Behave Yourself (Gwen Moritz Editor's Note)

by Gwen Moritz  on Monday, Nov. 6, 2017 12:00 am   3 min read

Kevin D. Williamson, a “roving correspondent” for the essential conservative magazine National Review (and director of the William F. Buckley Jr. Fellowship Program in Political Journalism), produced last month a breathtaking essay provocatively titled “The White-Minstrel Show.” He starts with Ice-T and Tupac Shakur and ends with a deconstruction of his mother’s resentment of people who made better life choices than she did in Lubbock, Texas.

In between he condemns the Republican Party for having “written off entire sections of the country — including the bits where most of the people live — as ‘un-American.’”

Williamson, inside the conservative movement, seems as baffled by the current state of Republicanism as I am from the outside. The GOP, “once the party of the upwardly mobile with a remarkable reflex for comforting the comfortable,” is now feeding the white working class (like his mother) “the lie that their problems are mainly external in origin.” This, he says, “is the political equivalent of selling them heroin. (And I have no doubt that it is mostly done for the same reason.)”

Contrast that with the way conservatives are, in Williamson’s view, “intellectually invested in emphasizing the self-inflicted problems of black America.” This guy quickly stops preaching and goes to meddling.

I’ve read through the essay several times — no small time investment — and I’m still not sure what to make of it or how much I agree with. I bring it up for two reasons:

  • To call attention to an especially thought-provoking piece of work for fellow travelers still interested in being intellectually challenged; and
  • Because one of Williamson’s sentences keeps popping into my head: “Nobody expects Anthony Hopkins to eat a census worker.”

In its original context, Williamson was talking about the widespread belief that Ice-T and Shakur were really the angry, anti-social gangster characters they portrayed when performing, while white performers who take on villainous roles are understood to be pretending. The actor who played Hannibal Lecter in “Silence of the Lambs” is not assumed to be an actual cannibal.

I groaned when I heard that Kevin Spacey had been accused of a sexual assault on an underage actor some 30 years ago. I was disappointed to learn that he’s not, or has not always been, the good guy he seemed to be when he wasn’t playing a corrupt policeman or a corrupt politician. But I wasn’t surprised. He’s a gifted actor.

It does seem that, finally, the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and actual assault in our society is being recognized and, at least in some quarters, a reckoning is happening. Cosby, Weinstein, Spacey in the entertainment industry. Michael Oreskes and Mark Halperin in the news industry. Ailes and O’Reilly, who treated news (and female co-workers) as entertainment.

Yes, one rich and famous man was able to persuade millions that his candid, taped confession to habitual sexual assault, confirmed by nearly a dozen women, was merely the kind of “locker room talk” that is routine among the finest men nearing 60 years old. (Personally, I believe that Donald Trump and his accusers were all telling the truth. I know he was a TV star, but, as an actor, he’s no Kevin Spacey.)

Others will undoubtedly get away with it too, although there does seem to be a societal shift toward believing victims — especially when there are several with similar stories. Technology will also help: Gretchen Carlson isn’t the only woman with a voice recorder app on her smartphone.

Here’s another thing that I hope certain men will keep in mind: Victims don’t forget. Even if it was years ago, she remembers what you said, what you did and how it made her feel. And she may be telling her story.


Sometimes the victims are men, although the experience doesn’t seem to be so nearly universal.

Curiously, we have not yet seen a high-profile woman accused of being a habitual harasser of subordinates, although a civil suit filed against the director of Faulkner County’s Office of Emergency Management gives new meaning to the phrase “nasty woman.” The things people don’t get fired for are sometimes more mind-blowing than the things they do get fired for.


I caught part of “Silence of the Lambs” on TV between trips to answer the doorbell on Halloween. Great movie, but like so many classics, the plot would fall apart in the smartphone era.


Gwen Moritz is editor of Arkansas Business. Email her at GMoritz@ABPG.com.

 

 

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