Bob Franken




Welcome back to the good old days of legislative compromise, where there were arguable, principled and partisan differences between two sides of an issue. A case in point is the Democrats’ version of pandemic aid in a wretched economy. It would shower financial aid on so many millions of desperate, unemployed Americans whose lives have been turned upside down by the coronavirus.
Republicans argue that its largesse would also dribble over to the not-so-desperate to the extent that it would break the federal bank.
Then there are the absurd, mindless matters so favored by media organizations with a point of view. Those have been literally market tested and are less news stories and more audience builders that hosts on the far right and far left can caterwaul to death.
Such an example is the so-called cancel culture, usually presented in simple-minded tidbits, but part of a highly complex overlap of free speech, racial prejudice, sexual prejudice, resentment, resentment at the resentment and false equivalency.
Donald Trump was a master at exploiting these matters, deriding the pressure to remove Confederate leaders and other figures now associated with racism or worse, from schools, military bases and monuments. For his audience of “patriots” it was vilifying this country’s history. He handily ignored such consequential topics like Jim Crow and, more fundamentally, that great blot on the United States, slavery. And all the offshoots that remain to this day.
But the term “cancel culture,” which is complicated itself, basically began as canceling an appearance of someone who is prominent due to his or her objectionable point of view. Those public speaking events frequently were scheduled at a college or university, which are supposed to be about exposure to ideas. At those same citadels of higher education we witnessed the establishment of “safe houses,” where delicate little flower students were allowed to avoid emotional damage by being in a hermetically sealed environment.

It’s political correctness run amok. But is it? Where do you draw the line that separates “p” from “c”? It’s easy with the N-word. White people don’t use it. It hearkens back to the days when Black people were considered by whites to be animals. It’s complicated a little by rap groups and other African Americans, but only a little.
It’s much the same with the B-word, although no one except misogynists or those who are suicidal want to use that expression these days.
I have a rule of thumb for when I appear on TV. If I sincerely question whether something I’m going to say is objectionable when I’m going live, I don’t say it. If that means that the world has not been treated to something profound or side-splittingly funny, so be it. It’s similar to my #MeToo policy.
At the same time, others have created their own lists of absurd sensitivities. For example, if someone says anything considered derogatory about the dearly departed and someone takes offense, is it callous to point out that they are dead and chances are they won’t mind?
I notice that unlike his predecessor, Joe Biden’s staff has been successful in keeping the president under wraps, away from those extended unscripted moments that many times got him in trouble. It seemed that laugh-a-minute Joe was sometimes replaced by gaffe-a-minute Joe. Other than reporters, who get a twisted sense of pleasure out of heckling those we cover, no one has minded.
But what about Biden’s description of government officials in Texas and Mississippi who ended their must-wear-a-mask policies? The president called them Neanderthals, which might offend someone wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap. Not for being a Neanderthal as in “deplorable,” but for longing for the real or imagined U.S. past. Phew. I came mighty close with that one.
But for every congressional law that passes after old-timey negotiations, there will be a million phony issues. Even if we cancel cancel culture.

© 2021 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap