David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
A Stain

May 30, 2018

Sometime in the last 72 hours, while I have been sitting in meetings, or discussing challenges at work, or even golfing, Rosanne Barr somehow set off the latest Twitter-storm. As I left the house this morning, the morning news shows were consumed by the actions of a woman who showed us clearly who she is 30 years ago, as well as by the inactions of a president who showed us clearly who he is 30 years ago.

There is no "news" here, people.  Move along. Nothing to see here except the collective stain of our society.

In Dove, their amazing first album in over 20 years, Belly sings about the battle between good and evil in "Army of Clay." At least, that is what I think Tanya Donelly is writing about.  One never feels absolutely sure.  For me, this battle appears to be playing out over social media, embraced by the people who want to "document it all."

The recurring line from "Army of Clay" is that "when the truth breaks over your face, it leaves a stain." We expose these stains daily, whether it be in numerous selfies, countless vaguebook references, or endless links.  I posted a rare selfie just yesterday, mostly as a joke, to a colleague who had to miss a ceremonial breakfast.  People quickly noted how sad, even "un-David" I looked, because I wasn't smiling.  Would people be shocked to know that such looks are more of my truth than the smiles? Are people shocked to read that I am pretty much confessing that now?  Was yesterday morning truly "the truth break[ing] over [my] face like a bad egg?"  Heck with a breakfast for that many, surely there was one bad egg.

Truth of the matter is, I was so concerned about taking a clear selfie that showed enough of my tux that I didn't even think about whatever truth was all over my face.  If someone else took the picture, I can almost guarantee that I would have smiled.  When someone else is taking my picture (and I know it), I pose. However, this to me is the danger of social media: it's technology's version of something akin to the Hawthorne effect. The mere fact that we want to post or tweet something is to make the something a reflection of us.  Very few people really care about the meal we are getting ready to eat, but we certainly think they should.  For every "who remembers . . ." FB post, there are an equal numbers of "hell, yes," "ugh, yes," and "hell, no" responses.  Nothing in the world has particularly advanced.

It seems to me that advancing our society/world is the primary necessity right now.  All of the news about what is good, could be good, is drowned out by stories such as a Roseanne racist rant.  And we can't simply blame the media.  They go where the money goes.  And our money is going to the short and sweet world of tweets, posts and likes.

The ugliness in our society right now bothers me deeply, and should bother any educated person deeply.  As battle lines get drawn, any number of us seem ready to send in armies of clay; few seem prepared to send in doves.  The Roseanne supporters are lining up: Ted Nugent, Alex Jones, people who "want to be wise, but . . . rather be right," (one of those lines I wish I had written).  The fact that all of this plays out in the world of entertainment, including our politics, doesn't surprise me. After all, it is money, even more so than politics, that makes strange bedfellows, and ABC, Disney (which owns ABC), and the advertisers who lined up to sponsor Roseanne's rebooted show can't be surprised by the stain on their faces now. What surprises me are the people so willing to add their "stake to the kill."

You can hear the wonderful "Army of Clay" here.