Previously I dove deep into the Samantha Bee part of recent political and media hand-wringing. Now let’s go back to the earlier part. Roseanne Barr.
Like with Samantha Bee, I’ll start with a summary of what has gone down. For some of you, this may be tedious, but I find it helps to put things all in one place. And also, someone looking at this blog in the future will be able to understand the full context.
Unfortunately a lot went down. Lucky us. This will take up all of the second part of this blog series.
SOME ROSEANNE BARR BASICS
Roseanne Barr started out as a stand-up comic. A lot of today’s stand-up comedians have some very deep mental scars and insecurities. The act of comedy may be therapy for some. But for many it is a process by which, night after night, they open those wounds to bleed for our entertainment. Many suffer breakdowns, experience suicidal thoughts, and fall into substance abuse as a result.
Like many in her field, Roseanne Barr apparently has many mental demons. Over the years, they have led her to paranoia, depression, suicidal thoughts from an early age, and the like. She also seems to hold deep insecurities about herself. Considering her on-stage persona is of a crass, crude, woman, she ends up inviting the kinds of criticism that probably cuts her psyche the deepest.
Her past apparently includes claims of conspiracies by various people in Hollywood against her and her career. That her failings and missteps are not her fault. They are the fault of a bad childhood. They are the fault of a bad marriage. They are the fault of Hollywood sabotage because of its unfair demands about who she should be.
I’m not making light of Roseanne or her struggles. They are real and understandable.
When someone has deep insecurities, finding a way to avoid fault in oneself may, at least in the short run, be a literal life saver. But it also can open a person up to other things, including two key tools that demagogues use to hook supporters.
The first is fear-mongering. Telling us the reason for any bad thing is “them”. Hand-in-hand with the fear goes the conspiracy theories. Both offer someone to fault for our problems, rather than risk heightening our own self-worth issues.
The second is the demagogue presenting themselves as being the only one with the super-secret knowledge, or special insight necessary to fix these problems. Which includes, of course, that the demagogue is the only one clued into why we should fear “them.” Being a follower of the demagogue makes a person special, one of the special people who get the true knowledge. Not like those ignorant, blind folk who do not follow the demagogue. Again, this can help our self-worth issues. We have special knowledge. We are smart enough to accept the special knowledge. Therefore, we are worthy.
I don’t know if any of this has contributed to Roseanne Barr’s slide in to conspiracy theory land, but I think a possibility.
Roseanne Barr moved from stand-up to sitcoms, with her show Roseanne. Personally, I never could get into the show, because Roseanne’s stand-up persona worked even less well for me when she was turned into television character.
But it worked for others, and I believe that just because an entertainment doesn’t work for me, does not mean it is not legitimate, or good, or should not be enjoyed by others. Many saw the show as being one of the few, or the only that really spoke to the things they actually faced in their real lives, warts and all. They felt represented.
In 1990, amidst the Roseanne show’s nearly decade long run, Roseanne Barr infamously performed the national anthem at a baseball game where she sung as poorly as possible, grabbed her crotch, and spit. Many were outraged at her disrespectful manner. I took it to be a poor joke attempt that backfired horribly. But while there was outrage, she kept her show.
The show aired for many years, but all things come to an end. The show finished, and Roseanne went on to other things.
In more recent times, Barr delved in to Green Party politics, in which she may have felt she was poorly treated by those running the party. She had grass roots support in the party, but seemed to have been repeatedly shut out by the top folks.
She also has been running a macadamia nut farm in Hawaii. In short, after having a successful television series, she has continued to work in the industry and occupy herself in other ways.
ROSEANNE BARR’S MORE RECENT HISTORY
But in more recent years, something seemed to shift in her life. She delved into personal attacks, conspiracy theories, and fake news. And she came out as supporter of Donald Trump’s candidacy and of his presidency.
In 2018, her show, Roseanne was relaunched by ABC, now owned by Disney. It was a hit, with a large following. Many Trump supporters felt it was the only show out there trying to represent them fairly. Also, Roseanne and others seemed to try to use the show to represent Trump supporters as generally not being racist or bigoted. I feel like given what I know of at least one of the episodes, and then Barr’s recent comments, it proved more of the opposite. But that’s for later, in Part 4 of this series.
Trump, feeling he was being presented well, voiced strong support of Barr and Roseanne. ABC had a hit on its hands and, after a short 2018 season, promptly renewed the show.
A few days ago, the writers were scheduled to begin work on writing season 2. And then all h#ll broke loose.
