Politics are not naturally of any interest to me. I am interested in people and the way they are treated. Right now, hardly anyone in America is being more unfairly treated than Roseanne Barr, a woman I knew practically nothing about until she wrote a tweet that made her persona non grata in her own professional field and universally condemned by everyone in public life. She described a female on the leftist side of politics as a cross between the Muslim Brotherhood and Planet of the Apes. Not “an ape,” mind you. Just a movie with the word “ape” in the title. A movie with lots of political content, much like the Muslim Brotherhood.
According to Roseanne’s own story, she woke up the next morning and was shocked and surprised to find that the internet had exploded all over her life and career, destroying both. It turned out that the woman she described that way – a person of no importance to us in this blog post – is of partial African descent. What does that have to do with anything, you ask? Well, most people aren’t asking that – but if you are, you might be as innocent as Roseanne Barr.
Roseanne had a contract with ABC – in other words, with Disney – that if she publicly said something offensive, she would be given 24 hours to retract it. Ignoring the contract, ABC fired her immediately. As it turned out, they were banking on this woman’s known kindness when they so egregiously violated her contract. In order to protect her co-workers on the show, she chose not to fight the legal battle which might have gotten her back her eponymous show or a monetary settlement. The show is now preparing to go on without her, though of course it will tank.
Although naturally I don’t know her, Roseanne, a Trump-supporter, strikes me as a person much like myself, whose kindness is usually expressed in actions, while her words tend to be blunt, impetuous, and sometimes inflammatory. Yet this woman is being described in public as a “bad person” and “a racist,” while James Gunn, a liberal also recently fired by Disney for material much more voluminous and more morally objectionable, is being defended by many. (I don’t think either of them should have been fired. What is this, the clerical ministry or the entertainment industry?)
It may seem obvious to everyone that Roseanne should not be tolerated in public life, but I like to question the obvious. Such impressions are so often engineered, not spontaneous.
So why is even Breitbart news firmly reporting Roseanne’s tweet as “a racist tweet,” completely ignoring her explanation that she didn’t know the woman was black? Why does even Sean Hannity insist on her apologizing over and over again? Will this turn out to be the turning point in history, when conservatives stop defending one another in the hope that they themselves will not be taken down in turn – only to discover they’ve given up free speech so completely that there is no tolerance left for them in public life at all?
Racism, of course, is an attitude, so intent matters here. Was there ever any real attempt to analyze Roseanne’s words for their true intent? In other words, if Roseanne wasn’t referencing the woman’s race, as she claims she wasn’t, then there’s no racism – just an uncomfortable stumble into the appearance of it.
And in fact, an analysis of the initial news reporting of the incident supports that possibility. Many news outlets initially reported on the tweet as “racism-tinged” or merely “offensive.” These news outlets were so soundly castigated by those leading the charge against Roseanne that now everyone obsequiously refers to her tweet as a crazy racist rant, as if she had been spewing Nazi propaganda.
To me, the answer lies in the human tendency to cover one’s own derriere by putting forward a sacrificial victim. You see, the sequence of events matters here. Between the time Roseanne tweeted until the time she woke up in the morning and checked her Twitter account everyone, from left to right, read Roseanne’s tweet and immediately jumped to the conclusion she was talking about the woman’s race. Why? Because of the word “ape.” In other words, because the word ape was linked to the african people in their own minds.
So taking Roseanne at her word means that practically everyone in America saw the word “ape” and made the connection to the woman’s African descent on their own, without any help from Roseanne Barr.
And so now everyone must collude in pretending that it was Roseanne who made that forbidden connection, not them.
You will probably protest that a woman of her age should know by now how people are going to take things, and take that into account when she speaks. I have been told this about myself all my life. It’s a funny thing, because in no other area of life are people told that they are responsible for other people’s mistakes. The way I see it, there are two options. Either people can learn to understand the way that a woman like Roseanne talks (no underlying narrative, more creative than literal) or a woman like Roseanne can learn to talk the Socialese of other, more socially-conscious people. In other words, people can either learn to understand her, or she can stop expressing her real personality in speech.
