Is it the madness or the wisdom of crowds? Once a Twitter mob gets launched, is there a difference, and does it matter?
I really have no idea. All I know is, over the Memorial Day holiday, or “long weekend” as some might say, actress Ellie Kemper, 41, found herself pursued with digital torches and virtual pitchforks by a Twitter mob. She’s trending despite not being in an actual show at the moment. Well, unless her Netflix show Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt gets renewed four years after it went away.
I’ve watched all of The Office, on which she’s charming and silly, but I haven’t watched much of Kimmy Schmidt, on which she’s also charming and silly. I’m watching Season 1 Episode 3 as I write this, and a couple of Native American characters get offended at being called “Native American,” and one teases a white character asking her what it’s called when she sits on the floor with her legs crossed.
The white woman, an adult, answers “crisscrossed applesauce.” The actor playing the Native American character Virgil, Gil Birmingham, who has actual Comanche ancestry, is good whenever he’s on-screen in anything—and is from San Antonio so, I’m likely to like him just because Texas—seems bemused. He and his wife, both Native American, want the white people to call them “Indian.” For whatever that’s worth. They have Virgil wearing leather coats with tassels and speaking in Comanche on occasion. Ellie as Kimmy charms her way through every scene. I’m sure Kimmy will get canceled by Friday anyway. Not by Netflix, which stopped making new episodes in 2017—by the Twitter mob. Pretty soon we’ll have to exchange lines from Kimmy Schmidt the way the hobos who have memorized the Bible swap verses in Fahrenheit 451.
But anyway, Kemper totally deserves it. The famously winsome actress from The Office — she played the naive and slightly psychotic but nevertheless charming Erin, who replaced Pam as the receptionist when Pam went into sales after marrying Jim, who is now an action hero on Prime — had it coming.
You see, she grew up in St. Louis and won a beauty contest when she was 19. That beauty contest has a racist history that went away years before she won it, and she’s the 105th person to win that crown and none of the others have been hounded by the all-knowing scribes of Twitter, but who cares? The scholar who documented the parade’s bad history, and it is pretty bad, doesn’t think Kemper should be called a “KKK Queen” as tweeters and some websites are doing, but who cares? None of that matters.
Kemper was 19 at the time, which is both a full adult and a total child by today’s standards, which are no standards at all. You’re a child for the purposes of Obamacare and student debt, but you’re an adult if you ever said or did anything tweeters, many of whom hide behind anonymous accounts, don’t like. Heck, tweeters have gone after people much younger than Kemper. Nineteen is just about elderly by the mob’s standards.
Here’s the thing. According to Bethany Mandel, who’s done a lot more research on this than I have since I ignored social media almost entirely over the weekend (and that made the weekend so much better because social media tends to make people cartoonishly aggressive about petty and trivial things in ways they would never be in person), Kemper said and social media’ed all the right things.
She’s a vocal supporter of racial justice, Black Lives Matter, etc. And yet, that wasn’t enough to protect her from the mob that cares not for intellectual honesty (or honesty of any sort), proportionality, the passage of time, etc.
What does this tell us? If liberals and celebrities were in any way strategic, they’d think about BLM and other such causes as the mafia. They don’t actually achieve anything, they’re just a protection racket. But here’s what the Kemper situation should teach them: There’s no protection to be achieved by supporting BLM, etc.
Yeah, and? Kemper was 19 when she won the crown, is 41 now, and was successful in between without apologizing for any of it because it never occurred to her or anyone else that she should. She’s cute, she’s white, she grew up rich (that’s who runs the pageant thing she won, rich people), she went to one of those Ivy League schools that was founded by slave owners but is totally woke now, and…well, isn’t that enough?
Do we know who made a big deal out of this now, and why? No. And that doesn’t matter!
She’s huddling with her people now (successful people have people who advise them and also find ways to make money off them) and they’re advising her to apologize and give back her crown. She probably will, and that won’t matter either. She deserves it all…because she deserves it all. All this attention may wreck the pageant for good, which was canceled last year anyway thanks to the virus that respectable people can now suspect came from a lab in Wuhan but would’ve been banned from social media if they said the same thing a week ago, so what’s the rest of time anyway? Just cancel all the things and be done with it.
Ellie Kemper deserves to be trashed now because the mob says so. In the age when “safe spaces” became a thing, no one is actually safe from anything at any time. Mobs used to have to get up off their duffs and take the trouble to scrounge up an actual pitchfork and light a torch. They had to gather up with fellow mob members, assemble in a disorderly crowd, and walk someplace to mob somebody. That at least took…something. Effort? Knowledge of what makes proper fuel for a torch without burning the carrier’s hand? Knowing how to walk from where you are to someplace else without stabbing your neighbor with your pitchfork?
Today’s mob can just log on and tweet off. Or Facebook, whatever. Wreck some stranger’s life, easy peasy. That’s our post-Christian, social-media-obsessed, context-removed, redemption-free culture now. Enjoy.