I agree with pretty much everything Trevor Noah says in the video excerpt below, in his “off air” response to a question about Liam Neeson’s mid-interview admission to a knee-jerk racist reaction to a dark moment in his and a friend’s past.
Context spoiled whatever Neeson’s intent was in making this admission. He needed to be saying this to somebody who would push him and push back and get at what he intended his message to be.
That’s why canceling your appearance on Colbert, Liam, was a mistake.
I’ve interviewed Neeson once or twice, but such situations don’t let you really “know” the movie star/filmmaker you’re talking to. Can’t say if I think he’s racist or not. Actors are, broadly speaking, not idiots but wholly capable of sticking their foot in it in a clumsy moment “off script.”
But as he was speaking about a low point in a friend who had been raped’s past and his reaction to it 40 years ago, trying to suggest what blind revenge is like, I was hearing a not just a monstrously hateful thought that wasn’t acted on, and racist to boo, but a fellow trying to give fair value in an interview by confessing to how blinding the rage impulse can be.
I wasn’t forgetting the actor used to be a boxer, a man of violence and brutish belligerence.
So I’m inclined to give this my Samuel L. Jackson Touchstone Test.
How would we react if this had been the outspoken Samuel L., recalling the race-based rage he needed to summon up for say, his character in “A Time to Kill?” I”ve picked up the odd bit of race baiting/tetchiness from Samuel L. a few times (in interviews) over the years.
Suppose it was Samuel L. saying something racist and murderous about dark thoughts from his distant past in an interview? This story would have had a half-life of 15 minutes, or a full day’s attention on Fox News.
Listen to Noah’s off-the-cuff response and decide whether or not this is a “Let’s move on” moment. I think it is.