“Wrong! False equivalencies!”
Let’s dive into the comparisons between Roseanne Barr’s and Samantha Bee’s situations to dispel the question of which is really going on here.
In Part 1, I also asked folks to take a good long look at the standards people argue should be applied to Samantha Bee’s conduct. I pointed out that if Bee goes, so does Trump and Baio and a whole bunch of Trump supporters. So be careful when throwing around the double-standards argument.
With respect to Samantha Bee’s recent statements, I found the cry of “Liberal hypocrites!” to be less about preventing the unfair application of double-standards, and more about the opposite. About punishing one side while ignoring truly similar sins made by one’s own.
As I asked before, is this about protecting women? Protecting Trump and his daughter? Or protecting your own views and opinions, which you feel are threatened any time someone speaks out against Trump?
What we have here is an argument for tolerance of those who are argue for intolerance of others. Again, put a pin in that. We’ll come back to it later in Part 4 of this series.
DOUBLE-STANDARDS REQUIRE TRUE EQUIVALENCIES
For those arguing it, the crux of the double-standards complaint made against the Samantha Bee situation does not rest in comparing what Bee did to situations where similar was done, like by Scott Baio.
No the crux lies in comparing Samantha Bee’s actions to the actions of Roseanne Barr’s this same week. It rests on the concept that the actions are equivalent, and thus, the punishment should be to.
But here’s the problem. They aren’t equivalent.
They share some points in common. But they aren’t equivalent.
Two things can be both be bad, but that does not make them equivalent.
Stealing is bad and against the law.
Murdering is bad and against the law.
Murder is not equivalent to theft.
Just ask those who were robbed at gunpoint but not killed by their robbers. And ask the families of those who were killed by a robber. They all will tell you, both are horrible, but they are nowhere near the same.
For those without a scorecard, murder is worse.
False equivalencies. Bread and butter stuff to the huge number of people peddling fallacies and false logic these days. They package themselves as reasonable comparisons. So learn to be on the lookout for them. Learn to recognize them.
Just as important, stop falling for them. Stop allowing them to shift the discussion away from the actual issues involved.
When Barr’s actions went down, those seeking to defend it, including Barr herself, started crying that there was Liberal media hypocrisy and a double-standard. One where, the Liberal media allows Liberal celebrities to say controversial things, while shutting down the Conservatives ones who say the exact same type of things.
Only that theory does not stand up to scrutiny in the political, or the media arena.
THE STANDARDS GAP OPENS WIDER ON THE CONSERVATIVE SIDE
Let’s be honest with ourselves. If Obama had used racial, or bigoted dog-whistles, like “sleepy-eyed” or “Pocahontas.” If he had said even a small fraction of the questionable things Donald Trump has repeatedly said, he would have been run out on a rail. Probably as much by Liberals as by Conservatives. In contrast, Trump is instead lauded by Conservatives.
Further, we have seen consequences for Liberals going too far. They are called out. They are censured. They are watched, and if they do it again, they are fired, fined or otherwise find themselves in trouble.
Reporters who mis-report things have been censured, suspended, and fired. If they are part of the Liberal media, that is. Meanwhile, Fox News, considered a bastion of Conservative media, continually peddles false stories with no consequences.
Bill O’Reilly repeatedly told falsehoods without censure over the years. Hannity continues to do so, including spreading Trump’s falsified “spygate” claims.
About a year ago, after false conspiracy theory reporting on the death of a former DNC employee, Fox news took down the article and promised to investigate further. But, leading up to that moment, even as the story was falling apart, Fox’s Sean Hannity was continuing to flog it.
After that dangerously erroneous reporting and promise to investigate further, Fox has done nothing since. No discipline. No censure. No suspensions. No firings.
In the wake of years of hurtful, absolutely false accusations, by the likes of Alex Jones’ Infowars, that the mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school was all made up, Alex Jones chugs along, not showing remorse and largely uncensured by fellow Conservatives, or those on the Right.
Something as heinous as telling a bunch of grieving parents that the gaping holes in their lives where their all too young children used to live is just them being part of some made up plot and that their children never even existed. That does not cry out to the heavens for justice. But Samantha Bee using the c-word and asking an adult woman to influence her father does.