SOME OF ROSEANNE BARR’S TWITTER HISTORY
But I get ahead of myself. You see, Roseanne going off on Twitter is nothing new. In response to the recent controversy, her ex-husband Tom Arnold noted that ABC had to know what it was getting into because it was already all there on Barr’s Twitter feed.
Among things Barr has done is repeatedly push debunked conspiracy theories. For example, “Pizzagate” where Hillary Clinton and John Podesta supposedly were secretly running a child pornography ring out of a pizza parlor in D.C. A man was so taken in by this conspiracy theory that he went to the parlor intending to shoot the place up but was fortunately stopped. I’m not saying he did so because of Roseanne Barr’s Tweets. But I am saying that spreading inflammatory lies around is dangerous, irresponsible, and just plain wrong.
Roseanne Barr’s incendiary remarks and attacks included saying that Hillary Clinton and President Obama “killed more innocent people than anyone else in U.S. history.” Those contradicting her various Twitter comments were called fascists, and, in December 2017, she said she was leaving Twitter rather than be censored or corrected by them. However her storming off in a huff proved short lived.
She came back to again spout false news and inflammatory remarks. In March 2018 she accused one of the Parkland school shooting survivors, David Hogg, of having given the Nazi salute during the March for Our Lives. This was not a joke. This was clearly meant to undermine and discredit. By spreading a vicious falsehood. She was later forced to correct herself and admit the image she was relying on was doctored.
Hint: If you constantly have to correct your statements because they are false, your sources are not reliable, and you should know better. If you continue, you are clearly doing it willfully.
That is some of the problem with Roseanne Barr’s controversial Tweets from around May 29. But only some.
ROSEANNE BARR GOES ON A TWITTER TEAR
Roseanne Barr Tweeted several things, one of which proved to be the last straw for many folks.
Amongst her Tweets during a 12-hour span, Barr called Chelsea Clinton, “Chelsea Soros Clinton”, understood to be a claim that Chelsea Clinton married a nephew of George Soros, a billionaire philanthropist and political donor to Democratic causes.
George Soros has become another of the conspiracy theory fueled bogeymen for the Right. So Barr meant this an insult to Clinton intending it to be rallied behind by her Twitter followers. Even though the accusation can be easily fact-checked and found to be false. Barr was trying to get folks riled up with bogeyman style lies.
Then Chelsea Clinton herself weighed in:
“Good morning Roseanne – my given middle name is Victoria. I imagine George Soros’s nephews are lovely people. I’m just not married to one. I am grateful for the important work @OpenSociety [a Soros philanthropic group] does in the world. Have a great day!”
To which, Barr responded:
“Sorry to have tweeted incorrect info about you!I Please forgive me! By the way, George Soros is a nazi who turned in his fellow Jews 2 be murdered in German concentration camps & stole their wealth-were you aware of that? But, we all make mistakes, right Chelsea?”
Let’s be clear. That is not an apology. That is a snotty “oh, so sorry, but really it’s you who is the a$$…”
And Barr’s response contains an already well-debunked conspiracy theory. I have written twice before on ways anti-Semitism is being used in the guise of being oh so concerned about Jews and the getting the history of the Holocaust right.
Taking a known debunked conspiracy theory of this kind smacks of straight up anti-Semitism. Which is very said, given Barr’s own Jewish heritage.
Someone immediately responded to Barr by pointing her to the Snopes article debunking her claim.
I have found when people start off attacking people or positions with little basis to do so, and then have their basis completely rebutted, they often keep on throwing up new, just as baseless arguments, rather than admit they had no grounds to begin with. There frequently tends to be a desperate air about the process. I call it the “fly the flags of all nations” defense. First Chelsea Clinton is a Soros in-law. Then she’s not, but Soros is a horrible Nazi Jew who betrayed fellow Jews, and Chelsea is worse than Barr in her comments because she defended Soros.
Then Roseanne gets that one debunked so she continues her attack on Chelsea Clinton, Bill and Hillary Clinton’s daughter, who was a minor during her father’s Presidency, and who has since only had limited involvement in either parent’s political career. Quite frankly, a far less appropriate target than, say, Ivanka Trump.
Barr’s next response was:
“CORRECTION: CHELSEA CLINTON IS NOT MARRIED TO A SOROS NEPHEW. HER HUSBAND IS THE SON OF A CORRUPT SENATOR, SO SORRY!:”
Chelsea Clinton’s father-in-law is Edward Mezvinsky, a former congressperson from Iowa, convicted of perpetrating fraud through a series of Nigerian e-mail scams. He served jail time, but was not a senator. He is also persona non grata with the rest of his family.
