Maybe It Was A Mistake… (or in defense of Walter Palmer)

As the hashtag, Cecil the Lion, tops Twitter’s trends list, and the public evisceration of Walter Palmer reaches a fever pitch, there was a couple of things that nagged my spirit: One, the picture making the rounds of Palmer and another man, mugging for the camera behind a massive lion, is NOT the famed Cecil. It’s troublesome because the image is undoubtedly helping to the fan the flames and reputable sites like The Telegraph and Sky News have used the picture in articles and have not made it clear that the image is from 2005. I get that for many, that fact doesn’t matter. The Twitter mob doesn’t have the burden of journalistic integrity, but those news sites do.

Second, the killing is being investigated because the hunter involved reported it to authorities. A report by the Telegraph had the initially anonymous hunter admitting to killing the lion with a foreign client and later reporting the kill to Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. So, the ensuing charges are not due to some thorough police investigation, but an admittance of fault by the hunters. Why does it matter? Because that means there some level of integrity. The men involved are professional hunters and they must have been well aware of the consequences of illegal hunting. Why admit to killing a famed animal, knowing the possible fallout, if there isn’t some level of honesty there? Whether you have a problem with hunting or not, admitting to something illegal isn’t the habit of people trying to get away with something.

Third, the vast majority of articles that I have read on the subject have quoted Mr. Johnny Rodrigues, head of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force. It is his account of events (NOT the police’s, hunters’, Palmer’s or Parks Authority’s) that have been widely reported without much sourcing, including the amount of $50,000 and the specific way in which Cecil was killed, information not given by the police or Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority or Safari Operators Association. So, where is he getting all this information, some of which was later found to be incorrect, from? Not sure Rodrigues or his organization (which is not registered as an official charity/NGO with Zimbabwe’s National Association for Non-Governmental Organizations) have been vetted properly and should be the definite source on this situation, but I’m sure nobody cares about that because that is the last thing on the Twitterverse’s, and apparently, the media’s mind.

Famous For Nothing (or Misogyny, much?)

A recent episode of WatchMojo featured a top ten list of celebrities that are famous for no reason. What struck me was that the only ones who made the cut were females. A tired trend on a lot of these lists. Search the term ‘famous for nothing,’ and you’ll see countdowns littered with the usual suspects (reality stars, children of celebs) and topped by the mother of them all, Kim Kardashian. A few years ago, I would have nodded my head to the beat and banged the drum in the hater parade, but now, I see two things:

Self-righteous judgment masquerading as promotion of talent and true art. The 2000s ushered in the golden (or dark, depending on who you ask) age of reality TV as well the communication landscape known as social media. Suddenly, reaching thousands or millions of people was not the sole province of the chosen few. ANYONE can cross the threshold from obscurity into celebrity without having to beg permission from the establishment. So what happens? Card carrying members of the elite don’t want to walk red carpets and be named in the same breath with someone who’s most famous for pooping on a flight of stairs. So, the argument goes that reality TV celebrates what’s wrong with America and gives a tremendous platform for foolishness, so the success of any person in that genre makes a mockery of success. Only hard workers and people with discernible gifts (not hood rats and rednecks) get touched by Midas. But that’s what so great about reality TV… it democratizes fame. But this type of notoriety, while the easiest to attain, is tremendously difficult to manage because it requires YOU. When an actor or singer gets criticized, it’s about what they do (or maybe what they wear), something separate from their individual selves. For a reality star, you’re getting railed on for who you are on a regular basis (multiply that through social media and you’ve got a recipe for disaster). This is not a life that many can handle much less maintain for a long time, so some credit is due to those who survive which leads to…

