By Simon Gonzalez
The shortest conflict in world history was the Anglo-Zanzibar War in 1896. When a new sultan deemed insufficiently friendly to British interests refused to step down, a contingent from the Royal Navy sailed into the harbor and commenced a bombardment. The sultan surrendered 38 minutes later.
Then there was the Football War between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969. Tensions between the countries that sparked rioting during World Cup qualifying matches became an all-out conflict when the Salvadoran military attacked. A ceasefire took effect some 100 hours later.
Now comes the Three Day Social Media War between New Hanover County Commissioner Woody White and comedian Whoopi Goldberg.
White fired the first salvo at his unsuspecting foe Jan. 4, the day after Cape Fear Community College announced Goldberg’s appearance at the Wilson Center scheduled for June 23. The commissioner took to Facebook to wonder whether taxpayers were subsidizing the performer’s appearance, and whether, given Goldberg’s liberal political views, CFCC would be balancing the scales by inviting a conservative.
“Personally, I think having her here is a horrible idea — at a community college, especially,” White wrote. “A school devoted to developing the workforce, and helping fill the labor gaps, provides a venue for someone who just a few weeks ago was moving to Canada in protest to Trump’s election? Terrible.”
Later that day Goldberg fired back via Twitter, (correctly) pointing out that she did not say she would leave if Donald Trump became president and reiterating her objection to the president-elect based on what she described as his offensive comments about women.
White switched to Twitter for his next salvo, hoping his opponent will donate part of her $85k fee “to ease the pain inflicted on our local tax payers.”
Goldberg again returned fire, tweeting about the amount of the fee going to state and local taxes, agents, and to help pay the salaries of her employees.
White called off the skirmish on Jan. 6. “Perhaps we call truce: and then we both pledge to be more civil in our debate. Good luck with your show,” he tweeted.
White was right to wave the white flag. Maybe he wasn’t as overmatched as the Zanzibarians, but this was an unwinnable war.
It’s certainly true that colleges give short shrift to conservatives. Although our universities should be committed to a free exchange of ideas, there is a tendency to blacklist, boycott and protest anyone who doesn’t conform to liberal orthodoxy — the University of Washington and UC Berkley are currently trying to ban Milo Yiannopoulos, a conservative given to the occasional outrageous utterance, from their campuses.
But that’s not what is going on here.
Goldberg is booked into the county’s premier performance venue — noted for bringing in touring plays, bands and comedians — as an entertainer. The intended audience is the general public, not students. CFCC doesn’t now have to book someone of a competing worldview under a fairness doctrine.
During the Social Media War, White cited fiscal concerns. The people of New Hanover County have a financial stake in CFCC and in the Wilson Center, constructed with funds from a $164 million bond voters approved in 2008. So good for White for looking out for the taxpayers.
But the Wilson Center is no boondoggle. The facility is a boon for both the college and the community, providing cutting-edge classrooms for students, outstanding entertainment for the public, and about $270,000 worth of sales tax receipts to the state and county last year.
The danger that left-leaning Hollywood types will use their celebrity status to bludgeon an unsuspecting public with their political views is ever-present. For further evidence, see Meryl Streep’s lecture at the Golden Globes.
Goldberg almost certainly will take shots at Trump. Comedians targeting politicians with barbed humor is a time-honored tradition. It’s unlikely that she will use her Wilmington appearance to pull a Streep, but if she does, so what?
Anyone familiar with “The View” knows Goldberg’s political views. If you don’t want to take a chance of being subject to them when she comes to town, don’t buy a ticket. It’s that simple.