Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Britt McHenry and the quality of mercy

By Rick Morris

It’s well beyond cliché at this point to refer to things that could have only happened in 2016, but my despair at the treatment of a Pretty White Blond Girl (subsequently referred to with the PWBG acronym) – collectively, maybe society’s most elevated tier of people – has to go somewhere on that list.  I truly never thought that I would be writing something like this, but I also never imagined reading about the horrible cruelty visited upon somebody in that particular “community.”  It has become strikingly clear that not enough people realize that, while status as a PWBG doesn’t provide you with any more worth as a person, it alone inherently does not provide you with less.

The specific example I’m referencing is the relentless shaming directed at ESPN reporter Britt McHenry in the aftermath of her ill-considered tirade at an impound lot employee.  She provides all the gory details in this Marie Claire article, which, unfortunately has opened up a second round of online bullying and shaming.  Some of the trolls, who unfortunately are in legacy media as well as social media, have gone so far as to suggest that she’s simply looking for sympathy.

All I can say is that if you read the entire article and you maintain that posture, you are completely devoid of humanity.  Among the aftereffects of the cyberbullying has been a dimming of vision in her right eye, necessitating injections DIRECTLY INTO THE EYE to try to reverse this stress-caused condition.

I repeat: this woman is getting STABBED IN THE FREAKING EYE WITH A NEEDLE because of the effects on her psyche which have, in turn, caused a physical condition.


If you can read that and not feel badly for her plight, then you are not somebody that I want to know.  If you can still find it in your heart to feel contempt for her and I already know you, then I gravely regret knowing you.

I’ve had many occasions for reflecting in recent years about how so many people have lost the capacity for empathy and how that has led directly to the sickening in society that we’ve seen develop over time.  With Britt’s heartfelt story drawing cynicism in so many quarters, I think that I’ve seen the most accurate encapsulation of this phenomenon to date.

Look, PWBGs as a collective are not sympathetic to almost any person.  Aside from money, there may be no easier path to the upper echelon of society than inclusion in this club.  As a matter of fact, Teagan Sirset, the very talented granddaughter of my dear godmother, portrayed an abducted PWBG on a recent episode of the great ABC drama Notorious that played off of the Natalee Holloway syndrome in the media.

Additionally, none of this is to defend Britt’s conduct in that video, which she herself does not defend – notwithstanding that it was an unpleasant two-way exchange with an employee of a company that had just towed her car and that the private conversation was released publicly in edited form as a grossly disproportionate response to her cruel words.  Still, she was clearly “punching down” at a much less privileged individual, an act that rightly stirs revulsion from people.

Well, revulsion within reason, that is, and reason went out the window in the immediate aftermath of the release of the video when her apology was widely cast aside as a joke and movements to get her suspension from ESPN upgraded to an outright firing were launched.

At the time, I knew little of her other than she was an attractive lady who seemed to do good work for ESPN.  I felt that the suspension was warranted because, even though it was improper for the impound lot to escalate the dispute by releasing the video publicly, in the end the matter had caused embarrassment to her employer and some discipline was necessary.

But, notwithstanding my thoughts on her tirade, I’d have been sickened if she was fired, because I myself have been caught in a corporate downsizing.  Anyone with an ounce of empathy who has ever worked in a job that no longer exists one day would NEVER wish that upon somebody else.

However, decency was not the fuel of this particular lynch mob, which howled that she had gotten off “scot-free,” notwithstanding the fact that her personal and professional lives were just totaled in the aftermath of the “scandal.”  And the people who have continued the bullying after the publication of her article are even more reprehensible, considering the factors brought to light in it:

^ the embarrassment that the matter visited upon her war hero father and her very brave mother, who ironically as a cancer patient had to deal with the same lookism visited upon the tow employee in the video

^ the extraordinarily disproportionate caliber of the online response, often containing vulgar comments far worse than anything that tumbled from Britt’s lips in the video

^ and, oh, yes, THE FREAKING NEEDLE IN HER EYE in an attempt to regain full eyesight

But what’s become clear in the treatment of Britt McHenry is the extent to which she is being punished for the sins of many other PWBGs.  Read a mean reaction to her from any man and you can clearly see a weak little person who has never gotten over being rejected by a fellow PWBG.  Read a mean reaction to her from any woman and you can clearly see a weak little person who has never gotten over being made to feel inferior at the hands of a fellow PWBG.

In other words, Britt McHenry has become a symbol, and is paying the price for, the sins committed by EVERY PWBG in society.  People justify this by her conduct in the video and their insistence that, notwithstanding her protestations, that it does represent her as a person.

All we have to go on in that regard is her word – but I find it pretty compelling.  Read her heartfelt words about the values communicated by her parents and her clear trauma about what people think of her now when she meets them and you’d have to think she’s a sociopath to believe that she’s somebody who regularly conducts herself like the mean girl in the video.

But, of course, it’s not necessary to give her the benefit of the doubt as I do.  In order to not be part of the online bullying, or better yet, stand up against it, it’s merely necessary to have a soul – to be capable of empathy.  One of the worst talking points of the cretins who are burying her is that she is “playing the victim/looking for sympathy.”

Not that any of these mouthbreathers would have any idea of the critical difference between the two, but she’s not looking for sympathy.  She’s looking for mercy.  I despair at the ugliness of society when I look around and see how few people are capable of granting that to anyone these days.

If nothing else, it’s the Christmas season and we are all God’s Creatures.  Let’s try to remember that instead of feeling entitled to blame the likes of a Britt McHenry for all the misdeeds of all who look like her.

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