SIt sometimes feels as if we are living in an age of never-ending resentment. Every week it seems to bring a new celebrity scandal, someone turning off the TV revealing something racist, bigoted, or offensive. They face a new kind of “lawsuit”: proceedings on social media, followed by an apology (or in other words, a double denial and shouts of “cancel the culture! “). Then, whenever their name is mentioned in the following weeks/months/years (depending on severity), a reminder of the violation will ring around. It is said that everything is fleeting in the digital age, but falsehoods can still stick like mud. Earlier this week, the actor and talk show host Whoopi Goldberg found herself at the center of such a controversy, after suggesting on her American drama See that the Holocaust was “not about race”. “These are two groups of white people,” she said at the time. She then addressed the comments in an appearance on The Late Show, told host Stephen Colbert: “As a black person, I think race is something that I can see.” Goldberg apologized on Twitter, writing that she was “sorry for the hurt I’ve caused”. SeeABC’s network later announced that she would be suspended from the series for two weeks.
The whole thing, at least, opened up some useful public discourse on the nature of anti-Semitismsuch as this one David Baddiel .’s widely circulated speech. But it’s still a grim example of what can happen when talk show hosts underestimate the power their platforms hold and the sense of responsibility that comes with it. (Last year, See became the most watched daytime talk show in the US, averaging a total of 2.88 million viewers per episode.) Piers Morgan took the opportunity to oppose Goldberg’s short-term suspension with Sharon Osbournefiring from another American talk show, Conversation. Osbourne left the show last year after speaking out in defense of Morgan, who was embroiled in a scandal of his own and had broken up with British talk show Good Morning Britain. (The fury concerns Morgan’s online rant about Meghan Markle, in which he suggests he doesn’t believe her claims that she’s been experiencing suicidal thoughts.)
The celebrity outburst is by no means confined to the world of talk shows. But there is something about the format that is particularly controversial. For most celebrities, there is some degree of separation between art and artists. You can still love Van Morrison’s music even if you disagree with his outspoken views on Covid; you can still enjoy Sean Penn’s performance in Licorice pizza even if you think his sexual remarks sound like the obscenity of an incoherent bigot. A common refrain for any actor/musician who speaks out about politics is that they should “stick with acting/playing music”. This is, of course, wrong – they have as much of a right to speak their mind as everyone else – but it demonstrates the volatile role the modern celebrity plays in the public mind. Are these people the ones who should be listened to, or are simply passionate about their work then ignored? For many people, it is often the latter more. In the realm of daytime talk shows, however, it’s a bit different. Where late-night talk shows, seemingly the more popular cousins of the daytime genre, have evolved into a platform for half-real dinner party anecdotes, day more interested in real-world topics. The reality is that people like Goldberg and Osbourne are hugely influential when they appear on these shows. It depends not only on the number of viewers but also on why they watch. People don’t join talk shows because they want news or escapism. They watch because they want to hear opinions. They want to “take”. When turned on SeeGoldberg ceased to be another actor and became an implicit authority on whatever subject was being discussed.
This is part of the reason why there is such outrage Piers MorganMeghan Markle commented on GMB last year. As Ofcom has ruled in the end, broadcasting the comments does not violate any guidelines. The watchdog wrote: “The Code allows individuals to express well-organized and well-argued views, including those that are potentially harmful or highly offensive. Morgan was entitled to an opinion, and he made sure it spoke. But this does not change the fact that the presenter position has given him an innate power over many GMB viewers.
It’s a similar problem that lies at the heart of the outrage facing Spotify and Joe Rogan’s Experience audio file. The streaming service has been condemned for exclusively hosting a chat thread in which Rogan and his guests endorsed inaccurate and inaccurate claims regarding Covid-19 and vaccines. More than a lot of talk show hosts, Rogan tends to let his interviewees orient and program the episodes. But we should not take his own speech function lightly; The comedian has a large, dedicated audience who values his opinion. Accountability can’t just lie with the guest – or worse, the listener.
Because Ellen DeGeneres, the trust between the audience and the host was actually against her. When her show ran into a PR crisis last year following accusations of a “toxic” work environment, the main disgruntled audience member wasn’t the celebrity being accused of abusing staff, but rather the fact that this seems to be the opposite of DeGeneres’ relentless crush on the -screen persona. Being on a successful talk show is not the same as being in a role. It’s a micro-personality cult, built around a real person. And man is nothing if not faltering.
If you present a series of articles many days a week for many years in a row, you are bound to make mistakes. It’s just human. But there are innocuous mistakes and others that have the potential to lead to serious harm in the real world. Goldberg and her friend would do well to remember how much power they hold.
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/features/whoopi-goldberg-joe-rogan-talk-show-b2007022.html Whoopi Goldberg, Joe Rogan and Piers Morgan are all part of the same problem