Verbal Abuse in the News and the Arts

Verbal Abuse in the News and the Arts

By Patricia Evans

A highly talented and skilled musician who denigrates people and a highly talented and skilled coach who denigrates people have both made the news. These people have a right to free speech, but the public has a right to choose not to support them.

Unfortunately, some people have placed talent and skill and a stance of superiority above human respect and dignity. They’ve supported the musician and the coach. Winning over others or imagining themselves to be superior to others appears to be more important to these people than high regard and respect for others.

To overlook the verbal abuse of individuals and groups for the sake of maintaining an illusion of superiority or a chance to win a game is to put power-over tactics above people. The segment of our culture that condones the diminishing of others, supports it, in fact, is as unconscious or sick as those who perpetrate the abuse.

No doubt some people have not even thought about what they stand for nor about their personal values, nor the values that they teach their children. But anyone interested in lessening human suffering knows that the disparagement of one person diminishes us all. And most human suffering is brought about by other humans.

TV and Movies
Just as if laughing at verbal abuse will make it go away, some comedy shows make a mockery, a joke, of verbal abuse. Verbal abuse becomes a “game”—a clever and competitive repertoire. Unlike real life, the actors know it’s only a game—after all, they’re acting. Some people, however, in their real life, accept it as a norm to be emulated and believe they should “take it” as though it were a game. One of the most well known shows that presented verbal abuse as if it were funny was “All in the Family.” Archie Bunker was the tyrant and bigot and the rest of the family walked on egg shells. His wife Edith succumbed to his control tactics and appeared increasingly distraught as the show progressed. Thankfully, it’s no longer part of prime time. But other shows are.

In contrast to the normalization of verbal abuse, the movie “Affliction” shows the impact of verbal abuse through generations and enlightens the audience to its devastating consequences.

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