Why all the hate? Especially for women that have managed to make something of themselves in a field littered with burnouts and has-beens? So many of the tirades that mention people who are ‘famous for no reason’ almost NEVER mention men. For all the Kardashian talk, no one seems to remember that Brody Jenner’s fame stems almost entirely from reality TV and his debut (in 2005 with The Princes of Malibu) predates his step-sisters’. But mentioning a few male examples isn’t the point. In our culture, there’s something infuriating about a woman who figures out how to monetize her good looks or charisma or both in a way that increases her capital and status. We get mad about the pretty twenty-something who marries the millionaire; she gets called a gold-digger (he doesn’t get called any names); we roll our eyes and suck our teeth at the size 2 supermodel making thousands per fashion shoot (but give a pass to the (likely male) designer and agent who require she maintain her size to fit the clothes) and we gossip about that cute (and competent) co-worker getting all the attention from the front office (but we’re not questioning the fact that the ones at the top of the chain are all men). Women who succeed at using their feminine wiles turn the system on it’s head because they win at game they’re supposed to lose. They snub the idea that the only time it’s acceptable for a woman to be pretty and charming is in service of a man. They also turn their backs on conventional wisdom about what it means to be ladylike. Are Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton this century’s greatest feminists? I’m not sure, but they’re definitely doing something.

Get Off Rachel Dolezal’s A**! (or Things to Remember When Discussing The ‘Fake’ Black Lady)

There are couple of things that I think people have forgotten as the national discussion of Rachel Dolezal and her racial identity hit the tipping point:

We’re talking about a person here. The intense scrutiny and judgement that this woman has been subject to (a complete stranger to 99.9% of us) is insane and cruel. Questions about her mental health have no place in the conversation. Passing is not a new concept in the United States and I’ve never heard it described as the actions of the dishonest or mentally disturbed; true, often it is a minority member who assumes the identity of a person of the dominant culture, but sometimes, that is not the case. This is, ultimately, no one’s business. Her identification as Black doesn’t affect anyone other than herself. The implication that her positions as a chairman on a city board and as professor at a local University were due to her identification as Black (or Bi-Racial) are not likely given that Washington State enacted an affirmative action ban (known as Initiative 200) which reads, “the state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or groups on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.” So if she had been hired based on what box she checked, her employers were breaking the law, not her.

What about the pursuit of happiness? Remember that oh so important clause in the Declaration of Independence? Well, that vision isn’t determined by the electorate or by what makes sense to the general public. It is a singular decision which, within legal limits, should be respected and protected.

Airing dirty laundry is now a form of honesty? That’s news to me. The fact that Rachel’s parents were the ones that outed her is jaw-dropping and that they justify subjecting their daughter to public humiliation under the guise of telling the truth is worse. Would this still be acceptable if they had outed her as a lesbian and she were in the closet? Or as having been born male and she were living as a transgendered woman? Respect of privacy is a hard expectation nowadays, but amongst family…isn’t there some kind of implied Omerta code? Now that some of the family issues have come to light (Dolezal’s brother is on trial for child abuse and her mother blames her for supposedly initiating the investigation), it shades the parents’ motives as perhaps a bit vindictive.

Trans-racial is not a thing. This is passing. We don’t have to create a new terminology for it. And we should also stop comparing it with gender dysphoria, which it doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to; one is about a physical need to feel right in one’s body, the other, about a social need to fit in right in one’s community. Though much is made of her ‘transformation,’ Dolezal’s look isn’t that big a deal (is she supposed look the same way she did as a teenager?), but her motives are. If she decided to live life as a black woman to better serve (or be given opportunity to serve) the community, or to share, in a firsthand way, the cultural experience of her children, then she succeeded and should be left alone.

The Duggars Aren’t Honey Boo Boo

The news of Josh Duggar’s past indiscretions as a teenager has saturated the media the past couple of days. There are some who have been calling the family hypocrites and others, Mama June included, who think the show should be cancelled. TLC has responded by pulling the show from its network schedule, but they haven’t quite pulled the plug yet and they shouldn’t. We love to devour people when they make mistakes especially people who have presented themselves as the picture of piety, but what does that do except foster the environment that forces people to hide and lie (and worse) in an effort to keep transgressions under wraps.

What Mama June is too naïve (ignorant?) to understand is that there is typically a comprehension gap between adults and children. Adults are responsible for protecting their children, so June keeping company with a man who molested her daughter is beyond reprehensible and negligent and couldn’t be condoned by the network; on the other hand you have a child who committed a sexual offense over 10 years ago, for which he was not punished through no fault of his own. There is a tremendous difference. The focus shouldn’t be on Josh, who was a minor at the time, who according to the offense report, apologized for his behavior, and, as far as currently known, has not committed any punishable offenses. His story might be one of redemption, and rightfully so. There’s no reason to think that someone at 27 is the same person they were at 14/15.

