by Louise Perry
Monday, 28
March 2022
Reaction
14:57

Why the Will Smith slap is good news

Our ADHD culture only survives off such 'scissor events'
by Louise Perry
Read the room (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

“Basically, I’ve been bored ever since 9/11”, says one shallow, selfish character to another in an episode of Peep Show, first aired in 2012. “Yeah that was good news” replies the other, “not good news, obviously, but good news.” 

Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars isn’t good news, but it is good news. It has it all: race, gender, sex, celebrity, and a two minute clip (“uncensored!”) to be joyfully shared, clipped, screen-shotted, and commented upon. It’s what the blogger Scott Alexander calls a ‘scissor’ event, in that it invites wildly divergent interpretations which inevitably generate their own controversy. And, best of all, it’s stupidly trivial: no one commenting on the slap actually cares about it one bit. 


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When I woke up this morning at 5:30am London time and reached (as I do, always) for my phone, the hot takes were already flying fast. Was Will Smith defending his wife Jada’s honour, given Chris Rock’s ill-mannered joke about her alopecia? Or was he expressing his own toxic masculinity? Was Jada the real abuser? Or was Hollywood to blame? Could it all have been a set-up? “The debate over that slap and the joke and the apology is gonna consume the next three weeks of discourse” tweeted the Rolling Stone writer Brian Hiatt. “You’re gonna hear takes you can’t even imagine yet.” 

Hiatt is right, with the exception of one detail: it won’t be three weeks, it will be more like three days. The ADHD news cycle could barely manage three weeks of sustained attention in response to the greatest security crisis in Europe since the Second World War. The Russian invasion of Ukraine began just four and a half weeks ago, and already is beginning to slip down the ‘top stories’ and ‘trending’ lists generated by news and social media platforms. This morning, 80% of the stories recommended to me by Twitter related to the Will Smith slap while news of ongoing Russian and Ukrainian negotiations barely feature. 

Remember the US retreat from Afghanistan? That was “good news”, but only for about a week. Afghanistan is nowhere to be seen now in Western media. The Covid-19 pandemic remained “good news” only through frequent pivots from one culture war theme to another, plus a heavy dose of ‘panic porn’. That’s the nature of the social-entertainment-news media complex (and yes, I know, I’m commenting from within it). Everything that happens in the world — whether it be as unimportant as a slap at the Oscars, or as consequential as the Russian invasion of Ukraine — is eventually spat out as profitable entertainment, to be shortly forgotten. 

 In a 2003 essay about 9/11 as a television event, the critic Mary Ann Doane wrote of this impulse in the media to turn everything into a spectacle, including tragedy: 

Catastrophe takes on the logic of innovation associated with the commodity system and especially with fashion – its constant demand for newness, difference, uniqueness and its consequent ‘forgetting’ of yesterday’s styles and yesterday’s catastrophes.
- Mary Ann Doane

Roll on the next bit of “good news.”

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hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
8 months ago

You might think this is funny but I don’t. I find that Will Smith can walk onto stage on live TV and punch someone, horrifying.

I suspect this happened for two reasons:

1. Being black gives you free license to behave badly. Can you imagine if a white person walked up to Chris rock and punched him?
2 We’re conflating words with violence in the race to the woke-bottom. In the eyes of many, Will Smith “feeling insulted” is all the justification needed to inflict actual violence on someone. A faction of the left have been pushing this conflation for some time in order to justify violence towards people who simply disagree with their world view using words.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
8 months ago

I agree. Mr Rock’s words were extremely insensitive, but they do not deserve to be countered by violence. I would not, and do not, expect my husband to behave in this way if someone makes a very hurtful joke about me. This is not a matter of pacificm, it is a very simple equation of making the punishment fit the crime – violence to counter hurtful words is not acceptable.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
8 months ago

Or a more likely scenario is that Smith have Rock a slap because he was angry at Rock for taking the mickey out of his wife’s condition, and no charges will be brought because no harm was done and Rock won’t want to make a big deal out of it. He’s not injured and has gained more publicity than he could have dreamed of, which he isn’t going to ruin by trying to get a popular actor like Smith in trouble, especially as most people will be quite understanding of Smiths reaction

hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
8 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

So violence is now “no harm” is it? Violence over feeling offended sets a very dangerous precedent, it is in effect what Antifa do. And now it’s just been sanitised by Hollywood.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
8 months ago

I didn’t say violence was no harm, but in this instance Rock suffered no physical harm from a slap that didn’t even connect well.
Not saying it’s right but if somebody was publicly taking the pi$$ out of my wifes appearance due to her having a medical condition I’d probably give him a whack as well.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
8 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Billy Bob, you never fail to disappoint. I would have put you down as someone given to physical violence.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
8 months ago

If you don’t think you’re risking a slap by insulting somebody’s wife due to her medical condition then you’re not living in the real world. I’d expect most blokes to do the same as Smith.
Yes he probably should have been kicked out of the event, and no doubt would have been if he wasn’t a famous a well liked film star, but I’m certainly not going to criticise him for his reaction.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
8 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Just carry on digging Billy Bob…

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
8 months ago

Who cares? It’s a couple of celebs having a hissy fit, why make a big deal of a slap. He should have done it properly like John Prescott, now that was a decent haymaker!