But at least this time, Barr was at least in the fact ball park, even as she gave another insincere apology about her earlier factual error of calling a Jewish survivor of Nazi Europe a Nazi.
THE FINAL STRAW
Then, Barr continued her anti-Clinton, anti-Obama trawling, and came across an SGTReport post. I don’t have a lot to go on regarding the reliability of that site, which raises a red flag for me. So does the fact the site calls itself an antidote to certain propaganda. That usually signifies the site peddles propaganda itself.
The post said:
“New post Wikileaks’ Julian Assange drops bombshell; Obama’s CIA also spied on French Presidential candidates has been published on SGT Report”
The first person to respond to the post noted:
“Obamas secrets are coming out more and more every week. This is getting very interesting. What a crooked man…he hid it well.”
Okay, let’s stop for a moment right there. There is nothing to support anything nefarious with respect to the Obama administration and the French elections, and even Trump’s people have admitted that Trump’s own “Spygate” story is made up as well. This is pure conspiracy theory bullsh!t.
The next response to the post was:
“Jarrett helped hide a lot.”
That’s when Roseann Barr weighed in with:
“muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby = vj [Valerie Jarrett]”
And there it is. The straw that broke the camel’s back. Roseanne Barr, in her rush to say how terrible Obama was, amiright, revealed terrible bigotry and racism about herself.
BREAKING DOWN THAT TWEET
The Muslim Brotherhood has been accused of being a terrorist organization, while they claim they only urge for peaceful activism. It can also be argued they are responsible for positives, such as the Arab Spring. But this wasn’t really about them. The Muslim Brotherhood part was yet another attempt to link Obama to some vast Muslim conspiracy to take over or undermine this nation. Completely unfounded, unsupported, fear-mongering, conspiracy theory bullsh!t.
Valerie Jarrett served as senior advisor to President Obama. She is argued to have wielded a great deal of influence. In the past, people have made similarly false accusations that she said she wanted to turn America into an Islamic state.
Hint: She did not.
The truth is that Jarrett is neither Muslim, nor Middle-Eastern.
She was born in Iran to two distinguished American parents, James and Barbara Bowman, who were working in Iran at the time of her birth. Nothing in her, or her family’s background suggests any of them are of the Muslim faith. Jarrett is an African-American whose DNA test found 49% European, 46% African, and 5% Native American ancestry. And 100% human.
THE INITIAL RESPONSE
When Twitter users called Barr on her comments, calling them racist, Barr responded:
“Muslims r NOT a race”
Then she replied:
“It’s a joke-“
Finally she took down the Tweet and apologized:
“I apologize to Valerie Jarrett and to all Americans. I am truly sorry for making a bad joke about her politics and her looks. I should have known better. Forgive me-my joke was in bad taste.”
— Roseanne Barr (@therealroseanne) May 29, 2018
She does actually apologize, instead of saying “I’m sorry you took offense.” It’s a good start but Barr undermined it immediately by defending herself, explaining she made “a bad joke about [Jarrett’s] politics and her looks.” Again, when someone does this kind of thing it tends to undercut the original message, and comes across more like Barr “did not do anything wrong; you all just can’t take a joke.”
Only that’s not what happened here. I am briefly going to contrast this to the Samantha Bee comments. She did not, as Samantha Bee did, stick to stuff arising from actual policies or words of the persons involved. She made a wholly made up comment trying to imply that Jarrett was a Muslim terrorist and also not human.
As I pointed out above, there is literally no evidence that the Muslim Brotherhood has anything to do with Valerie Jarrett’s politics. And look at the picture above. That is a pleasant looking human. So it’s not about how she looks.
A LOOK AT WHY THE TWEET WAS SO OFFENSIVE
Which brings us to the racism and bigotry. And why Roseanne faced the criticism and consequences she did.
The bigotry. As I said, the Muslim Brotherhood is not necessarily entirely bad. And the implied statement that “Muslim=bad and terrorist and trying to subvert our nation” is a fear-mongering blanket judgment on Muslims.
The racism. Barr did not say n!gger. She said something far worse.
For centuries, white folks have used facial features common to some of African ancestry, particularly these from Western Africa, as an excuse to call them monkeys and apes. “Look at that big nose. Look at those big lips. They aren’t human.”
And there it is. That’s exactly why it was said back then. To justify not treating human beings as human beings. “They’re apes and monkeys, so I don’t have to.”
Add to that the implication all Africans are brutish, bestial, unintelligent. This is racism at some of its worst. Being used to deny people the right to be viewed and treated as people.
Whites in the U.S. used the ape/monkey labelling to make those of African ancestry into something subhuman, which in turn justified the continued practice of slavery. The labelling was also used for a long time in Europe and, ultimately, the U.S. to argue European superiority.
