Port: You can't just hit people

A column in which I do a thing that I don't like.

94th Academy Awards - Oscars Show - Hollywood
Will Smith, right, slaps Chris Rock as Rock spoke on stage during the 94th Academy Awards on Sunday in Los Angeles. Smith was reacting to a comment Rock made about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
Brian Snyder / Reuters
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MINOT, N.D. — Did you folks hear that Will Smith smacked Chris Rock right in the face on the stage at the Oscars?

It would be difficult to miss the news, frankly, but if you did, let me sum up: Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith going bald (she's talked openly about her medical condition) and Will Smith took exception, walking onstage and delivering an open-handed smack to a clearly stunned Rock.

Later Smith apologized, though notably not to Rock, who, per law enforcement, isn't pressing charges.

The impulse to extrapolate from the picayune dramas of pop culture a meaningful analysis of more important societal trends is probably one of my least favorite forms of punditry, but here I go anyway, because I do think there's a point here to be made.

Let me juxtapose Smith's ill-advised pugilism with something another A-list celebrity said recently. Sally Field, by way of objecting to abortion policies passed in Texas and Florida, warned the governors of those states, Republicans Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis, respectively, to steer clear of her.


"I cannot be responsible for what I would do," she told Variety .

It's easy to shrug off this sort of thing.

Bombastic political comments from Hollywood are not uncommon. Some of these stars are so vehement in their politics they'd make a right-wing talk radio host blush. Also, how likely is it that Fields would ever find herself in the same room as Abbott or DeSantis? Or that the diminutive septuagenarian would pose a threat to anyone if she were?

Still, these words matter, all the more when spoken by a high-profile person to an audience filled with people who might, hearing those words, feel inspired to actually do something should they be near the subjects of Fields's ire.

Gates and his trust will own the land, and the family who sold it to him will farm it, and that's all legal under the law.

And there's the rub, as Mr. Shakespeare once wrote.

Two of the most obnoxious trends in American discourse are the loss of shame and the increasing willingness to condone violent political tactics as long as they're perpetrated against the right sort of people.

Many of the people who cheered while some elements in the Black Lives Matter movement were torching police stations have been the loudest critics of the disgusting Jan. 6, 2021, attack on Congress, and vice versa. It's not uncommon to hear some conservative demagogue bemoan the supposed persecution of the Jan. 6 rioters while simultaneously expressing outrage at the violent excesses of racial justice demonstrators.

These hypocrisies are perpetrated without shame. Without any consideration that perhaps we ought to be consistent in our expectations of decent behavior.


That's a lot of weight to put on an anecdote about one man smacking another man in the gob for saying something untoward about his wife, I know, but we are living in a world where motorcycle enthusiasts were basically accused of mass homicide for attending the Sturgis rally in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic while many of the same commentators endorsed contemporaneous left-wing rallies , asking us to believe, I suppose, that viruses are less virulent when the politics at hand is to your liking.

Context matters, we're wont to say, and that's true, except that sometimes it doesn't.

Sometimes a thing is just wrong.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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