‘Cancel culture encapsulated’: Maher says Will Smith ‘like the Twitter mob come alive’ with Oscars slap

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Commentary on the slapping incident between Will Smith and Chris Rock at the Oscars on Sunday continues, as pundits scramble to weigh in on the drama while there’s still time to ride the publicity coattails.

One of the more recent hot takes, among the thousands already out there, is from Bill Maher, host of “Real Time” on HBO, who decided to try his hand at framing the incident in the context of “cancel culture,” similar to one of Twitter’s routine bursts of indignant outrage, the New York Post reported.

Maher started out by saying he didn’t think the slap was a particularly good move by Smith, even if Maher could understand the pressure Smith was probably under.

“I could make a case that we’ve all be under a lot of pressure and a lot of emotion — and I understand a lot of emotion running through him,” Maher said, speaking to TMZ.

Smith has allegedly been under a great deal of strain, according to anonymous sources cited by the New York Post, reportedly due to several years of ridicule over the “open marriage” he and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith have. The slapping incident certainly hasn’t helped, as snarky jokes go round and round about it not being okay to joke about his wife, but it is okay to sleep with her.

However, Maher then drew parallels to how he believed cancel culture silences individuals, and compared Smith to one of Twitter’s famous angry digital lynch mobs, going from private amusement to public indignation and wrath.

“But that was just out of line and it re-enforced the idea that jokes are the enemy. It was sort of like cancel culture encapsulated, because at first, you saw he was laughing at the joke, right? This is what happens a lot with cancel stuff. At first: ‘Oh, it’s funny.’ And then you look around: ‘Oh wait, I’m supposed to be offended.’ And then there’s the overreaction. He was like the Twitter mob come alive.”

Maher had very different words, however, for Rock, who did not retaliate in kind, and was praised by Maher for staying focused and continuing with the awards despite being slapped live on national television, saying “Chris Rock is the hero here.” Rock has declined to press charges against Smith.

Smith, meanwhile, is facing an inquiry from the Academy, who have revealed that they considered removing Smith from the Oscars then and there. Smith went on to apologize at the Oscars when accepting his award for Best Actor. Smith took to Instagram to apologize once more and to address Rock:


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Will Smith (@willsmith)

At the time of writing, Smith has received widespread criticism for his actions but is not facing criminal charges for assault.


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