Living in a make-believe world
Thursday, January 12, 2017 4:04 AM
“The last thing I like to watch is entertainers or actors get political. It’s just something I can’t stand watching.”
– Kurt Russell, American actor.
Ladies and gentlemen, I was reminded this week of the numerous journalism awards banquets I’ve attended (sometimes endured) over the past couple of decades.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have attended these awards banquets in three different states, and while these Associated Press, Press Association and media company shindigs are all somewhat different, they are mostly the same.
It goes something like this: Meet and greet, eat, listen to a keynote speaker, hand out the awards and go back home. When it comes to the speakers, occasionally there are memorable, dynamic addresses. One that jumps out was one that was delivered by a longtime journalist who was dying of cancer who spoke passionately about life’s blessings and living every day to the fullest. He received a standing ovation.
However, many of the orations were rather forgettable, while others were unforgettable because they were so excruciatingly painful to listen to all the way to their bitter end. Three of these come to mind.
The first was an international correspondent who used a large portion of her allotted time to browbeat a room full of journalists – mostly community journalists – for not running enough international news.
Then there was the time where a renowned and respected photojournalist spent the majority of his speech chastising journalists who “doctor photos” and so forth – going so far to say most of those folks should be fired.
Then there was the one a handful of years back that surprised the heck out of me. A longtime national sportswriter and columnist was going to be the keynote speaker at an Associated Press banquet, and I was really looking forward to hearing him speak.
I expected to hear fascinating stories about his career and all the great events he’s covered over the years and the famous athletes he’s interviewed (like the great Hal McCoy did at the Hillsboro library a couple of years ago). Instead, this fellow spewed off a speech that was mostly bitter, seemed ill-prepared and he generally acted as if he’d rather be anywhere than behind that podium. He groused about the Internet and fussed about how journalists and newspapers were giving away too much news for free.
The speech was so incredibly awful I won’t mention the sportswriter’s name.
In all three cases, these folks hopped up on their soapboxes and gave bitter rants … kind of like Meryl Streep did at the Golden Globes when she attacked U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, someone she obviously dislikes, for allegedly humiliating a journalist because of the reporter’s disability.
Streep said, “…(t)here was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good; there was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh, and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it, and I still can’t get it out of my head, because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life. And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”
Streep is recognized as an accomplished actor. Donald Trump? Not so much. Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton ensured that we saw the clip of Trump “imitating and mocking” the disabled reporter over and over again. Of course, Mrs. Clinton didn’t show that Trump used the same motions at least three other times – in reference to Ted Cruz, a U.S. general and a bank president, who are not disabled to my knowledge.
Reasonable minds might conclude that Trump was simply trying to illustrate that each of these folks was flustered by making those strange gestures – but Streep indicated at the beginning of her Golden Globes speech that she had “lost (her) mind sometime earlier this year.”
That’s too bad.
If Meryl Streep does not like Donald Trump and is bitter he won the election, that’s fine. But if she really is concerned about bullies and people with disabilities, she could have used her soapbox to denounce the livestreamed torture of a disabled young man in Chicago by assailants who shouted “(expletive) Donald Trump.”
I watched the half-hour video where the assailants used a knife to cut the scared young man and his clothing. They laughed at him, threatened him, cursed him, terrorized him, humiliated him, beat him, kicked him, made him drink toilet water, cut him and abused him.
It made me sick and broke my heart and it should have broken Meryl Streep’s heart, too. But, alas, she says she’s lost her mind.
If that’s the case, maybe Streep should have simply heeded Kurt Russell’s words and just thanked everyone who helped her win a lifetime achievement award (including the 60-plus million who don’t hate Donald Trump) and then shut up and sit down.
But it’s hard to fault her for her soapbox rant, and shame on me if I did.
After all, she’s made her living, a good living at that, pretending to be someone else, living in a make believe world.
Steve Roush is a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press.