Anyone who has ever read Dickens’s "A Tale of Two Cities" or seen one of its many film iterations can easily picture the French Revolutionary Tribunal, hissing and snarling as it hands down its verdicts from which there is no appeal and death the only penalty:
“At every juryman’s vote, there was a roar. Another and another. Roar and roar. Unanimously voted…. an enemy of the Republic, a notorious oppressor of the People. Death within four-and-twenty hours!”
The latest enemies of the republic to be served-up to the roaring masses are actors Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman. We are told that these two greased the skids of college admissions a bit too generously. But don’t you worry. Our intrepid and heavily armed federal authorities are on the case.
According to reports, the manhunt for Huffman ended last week when FBI agents, with guns drawn, caught the Academy Award-nominee at her home. Huffman was led away in shackles. Loughlin, the cleverer of the two, evaded immediate capture because she was not at home. Fortunately for us all, Loughlin, whose good looks mask an evil criminal mind, turned herself in.
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If the headlines and social media are any indication, it would seem so. The reaction from the hissing masses, swift and full of vitriol as it is, has been breathtaking in its judgments.
Over at Fox News they published a piece on Loughlin and Huffman that caught my eye. It suggests a “behavioral disorder” might be responsible for their foul deeds. In it, Psychotherapist Robi Ludwig says: “Lori Loughlin’s friends describe her as very image-conscious and an extremely ambitious parent who enjoyed talking about her children’s successes and strengths. These friends also said it was important for Loughlin to present herself as a well-rounded woman who ‘had it all’ and ‘had it all together.’”
Really? This describes many of the people and parents I know. I would describe them as anxious and gripped by a phenomenon long known as keeping up with the Joneses. It’s just that the Joneses they are trying to keep up with live in Beverly Hills.
Do these parents have mental diseases?
But from these slender indications, Ludwig sees something much more sinister. She speculates that the actress and the many others caught up in this scandal may have a “type of pathological narcissism” that is “triggered by celebrity, wealth, and fame.” In the age of selfies, I don’t think self-obsession is limited to celebrities. We are a narcissistic culture.
Many others are no less indignant even if they have not suggested mental illness.
Jennifer Kay Toy, a California mother, has taken aim at these actors and other elites, leveling a $500 billion class action lawsuit. That’s $1 million for every dollar Loughlin paid to get her daughters into USC.
Rita Wilson, wife of star Tom Hanks, called the scandal “disturbing.”
Last week, USA Today gave a nice summary of what these women are alleged — an important word being left out of these discussions — to have done. Read the allegations and see if they rise to the level of “disturbing.”
Disturbing is a word I might use for, say, the murder of fifty people in a New Zealand mosque, third-trimester abortions, or a Texas mom who attempted to bump off a cheerleader's mother because of the competition between their daughters. Huffman and Loughlin are moms who are doing what many mothers and fathers have been doing, in one form or another, for generations, distasteful as it is.
We relish tearing down celebrities
But that didn’t stop U.S. Magistrate Judge Steve Kim from appeasing the masses and setting bail for Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, at $1 million each last week in Los Angeles federal court. (California’s median bail, the highest in the nation, is $50,000.)
Elsewhere, the fallout has been significant. The Hallmark Channel cut ties with Lori Loughlin and daughter Olivia Jade lost her endorsement deal with Sephora. Huffman stands to lose her role in an upcoming Netflix series.
Perhaps I am missing something, but all this strikes me as a bit over the top.
My point isn’t that these people are innocent. I have no idea. Due process of law has not yet run its course. Nor am I saying there shouldn’t be consequences if they are found guilty. Rather, my point is that they could scarcely be treated worse if they were serial killers.
And that leads me to this: maybe the masses are pouring out their venom on these people because they are rich, attractive, and successful, and now that we have reason to believe they may have achieved it by dubious means, we relish the opportunity to tear them down to satisfy our envy.
Mental illnesses aside, self-righteousness is certainly part of the human condition. To see the misery of others, to bring them down — especially the rich, beautiful, or popular — is to feel better about ourselves. I am reminded of Russian proverb: “The tallest blade of grass is the first to be cut by the scythe.”
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Give them a break: Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman deserve less anger in admission scandal