This alternative reminds me of the well-known difficulty people have when they learn a language. Whether they are babies learning their first language, or adults learning their fifth, they nearly always learn to understand the new language before they learn the much harder task of reproducing it spontaneously in speech. In other words, it would be easier for people to be understanding of people like Roseanne than for people like Roseanne to learn to speak as if they were a completely different sort of person. But as we all know, Twitter is a cruel and malicious mob masquerading as a witty academic enclave, and it takes someone with Trump’s rhinocerosic hide to own it.
People who are anxious not to be perceived as racist, who constantly monitor how they come across to others, are extremely careful never to be caught saying something like Roseanne said. To such a person, if the word “ape” crossed their mind there would be an immediate warning signal saying, “Check for black people before using this word.” I don’t think Roseanne is such a person. I don’t think she could be if she tried – and she probably does try. Many careful folk probably would never even use the word ‘ape’ in any context at all, just to make sure. Can you imagine?
The enforcers of all this totalitarian censorship are often, more or less, repressed Puritans whose inverted religiosity springs out on unsuspecting strangers, imposing parlor-manners on them with the ferocity of an old-time Puritan governor putting someone in the stocks for smiling on Sunday.
Let’s recap. If Roseanne’s explanation is allowed to count in the public narrative about this incident, people fear they will be forced to face the possibility that practically everyone in America besides Roseanne is racist. It’s the stuff of comedy, when you’re not a stuffed-shirt PC asshat.
Obviously, Roseanne Barr must be sacrificed.
So why is America so self-consciously, hysterically anxious about avoiding any connection between any black people and any primates?
The answer lies, of course, partly in the history of racial slurs, which instead of seeing such resemblances spontaneously and on an individual basis, characterizes a whole people in such a way.
But I think the history of the philosophy of evolution goes farther in explaining this anxiety. That is to say, I think highly-educated leftists are more anxious about the hidden history of genuine, philosophical racism within their own cultural past than about the mere ethnic prejudice that pops up among others.
Progressivists, as we will all remember from the Scopes Monkey Trial, forced the theory of evolution on the nation through the avenue of its public schools. They believed that creationists were backward and evolutionists were up to date. (In 2018, Darwin’s theory is hopelessly out of date and disproven in its original form, but we are still supposed to look at those progressivists as heroes.)
But Darwinian evolution was and is inherently racist, and the Scopes Trial took place during a time of peak racism in America, when up to date people thought it was scientific to believe that biological inheritance explains everything about a person, from his drinking habits to his economic class. Since nearly all black people lived in the same low socio-economic class during those days when a few ex-slaves still lived and the south was still recovering from reconstruction, it was almost impossible for many such people to avoid concluding that evolution had gifted the African “race” in a less bounteous manner than it had the European “race.”
Every conservative and Christian I know views such ideas as deeply despicable, and wishes liberals would own up to the way their ideas promote such things in society.
Even today, we see news stories whose headlines announce, “Humans left Africa earlier than thought…” except, they silently omit, those who didn’t leave Africa. The earlier that the ancestors of Europeans are thought to have left Africa, the more their evolution must be assumed to have diverged from that of Africans. And if evolution is the only source of humanity’s humanity, then an evolutionary divergence logically indicates different kinds of humanity – or in the lingo of secularists, different races.
(From a conservative or creationist point of view, the very use of the words race and racism is inherently racist.) This is why liberals are plagued constantly by the specter of racism, while conservatives roll their eyes at all the hand-wringing. Just admit that humanity is humanity in the classical sense, we feel, and all of this will fade away.
The more that European and African evolution is supposed to have diverged, the more tempting it is to an evolutionist to attribute Europe’s higher level of technological development (which anthropologists conflate with humanness) to that evolutionary difference. In other words, there is nothing so damning in secular discourse than to call one person or group of people “less evolved” than another, and yet it takes all their willpower to ignore the fact that modern ideas do point to Africans and other people of color as being “less evolved” than Europeans.
(Again, to a conservative it is enough to note the ease with which all ethnicities adapt themselves to one another’s cultures, to confirm a universal humanity which simply expresses itself in different cultural habits and emphases as needed in varying environments.)
I believe it is primarily to correct this devastating history that secularists try so hard to damn technological advancement and European-derived culture in public opinion. “It’s not really better,” they insist. “But of course, everyone deserves to experience it so please open the borders.” Instead, they should go back and fix the root problem.
