Yesterday I checked my Twitter feed and learned that Roseanne Barr had finally blown herself up.
Up all night tweeting about Soros and Clinton conspiracy theories (including a bizarre exchange with the cool-headed Chelsea Clinton about whether her husband is a member of the Soros family), Barr capped off her literary output with a tweet aimed at Chicago businesswoman and former senior Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett: “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.” By two o’clock, Eastern Standard Time, she and several hundred other people working on her television show, Roseanne, were unemployed.
Shocking? Yes. Unexpected? No — not for anyone who has followed Barr for the last 30 years, and watched her slowly unravel since 2013. I’m not talking about her outspoken support for Donald Trump, which makes her unusual in the film and television industry, but not unique. It is her undiluted rage and attachment to the President’s fringiest partisans, their conspiracy theories, and their racism that has been a train wreck happening in slo-mo. A woman who, in 1990, broke about a million stereotypes about femininity by grabbing her crotch and spitting in front of a national audience, following one of the most tuneless renditions of the National Anthem ever, Barr’s views and social media persona have become indistinguishable from those of the average alt-right Internet troll.
The Jarrett tweet is not unprecedented either. On December 22, 2013, Barr tweeted that Obama National Security Advisor Susan Rice “is a man with big swinging ape balls.” She has spread and amplified some of the most noxious far-right conspiracy theories and memes in existence, including QAnon, a fictional government insider born on the 4chan message board; the Clinton family’s invented links to child sex trafficking and a “deep state” conspiracy to depose Trump; and an elaborate slander that George Soros, as an 11 year-old in Nazi-occupied Hungary, assisted in the murder of Jews and founded his fortune on their stolen wealth.
For whatever reason — and let me emphasize, Roseanne Barr was this person before ABC rebooted the show and has been posting weird tweets throughout the 2017-18 season — all hell broke loose in Hollywood yesterday. Perhaps it was because the writers were scheduled to return that day to begin Season 2 and this was the time to pull the plug if it was going to be pulled; or perhaps it was that key figures on the show were already unhappy with the star’s erratic behavior. Almost immediately after the Jarrett tweet, as ABC execs were in emergency meetings, consulting producer Wanda Sykes, an African American woman, announced on Twitter that she would “not be returning to @RoseanneOnABC.” Co-star Sarah Gilbert, who plays Barr’s daughter, tweeted that the views Barr had expressed that morning were “abhorrent and do not reflect the beliefs of our cast and crew or anyone associated with our show. I am disappointed in her actions to say the least.”
The famous and the non-famous jumped in, making it almost impossible for ABC to not act. British journalist Piers Morgan tweeted that Barr is “a vile racist imbecile.” Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, announced that there was no apology sincere enough to justify ABC “turning a blind eye to this bigotry and airing another second of her show.” And in a bizarre twist, only possible on social media, an old image purporting to be Roseanne Barr in a Hitler mustache taking “burnt `Jew cookies’” out of a large oven, acquired a new life as trolls from the left went on the attack. “These are not unfortunate misunderstandings,” one tweeter admonished. “This is who #RosanneBarr is.”
There’s nothing like fighting lies with lies, is there? Welcome to the Internet.
To read the rest of this post, with video clips and illustrations, go to Public Seminar, where this essay was originally published on May 30 2018.