The American comedian Jimmy Kimmel has come under fire, not so much for what he said while hosting this year’s Oscars, but instead due to the transformation of his public persona (and perhaps his personal beliefs too) from that of an outwardly libertarian, beer drinking, girl watching prankster, to the so-called politically correct, news reading, anti-gun, pro-feminist, anti-Russian public personality he is today. Kimmel became famous in his own right when he and Adam Carolla hosted The Man Show between 1999 and 2003. The Man Show used down to earth ‘man style’ comedy, complete with free flowing glasses of beer and dancing girls to lampoon the creeping politically correct movement of the era, while aspiring towards a more libertarian outlook that Carolla still retains, as evidenced by his comments on his currently popular podcast.
I personally have little interest in whether Jimmy Kimmel’s transformation is a product of market research or the product of a man who has changed part of his personal outlook on life. The reason I have little interest in this is that it is neither a crime to change one’s mind, nor is it a crime for an entertainer to change his stage persona. What is worrying though is that many of his critics think that he should somehow be punished in 2018 for the comedy he produced in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This criticism comes from extremists of a generally so-called “feminist” persuasion who don’t even entertain the possibility that Kimmel has either changed his views of the past or that his ‘views’ of the past were simply a harmless act. By contrast, as recent comments on videos of his old Man Show clips reveal, admirers of his former work are more disappointed than enraged. Crucially, none of the fans of the Man Show have stated that Kimmel should be punished for ‘abandoning’ their viewpoint and outlook on what is and isn’t comedic. Clearly, Man Show fans are a less fanatical bunch than so-called ‘social justice warrior’ aficionados.
This provides a lesson that is equally important in business dealings, interpersonal relationships and diplomacy. It is impossible to negotiate with fanatics. Whether in religious or secular fields, if someone believes that their particular point of view is anointed, sacred, superior, exceptional or transcendent of logic, they are unwilling to even entertain another view point and when they get really pumped up, they want to censor other viewpoints, as though they are the self-appointed tyrants of a dictatorial state. In this sense, it is far easier to negotiate, hold discussions with and eventually compromise with someone who doesn’t necessarily believe everything he says, than someone who does. In this sense, one man’s definition of hypocrisy could as easily be re-defined as flexibility. Ultimately, like with most things in life, the difference between hypocrisy and flexibility is a matter of degree. Of course, fanatics don’t accept matters of degree – for them it is all or nothing and it usually boils down to ‘all for me and my supporters and none for you and those similar to you’. There are also individuals who are true to their beliefs, but still keep an open mind and are willing to compromise and negotiate for the pragmatic good. Such blissfully sane people are as rare as they are to be treasured.
When it comes to dealing with political figures, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping have proved themselves to be the antithesis of fanaticism. There are few governments and leaders on earth whom the leaders of Russia and China will not engage with, even if they know that they might only get a small percentage of what they initially desired out of the conversation. The result has been that Russia and China are stronger with leaders like Xi and Putin than they were in the past. Compromise, open-minded negotiations and an understanding of reality works – fanaticism does not work unless bloodshed and strife is a preferred method of getting what one wants.
By contrast, the attitude of the US government which sets impossibly high preconditions for talks with the DPRK, is unwilling to speak to Iran respectfully about the JCPOA, discards Palestinian grievances at every turn and backs extremists in Syria, is simply not doing as well geopolitically as are countries like Russia and China whose leaders understand that the real art of the deal isn’t the art of bullying, but the art of careful balance and eventual compromise.
In a more balanced society, Jimmy Kimmel’s public transformation fro Man Show host to “social justice warrior” Oscar host would not be a matter of emotions and rage, it would just be a matter of observation followed by a statement regarding which Kimmel one likes best. Interestingly, the libertarian minded fans of the Man Show are far more easy going when criticising the Kimmel of 2018 than are the self-styled feminists who think that telling fart jokes, looking at dancing girls and playing a game of ‘guess what’s in my pants’ is some sort of crime against humanity. It is these people, not the Kimmel of 1999 or of 2018 that are the fanatics.
Jimmy Kimmel can reinvent himself as many times as Madonna so far as it matters and so too can his fans and critics. What is worrying is when people want to deprive someone of the right to say what they want to say, rather than simply exercise the right to say something different and crucially, the right to listen to something different. If someone hates the Man Show so, so much and cannot bear to look at Jimmy Kimmel as a result, the Rachel Maddow show is available for you to watch and there are plenty of Janis Ian albums to listen to as well. For those who prefer the Man Show, one is free to watch old episodes or listen to Kimmel’s former co-host Adam Carolla who is holding down the libertarian fort on a daily basis, for all its virtues and vices. This would be a simple argument, except in a society that has collectively lost its mind and surrendered to fanaticism.