The actions begun to censure the likes of Fox or Alex Jones in these instances came not from Fox, Alex Jones, or their audiences. They come in the form of angry, aggrieved families suing to recover money for the damages these hurtful reports have caused.
Are there Liberals who have gotten away with stuff they probably shouldn’t? Yes. Are there Conservatives who have been appropriately punished for the stuff they pulled? Yes.
But the gap in accountability for line-crossing appears more on the Conservative side of the ledger. In recent weeks alone, Fox News has peddled false stories or gross distortions of the truth regarding “spygate” and the Philadelphia Eagles actions during the national anthem last season, to name just two.
Fox news has a history of putting on the air supposed experts, who have no actual expertise, to assert blatant Islamophobic lies about Shari’a law, no-go zones, and a state of terror in Sweden over Muslim immigrants. Rather than correct, or warn Fox News, Conservatives audiences keep its ratings high, and Conservative leadership applauds its reporting, even when dodgy.
The standard that the Conservatives claim the Liberals are breaking is that Liberals should clean up after their messy folks. Which, in order to be a true standard, means Conservatives should clean up after theirs. By and large, the Liberals actually hold up their end of that standard, where Conservatives tend to let their end down. Leaving Liberals to police both.
Can it be a double-standard if it applies to only one side? No.
CONSERVATIVES, RACIST CLEAN UP IN AISLE TWO
And while we are at it, why is it on the Liberals to clean up after Conservatives who spew racism. If racism is not what they are about, shouldn’t Conservatives be the first to clean up after Conservative racists? To shut them down?
Why is it the duty of Liberals to shut down both Conservative and Liberals exhibiting prejudice while Conservatives do nothing and cry about being victims?
Why is it on Liberals to clean up their messes, and those of the Conservatives too, while the Conservatives, like Fox News and Infowars’ sponsors and viewers do nothing?
So don’t try to tell me that Conservatives are all put upon and allowed no voice. Not when this is part of the Conservative track record.
Hey, maybe take this hint instead. Maybe, if you’re a Conservative and feel you don’t get to be heard everywhere, it’s because the majority of people don’t like the kind of hateful bullsh!t your gang of friends is spouting. Yes, you have free speech. But you don’t have freedom from consequences.
And if you feel you are unfairly associated with those garbage spewers, give the rest of us a clue. Perhaps start with not supporting the garbage spewers and follow up with not complaining when others dare criticize them.
So the idea that Conservative voices are silenced and treated unfairly is utter garbage. In fact, I saw CNN put on plenty of Trump surrogates in the wake of recent events with Samantha Bee and Roseanne Barr. That’s equal representation, straight up.
Hint: If people aren’t buying the garbage you are peddling, maybe you should look into selling quality goods instead. Avoid ones made of shoddy materials, like lies. Try some made from solid facts instead. And eliminate those hate and fear additives. They may be flashy, but they make values plummet.
FALSE EQUIVALENCIES BETWEEN BARR AND BEE
So that false equivalency about Liberal vs. Conservative standards is complete bunk. But with the Barr and Bee stories, there are so many more false equivalencies raised.
Like I said, in the wake of Barr’s comments, some Conservatives were looking for an equivalent where they could claim that Liberals were treated more leniently than Barr was. Only they were not coming up with good ones.
For example, they mentioned a reporter, who actually did face censure and discipline for false reporting. They mentioned Kathy Griffin, who likewise faced censure, lost gigs, and the like for her grotesque photo of herself holding the bloody severed head of Donald Trump.
Over-the-top statements by Liberals have been criticized by the Liberal media. Liberal people have been warned, fined, fired, or otherwise lost sponsorship, advertising, and opportunities as the result of questionable comments and behavior.
No, these Conservatives needed something and really weren’t coming up with great comparisons. Then Bee’s Full Frontal aired with the c-word segment, and salvation appeared. Bee and TBS’ handling of the situation was jumped on as proof.
“See. She did the same thing. Same apology. Same everything. But Bee is still on the air. And Barr is thrown off the air. Liberal media hypocrites. See the injustice inherent in the system!”
The whole argument rests, as I said, on the idea that Barr’s and Bee’s conduct was equivalent. Logic and analysis says otherwise.