Again, to a creationist, the humanity of a man is not defined by the complexity of his tools. It is an essential, irreducible, given thing. It is a spiritual thing – the thing that makes it insulting to call a person an animal – but humorous to note that he resembles an animal.
You may wish to ask me at this point why, in my opinion, Europe became more technologically advanced than Africa. Well, Paul Kennedy has an interesting book in which he explains the origins of European technological civilization on the basis of geography and the way in which it determined certain aspects of European history. It’s very surprising, and the book is called The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, so feel free to check it out. I don’t know, myself, of course.
To return to the Scopes Trial. It centered around conservative resistance to the idea that man is descended from apes, or from extinct, ape-like creatures. Conservatives wanted to assert a unique and inherent human dignity, and the evolutionary science of the day did not ideologically allow for that. The conservative defender of creationism, William Jennings Bryant, was not a young earth, six day creationist. He, like many Christians, had discovered that the actual data of science (as opposed to the secularist interpretation of that data) can be handily reconciled with a belief in God’s fatherhood of all men. Since ordinary Americans still believed in this idea, he defended the right of local public schools to teach what their communities actually believed. He won the trial, but the newspapers made sure he came out looking like a monkey.
There was, of course, no data available to the scientists of the day that made them certain this proposed descent from the apes had occurred. What were they basing it on, then? The answer is somewhat complex, but basically boils down to an observation of the similarity in appearance and behavior between apes and humans, compared to other biological life-forms, and a concurrent theory, now being questioned by some anthropologists, that man first arose in Africa and that proto-Europeans then left Africa and embarked on their own, separate evolutionary path. Again, this is not my narrative. This is the evolutionary narrative. It is horrible.
And mark you: this idea that humans resemble apes because they are descended from apes was new. To the creationist, apes were like humans, not the other way around. At most, this lent a little dignity to the apes, rather than detracting dignity from humans. Otherwise, it was grotesquely amusing – a sort of fun-house mirror God had given us to help us laugh at ourselves and feel a sense of kinship and concern for our fellow-creatures.
I hope everyone is getting the point here that in the context of evolutionary ideas, saying that one ethnicity resembles apes, specifically, involves the horrifying implication that they are less evolved and therefore less human. However, in the context of normal, majority, traditional creationist ideas, such a thing would likely have meant very little. That person might even have been possessed of all sorts of virtues in the eyes of the person who said it.
Of course, a sensitive person in today’s milieu will normally avoid saying such a thing when she is aware of the history involved in people’s likely objection. However, when we examine it, the tweet in question is so tenuously objectionable that one can hardly believe one lives in a time so totalitarian about such mild offenses – if indeed, a sane person could consider it an offense at all.
To sum up, a society clinging to secular progressivist ideology will always have to live with the dichotomous conviction that men are evolved from ape-like creatures, but oddly do not at all resemble apes except in a completely flattering, totally equal way. Believing this way, those who promote such a society must always try to deflect attention from their own unexpressed racism by projecting it onto others who stumble into forbidden speech.
And certain enthusiastic, creative and impulsive (read: artistic) personalities like Roseanne Barr will occasionally have trouble navigating that unspoken dichotomy in public, and will have to be sacrificed.
If only she had refused to apologize, and had given her friends a firm stance to get behind!
People who wish to survive public exposure in our time should hold a firm personal policy: I will never, ever apologize for anything. Yes, apologies are polite. But when ultra-feminized political fashions are enforcing parlor manners as de facto law, especially to the extent of depriving people of their reputations, friends, and professions over a single accidental stumble, then public politeness becomes simply an act of giving in. Don’t give in. Don’t give the impression that they are right, because if they are right, then people’s feelings are going to be hurt by what they now think you did.
Take back your apology, Roseanne Barr, and stand firm behind a simple explanation. And if you still have the option, sue the pants off ABC. Well, that’s what I feel like saying from my safe distance, anyhow!
What a dull world it will be when everyone in show business is at last a politician, and everyone in politics a second-rate entertainer. From all accounts Roseanne is a first-rate entertainer and should probably stay in entertainment and out of politics. Yet one can’t help but admire her warm-hearted attempt to support her friend, Donald Trump, in his own incredibly successful crossover career. Sometimes we just love more well than wise.