By Kyle | April 20, 2015
Cross-posting from Facebook my reaction the comments.
To the multitudes who have made this story the 4th-most-read one on our site this week, thanks! And to the hundreds of irate commenters and e-mailers, a few points.
1. No, I don’t want a date with Britt McHenry. By the way, I’d never even heard of her until Thursday.
2. I didn’t say, and don’t think, that two wrongs make a right. It’s perfectly possible to think both that she was out of line and that she was treated too harshly because of it.
3. I posted the Yelp reviews not because they’re infallible but because they indicate at least the possibility that Advanced Towing employees seem to act like they’re above the law. This in turn raises the possibility that McHenry’s loss of temper might have been understandable. Or not. We don’t really know.
4. Before everything started “going viral,” we used to have a national understanding that accused people deserved at least a bit of an inquiry into the facts. One such process was known as trial by jury. But even private companies looking into complaints would, you know, look into them and try to figure things out before rendering punishment. Today we have an extremely unattractive combination of an online lynch mob mentality with a need for people to collectively assert their virtue by being among the first and loudest to detect and denounce someone else’s lack of virtue. (I understand the new Jon Ronson book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed has more to say on this.) Today it’s all, But we have one piece of evidence! Let us render judgment immediately!
5. The day this all “went viral,” my reaction was: I don’t care. If a celebrity (especially one I’ve never heard of) loses her temper, what importance has that? I would only click on it if it were someone I find kind of interesting in the first place, like Alec Baldwin. Why are you all so fascinated by famous people being caught off-guard?
6. I am aware that Virgiina is a “one-party state” hence making the video was legal. So what? Something can be wrong without being illegal. You know, how it’s wrong to berate an innocent person who is just doing her job. How would you like it if someone made a video of you at your worst moment, then shopped it to the media for the sole purpose of embarrassing you?
7. We all lose our tempers from time to time, so spare me the self-righteousness. When you lose your temper, you tend to stray into ugly, ad hominem territory. This is why we call it “losing our tempers,” not “angrily making a perfectly-controlled and logically unassailable argument.” One is not in a rational state of mind.
8. At this point the ESPN suspension seems almost irrelevant. The incident has cost McHenry dearly in reputation. She’ll be lucky if she can walk out on a sports field without being booed. She’s been buried in calumny. The waitresses will be spilling coffee in her lap forever. This punishment is disproportionate to her offense. As I made reference to in my column, Keith Olbermann is notorious for frequently losing his temper as a routine occurrence on the job. This has more relevance to whether he is fit to be employed than an off-the-job tantrum.
9. Why does anyone care? I’m puzzled. I get a lot of comments along the lines of, “she revealed her true nature!” Aha, you Javerts of the soul, score one for you! So what, though? She’s not running for office. She never said she was a symbol of all that is good about human nature. She’s a flawed human being. So are you. I can’t help but notice a personal sense of hurt, though, one that turns McHenry into a sort of representative of all the Mean Girls who shut you out of their clique or made fun of your shirt. Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post put it, “as someone who was bullied in high school, this really bothers me.” (Or words to that effect.) Pardon me, but if you were unhappy in high school, don’t take it out on her. And if your idea of empathy only goes as far as “I feel for people as long as they remind me of me,” you’re not doing empathy right. Strangely, many have projected their weirdly personal reaction to this contretemps on me, i.e. I defend her only because I obviously have something in common with this, rich, young, blonde, beautiful TV presenter. Apart from both of us being “in the media,” I have no dog in this hunt whatsoever, and any observer of the media will quickly notice that media people love nothing better than to tear apart other media people, especially those higher up the ladders of fame and fortune than ourselves. I try to reject the sans-culottes attitude. Increasingly, I fear this country is developing the character of mobs braying in the Paris streets of 1789.
10. As Peter Carlin points out, this is ultimately a popular decision to be made -do we like Britt McHenry? And in a sense the market is never wrong. Still. sometimes the market show poor taste. And sometimes the market can be nudged in one direction or another by media coverage. Let those of us in the media think, “I wonder what the other side of this might be” as often as we think, “There’s a mob forming. What fun!”