Wonderful fights between narcissism and worthlessness

Oh Humanity and Forgiveness

on September 16, 2012

I cannot think of how to start this article, so let me say, fuck Daniel Tosh. It’s the best way to start any article, really. But in all that came tumbling out across the Internet in response to his harassment of a heckler with a threatening rape comment, little came from Tosh himself, exemplified by his “apology.” In a single tweet, Tosh said: “all the out of context misquotes aside, i’d like to sincerely apologize j.mp/PJ8bNs” Which is saying three things:

      1. Your version of the story is not to be trusted, playing into cultural narratives about mistrusting the stories and voices of women, especially harassed women

      2. Here’s a link to said story, just so we’re clear who lacks context and misquoted me (along with the fact that followers of Tosh can now find it easily and also be brought up to speed on why the Internet’s yelling at him

      3. “I’d like to sincerely apologize”

i. I have problems with in general, but especially here as the lead to his “apology.” Before I show the least bit of a hint of remorse, let’s just make it clear you’re wrong. ii. can be problematic, but given that comedians have routinely sicced followers on people disagreeing with them, I don’t think Tosh had any explicit malicious intent, although the tweet does implicitly connect i. to the blog post he links. But my big huge mega problem is iii. Because using the word sincere as part of a two-word apology is just grossly misunderstanding what a sincere apology actually is. Infuriatingly gross misunderstanding.

So, earlier this week, I was blown away when I found this:

Ladies and gentlemen, during tonight’s Lantern Run, I made a terrible mistake with my language, one that I immediately recognized as hurtful, embarrassing, and just categorically inappropriate both personally and professionally. Giant Bomb has certainly been known to “work blue”, but that kind of language simply has no place on Giant Bomb–and, frankly, in the world at large–not now, not ever. I was shocked myself when it came tumbling out, and instantly felt like the worst piece of shit in the world. Context is meaningless, because that word comes with too much of its own hurtful baggage to ever possibly justify.

I want to be crystal clear here: I’m saying this not because of some corporate mandate or some fear for my job. I’m saying this because it’s important to me personally that I acknowledge the significance of what was said, and to own it. I feel miserable because that’s not me, and it’s horrifying to me to think that someone would take that awful outburst as some sort of implicit approval to use that word. That shit is just indefensible. As such, the archived version of the Final Lantern Run will be edited, though I wanted to make sure that this message got out there first, and that people know that this isn’t a cover-up.

All I can ask for now is forgiveness for my gaffe. If you can’t manage that, I understand, and hope that you can at least give me a chance to prove that I am better than what you saw of me in that deeply regrettable moment of frustration.

This. This is a true sincere apology (Note also he does not say I sincerely apologize even once, although he’d have earned using the word). In doing further research, the term he used was the homophobic f slur, reportedly randomly and not at anyone, but also reportedly he facially registered he’d done wrong and apologized on the spot, offering this further apology and explanation on the forums.

Knowing barely anything about Ryan Davis or GiantBomb.com, I may be lacking some key context, but this sincere apology really stands on its own. So often in calling out an incident it’s impossible to escape from calling out a person due to their actions. And I believe it is worthwhile in every instance to call out sexism, bigotry, homophobia and general shittiness. Those discussions are always worth having. At the same time, I believe human beings in general are fallible, capable of error, and capable of growth.

Personally, a large uninhibitor on my Tweeting and my writing is the idea that, if something is wrong, or offensive, or blinded by privilege, the best way to find that fact out is to say it. If I don’t catch it before saying it, chances are I’m not going to understand why it’s wrong, why my particular phrasing, or word choice, or timing, or conversation I’m injecting my opinion into make it the wrong thing to say. It doesn’t mean I never think before I speak, but if I’m thinking of holding something in and can’t quite say why (and can’t say it’ll hurt anyone), I should say it and let my wonderful audience (mostly for Twitter, but people read this too! =D) let me know exactly why what I said was pig-headed, offensive, privileged, or otherwise insensitive or incorrect.

