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Showing posts with label Zeiterion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Zeiterion. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Lewinsky calls for online civility, will speak twice in South Coast Massachusetts this academic year

Goodman as Linda Tripp, Molly Shannon as Lewinsky, in
1998 (SNL). President Clinton's escapades were good business
for SNL, which released a Best Of collection in 1999.

Monica Lewinsky has become a public figure in a whole new light in recent years, leaving behind the scandal that took her name, rather than his, mostly to differentiate scandals.  As Time put it, "Monica Lewinsky" was once the butt of a joke, many jokes.  John Goodman playing Linda Tripp (see WaPo reemergence in 2018) made for instant-classic Saturday Night Live bits (see Tripp's later perspective and a brief recollection with Goodman).

The world has changed, #MeToo, and Lewinsky figures into it differently today.  She has described herself as an original victim of cyber-bullying, before it was a thing.  Aptly, she's become an outspoken advocate against it, and a mite more effective in that capacity than the present First Lady.  Lewinsky broke her relative silence in Vanity Fair in 2014 and subsequently became a VF contributor and Twitter personality.  John Oliver interviewed her on Last Week Tonight in his excellent program on "public shaming" (below) (cf. Jon Ronson's definitive 2016 treatment of the subject in his book, So You've Been Publicly Shamed, featured here on The Savory Tort in 2017).


Apparently Lewinsky's "second act" is only getting going.  Among her many projects, she is contributing to the fall 2020 season of American Crime Story, on FX, The Hill reported, in which Sarah Paulson will play Linda Tripp decidedly more darkly than John Goodman did.  Meanwhile on stage, Lewinsky has become an advocate for online civility.  Building on her 2015 TED talk, The Price of Shame, she's booked into an aggressive public speaking agenda.


I can't help but find Lewinsky to be a compelling figure.  Aside from her curious, mostly involuntary role in American history, she embodies the mass media's power to destroy reputations with the impunity the First Amendment affords.  Yet her story unfolded in the highest of political arenas, the American executive office, in which First Amendment values are most urgently implicated, and First Amendment absolutism is most persuasively justified.  Whatever the merits of the case that shaped her perspective, she shares today a meritorious message: If the internet can be tamed, to do more good than harm, it will be by people and their choices, not by law and regulation.

Lewinsky is slated to speak in South Coast Massachusetts in fall and spring.  On October 17, 2019, Lewinsky will give an endowed lecture at Bridgewater College (more from WHSV).  On May 15, 2020, Lewinsky will speak in the New Bedford (Massachusetts) Lyceum at the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center ("the Z"); tickets are on sale now.


Sunday, April 7, 2019

W. Kamau Bell solves racism.
Or at least makes some progress....


My wife and I were privileged last night to see W. Kamau Bell speak at the Zeiterion Theatre in New Bedford, the show part of the New Bedford Lyceum.  (Also in the audience: our friends, colleague Professor Justine Dunlap and UMass Law alumni City Councilman Hugh Dunn and attorney and radio host Marcus Ferro.)  Bell is a comedian, but at the same time, most definitely a social activist, performing through multiple media, including television, podcasts, and books.  He is most familiar to me from his Emmy-winning show on CNN, United Shades of America, which returns to the small screen with its season 4 premiere, about megachurches, on April 28 (cordcutters pay per episode).

Tongue in cheek, Bell titled his show at the Zeiterion, "The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour," a play on the title of the controversial 1994 book, The Bell Curve, by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray.  Bell's essential thesis is that race is a construct, but, nevertheless, one we have to pay attention to.  Bell aims "to dismantle racism," but not race, which he believes can be turned into a constructive concept for the good of society as a whole.  Any effort on my part to summarize Bell's approach beyond that point would be inevitably inadequate.  Suffice to say, he works toward his mission with a brilliant combination of observational hilarity, multimedia presentation, and sharing
Outside 'the Z'
about his own life and family.  He does not ask that everyone agree with him on every point, he admonishes.  Rather, he has accomplished enough if people are moved to engage in meaningful dialog about race and social justice, which surely they must be.

The Zeiterion Theatre, or "the Z," is a classic building in old, cobblestoned New Bedford, Massachusetts, opened in 1923 to host vaudeville acts.  Its fortunes have waxed and waned with the history of working-class New Bedford.  The New Bedford Lyceum is a community cultural organization that dates to the city's whaling heyday.  Founded in 1828, Lyceum lectures and events aimed for “the improvement of its members in useful knowledge and the advancement of popular education.”  The Lyceum was disbanded in 1905, but revitalized by New Bedford leaders in 2016.

Bell was a smart choice to fulfill the Lyceum's public-educational mission.  New Bedford has an unusually (for not-Boston, Massachusetts) diverse population in terms of race and economic class, leading inevitably in our trying times to social tension and painfully obvious stratification.  City leaders—such as Councilman Dunn and UMass Law alumna Mali Lim, city coordinator for community education—work mightily to keep the peace, and, moreover, turn tension and diversity into productive community identity.  Bell's lecture at the Z was preceded by four public screenings and discussions in New Bedford and the surrounding area, one at UMass Dartmouth, each reflecting on a theme from Bell's CNN work.