Chris Rock got pulled over by the PC Police without lifting a finger.
The 53-year-old comic, considered one of the sharpest wits of our age, didn’t send out an offensive tweet or creepy video a la Kevin Spacey.
Instead, a video he appeared in seven years ago rose to the surface thanks to social media and reporters hungry for clicks.
The clip in question, from the 2011 HBO special “Talking Funny,” features Rock, Louis C.K., Ricky Gervais and Jerry Seinfeld mulling over comedy, culture and more.
C.K. shared a favorite Rock line during one pivotal exchange: “When a black guy gets rich, it’s countdown to when he’s poor again.” To which Rock responds, “He’s the blackest white guy I f***ing know.”
“You’re saying I’m a n****r?” Louis C.K. asks.
“Yes, you are the n****rest f***ing white man I have ever met,” Rock says in response.
Both Louis C.K. and Gervais appear to roll with the jokes. Seinfeld, however, looks ill at ease, saying he wouldn’t use the “n-word” “anywhere.”
Louis C.K. proudly boasts, “we say n****r on stage” about both he and Rock.
Seven years passed without incident. The Earth continued to rotate on its axis. Now, at a time when reporters scour old Tweets and older video clips, the moment is back. Media outlets pounced, the stories framed as “Rock, Gervais and Louis C.K. were wrong … but at least Seinfeld was pre-woke woke.”
It’s a perfect example of people seeking out outrage wherever it may be … even in a dusty conversation deemed acceptable at the time.
CNN riffed on the video clip, its commentator saying Rock should have used the exchange as a teachable moment.
That’s partly true, but not in the way it’s intended.
In short, everyone needs to stop. Stop digging up old tweets for “new” offenses. Stop judging the past by current mores. Stop stripping the context from conversations to land a “gotcha” moment.
And, maybe most importantly, start admitting Outrage Culture is anything but a weaponized way to clamp down on free expression while, when possible, attack the “right” targets. Well, you saw what happened to Roseanne Barr shortly after she embraced President Donald Trump. Kevin Hart’s apolitical mien probably cost him that Oscar hosting gig once his problematic tweets resurfaced.
Liberal personalities like LeBron James (anti-Semitic tweet) and Alec Baldwin (the list is too long …) can say or do the wrong thing with no career repercussions, though.
That means Rock won’t suffer any career blowback from this exchange beyond some media shaming. He’s a rock-ribbed liberal, and he’ll emerge with a warning at best.
So now it’s up to Rock to complete this “teachable moment.” He can avoid the issue entirely, which he’s done up until now. That‘s probably the smartest, most selfish approach. The controversy is dying down already. By not apologizing Rock deprived the news story of its vital oxygen.
Or Rock could come out swinging. I was among friends. None had an ounce of hate or bigotry in their heart. The rules that govern the culture today weren’t the same seven years ago.
Can we focus on, and eradicate, real bigotry and ignore the faux hate?
Seinfeld actually did something similar regarding the PC Police a few years back. His 2015 ESPN Radio interview, of all places, found him blasting college campuses for their suffocating PC groupthink.
That didn’t stop the dangerous trend, but it gave us a valuable warning. What Seinfeld described is entrenched at the dawn of 2019.
A comedian of Rock’s caliber could call it out in plain language and strike a blow for unfettered expression.
Let’s see if the funnyman is up to the challenge.