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
8 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

The big deal is that it illustrates that there are a good deal of people like you who think physical abuse is ok if you have a ‘reason’. Violent physical abusers always claim to have a reason.

Warren T
Warren T
8 months ago

If I discovered a young girl crying out for help, as she was being sexually abused by a man in a park, should I simply stand there, condemn the perpetrator and wag my index finger at him?

Marcia McGrail
Marcia McGrail
8 months ago
Reply to  Warren T

..just a tad not the same as a celebrity hissy fit, doncha think?

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Has not the moral decline of our society to a large extent been driven by celebrities behaving badly and prospering as a result, whether it be drugs, adultery, drunkenness, vandalism or general disrespect for established values and norms

Alex Stonor
Alex Stonor
8 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I agree with Billy Bob on this occasion; it’s common law, an injured party taking retribution. I agree it’s old school and that most people like politicians, armies, guns and bombs fight their battles for them.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Only it will be replicated in playgrounds world over

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
8 months ago

I too found this shocking, but even more shocking is that there are people who are defending this behaviour. Equally as baffling is that he wasn’t frogmarched out of the door. The Oscars and Hollywood as a whole are a bunch of Woke idiots who don’t have the right to opine on morality, ethics, consistency, bias and the like.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
8 months ago

That’s a lot of words generated about a little slap – man on man (possibly staged?*). Any words about the punishment being meted out to Ukrainian people for just being. How about the ‘punishment’ of Ukrainian women who, allegedly, are being punished by (Russian) men using other parts of their body?
*I say possibly staged becaused the “Oscars” seem to be getting stale and boring. They, and the “participants” are certainly getting plenty of publicity.

Warren T
Warren T
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug Pingel

Agreed. We are simply flies attracted to light.

Finlay Bruce
Finlay Bruce
8 months ago
Reply to  Warren T

Here in Australia, flies are more attracted to shit. I think the analogy still applies.

Saul D
Saul D
8 months ago

Any lower and he’d have hit Rock bottom.

D Hockley
D Hockley
8 months ago

If this fool, Smith, is allowed to get away with what he did, the USA is essentially saying: if someone makes a joke with which you do not agree, feel free to use violence to show your feelings.

His actions will have consequences all over the world. This pampered, entitled, morally bankrupt product of hellish Hollywood has embarrassed the whole of the USA.

Last edited 8 months ago by D Hockley
Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
8 months ago
Reply to  D Hockley

Don’t be silly. This only applies to the rich and powerful. Assault charges are handed out like candy on Halloween to the poor and unconnected (even when it is questionable that the action rises to the level of assault).

Matt M
Matt M
8 months ago

When I woke up this morning at 5:30am London time and reached (as I do, always) for my phone

This is where you are going wrong, Louise. Never charge your phone in your bedroom and never look at it until you have had a shower, a cup of coffee, been for a run etc. Otherwise you are an obsessive and are going to make yourself unhappy.

Last edited 8 months ago by Matt M
Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
8 months ago

The Russian invasion of Ukraine began just four and a half weeks ago, and already is beginning to slip down the ‘top stories’ and ‘trending’ lists generated by news and social media platforms. This morning, 80% of the stories recommended to me by Twitter related to the Will Smith slap while news of ongoing Russian and Ukrainian negotiations barely feature.

This short attention span of the corrupt West is what Putin is banking on. Once Ukraine is not “the current thing” he can pursue his sordid little war with little or no consequence. Time will tell if his gamble will pay off.

Rob Lothian
Rob Lothian
8 months ago

There are 2 types of people.
Those who want to write a lengthy article or post on their own interpretation of everything surrounding the slap
or
Those who though it was cracking entertainment and a welcome distraction from stuff that actually matters

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
8 months ago
Reply to  Rob Lothian

Put them both on Harry Hills TV Burp.

FIGHT!!!

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
8 months ago

Celebrities are ridiculous people. Let’s just laugh at them.

Warren T
Warren T
8 months ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Like they used to do a century ago.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
8 months ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

The word comes from ‘coelebs’ in Latin, meaning ‘bachelor’. I still don’t twig the connection after all these years.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
8 months ago

“panem et circenses” as Juvenal said.
On a secondary note how sad that your life starts at 0530 by reaching for your smart phone. Even my dogs are not up so early!

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
8 months ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

…it’s a woman thing. But very like the man thing of reaching for a smoke first thing in the olden days.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
8 months ago
Reply to  Bernard Hill

And today, I can confirm from personal experience. Stil doesn’t beat the first fag/cuppa tea combo, though.

polidori redux
polidori redux
8 months ago

Excellent opportunity to bury bad news though, so let’s look at the positives.

Benjamin Greco
Benjamin Greco
8 months ago

I can’t believe that you can see this as anything other than the coming apocalypse brought on by the creeping idiocracy overwhelming reason and sanity. We’re all gonna die!

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
8 months ago

I’m far more concerned about the inability of these oiks and proles to tie a bow tie, and wear proper dinner jackets …

Benjamin Greco
Benjamin Greco
8 months ago

Next year, in order to increase ratings, the Academy should announce that they have armed the audience. Everyone will tune in.