Seth Boyes joined the Dickinson County News staff in March of 2017. In his first week at the DCN, he covered a train derailment near Graettinger. The tankers carrying ethanol burst into flames. Seth's photo of the event won first place for Best Breaking News photo at the 2018 Iowa Newspaper Association Convention and Trade Show. Since, Seth has won nearly a dozen awards for writing, photography and multimedia content. Seth graduated from Iowa State University in 2009 with a degree in Integrated Studio Arts. His original cartoons run regularly in the Spencer Daily Reporter and the DCN. Both he and his wife Janet hail from Clear Lake and have come to expect summers to be full of the hustle and bustle of tourists and visitors.
The 90s were a different time. It was the decade of Seinfeld addressing homosexuality by tacking "not that there's anything wrong with that" on at the end of their thoughts. It was the decade of over-the-top-slow-motion running in each episode of Baywatch. Heck, right at the beginning of the 90s, there was literally an episode of The Cosby Show in which Cosby's character tells his wife there's something in his homemade barbecue sauce that makes people…I believe the phrase he used was "huggy buggy" but you get the point.
Of course, basically every network refuses to air reruns of The Cosby Show, given what the star has done outside the studio walls. Which brings me to another staple of 90s television entertainment, Roseanne Barr. Her self-titled show was recently revived because it reminded us of how we were in the 90s, and some folks felt things were getting back to the way they were more than 18 years ago — that the show would resonate with working-class middle America…or maybe it was middle-class working America. Oh well, they're just words. But words can get you in trouble as Barr found out. After a social media post in which she essentially implied a former aide to President Obama looked like a cross between the Muslim Brotherhood and the film Planet of the Apes, Barr is taking some guff. Given that the aide is African-American and was born in Iran, she seems to have consciously crafted her insult. Her show was cancelled by ABC in short order — maybe if she tacked "not that there's anything wrong with that" at the end, it would have gone better.
So, of course, conservatives are crying foul while liberals are crying tears of joy. It's Last Man Standing all over again. Anyway, so Barr comes out and apologizes because her off-set behavior has cost her cast and crew their jobs. But here's the strange part. She also said her "joke" was unforgivable, egregious and indefensible, but explained she was on the sleep medication Ambien when she posted the statement.
"I'm not a racist, I never was and I never will be," Barr said, according to Fox news. "One stupid joke in a lifetime of fighting for civil rights for all minorities, against networks, studios, at the expense of my nervous system/family/wealth will never be taken from me."
I'm not a racist, I never was & I never will be. One stupid joke in a lifetime of fighting 4 civil rights 4 all minorities, against networks, studios, at the expense of my nervous system/family/wealth will NEVER b taken from me.
I think her sentiment got a bit lost in a grammatical pileup, but it hasn't just been one stupid joke. It might have been the one stupid joke that finally got her fired, but it wasn't her first. You may not remember the time she said former national security advisor Susan Rice was a man and compared her to an ape in December of 2013. You may not remember that she said Hilary Clinton was surrounded by Jew-haters who make fun of the Holocaust in August of 2016. You may not remember that she dressed up like Adolf Hitler and posed with burnt human-shaped cookies for a Jewish satire magazine in 2009 — kind of straddling the fence as far as making fun of the Holocaust there. You may not remember it, but the internet sure does, because the internet remembers all.
So, this can't be called a one-time blunder due to a sleeping aid. It's a pattern.
Infact, it's just the latest in a winding, long line of Hollywood household names in both the red and blue camps making outrageous statements and being offensive. Just off the top of my head, you've got Kathy Griffin's stunt replicating the slaying of Holofernes with a mock-up of the president's head, which got her fired. There's Joy Behar who wasn't fired for saying Vice President Mike Pence isn't mentally healthy if he believes God speaks to him. Most recently, we've got TBS comedian Samantha Bee who called the president's daughter an unprintable name. Word is she's lost sponsors over that behavior.
But here's where I think things split. We can dislike the president. We can question the character of his daughter. We can say we don't believe in God and we can say a political figure looks strange to us. But, instead, we choose to sharpen our tongues and go on the offensive — note the double meaning. We choose divisive words from our arsenal and operate just within the bounds of free speech. That is to say, we don't make a threat against the president. We take a photo. We don't make eugenics remarks against political figures. We compare them to apes and then call it a joke.
But then we question why the fingers are pointed at us, calling our behavior immoral but rarely calling it illegal. It often does fall under free speech, provided we stop short of the legal red line denoting terrorist threats or hate speech. The issue is, employers — be they ABC or FOX — can indeed take action against you if they don't like what you say. The government can't. Your employer can, and that's a concept our national mind struggles to deal with at times.
We want to preserve and protect the voices of our own political camp, so we treasure the government's noninterference with our freedom of speech. However, we also tend to want businesses and employers to be bound by that same constitutional idea when it's our chosen camp taking the hit. But it's the ability of the public to operate in ways the government can't that makes the changes that drive us forward.
We keep each other accountable by pointing out the falsehoods, the shortcomings and the ignorance each one of us is prone to as human beings. But we can't leave it there. A conscious choice to do nothing is the acceptance of the immorality we've been shown. We must encourage changes in behavior toward the moral — rather than the legal.
We can't expect to live by the values of 1990 in 2018, and we can't expect the world to stop changing.