Jeffery Toobin And Cancel Culture

Words:  920

Today’s Pontificate –  This last week we learned of yet another celeb-of-sorts dangling a bit too many participles on a vidcam to the world.  What usually follows is the almost predictable late night jokes and public judgement that can change careers.  Sometimes justifiable… sometimes, uh… questionable.


About the only thing good for Toobin is that he is not universally popular to the mainstream public and the current news cycle has no interest in this kind of gossip given Biden, Trump, the pandemic, etc.  In fact, I’m only making a post on it simply to highlight the national trend for applying the Scarlet Letter to careers of those who do stupid things the public does not like.  Arguably some of these “events” warrant legal and moral scrutiny when they occur but people are generally more than a singular incidence.  Generally speaking, the reason celebs and political personages who end up in these situations end up being cast into the wilderness of some non-person status is because of there notable past achievements and accomplishments that originally distinguished them and garnered our respect.  To do something “stupid” that can be morally and practically, if not legally, chastised tends to violate a moral trust that we gave them in having respect for who they are.  We feel violated.

Ok.. to get everyone up to speed on what happened here, check out this link….. click here.  It seems Toobin forgot to close his video cam during a Zoom call with the New Yorker and station WYNC, and proceeded to expose himself, presumably on another video call, and masturbated.  Ooops.  (I’m guessing sometime soon there will be an inclusive setting with Zoom likely called the “Toobin button” that kills video when one minimizes the Zoom screen.)   It seems people close to Toobin and understanding the event are of the opinion that indeed there was no intent to shock & awe anyone other than the person(s) on the off-Zoom call.  No underage nonsense is being considered; no laws broken… no apparent #MeToo accusations.  He has said…..

“When the incident happened in October”, Toobin said in a statement, “I made an embarrassingly stupid mistake, believing I was off-camera. I apologize to my wife, family, friends and co-workers.”
“I believed I was not visible on Zoom,” he added. “I thought no one on the Zoom call could see me. I thought I had muted the Zoom video.”

While I might hesitate that this seemed.. um.. an innocent enough mistake that could have happened to any of us.. let’s just settle in with the idea that likely most of us can relate to the feeling of the universal embarrassment he might be feeling, although not necessarily relate to getting caught in what he was doing.  I mean.. it’s easy to imagine minimizing a Zoom call then picking your nose, only to find you’ve shared that with the chairman of the board and all the members.  In Toobin’s case his long time association with the New Yorker magazine has been terminated following an HR investigation into the event.  I am sure it was a completely business decision given Toobin’s highly visual reputation as a legal authority, having written a number of books.  Rather tough to sell magazines when the customers have doubts about a major writing contributor of Toobin’s caliber.  I don’t fault the New Yorker at all.  In the real world seemingly “innocent” mistakes can have consequences.  So far his stint on CNN is up in the air and he’s got some time off.  I don’t give him much hope there either.  I personally very much liked his legal interpretations and interactions and he seemed to have a number of acquaintances across the legal community.

Now it all depends how far the public wants to shun him.  The typical Wiki definition of cancel culture reads this way… “Cancel culture (or call-out culture) is a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles online on social media, in the real world, or both.”  Yet to a large percentage of the public the Toobin incident is simply yet another in a long line of male celebs doing “sex stuff” on the PC, likely to some “victim”.  The details don’t matter.  But the problem with a public so ready to believe the “bad” in someone they once trusted rather places a stigma that isn’t always warranted.  Now the over-riding question is are there times when we might very well be throwing out the baby with the bath water in our zest and zeal to cast folks into the wilderness of the forgotten.

For example, in Toobin’s case his embarrassing act does not one bit change the accomplished person that he became in the legal community.  It does not one bit cast doubt on his trustworthiness or abilities to communicate in writing or verbally interpretations of the legal process.  One might question his technical mouse-moving finesse, but that’s not his profession for which he is/was respected.  But very often the “cancel culture” is invoked based on rumor and innuendo.  It’s the current fear of males being left alone in a room with a female.  Just the accusations, unproven as they may be, is enough to destroy a career.

Toobin will just have to suck it up and get back into the fray and let time diminish the public’s recollection. As I previously said, the current news cycle doesn’t care one bit what Toobin did and after the late night jokes it will all be forgotten.  Maybe.Now What?



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