Instead, focus should be on: the writer of the letter (which detailed the assaults), who instead put pen to paper instead of hand to phone to call police; the discoverer of the letter, who instead of reporting information to authorities, seemed more interested in publicly shaming the family (by asking ‘Oprah’ show runners to confront the Duggars about abuse allegations); the parent(s) of the the fifth victim, who in the report states that they ‘didn’t want to make this into a bigger deal than what it was,’ grossly minimizing what happened to their child and finally and most egregiously, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. I’m a parent now and I write this carefully because I don’t want to rain anymore judgement on this family, but like I wrote before, adults are responsible for protecting their children. I shuddered to think about what I and my husband would have to do if faced with similar circumstances.

The pressures to parent effectively, lovingly and unconditionally are daunting in a world that damns you for mistakes, no matter how old. I don’t think that they are terrible people, but they erred in shielding their son from real consequences and not providing him with legitimate counseling; and they sent a message to their daughters that their protection can be nullified under certain conditions. Whether they did so in an honest attempt to protect everyone involved or in an effort to protect the political career of Jim Bob (who was running for Senator at the time) remains to be seen, but I’ll be honest: I’d like to see it. Taking them off TV is no punishment. In no time, all will be forgotten and they’ll be back to living their lives as it once was, surrounded by supporters in their quiet community in Arkansas. Taking the show off the air is cliched and a tired remedy to satisfy those eager for swift justice. Not for me. I would rather them face this music, ON AIR with no place to hide.

No Apologies (The End of ‘Fashion Police’)

Maybe we need to start encouraging people to ignore foolishness

So Guiliana is forced to apologize to a well spoken teenager who takes her hair (and self) too seriously. Everyone was focused on what Guiliana said, but they should have paid closer attention to what Ms. Coleman said. Toward the end of her Instagram post (in response to the weed comment) she writes, ‘My wearing my hair in locs on an Oscar red carpet was to showcase them in a positive light, to remind people of color that our hair is good enough.’ Really? When I was 18, my choice of hairstyle was a fashion statement not a visual exhortation to the masses. Her reasoning strikes me as pretentious, an effort to add gravity to what is essentially hurt feelings. Hair is not sentient; we’re talking about dead skin cells! This isn’t life! Fashion Police talks about people’s hair, clothes and accessories ALL THE TIME. That’s the point. Apologizing for the core element of the show nullifies it. It kills the show because it sets a precedent that what’s said, will be taken back if someone cries foul or racism. Joan must be rolling over in her grave. And speaking of the late Ms. Rivers, Guiliana shouldn’t have to be her in order to crack off color jokes. Free speech doesn’t belong to just comedians, or to the really young or really old. Fortunately, that’s not how the Bill of Rights works. To those who feel Rancic’s comments were racist, remember her comments were singular, referring to the specific looks of a specific person. Broadening her opinion to apply to a whole race of people is flawed logic, and the means for the severely sensitive to mount social media witch hunts.

Lying Liars Who Lie (aka The Ballad of Brady and the Patriots)

Deflate-Gate has kept the sports world rapt for the past couple of days and things have heated up a little more since head coach, Bill Belichick, and quarterback, Tom Brady held press conferences. My main focus was on Brady; the sheer ridiculousness of a listening to man talk about how he likes his balls was too good to pass up. But between all the ball talk, I heard something else: dishonesty. When asked if he felt comfortable within himself that nobody on Sunday, on the Patriots side, did anything wrong, his reply was, ‘I have no knowledge of anything.’ The correct answer was yes or no. Anything else is from the devil (see Matthew 5:37). When asked if he was a cheater, he replied, ‘I don’t believe so.’ Wrong again! The correct answer is yes or no. Liars typically get wordy to circumvent the truth; when dishonesty is at play, people trying to protect themselves, start playing semantics, giving detail where none is asked for (see: Brady’s discussion of balls process). Brady’s language reveals that he probably knew about the deflated balls (which is why he doesn’t definitively says he’s not a cheater), but likely didn’t do it himself (which is why he can say I don’t know everything); more an accessory, less an accomplice. Check a couple of notorious examples:

1) ‘I have no idea what you’re asking about. I’ve responded, consistently, to these tabloid allegations by saying I don’t respond to these lies and you know that … and I stand by that.” – John Kerry after being asked about allegations that he cheated on his wife and fathered a child with his mistress. (Red flag: contradicts himself. No idea what’s being asked about, but he’s responded consistently to it? Signals disjointed thinking which is typical of someone who has to piece a story together to cover their tracks.)

