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Where Have You Gone, Archie Bunker?

June 5, 2018
By Darren Fraser , Emmetsburg News

This country is governed by mob rule. Not the mob of old. Not the mob armed with pitchforks and torches to impale or burn out a perpetrator or patsy. Today's mob agitates and foments in cyberspace.

ABC canceled the reboot of "Roseanne" after its namesake, Roseanne Barr, tweeted racist remarks about Valerie Jarrett, an African-American woman who served in the Obama administration. Barr later blamed her incendiary remarks on the sleep medication, Ambien. (The drug should come with a warning label strongly advising celebrities not to take it. Tiger Woods, Sean Penn, Elon Musk and a Kennedy blamed Ambien for their sorted misdeeds.)

I am no Barr apologist. Barr is a pig. She was a pig when she deliberately trashed the National Anthem at a Dodgers game some years back. Her humor emanates from a pronounced sense of self-loathing.

Barr's tweets went viral - going viral having long supplanted substance as the measurement for validity. Comedian Wanda Sykes, one of the producers on the reboot, quit. Sara Gilbert also quit. Not only did ABC ax the show but announced it would pull the original show from syndication. I would call that effective damage control.

Barr has the right to be as offensive as she wants. And ABC has the right to pull the plug on her show. As one of my best friends would say, "Done and done." But step back for a moment and consider what happened.

Roseanne Barr, the individual, made some disgusting remarks. Because she is a celebrity, these remarks lit up the cyber-sphere. ABC canceled the show, despite it being a huge hit, because it could not appear to condone such boorish behavior by allowing the show to continue. For those of you old enough to remember, Norman Lear created "All in the Family" for CBS in the early seventies. Archie Bunker was the lovable, bigoted patriarch who sparred weekly with his daughter and his son-in-law over Bunker's myopic views. Veteran film star Carroll O'Connor took home four Emmys playing Bunker. Archie Bunker could not exist in today's TV universe.

What is the difference between Barr and Bunker? You will argue the difference is one is real, the other, fiction. But as far as I know, Roseanne Connor never uttered racist remarks. Her character is crass but she is not a bigot. For all of her shortcomings, she is a woman who loves her husband, her children and her relatives. But, you say, if we allow the woman, Barr, to continue to play the character, Connor, then we condone racism. To which I answer, nonsense.

Barr was done in by cyber-mob rule. She was done in by a culture that thinks it is above racism but, in truth, is as vicious and vindictive as those good ole rednecks of the fifties. In today's bankrupt culture, the only thing that matters is speed of dissemination. Prior to the decline of western civilization i.e., Twitter Barr's remarks might have been news for the duration of a typical news cycle. She would have issued a mea culpa, perhaps made public contrition by showing up at an NAACP event. In time, her implosion would take back burner to another celebrity immolation. But because privacy no longer exists; because truth is measured in terms of views or re-tweets; because we no longer think, having surrendered that facility to the marvels of technology because of these, the mob can self-righteously declare it was right and proper for ABC to cancel a hit show because its star made vile comments.

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