This model relies on forgiveness and people not judging me for one statement but for all of my statements. Another example of the epidemic of celebrities saying shitty things was Joseph Gordon Levitt, in response to a press junket question about working with Emily Blunt in Looper, said, “She’s funny … and let’s face it, most pretty girls aren’t funny.” While my partner disagrees, moreso after that bullshit comment, I enjoy Joseph Gordon Levitt. I loved him in Third Rock From the Son, I thought he was great in the role he was in for The Dark Knight Rises, and I generally enjoy his screen time. Looper itself looks interesting in a “It will pass to the $1 theater” way, and he was also in an Autotune the News video. But none of that reveals anything about him as a person; the sexist statement does. So that’s all I really know about Joseph Gordon Levitt as a person. And it’s easy to assume further sexist views are held or that he’s actually a pretty nasty guy, NOTHING like his screen persona, or maybe he’s a “nice guy.” You know. The kind that hate women and view spending time with them as payment for the opportunity at the sex. But it’s harder to think of him as a generally decent person in a patriarchal society that’s always held this certain assumption, implanted and reinforced by said society, that is just now being challenged by other people. I truly believe Levitt held this sexist belief prior to stating it, but I know nothing of how flexible it or he is. How open would he be to people telling him WHY it’s such a wrong statement, why it upholds harmful gender narratives and can hold women back, especially costars like Emily Blunt?

There’s a flipside to that idea: how closed would he become as people scream at him, no matter how correct they are. For famous film star Joseph Gordon Levitt, I’m not too worried; the tools he’s acquired to face people telling him his movies suck and he should die, while misused when someone’s aggressively and angrily telling him something right for a change, will likely get him through without seeing one of the stars of the new Batman film withdrawing from society because the Internet was too mean. And I haven’t seen him making any tone arguments or references to blogs or anything of the sort, as Louie C.K. Did in his response on The Daily Show after Daniel Tosh’s incident. I saw one apology where Levitt indicates he meant what he said either to point out the cultural narratives about pretty women or to joke about those narratives, and where he apologizes more for not choosing the right words than for what he said, but, while problematic, it also worked to some degree. It pointed to a human who doesn’t have this all figured out, who might still be working through these issues, but also growing.

Online, personally, I often end up in disagreements with either Men’s Rights Activists or Anti-Choice, Pro-Life people. And the lesson I want to take away from the GiantBomb apology, the Tosh apology, and the Levitt apology is that humans are different. I so often try to empathize with other people, but I worry I’ve been too unforgiving with certain people I disagree with. That’s not to say there aren’t things that make forgiveness/empathy less and less achievable. Some people, when confronted with hurtful or -ist comments, double down, both supporting and furthering their harmful views. Some make the issue about them, and their feelings, and how much THEIR reputation is being hurt. Some anti-choice people call all pro-choice people murderers, and most Men’s Rights activists believe feminism is oppressing men and women are all whores. There are unforgivable comments, always. But I want to start approaching people I disagree with, even if I have reality on my side (see MRM), with less hatred, less mocking (I like sarcasm a bit too much I think), more tolerance and more willingness to listen to their views. I also still want to call out all incidences of sexism, bigotry, homophobia, transphobia, you name it. But I want to have some level of empathy and potential forgiveness for the people making low-grade horrible statements, the soft MRAs, the privileged people who say something offensive and truly don’t know why it was wrong to say. Sometimes the apologies make it easy; sometimes not. Sometimes, as with Tosh, there’s a history that makes it all too clear that their apology is a recognition that bad PR is forming and must be dispersed. When that history or knowledge of a person is lacking, however, I’m starting to see benefits in giving the benefit of doubt.

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One response to “Oh Humanity and Forgiveness

  1. […] be better. One is the intersectionality of the assumed nature of people and the words they say (which I’ve written about before) and the other is about pop country music that I have to get around to researching. I have most of […]

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