This type of labelling goes back to before the publishing of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. So, there was no half-baked, fallacious argument about evolution involved in the first use of the ape/monkey comparisons.
And the comparisons continued well after the American Civil War.
In addition to continued ape/monkey labelling, monkey-esque features were often typical of the coon caricatures. Named for the raccoon, this extremely harmful and offensive stereotype was further used to dehumanize and devalue those of African ancestry.
This type of labelling served to justify continued mistreatment of African-Americans, denial of their rights, and shutting them out from society. It also served as a campaign against African-American self-confidence and attempts to stand up for their rights.
This ape/monkey labelling was used against other societal groups as well. To much the same purpose. “Irish need not apply.” People of Irish ancestry also received the ape/monkey treatment, to justify how they too could not manage their own affairs and were inferior. Subhuman even.
On the Harper’s Weekly cover below, the two ape/monkey targets meet. The cartoon portrays both those of African ancestry and those of Irish ancestry with non-human features. And presents both as equal “problems.” The African-Americans for the South. The Irish-Americans for the North. The non-human features serve to encourage the viewer not to consider these “problems” as people, but rather obstacles getting in the way. Objects. Not deserving consideration as human beings.
The use of ape/monkey labelling may have died away for those of Irish ancestry. But not for those of African ancestry. It is used frequently to this day. Prominent African-Americans are portrayed in memes, and even bold advertising, using ape-like imagery. African-American children get told to “go back to the trees.” Here is a modern meme, again portraying those of African ancestry as being apes.
Using ape/monkey labelling takes racism to a whole other level. And giving the long, unbroken history of using it to deny humanity to those of African ancestry, it is particularly offensive when used against them.
How bad is it? Well, there’s b!tch. There’s c*nt. And then way over on the far end of the scale, there’s calling an African-American an ape.
ROSEANNE BARR’S TWEET WAS EXTREMELY RACIST
Roseanne deliberately invoked the old ape labelling to justify whatever criticism she, or others wanted to heap on Jarrett or any others of African ancestry. She did not do at as joke about Jarett’s looks. Barr did it because she knew full well the greater implications.
Barr brazenly shouted out to other racists who may have been online to pile on. It’s not like this person deserved it. She was not only a Muslim terrorist. She was not even human.
ABC CONSIDERS WHAT TO DO NEXT
Five minutes after that apology to Jarrett, Roseanne Barr said she was leaving Twitter, just like she did in December 2017. Just like then, it did not last.
Now, Barr lives in Hawai’i, a much different time zone than much of the continental U.S. Even for California. So as morning rolled around in California, on the day the Roseanne show writers scheduled to being preparing the next season’s shows, ABC executives woke to discover Barr’s Twitter tirades.
Early in the morning, executives began talking about what course of action, if any, should be taken. The consensus was Roseanne, with her history in this regard, had gone too far. But even with her apology, was there a path forward for ABC in this?
So ABC called Barr, her publicist, and her show’s producer. Barr was apparently contrite on the call and was told up front that cancellation was on the table.
In the end, ABC felt there was no coming back from this for them.
While performers can live long enough for a second or third chance, rarely do television shows. And Roseanne, by this time, had probably already been granted at least two lives. It survived the 1990 national anthem controversy. And it got resurrected more than twenty years after it ended.
Apparently, ABC did not think a third life was likely. Especially when the show was named after the star, and the star’s actions triggered the crisis. By 9 am in California, ABC executives were ready to officially cancel the show.
In the meantime, social media had responded. Cast members voiced they were appalled. One of the show’s writers, Wanda Sykes, said she would leave the show. Before 11 am in California, ABC made it official and announced the cancellation.
In the wake of the cancellation, Barr also Tweeted an apology to her cast and crew for them losing their jobs.
TRUMP MAKES IT ABOUT TRUMP
But Barr also started painting herself the victim of Liberal media hypocrisy, where free speech is denied to anyone voicing a Conservative or Right-leaning view. She also blamed Ambien.
Flags of many nations were flying.
Others, both Liberal and Conservative, came out agreeing that Barr had crossed a line, and with ABC’s decision. But as the day progressed, and the next day came, bi-partisanship gave way to a partisan taking of sides.
Trump’s response was to make himself the victim. Not Roseanne, or those who watched her show, or those who were attacked by Roseanne.
Trump Tweeted that Bob Iger of Disney had personally apologized to Jarrett, and wanted to know where his apology was. As I explained with my Samantha Bee portion of this series, Trump has said foul things before and offered no apology.
