There have been quite a few social-media freakouts in the last couple of years, in which the following sequence has taken place: First, an event happens. Second, it’s assumed that there will be a massive backlash to that event, even though no such backlash actually occurs. Then, those with the opposite review of the phantom backlash proceed as though the backlash had actually been real and robust.
The latest incident of this kind took place last Monday night, when President Trump attended the college football national championship game in New Orleans. At one moment during the game, actor Vince Vaughn was seen sitting next to Trump and chatting with him briefly. The two talked while Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” played in the stadium and the crowd could be heard singing along.
Vaughn has been openly politically conservative for many years, talking about his libertarian streak in interviews going as far back as the early 2000s.
It’s not known what was said in the conversation, but we’re aware of it because Timothy Burke, a former Deadspin editor who’s known for quickly cutting video of amusing moments from sporting events and posting them, put a 30-second video on Twitter:
Throughout the night, various funny videos were made from the footage, including more than one featuring dialogue from Swingers, Wedding Crashers or other Vaughn movies placed over the video, to imply that he and Trump were acting out, say, the “kill the bunny” scene from Swingers.
But here’s what didn’t happen: The appearance of the video did not inspire large groups of prominent Democrats or Trump critics to call for Vaughn to be shunted from public life, for his movies to be pulled from cable or streaming services, or for the actor to be “cancelled.” In fact, it didn’t appear that even the most ardent Trump opponents were upset at Vaughn for speaking to the president.
The appearance of the video did not inspire large groups of prominent Democrats or Trump critics to call for Vaughn to be shunted from public life…
Between social media and Fox News, the Trump/Vaughn story got much more attention from conservatives anticipating or imagining a backlash than from any liberals actually upset that the actor and Trump talked to each other for a couple of minutes.
One of the tweets declaring, “I regret to inform you Vince Vaughn is CANCELED,” came not from a liberal willing that into existence, but a conservative journalist, Siraj A. Hashmi of The Washington Examiner who was mocking any such idea.
Fox News, amusingly, brought on conservative journalist Jamie Weinstein to discuss the “controversy,” and even he stated that Democrats “aren’t getting up in arms about this.” Indeed, it wasn’t like any of the Democratic presidential candidates weighed in or anything.
You’d think for the reaction, though, that Vaughn has suddenly come in for full-on blacklisting. Twitter search strings for “Vince Vaughn blacklisted” and “Vince Vaughn McCarthyism” both returned numerous results, and Vaughn can only be considered “cancelled” if “cancelled” is currently defined as “criticized by a handful people for a couple of days.” But not even that happened this time.
Vaughn has been openly politically conservative for many years, talking about his libertarian streak in interviews going as far back as the early 2000s. This doesn’t appear to have had any negative effect on his career, as he’s continued to be cast in high-profile projects for all of that time.
One of the unfortunate things about Twitter is that no matter how ridiculous an opinion is, you can always find someone who has it. But this, in particular, was yet another backlash to the backlash, in search of an original backlash.