Can you be too rich to be canceled?
The best part about having money, besides having money, is that people pretend to like you. All kinds of bad behavior, from crowd ties to endangered species hunting, are ignored. The performing arts centers are named after philanthropists whose political views offend the spectators inside. Jeffrey Epstein was again greeted in the evenings after serving time for procuring an underage prostitute. Hall & Oates explained it in 1977, when they sang, “You’re a rich girl, and you’ve gone too far, because you know it doesn’t matter anyway.”
Dave Portnoy, the founder of Barstool Sports, who estimates his own fortune at $ 100 million, was arrested in June by former ESPN host Jemele Hill for saying Colin Kaepernick looked like an ISIS fighter and defending one of his vendors for wearing blackface at a Halloween party. “I am big. You are small. I cancel you,” he replied. “I am not cancelable.
But at a time when the statues of George Washington are being demolished, is this still true? Back in early 2016 the New York Times profiled billionaire David Geffen, then 73rd on Forbesfrom the list of the richest people in the world, and he casually told the newspaper “write whatever you want.” This year, after posting a photo of himself and his crew of 45 aboard his $ 590 million yacht escaping virus infested shores, he responded to the backlash by apparently deleting his Instagram account . (It’s back online now.)
Social networks have changed the rules. In July, New York Times columnist Charles Blow responded to an open letter in Harper’s gently criticizing the cancellation culture (signed by thinkers such as Margaret Atwood, Garry Kasparov, Gloria Steinem and Cornel West) by tweeting: “The rich and powerful are just upset that the masses can now organize their dissent.”
Even Ellen DeGeneres, esteemed by Forbes to have $ 330 million and by America as being super nice, was threatened with cancellation. In March, a comedian asked Twitter users “the craziest stories you’ve heard about Ellen’s meanness.” Three thousand responses later, in July Buzzfeed posted an article in which former employees anonymously complained about a hostile workplace in which producers yelled, racially micro-aggressively, and groped employees. DeGeneres apologized to his staff and fired the three best producers of the series.
Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5WPR, a public relations agency that often deals with wealthy people with big problems, has seen social media reduce the ability of money to isolate. “Bill Gates is the ultimate billionaire who does good to the world. If Bill Gates is filmed saying [something terrible], you better believe he’s facing an undo culture. He could keep his 66,000 square foot home (24 bathrooms, six kitchens, one trampoline room), but he would be alone.
Social shame on the Internet is seeping into everyone’s life. “We represent billionaires who don’t care what the media says about them, but they care what their mistresses, wives and families think,” Torossian said. Although, honestly, they also care what the media says about them. Torossian knows this, because they pay him a lot of money to take care of them. “I work for several people on the Forbes listing. I cannot say how many times they wanted to threaten or investigate journalists. There is very little people on the Forbes 400 list which are passive pushovers.
They lose the fight in a way that they are not used to. “Jeffrey Epstein was isolated from responsibility for decades, until he conveniently died in this New York prison. I’m not sure there is anything that can permanently isolate you, ”says Loretta Ross, visiting associate professor in the study of women and gender at Smith College who signed the agreement. Harper’s open letter. “Bill Clinton will never regain his pre-Monica cachet.” She thinks we should empathize with the culprits on social media, even if they can afford Torossian. “I’m not assuming that because someone is rich they haven’t suffered,” says Ross, who is finishing a book called Call for a culture of appeal: detoxifying our human rights movement.
Alice Dreger, author and former professor of bioethics and medical history at Northwestern University who was canceled for some of her work on trans studies, has since heard from about 100 people who are going through a similar experience. She worries that some wealthy people don’t have strong personal networks to turn to to ease their identity crisis. “People who have homes in the Hamptons, is it possible that they don’t have a garden to maintain,” she asks. “Is it possible to have such performance-oriented lives and be everywhere all the time that they don’t have a home with friends?” “
She even worries about billionaire JK Rowling Harry potter the author who signed it Harper’s letter after being denounced by stars of the Harry potter films and an army of fans of the books for an essay she wrote differentiating trans women from biological women. “Does this affect his psychology?” I suspect so. It’s very unpleasant to see your fans turn on you.
(Indeed: in August, Rowling presented him with his 2019 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award after Foundation Director Kerry Kennedy wrote: “JK Rowling’s attacks on the transgender community are incompatible with the core beliefs and values of RFK Human Rights and represent a repudiation of my father’s vision. “)
Still, Dreger says the rich have a better chance of surviving an attack. “When several people tried to cancel me, one of the first things I thought about was, ‘My husband has a job and can pay the rent and I can get his insurance,” she says. Expensive fences always make good neighbors, so you can throw your own parties when your invitations run dry. Last year, Warren Kanders (Forbes estimated net worth: $ 700 million) left the board of the Whitney Museum of American Art after activists protested that his company, Safariland, sold tear gas to law enforcement.
But if he doesn’t attend Whitney’s board meetings, Kanders hasn’t been shunned by the art world. “He can be nudged by Brown’s students, but Warren Kanders is still in Sant Ambroeus,” says Nate Freeman, columnist for Artnet. “He’s at dinners for the artists he collects. The dealers have in no way cut it.
Meredith Clark, assistant professor of Black Experiences in American Media at the University of Virginia, thinks Barstool Sports founder Portnoy is right when he says megariches are always impossible to undo. Rowling, after all, doubled her stake by publishing another essay in July on the difference between trans women and biological women. “JK Rowling is definitely isolated because of her wealth. You’ve even seen people like Daniel Radcliffe say he can’t be aligned with her, and she still holds up,” Clark says. Kanye West was called off for numerous offenses (implying slavery was a choice, supporting Trump, misogynistic talk, being mean to Taylor Swift), but he just made a deal with the Gap. Jeff Bezos has been called several times for mistreating employees, but it appears to be coated with a reasonably priced teflon which can be shipped for free in just two days.
Even though Bezos is ultimately shunned, social capital is too high in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to make Clark feel bad for shaming those with seven zeros in their accounts. “There is a huge difference in privilege between being rich and being canceled and being canceled for an ordinary person. As a teacher with five figure student loans, credit card loans, not having kids because I can’t afford it – if I’m canceled before I get tenured, that’s it me. There is no question of moving and starting my life in another country.
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