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Justice and Fairness

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It has become a bit fashionable among the social conservative commentariat to point out the essential inequity between the cancellation of Roseanne Barr’s show and the “an apology is enough” direction that Samantha Bee’s show seems to be taking after her entirely unacceptable and heinous statement regarding Ivanka Trump.  In other words, “It’s not fair” that “Roseanne” was cancelled but “Full Frontal” was not.

That’s a fine bit of childish reasoning.  “Mommy, it’s not fair that Tommy gets 14 Transformers and I only have 12.”  But we are not children.  Simply put, fairness is about equality in the application of the law and justice is about the law itself.  In both these cases, we are not actually taking about law, we are talking about social standards which are a code of conduct.  Nonetheless, before we can determine if the situations are fair, we have to decide what the code is that applies.  It would appear that the president is right, the situations are not being handled equitably, therefore, there is a double standard.  But that assumes the standard is arbitrary and all that matters is equal application because the standard, apparently, was established by the the situation immediately prior.  But what if we compare both situations to an actual common standard?

I have already argued that the handling of the Roseanne Barr situation was unjust.  I did so based on the fact that the consequences suffered reached much farther than Ms. Barr, affecting the livelihoods of hundreds of people,  It should be remembered that as nasty as Ms. Barr’s comments were, they were made on her own time, on her personal Twitter account.  Ms. Barr and Ms. Barr alone is culpable.  There was no compelling reason that the consequences should have extended any farther than Ms. Barr personally.  Samantha Bee, is a very different story.

Samantha Bee’s obscene comment was made on air.  That means it cleared the writing staff, the producing staff, the directors, the editors, the distributors and the camera and sound people that did the take.  In other words, Samantha Bee’s comments were the product of the entire operation, not purely Ms. Bee herself.  In the Samantha Bee case culpability is shared throughout the production company and the distributing network.  For justice to be served in this situation, the entire operation must suffer consequences.  Ms. Bee’s apology is only one small part of the total picture.  At a bare minimum apologies should be forthcoming from everyone involved, individually and corporately.

If all we seek is “fairness,” and “Full Frontal” is therefore cancelled, justice would be served in the Samantha Bee situation but the Roseanne situation would remain unjust.  Thus it is not really fair at all – for justice has been inequitably served.  That’s why we must first concern ourselves with justice before we concern ourselves with fairness.  Fairness matters to be sure.  Justice, unfairly applied, results in greater injustice.  That’s the real problem in the comparison of Ms. Bee and Ms. Barr.  For justice to be truly and fairly served, not only should “Full Frontal” be cancelled, but “Roseanne” should be restored, albeit with some grave personal consequence to Ms. Barr herself.

To argue for “fairness” in the fashion I have seen over the last 36 hours or so is to fall into a childish and liberal mindset.  Much of liberal thinking springs from considering fairness before justice.  When we do the same thing we are letting our opponents choose the battleground and the rules of engagement.

God craves justice, as should we.

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