Last week Jonathan Chait compared the firing of Gina Carano to the Hollywood blacklist of yesteryear. Today he’s taking a look at another figure in the media spotlight who is being canceled by the left, the host of The Bachelor TV show. Here’s how Variety reported the story Saturday:
“The Bachelor” host Chris Harrison has announced that he is “stepping aside” from the franchise for “a period of time” amid controversy over his defense of current contestant Rachael Kirkconnell’s past racist behavior. Therefore, he will not appear on the “After the Final Rose” special, which will air after the show’s season finale…
Harrison has received widespread criticism after an interview on “Extra” with former “Bachelorette,” Rachel Lindsay, where he spoke extensively through a 14-minute discussion, seemingly defending a racist social media controversy swirling around Kirkconnell, who had former photos resurface on social media — in the images, she is seen attending an antebellum plantation-themed fraternity formal in 2018, and she also allegedly liked photos on social media containing the Confederate flag.
Here’s one of the tweets showing the photos of Kirkconnell that launched this controversy.
— Rosé (@TeaAndRoses21) February 4, 2021
Last Thursday, Harrison released a statement on Instagram saying he’d made a mistake and had spoken in a way that “perpetuates racism.”
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As you can see, Chris Harrison’s argument was that he was just asking for a bit of leniency in judging Kirkconnell. Chait’s take on this is that Harrison is being punished for standing in the way of Kirkconnell’s cancelation:
Harrison did not make any positive defense of Kirkconnell having attended the dance (“I’m not defending it, I didn’t go to it”), but merely insisted she deserved leniency. “We all need to have a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion,” he said. At one point, explaining his hesitation to fully denounce the contestant, he uttered the line, “I am not the woke police, there’s plenty of people that will do that for us right now.”..
Harrison’s crime is that he objected to the punishment of another person for having failed to boycott an Old South dance when she was in college. Harrison’s language — “I’m not the woke police” — made his point sound more controversial. But if you listen to the interview, he was using “woke” as an implicit compliment, placing the point of disagreement on police. Woke was a virtue he couldn’t bring himself to police in a younger and less established colleague. He asked her youthful ignorance be treated with grace and compassion.
This is not even guilt by association. It is guilt by refusal to join in condemnation. That a person who objects to the fairness of the proceedings themselves becomes the target of suspicion is a dynamic straight out of The Crucible.
The full video is below. Having watched it, my take is somewhat different than Chait’s. Harrison’s main point is that we’re looking at things differently now than we were in 2018 and therefore we need to give people a little grace. While I see that idea getting mocked a lot on social media, in fact former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay partially agreed with him on that point saying, “I believe you are right in the sense that maybe there should be some, hey, understanding of…not everybody knows everything.”
But I think Harrison’s pushback against the woke cancel culture sounded more like a conservative argument. For instance, he pointed out that some of the attacks on Kirkconnell started from the fact that she was a registered Republicans and then made judgments about her based on that. Rachel Lindsay agreed that was “ridiculous.” Harrison also brought up San Francisco’s school board which he said was “erasing Lincoln and erasing Washington.” He was suggesting, without outright saying it, that cancel culture is going too far.
“The woke police is out there and this poor girl Rachel who has just been thrown to the lions,” Harrison said. He continued, “I don’t know how you are equipped, when you have never done this before, to be woke enough, to be eloquent enough, to be ready to handle this. And my guess is this woman needs a little time.”
So, again, Harrison is pleading for a little more grace from the woke police. Obviously he didn’t get it. Instead he became their target. And that’s where I agree with Chait’s take. I think the pushback on the woke police isn’t coming primarily from a desire to protect anything as vague as systemic white supremacy. It’s mostly coming from a desire not to have people condemned and destroyed instantly and permanently by the mob because of something ignorant they did at age eighteen. Unfortunately, Harrison received too much backlash to stick to his point. He released a second apology over the weekend which could have been written by the woke police.
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Here’s the full interview which sparked the controversy.