NON-EQUIVALENT HISTORY OF CROSSING-THE-LINE
For example, there is the history of the two. Bee’s Full Frontal does have a history of cable-television level profanity. And nasty commentary about the administration. Although any politician or policy, regardless of party affiliation, can find themselves the target of the show.
But Bee does not have a repeated history of crossing the line as she did in her May 30 show. Bear in mind, not liking what Samantha Bee says about the President on a general basis is not the same thing as her crossing lines, comedic or otherwise, that are just plain vile. Similarly, disliking the show’s regular use of profanity in general is not the same as the show crossing the line into vilely offensive language.
In contrast, Barr does have a history of pushing unfounded and hurtful conspiracy theories and attacks. Just a little over two months ago, she falsely accused a Parkland school shooting survivor of making a Nazi salute. As I noted in Part 2 of this series, her history goes back further as well.
Barr also repeatedly had to retract statements. Such repetition means we have moved past calling what she does accidental. Those are willful falsehoods. And even on the day of the Twitter comment that got her fired, she was falsely attacking Chelsea Clinton and George Soros. And then continued to justify her comments about Valerie Jarrett afterwards.
So while Bee’s conduct is isolated so far, Barr’s is not. It is one in a long line of comments.
If Samantha Bee had a similar history of over-the-top commentary, she too would no doubt be facing more serious consequences. One reason she is not is because there is no equivalency between Bee’s history of crossing the line and Barr’s.
NON-EQUIVALENCY IN TARGET SELECTION
Then look at to whom Bee directed her comments. Ivanka Trump and her father the President. “How dare Samantha Bee attack the President’s daughter. Leave her out of it.”
Why on earth should Ivanka Trump be left out of criticisms of the current administration? Ivanka is not a minor child. She is an adult with a child of her own.
More importantly, she is not living her life as a private citizen during her father’s Presidency. Both Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, are part of Trump’s administration. They work in the White House. They are officially advisers to the President. In fact, Ivanka’s husband supposedly advises the administration on its relations with Mexico, which should include our immigration policies. The very policies subject to Bee’s commentary.
Let’s contrast to Barr’s other comments she made the same day she Tweeted about Valerie Jarrett. Barr attacked Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former President Bill Clinton and Trump presidential campaign rival Hillary Clinton.
Chelsea was minor child during most of her father’s Presidency. She played no role in his administration. She has played a role in the family’s charitable organization. And only a limited role in her mother’s political career in the form of assisting with her mother’s campaigns.
In short, as targets go, there is far less reason to go after Chelsea Clinton than Ivanka Trump. And yet, Barr did, trying to tie her to a bogeyman of the Right, George Soros, and then accusing Chelsea of getting it wrong by Barr pushing a previously debunked claim about Soros’ involvement in the Holocaust.
Again, clearly the two situations are not equal. Barr’s conduct toward Chelsea Clinton was far less merited than Bee’s against Ivanka Trump.
NON-EQUIVALENCY IN COUPLING COMMENTARY TO FACT
What’s more, unlike Roseanne Barr, Samantha Bee’s comments, however ill-conceived, were grounded in facts, including Trump’s own statements about his daughter, rather than the baseless conspiracy theories Barr espoused. Check out my discussion on it in Part 1 of this series, if you need a refresher.
In contrast, Barr’s comments about Valerie Jarrett (or George Soros or Chelsea Clinton) had no basis in fact. Nothing suggests that Valerie Jarrett is Muslim, much less in any way affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. It rang of the old “Obama is a Muslim” conspiracy theory.
In fact, Barr’s later defenses of her conduct indicated an admission she supposedly had no idea about Jarrett’s true heritage, but that she thought she was Jewish and Persian. Or was that Saudi? Even in defending herself, Barr told different stories. Check out my discussion in Part 2 of this series, if you need a refresher.
Even someone trying to take Barr’s side in this has to accept Barr knew she was lying when she said what she did about Jarrett. So even here, the conduct is not equivalent.
NON-EQUIVALENCY IN THE CONTEXT
Then there is context. Samantha Bee’s show Full Frontal consists of her making often profanity-laden comments and biting commentary about current social, political, and economic targets. If she thinks it’s worth it, she goes after Democrats too. She made her statements as part of that show in the persona she projects during that show.
Those watching the show know what they are getting into. They know what she says is to be taken as a joke. In this case, a joke in poor taste. But still a joke.
