Trump supporters interrupt Public Theater’s production of ‘Julius Caesar’ in Central Park
The drama spilled off the stage during Friday night’s production of ‘Julius Caesar’ in Central Park.
Protesters temporarily halted the Public Theater’s production of “Julius Caesar” that depicted the title character as someone who resembles President Trump. “This is unacceptable!” a female protestor shouted while a man filmed the incident. Security removed the protestors, who accused the Public Theater’s production at the Delacorte Theater of “inciting political violence against the right.” Delta Air Lines and Bank of America decided to drop their sponsorships of the Public Theater earlier this week over this production of William Shakespeare’s play.
One of the protestors tweeted a video.
The play itself is a cautionary tale about the consequences of political violence. “Their artistic and creative direction crossed the line on the standards of good taste,” Delta said in a statement earlier this week. Similarly, Bank of America BAC, -0.47% also withdrew funding for the production, saying the production was designed to “provoke and offend,” and has made efforts in recent months to withdraw “programmatic” advertisements from social media and certain sites which it deems to incite violence or promote fake news.
Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of the Public Theater, confirmed that two protestors disrupted the show. “We stopped the show for less than a minute and our stage manager handled it beautifully,” he said. “The staff removed the protestors peacefully, and the show resumed with the line ‘Liberty! Freedom!’ The audience rose to their feet to thank the actors, and we joyfully continued. Free speech for all, but let’s not stop the show.” (A statement on the Public Theater’s site reads, “Our production of ‘Julius Caesar’ in no way advocates violence towards anyone.”)
Madison Avenue, meanwhile, is taking no chances. Megyn Kelly got roasted on social media this week for giving airtime to conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, a radio shock-jock who has suggested the 2012 Newtown, Conn. massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax. JP Morgan Chase pulled digital ads from Kelly’s news show, which airs on Sunday on NBC. In a statement, Kelly said she found Jones’s suggestion that Sandy Hook was a hoax “personally revolting” and said Jones was of public interest given his friendship with President Trump. (J.P. Morgan Chase JPM, -0.45% declined to comment; NBC CMCSA, -0.39% did not return request for comment.)
And last month, CNN said it would not renew its contract with comedienne Kathy Griffin, who posed for a photograph with what appeared to be a severed head of President Donald Trump. A rake of venues canceled upcoming gigs and Griffin lost a contract with SquattyPotty bathroom products. Griffin apologized after a backlash that included other comedians and even friends like CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, who regularly co-hosted a New Year’s Eve show from Times Square with Griffin. (In fact, Alec Baldwin was among the few boldfaced names who publicly supported Griffin.)
As an advertiser, I’m repulsed that @megynkelly would give a second of airtime to someone who says Sandy Hook and Aurora are hoaxes. Why? https://t.co/luwyCwP7Ti
— Kristin Lemkau (@KLemkau) June 12, 2017
In this highly politicized environment where stories go global on social media in a matter of hours or even minutes, advertisers are taking a stand. “Corporate America has been a little on edge since the election,” says Marcus Messner, social media professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. “A tweet from the president can impact market prices in the short term. “That’s why we have these sensitivities. There’s a lot of pressure from the far right media outlets and the far left, so it’s almost like a no-win situation. The safest thing for them is to retreat to the sidelines.”
Some companies have successfully appealed to one social demographic, but banks, airlines and media companies have a more difficult challenge, says Aram Sinnreich, an associate professor at American University’s School of Communication in Washington, D.C. “It’s coming to a head now that our nation’s divided halves are barely on speaking terms. Brands that have historically stayed out of the political fray, aiming for that increasingly elusive ‘mass’ in the middle, are finding it more and more difficult to discover ’safe’ celebrities, events and institutions to partner with.”
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There is less room in today’s highly divisive political environment for balanced discussion between those at opposite ends of the political spectrum, studies suggest. There is little overlap in the news sources that people on social networks turn to and trust, according to the Pew Research Center, a nonprofit think tank in Washington, D.C. People are more likely to interact with like-minded individuals. Roughly half of Facebook FB, +0.56% users (53%) and less than half (39%) of Twitter TWTR, -0.95% users say that there is a mix of political views among the people in their networks.
Political liberals who use social media are more likely than conservatives to change their settings to see less of someone (41% versus 26%) as well as to block or unfriend someone (35% versus 26%) because of something related to politics, Pew found. In addition, social media users under the age of 50 are more likely to take these steps than older users. So the two sides rarely meet, and when they do, it’s often not pretty. When asked about the political interactions they see on social media, many politically engaged users are dismayed at the negativity and tone of political discourse.
As for “Julius Caesar,” Delta and Bank of America are in the business of promoting good corporate citizenship rather than freedom of expression, says Jane Kirtley, professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota Law School. (Bank of America said it was not made aware of the nature of this production in advance and was taken by surprise.) Ideally, she says, companies should give artists and cultural institutions money “and let them do what they say they’re going to do and not pull the rug out from under them in the middle of a performance.”