He has also engaged in racist attacks, called whole groups of people unfit to contribute to society, and uttered racist and bigoted dog-whistles.
Further, he has called whole groups of people animals repeatedly to encourage U.S. citizens to not view or treat them as people. Specifically, his frequent references to the MS-13 gang members as animals, even going so far as to call them that multiple times on a White House website.
Even worse, the Trump administration’s policies make apparent that “MS-13 gang members” are used here as a dog-whistle to mean all Hispanic immigrants. For example, immigration officials have detained and even subjected to proceedings several people for alleged associations with MS-13. Just one problem. For many, there is no evidence of any gang membership at all. The Trump administration has a history of falsely associating Hispanics, in general, to dangerous gang members in order to justify its immigration policies. And that association now extends to them non-human.
That’s who is claiming to be a victim here. The one who is making remarks steeped in racism, bigotry and intolerance is demanding he be shown the tolerance he argues should not be showed to others. Put a pin in that. I’ll be coming back to it too in Part 4 of this series.
ROSEANNE BARR CONTINUES TO REACT
Meanwhile, Ambien’s makers have had to point out that the drug does not actually cause someone to be a racist.
I’ve known of people doing complex actions, as if sleep walking, under Ambien’s influence, but I am not sure verbal communication skills such as actually typing coherent, if disgusting, Tweets, are even possible.
And even if you want to make a “lowered my inhibitions” or “removed my filters” argument, that just demonstrates the darkness lurking beneath the surface all along. Not a good thing for Barr, in this instance.
Again, in context, this was not part of some comedy routine. This was not part of Barr’s sitcom. Roseanne Barr Tweeted on her own time, in the hopes she’d get a “Right on” from followers. This really wasn’t a series of jokes. This was lies, falsehoods, conspiracy theories, fear-mongering, hate-mongering, bigotry, and racism. And she wanted it spread around.
In the days since, Roseanne has come out fighting more and more. Her remorse and quiet acceptance of ABC’s decision quickly dissolved into persecution theories, and indignant anger, spurred on by various Twitter supporters.
She went after cast mates for “throwing her under the bus” (even though her call with ABC took place before the cast mates had even commented on her remarks).
She claimed she did not know Jarrett was African-American and made the ridiculous claim that she thought Jarrett was Jewish AND Persian.
It’s not that such a combination is impossible. But it is so unlikely that you only assert it with knowledge. And even a tiny attempt at fact checking would blow that assumption out of the water. It comes across in much the same as the “I didn’s know” statements from Barr earlier when she Tweeted false conspiracy theories about Chelsea Clinton and George Soros. In other words, total bullsh!t.
Still not convinced? In other Tweets she said she though Jarrett was Saudi instead. So I guess not Jewish and Persian then?
And yet, every once in a while she would add in another sincere looking “I was wrong” apology, which again, she kept undercutting by continuing to point out how she was not wrong.
More flags flying.
Added to the insincerity and the continued line-crossing was the fact that not only did Barr continue on Twitter, posting at least 100 times after she said she would leave. But she also continued her racism, posting images of Jarrett next to an ape.
She later apologized to her cast mates in an insincere way that had become all too familiar in this saga:
“To michael fishman and sara gilbert: I forgive u both, love u both, just wish u could have called me personally 2 talk rather than do it in a public arena. I understand, tho. It’s ok.”
Do you feel the “poor pitiful me” oozing out of that apology? The “I’m the victim here, but I’m being the nice one”? Do you see how she makes herself a victim, again undercutting the sincerity of her apology?
To be honest, the rate of Barr’s Tweeting, the whipsaw nature of her positions, and the franticness implied points to mania on Barr’s part. In other words, a state of serious mental distress or instability. As I said before, she apparently has deep psychological issues. After this, the cracks are showing. And it’s disturbing to see a public meltdown of this kind. If she is suffering from severe mental problems, hopefully she will seek and receive help as result of all of this.
BARR CONTRASTS HERSELF TO BEE
When news of Samantha Bee’s c-word comments and apology broke, Barr re-Tweeted someone else’s response, showing she felt that a double-standard was in play.
“Exactly what @therealroseanne said. Yet you [Bee] are being applauded.”
As I have pointed out. Barr’s apology has qualifiers. Further, her subsequent behavior demonstrates how insincere the apology was. Meanwhile, Bee’s lacked those qualifiers. And Bee was not applauded. Many Liberals remain quite upset with Bee over what she said.
And that’s where we come to the next part of this series. The attempts to draw equivalencies between Barr and Bee’s situations.
Hint: They are not equivalent.