Like Bee, Roseanne Barr also was using her celebrity to speak in a public forum and influence people. But not in the confines of a comedy show. And not in the confines of a comedy persona. It was on her personal Twitter account. And it was spreading not jokes, but lies.
Tip: Just because people laugh at other people because of what you said, doesn’t make something a joke. If one teen boy says to another, “Isn’t that girl a complete butt-face?”, and the other boy laughs in response, that is not a joke. That means two people are laughing at someone’s expense. It is an insult, not a joke.
That’s what Roseanne Barr did, with respect to Chelsea Clinton, and George Soros, and later with Valerie Jarrett. She insulted them in a public forum hoping others would pile on and laugh at those folks too.
And if not that, she hoped the fear and hatemongering such comments inspire would continue to spread.
That is not a joke, no matter what Roseanne Barr may claim.
The fact that Barr used Twitter, her private soapbox, further distances her actions from Samantha Bee’s.
So again, no equivalency here.
NON-EQUIVALENCY IN THE WORDS
But all of that just serves as a warm-up. The real meat on this bone rests in whether what the two women said was equivalent. As in, were they both equally bad? Both equally over-the-top?
Both on the surface and in depth, that’s a resounding, “No!”
The big argument I ran into over and over again was that these statements were both equally disturbing. One called a woman the c-word and suggested she peddle herself to her father to influence him because he incestuously lusts after her. The other called an African-American woman a Muslim terrorist seeking to betray America and not worthy of being considered a human being.
They are both pretty bad. But one passed judgment on only two people based on actual actions by the people in question. The other attacked an entire religion and an entire race based on complete falsehoods. One is demeaning, disturbing, and in extreme poor taste. The other is also in extreme poor taste, as well as disturbing and demeaning in a way meant to take away someone’s very humanity in its entirety.
On the surface, Barr’s comments are far worse.
LOOKING DEEPER INTO THE NON-EQUIVALENCIES OF THE WORDS
It doesn’t get better if you delve deeper. For example, Bee’s comments were based on disgusting statements said by the President himself, and accompanied by a photo Trump had taken that gives off a very creepy, incestuous vibe. I don’t like that Bee suggest any woman peddle herself, must less incestuously, at all. And the word c*nt is meant as a vile insult these days.
But Barr’s statements were based entirely on falsehoods. Bigoted and racist ones at that. Trying to tie the Muslim Brotherhood to all things evil. Or trying to invoke the fear-mongering argument I heard over and over during Obama’s Presidency through the present day, that Muslims in general are in some vast, world-wide conspiracy to turn American into an Islamic state. And trying to falsely connect Valerie Jarrett to all of that. These are dangerous falsehoods, and to espouse them is just plain wrong.
But Barr went further, as discussed in Part 2 of this series. Barr invoked the age-old imagery used to justify keeping African-American’s “in their place.” To silence them. To relegate them to grunting, ignorant, non-humans who deserve no human kindness or rights.
That crosses the line far more than Bee’s fact based vulgar joke about body peddling and a crass swearword.
MORE ON HOW AWFUL BARR’S TWEET WAS
In the various conversations I saw on this, I saw many Progressives and Liberals argue that Bee’s comments were just as bad too.
Someone said that Barr’s calling an African-American an ape was no worse than saying n!gger. No! It is much, much worse, as I explained in Part 2 of this series. N!gger is used as a demeaning insult to be sure. But it does not demean so far as to suggest that African-American’s should not be treated as human. Barr’s comments do.
GOAL POST SHIFTING TO MAKE BARR BETTER OR BEE WORSE
One of the red flags that a position really has no basis is when the person making it shifts the goal posts.
A point is proven to have no factual basis, like stating that mercury in vaccines causes autism and other awful things, when there is no mercury in vaccines. So then the arguer moves the goal posts of the position by pretending this was always about the newly shifted position, not the old. So then it’s the formaldehyde in vaccines. But there is more formaldehyde in a pear. So then the person making the original statement shifts the argument yet again.
The hope is that eventually an argument will be found that cannot be rebutted. But in the process the whole argument ends up shifting away from the original premise. Proving the premise had no basis to begin with.
If left unchecked, moving the goalposts serves as a distracting tactic. Shifting the original position to something completely different, and perhaps even unrecognizable. And ignoring that the original position was completely unsupported in the first place, and thus should not have been put forth at all.
