A Slap in the Face

The United States has just spent the last two decades fighting a series of ruinous wars, has created a million-person refugee crisis in Afghanistan, and is now fixated on the prospect of supporting a proxy war in Eastern Europe that might well go nuclear. So what, in the midst of all this, has genuinely engaged the country’s moral attention? The sight of Will Smith slapping Chris Rock during the Academy Awards. The idea of endless warfare, even the elevated risk of nuclear warfare, is righteously taken for granted. Meanwhile, Will Smith has become the poster boy for deranged, untethered violence. That moral inversion, it seems to me, is a more consequential slap in the face than the one Smith planted on Chris Rock’s cheek. But try to get anyone to notice.

3 thoughts on “A Slap in the Face

  1. Two men express their outrage in public. One slaps somebody and yells profanity. The other calls for a violent insurrection that could easily lead to civil war and mass death. The first is universally condemned, psychoanalyzed, and shamed. The second is widely regarded as having shown “strength.” A double standard, or an expression of profound moral discernment?


    I figure you know my answer.


  2. Can’t count (or stomach) the number of arguments I’ve seen involving this inference:

    (1) Will Smith’s slapping Chris Rock was clearly unjustified.


    (2) The moral status of Chris Rock’s joke was utterly unclear.

    The assumption seems to be that moral skepticism about the character of the joke is the only epistemic safeguard of confidence in (1).

    A variant:

    (1) Smith’s slapping Rock was clearly unjustified.


    (2*) Morally speaking, Rock’s joke was the lesser offense.

    Doesn’t follow, isn’t obviously true, and isn’t logically or epistemically necessary for confidence in (1). But widely believed, apparently.


  3. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen children smacked in the face, in public, for back-talk to their parents– without so much as a raised eyebrow from people in the vicinity, much less a call to the police, or the kind of outrage that’s been generated by Will Smith’s “slap heard around the world.”

    This link below describes how the State of New York defines “child abuse.” It would obviously would take more than a single slap in the face of a child (no matter how young) for an act to qualify as “child abuse.” Evidently, the fact that kids regularly get the shit kicked out of them for doing much less than Chris Rock doesn’t register on very many people in this country, but Will Smith’s hitting Chris Rock does. Call it “whataboutism” if you want, but it seems a natural response to the total insanity of the response to this incident.




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