Andrew Wicks

Lessons of the very public (twitter) trial of Roseanne Barr

After Roseanne Barr made a racist ‘joke’ on Twitter, Twitter mobilised against her. With her show now taken off the air, justice seems to be served. That poses a bit of a problem.

 

 

Overnight, Roseanne Barr went and did a silly thing. She took to Twitter to spout a racial epithet dressed as a joke. As night became day, she was stripped of her show’s circulation and became an unperson.

 

 

Now, to be fair, Roseanne has been on thin ice for a while, as one of the Twitterati put it: she crossed the line from being racist enough to have a TV show to slightly too racist to have a TV show.

Despite what was said (which was awful), apologies have been made, but it’s far too late – the apologies are expected, but entirely irrelevant. Barr has already been banished into the nether realm, regardless of how sorry she might be, and how many steps she takes to remedy her actions. She’s gone, ne’er to see the light of day again.

Her last stop is probably rehashing the show’s format on Infowars, with Alex Jones playing the role of Dan.

 

 

Now, I’m not saying what Roseanne said should be tolerated. Calling someone an ‘ape’ is beyond the pale, however, there’s something we should address – the speed of her fall.

Roseanne’s downward trajectory is inexorably linked to the medium that she shared the joke on. In fact, you could say that ABC’s decision to pull her show was one already made on Twitter. The executives just followed the current, as they could not be seen as supporting her comments. Silence or a delay of immediate immolation can (and would) be seen as them being in bed with Barr, and therefore, equally culpable.

 

 

Twitter has no value as a company, it’s not profitable, but it holds infinite power. It’s the social Hague, devoid of a unifying law, but heavy on the charter of weeding out dickheads and crushing them. Every individual on it is Judge, Jury and Executioner. All you need to do is join a big enough mob. It seems harmless, something to thumb your toilet break away on, but it is certainly real. It’s not even social media. The only social parallel it has might be the baying crowd in Salem. These people might already be guilty, but let’s prove their innocence by throwing them off the nearest cliff.

 

 

In the modern age the powerful let us down, so the responsibility of equating the moral stakes seems to be the responsibility of the individual. Therefore, it makes sense why Twitter has reached the power it has. People should not be racist dicks, I completely agree, but our quicksilver judgement allows one slip up. That is a lot of power for a mob to wield.

The thing that worries me is our own judgement. In can easily be clouded, especially when we’re convinced of our own moral righteousness. If we’re always correct, whoever we’re judging is therefore always wrong. In Franz Kafka’s The Trial, the protagonist, Joseph K, is publically trialled but is unsure why. He rails against the court, but no-one is willing to hear it, as they’re all here for the sentencing. Sound familiar?

The fact that our judgement is so absolute is part of the issue. Whoever crosses is, is gone. Those who stand on trial are not afforded the same allowances as the rest of us are. We can make mistakes, they cannot. We, after all, are not on trial. We’re the judge, not the accused.

“But I’m not guilty,” said K. “There’s been a mistake. How is it even possible for someone to be guilty? We’re all human beings here, one like the other.” “That is true,” said the priest “but that is how the guilty speak”.

Roseanne, like Joseph K, has no voice, rights or options. She just needs to stfu and leave.

The court has spoken.

 

Andrew Wicks

Andrew Wicks is a country boy with a penchant for movies and sport. After a few years working in health, he decided he'd rather work with today's youth and studied arts and education in rural NSW. His main interests are religion, health and lairy shirts.

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