In an online discussion about Bee’s comments in comparison to Barr’s, one person tried to argue that they were equivalent, or that Bee’s comments were worse.
Among the things the position was based upon is that Barr and Bee are both comedians and comedians say exactly the same stuff as Barr did all the time. I have not found this to be the case. And again, Barr’s comments were said in an insulting-let’s-all-laugh-at the-monkey-Jarrett manner with the added aroma of fearmongering. Bee’s comments were legitimately a joke, albeit a poor one.
The person also seemed to suggest that calling a woman a c*nt was more vile and misogynistic than calling an American-American woman inhuman. Again, while people today see c*nt as a vile expletive to hurl at a woman, it is just that. An expletive. It is demeaning, but, in the end, it does not try to deny her and her entire race’s right to be considered human beings.
The position also put forth the idea that Barr calling Jarrett a descendent of an ape was no worse than calling her n!gger. As I pointed out above, that is not the case. A white person calling a person of color a n!igger comes closer to calling a woman a c*nt. But neither are as bad as the racially charged statement of specifically calling someone of African ancestry a monkey or an ape. Being tinged with the long history of justifying denial of basic human rights and decency makes the words far worse, far more racist. For reference, see my discussion on this in Part 2 of this series.
I pointed this out to the person. He then shifted his goal posts, getting into definitions and the significances people put on the term c*nt.
NON-EQUIVALENCY IN MAKING ANIMAL COMPARISONS
After getting nowhere with that particular shifted line, the poster then moved the goal posts by again focusing on Barr’s comments. Instead of the original racist goal posts he tried to shift the position to be about people insulting others through comparisons to animals. All in some kind of ill-defined effort to make Barr’s comments not so bad.
“If we want to use semantics….people have been compared to animals countless ways. Dog….rat….fox..heck, Kaepernick compared police officers to ‘pigs’.”
Note how the tried to reduce a valid assessment of the historic and contextual meaning behind calling African-American’s monkeys or apes to mere semantics. Playing with words and nothing more. But words have meaning, particularly in this context. And that’s the whole point with respect to what makes both Bee’s and Barr’s comments problematic.
Next he tried to draw different false equivalencies. He got nowhere by equating ape to n!gger. So then he compared ape to dog, rat, fox and pig. So let’s look at that. At using animal comparisons. Even though, in the case of Barr’s comments, we’re talking less a comparison and more an all out accusation.
Calling someone a chicken means they’re cowardly, but the insult is not meant to dehumanize.
A fox is meant to call someone sexually attractive or clever, and while it can be demeaning, it can also be used positively, depending on context. Again, it is not used to strip away human rights.
Rat. Again an insult about someone’s character, but not meant to take away their humanity.
Now we come to two that come closer to the target. Depending on how they’re used, both dog and pig can be meant as simple insults or be, in some way, dehumanizing.
When I was called a c*nt as a teen, it served as harsh insult, but calling me a dog was used take away some of my humanity.
Likewise, pig can be meant to call someone a slob. Or it can be aimed at police as an insult. This is another insult whose bite has lessened over the years. The severity and intent of the insult today, after decades of use, is not as strong as it once was. But its original intent was to dehumanize police and authority figures.
That said, I find neither term meant to so fully strip someone of their human rights as calling African-American’s apes, or monkeys does. Again, to the present day, the ape/monkey insult is used as it was in the past, as the worst kind of racist pejorative, meant to remove humanity itself from an entire group fellow human beings in justification for treating them as sub-human.
Further, whether the term upsets you or not, police get called pigs over something they got to choose, i.e., joining the police. But people of African ancestry get called ape for something they have no choice over, the color of their skin.
During this controversy, people have also brought up Bill Maher’s comparison of President Trump to an orangutan. Maher made the comparison in the confines of his show. It clearly served to demean and even dehumanize, but again in a framework of actual comedy. The comparison served to suggest that Trump lacks intelligence, something I argue Trump has provided ample proof of. The comparison did not seriously suggest Trump should not be considered a human being at all.
Further, Maher’s target was narrow, i.e., just one person. The comparison lacks any greater cultural context of justifying sub-human treatment for a whole segment of people. A personal insult. Yes. A racist attempt to argue an entire group of people are unintelligent, out-of-control, sub-human beings. No.
