Actor and super person Ben Affleck asked PBS to censor their documentary series Finding Your Roots where they revealed Affleck had an ancestor that owned slaves. Finding Your Roots is designed to inform white celebrities that their great-great-great-grand uncle ran a plantation and perhaps it’s time for a big fucking I’m So So Sorry for the camera. The show is hosted by Henry Louis Gates who you don’t know until I tell you he was the guy who got busted breaking into his own house several years ago requiring a ‘beer summit’ at the white house between Gates, the cop, and President Obama. That was super fucking embarrassing which is why we’ve all chosen to forget it.
Gates previously slave shamed Anderson Cooper and Ken Burns who both got to apologize on behalf of people they never met for lacking progressive thinking in the 1840’s. Affleck decided the appropriate course of action was to request on Garner-Affleck stationery that his slave owner family shame be edited out of the show prior to airing. Gates asked his inside Hollywood buddy, Sony Chief Michael Lynton, for his advice on what to do with Affleck’s request. Gates noted how horrible it would look for the PBS news brand and himself if he bowed to the request. Lynton let him in on a little trade secret: fuck your integrity, fuck PBS, grow up, this is Batman.
I would take it out if no one knows, but if it gets out that you are editing the material based on this kind of sensitivity then it gets tricky. Again, all things being equal I would definitely take it out.
By the time any journalist is asking if he should selectively censor content he’s just asking for a confirm to do the wrong thing. Everybody looks shitty in this story, except for perhaps Affleck’s slave owning ancestor who at least didn’t try to hide what he was. Life is full of ironies.
Gates issued a long form rationalization for why it made sense to focus on other parts of Affleck’s ancestors, like the less interesting less controversial and more heroic positive ones. I wouldn’t bother reading it unless you’re looking for a lesson in how to use long paragraphs to lie. PBS also issued a statement supporting Gates decision because now everybody is looking to cover their ass. You don’t get fifty more years of tax payer funded Big Bird if you start publicly admitting you’re full of shit.
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