First, a little context, if you’re reading this weeks or months (or years?) from now. Today is November 14, 2015, one day after a series of terrorist attacks in Paris. I have nothing to say about the attacks themselves. Horrible things happened. Nothing I say will change that, or likely reduce the pain of those affected directly. So, I’m not going to bother.
What I am going to talk about is an article I saw very soon after the attacks. It was about Rob Lowe. Apparently, he tweeted some snarky comments about how French President Hollande was handling the situation. But that’s not what the article was about. It was about the Twitterverse having a collective conniption fit about Lowe, how the actor had been stupid and insensitive.
So, I suppose I could talk about the cult of celebrity that we have now that makes anything a B-list (C-list?) star say worthy of analysis. Which is pretty dumb. Or I could talk about the state of journalism, that this cultish (anti-cultish?) response was, itself, considered by someone, somewhere, newsworthy. Also dumb.
But that’s a pretty deep rabbit hole to jump down, so I’ll leave that as an aside and move on to my main point, which is this:
The angry tweeters response to Lowe is, hands down, the most laughably ironic thing I’ve seen in quite a while. Bear with me. I have a point.
First, let me posit something that is only implied in the angry tweeters commentary: they are implying that Rob Lowe is on the side of ISIS. For him to dare disagree with the leader of the country attacked by ISIS? He must be on the side of the terrorists, right? How dare he! This isn’t said directly that I know of, but that’s the only way that the emotional reaction makes any sense. Hollande’s country was attacked by ISIS. Hollande was attacked by Rob Lowe. Therefore, Rob Lowe equals ISIS! QED.
This reeks of insanity, but that’s how I read it. And I’m not done.
One big difference between Western Society and ISISville, perhaps the defining difference, is tolerance. In the West, if you vocally disagree with those in power…nothing happens. If you vocally disagree with those in power in ISISville…you are beaten and/or jailed and/or maimed and/or killed. And what did Rob Lowe do? He disagreed with someone in power. (I couldn’t tell you if he was right or wrong. I don’t know. And that is irrelevant to my point.) And nothing has or will happen to him. Which is only right and proper in a society ruled by the idea of freedom of expression.
But the angry tweeters, who have attacked Rob Lowe as a mouthpiece for terror…are reacting the way ISIS does! They have heard something they disagree with, and they respond with hate and invective. It’s an astonishing case of lack of self-reflection.
But here’s the silver lining. This is why Western Culture is so resilient. Even when part of the society acts kind of like ISIS, they really don’t. They shouted their anger at Rob Lowe; they didn’t throw rocks at him. They called him dumb; they didn’t storm his house and string him up. The very free speech that they are so annoyed by when it comes from this actor, is the same free speech they enjoy when hating him.
The ironies abound, but for me, there is at least hope for the future.
Though not for the future of journalism. Sheesh, people!