Barr’s ape/monkey insult truly was far worse than the other animal comparisons I just discussed.
MORE ATTEMPTS TO SHIFT GOAL POSTS
To continue with the poster I encountered online, at the same time as he made his animal remarks, he also tried to soften Barr’s ape comment. Saying “Rosanne (by her own admission) was making a statement about someone’s looks.”
Here’s the problem. Barr said she was making a comment about Jarrett’s looks after the fact. After saying what she did about an African-American using a common racist insult with horrible meaning particularly for African-Americans. More importantly, Barr did not say that Jarrett looked like a monkey. She said Jarrett was descended from one. That’s not about her looks. That’s about her humanity, plain and simple.
NON-EQUIVALENCY IN THE APOLOGIES
Then the poster tried to draw further equivalencies between Barr and Bee by instead making it all about whether they chose their words and whether they apologized. Yes. The both chose their words. Which again, would make Barr’s statements worse.
Bee apologized for using the c*word. Full stop. That’s it. She said it was wrong. She did not make excuses. Same with TBS, which said it should not have allowed the segment to air.
Meanwhile, Barr started with an apology. But she quickly undercut it by trying to defend her comment. Her apology comes off as less of a sincere apology and more of “I’m sorry you didn’t understand I was only joking.”
As I have pointed out, no, Barr was not joking. Trying to get others to laugh at someone over an insult is an insult, not a joke.
But even if it were a joke, Barr’s apology is still undercut by her statements defending what the joke was supposed to be about, i.e., politics and looks. And once again, remember Barr’s comments in this regard were unsupported as to Jarrett’s actual politics, or actual looks. Which again means, the comments were about neither, but were about fearmongering, racism, and bigotry.
Barr’s subsequent apologies were interspersed with racist comments, lies, and defenses of her behavior, all indicating none of her apologies were sincere.
So even in the apologies there is no equivalency.
MOVE THE GOAL POSTS THEN LEAVE THE BUILDING
As a side note, that person online, having shifted goal posts multiple times, did what Roseanne Barr did. He laid out his last set of goal posts and then announced he was leaving the discussion before they could be addressed. Folks, this too is a red flag about the validity of someone’s position. As in, the position lacks validity.
And to be clear, the entire conversation was very civil. No one insulted him or was mean to him. He had no cause to leave the discussion on that basis.
ALLOWING FALSE EQUIVALENCIES DISTRACTS FROM THE REAL ISSUES
The problem with allowing arguments that two things are equivalent when they are not is that it ignores the bigger issues in play.
What Bee said was wrong for its own reasons.
What Barr said was wrong and worse for its own reasons.
But talking about the two unequal events as if they were the same is not productive.
Don’t let people go down the false equivalency rabbit hole. It just leads to comparisons and conclusions based on the faulty premise that the events are the same and should be treated the same.
Instead call out false equivalencies for what they are. Stop that kind of argument before it can be pursued any longer. It is not founded in logic and, therefore, wastes everyone’s time.
Samantha Bee said some vile things. She has faced resounding censure for it. And she should face scrutiny against saying anything along those lines in the future. But, as bad as they were, neither she, nor her circumstances, nor what she said, reach an equivalent magnitude to what Roseanne Barr said and did.
Roseanne Barr has not been acting as some crusader of Conservative truths. She has used her Twitter feed to spread unsupported attacks and conspiracy theories. Not to reveal truth but to discredit individuals through lies. Such acts only serve to distract from truth.
And Barr’s voice has not been silenced due to Liberal hypocrisy, or double-standards. Her show got cancelled; she did not get silenced. And it was for repeated spreading of harmful falsehoods, with her vile racist, bigoted comments about Valerie Jarrett being ABC’s last straw in a line of over-the-top statements. And those comments themselves were designed to insult, to spread fear and lies, and to dehumanize in the worst way.
Again, two things can be bad, but that does not make them equally so. One of these things is not like the other.
One person demeaned someone with a vulgar and lewd joke. One vilely tried to spread hate and fear through lies and insulted someone with a term meant to deny humanity to her race and keep it enslaved.
Yeah. One of these things is not like the other. It’s far worse. And I am hoping you can see the difference.