Most of us barely recognize this country anymore. So many on Twitter spend their days chasing outrage after outrage, like what Kanye said or what Maggie Haberman tweeted or how Kendall Jenner wore her hair one day. It all seems to be handled with the same amount of outrage as things like families being separated at the border or the EPA reversing all of their Obama-era regulations to protect the environment.
There are big things and there are not so big things. Part of why it’s hard to really see how much things have changed under Trump is that we are all caught up in this whirlwind if we spend any time on Twitter or Facebook. But what Roseanne tweeted went beyond the usual and into much deeper and darker territory in the mainstream than we’ve seen since 2016. Remember, Trump used Roseanne’s sudden and unexpected popularity as proof — and the media were happy to play along — that this was the “real” America, rising up from beneath the fascist, oppressive left. Yes, both Roseanne and Trump sucked on the same teat of self-pitying white identity politics.
ABC canceled one of its most popular new shows not because a “bunch of snowflakes” lost their shit on Twitter, but because it was the right thing to do, because we can’t tolerate a blurred line on racism for even one joke. We know the right wing memes we’ve seen smearing Obama by comparing him to a chimp or calling Michelle Obama a “monkey” or whatever ignorant blatherings the zombie army of numb nuts cares to throw out: we know these things exist. Hillary Clinton called them a “basket of deplorables,” which at the time was criticized by so many for being alienating. But in fact, what she said was true: a percentage of Trump’s supporters are deplorable.
Roseanne’s tweet, which described Hillary and Obama’s former advisor Valerie Jarrett’s appearance “as if the Muslim brotherhood and Planet of the Apes had a child,” was casually spit out into the mainstream, so much so that she didn’t even seem to realize at the time that anyone would have a problem with it. While it’s true that many of us were “outraged” on Twitter over it and prepared to go to war with ABC, no doubt the reason the network canceled the show was because that was a clear line that had to be drawn. It wasn’t just your typical damage control, not in their statements, not in their actions. They had the option to walk it back, keep the show, keep their high ratings. But they chose to draw the line, and that matters. Many will say ABC had already made a deal with the devil by even getting into business with Roseanne in the first place, knowing full well that she has said terrible things for years on Twitter. And that might be true. But it is counter-productive to not recognize and applaud them for doing the right thing now.
The idea that the massive audience for Roseanne was the “real America” frightened many of us. I personally refused to watch a single episode of her show because I feared the coming wave of that kind of America. It is surprising and relieving to see one of the major networks take a stand and draw a clear line on the racist ramblings of Roseanne Barr, who, by the way, blocked me on Twitter long ago.