fire,’ in a crowded theater,” adding, “Morgan “is just a dumb comic,” but also said she faults Tennessee lawmakers. “They’ve created an anti-gay environment,” and suggested she didn’t “believe Tracy would be so ignorant in LA, because we have a mayor, a city council,and police chief who believes we are all equal.”
Morgan is “just a dumb comic,” therefore, he is a tool, to be used. Under the bus he goes. It’s a small price to pay for the cause.
We are reminded of the Doomsday Clock created by the boys at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. “The closer the clock is to midnight, the closer the world is estimated to be to global disaster. As of January 14, 2010 (2010 -01-14), the Doomsday Clock now stands at six minutes to midnight.” Every time some rogue nation acquires nukes, the clock ticks closer to midnight. Were we less busy, we’d create a similar, vivid analogous doomsday clock that estimated our slide toward disaster in matters of free expression. The clock just got closer to midnight.
Reply to: Bullying on the national stage