2)  “Look, this was a prank that I now having been talking about for a couple of days and I’m not going to let it decide what I talk about for the next week or the next two weeks. – Anthony Weiner after being asked why he didn’t seek help from law enforcement after alleging that his Twitter account was hacked. (Red flag: avoidance, defensiveness & rambling. He doesn’t answer the question. Honest people don’t mind answering questions directly. If you watch the video, he gets defensive quickly, electing to answer another question with a metaphor. )

And my personal favorite, ‘I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I’m going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.’ (Red flag: semantics. Normal people don’t say sexual relations. They say a lot of things, but that ain’t one of them.)

The sad part is, watching Brady and Belichick, unlike the politicians above, their body language suggests something else: shame.

Snowballing: The Vilification of Black Men

Watched a story today on Right This Minute and I was blown away by how quickly a black man can get snowballed by the media and by snowballed I mean how a white person can use their position and/or access to devour the reputation of a person of color who gets in their cross-hairs. The initial story was about a video of a six-year old named Grant. The video was posted back in November on his mother, Amy Stone’s Youtube account. The video, however, didn’t start to go viral until being posted on the Facebook page of another person (DeLorean) where, according to Stone, the video racked up five million views. Amy (along with husband, Nate) believes DeLorean to be a scammer who was exploiting their son for personal gain pointing to the fact that his site talks about making money online. She also claims that despite their requests DeLorean refused to take the video down and ultimately Facebook removed the video. So, what’s the problem? It’s not completely true. I found the story quite odd because part of what people do on Facebook is share videos. So what made this guy any different? He didn’t link the video to the original source, which means he diverted attention (read income) from her original Youtube video. Ok, that sucks, but there’s more.

I searched for it and found a cached result (see below) which means at some point he added her info to the post. And then I kept digging. On his page, via video post, he talks about (and shows) a message exchange between him and Mrs. Stone where he asks her if she wants the video down, she doesn’t say no, but instead asks that he change the description and post a direct link to her Youtube video. So not only did she lie about communication with him, but she also expected him to use his Facebook page to drive users to her account, which he is not obligated to do. And when he didn’t act according to her wishes, she got lawyer-ed up (very apparent from her final response to him) and threatened to continue to involve the press (which she had already done). The story was reported on a local TV station (KUTV) without ANY efforts to reach out to DeLorean and hear his side of the story which wouldn’t have been difficult since his page is public and I was able to get all this info within an hour.

Now, I get that he posted copyrighted material to his page without crediting the owner, but he didn’t make money off of it and based on his direct messages, he was willing to work to appease the family. What doesn’t work is the maligning of his character in such a swift way without investigation. I read on his Facebook page that he has an interview with CNN today and I’m looking forward to hearing his side of the story. Hopefully, others will listen.

Delorean story

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If ‘Only’ We Could Do That With Judaism

The recent attack on the offices of the French satirical paper, Charlie Hebdo, has ignited conversations about free speech and inspired a variety of publications to take a stand and reprint some of the offending images. In light of the current events, I wanted to revisit the stir Nicki Minaj caused when her lyric video for ‘Only,’ off her latest album the Pinkprint, dropped. What followed was a firestorm of criticism for imagery that evoked the Third Reich: red flags emblazoned with a stylized black and white Young Money logo, Minaj strolling through lines of rank and file soldiers straight out of a Leni Riefenstahl film. The Anti Defamation League responded by saying that, ‘the abuse of Nazi imagery is deeply disturbing and offensive to Jews…’ Minaj gave what read like a rote apology, but the director Jeff Osborne was beautifully defiant in the face of the wagging fingers: ‘First, I’m not apologizing for my work… nor will I dodge the immediate question. The flags, armbands, and gas mask (and perhaps my use of symmetry?) are all representative of Nazism. But a majority of the recognizable models/symbols are American…What’s also American is the 1st Amendment, which I’ve unexpectedly succeeded in showing how we willfully squeeze ourselves out of that right every day.’ Right to free speech is often the first justification for the protection of offensive language/imagery, but only a few months prior, it wasn’t enough. Osborne’s comments perfectly align with supporters of the French journalists and cartoonists. If drawing an image of the Prophet Mohammed is fair game, so should the use of Nazi imagery.

Fast Acting, Slow Thinking

There’s currently a lot of brouhaha following an op-ed piece in the New York Times about Shonda Rhimes’ tough, black female characters including Viola Davis’ Annalise Keating on ABC’s new drama, How to Get Away With Murder. The negativity surrounding the article comes down two sentences (in a nearly 1,500 word piece): the opening line, “When Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography, it should be called “How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman” and the real fire-starter,  ‘Ignoring the narrow beauty standards some African-American women are held to, Ms. Rhimes chose a performer who is older, darker-skinned and less classically beautiful than Ms. Washington, or for that matter Halle Berry…” Some have referred to the comments as ‘racist’ and ‘offensive’. I have a feeling they did that without reading the article, but focusing on incendiary tidbits fed to them through the social media machine. I found the whole piece to be flattering (to Rhimes) and truthful (re: Davis). The author, Alessandra Stanley, smartly writes how Rhimes flips the ‘angry black woman’ stereotype on its head, giving us black female characters that seethe out volcanic monologues, but somehow never come across as cliched or playing into tired archetypes; she writes and creates tough and sometimes unlikeable black women without dealing with the societal burden of promoting nice black role models because ‘there’s only so many black characters on TV’. If folks had bothered to read what was written, they would have found the writer stating it more eloquently, “Ms. Rhimes has embraced the trite but persistent caricature of the Angry Black Woman, recast it in her own image and made it enviable. She has almost single-handedly trampled a taboo even Michelle Obama couldn’t break.” As for Ms. Stanley’s point about Viola Davis being “less classically beautiful” than Kerry Washington, she has a point. Let’s not pretend that Hollywood, advertising and magazines don’t have a preference for certain types of beauty that skews lighter and thinner; it is these outlets that have framed our understanding of classic beauty, as well as Ms. Stanley’s. A couple of years ago, when asked why The Help was her first starring role, Davis replied, “There just aren’t a lot of roles for—I mean, I’m a 46-year-old Black actress who doesn’t look like Halle Berry—and Halle Berry is having a hard time.” If Ms. Davis doesn’t have a hard time speaking and facing the truth, why do we?

The Biggest Loser Loses

If you didn’t watch the live finale last night, check the video to get caught up.

 I’m a fairweather fan of the series, watching when there’s an interesting contestant or twist. This season had both with Ruben Studdard (American Idol Season 2 winner) and the theme of second chances, which allowed eliminated players opportunities to get back in the game. However, all of the peaks and valleys of the season were quickly overshadowed when eventual winner, Rachel Fredrickson, revealed her 155lb weight loss, setting a new show record for weight loss percentage at 59.62%. Such a feat would usually be showered with effusive accolades, but this time, this season’s champion looked skeletal and unhealthy, in stark contrast to her fellow contestants. When she made her big entrance, the looks on Jillian and Bob’s (the team trainers) faces said it all; an ‘oh my God’ was clearly visible coming off of Jillian’s lips. Even Allison Sweeney, the show’s host, couldn’t keep the look of concern hidden, quickly switching on a painted grin when Rachel turned to hug her after the big win. The show’s Facebook page was lit up with activity during last night’s finale, many commenting on the possible backlash that might follow TBL if changes aren’t made to ensure that competitors lose weight in a healthy way, perhaps by maintaining an appropriate BMI. In the midst of the controversy, there’s been no comment from the show or trainers outside of the typical congratulations, so I looked forward to the Today show interview with Fredrickson, hoping that they might ask her about the feedback some fans have been giving, but no such luck. I’m not sure what was worse, the possible health issue this woman might be having or the complete lack of journalistic inquiry that the Today show hosts showed; the conversation never veered from compliments and the cliche. I shouldn’t be surprised since the Biggest Loser airs on the same network (NBC) as Today, so they likely wanted to avoid controversy. And in an effort to avoid rocking the boat, NBC, Today and the Biggest Loser missed an opportunity to build interest based on how well they could handle such a sensitive issue opting instead for the ‘company line’ and possible lost viewership.