In the wake of the death of Robin Williams, there has been an outpouring of grief, disbelief and just general feels about the loss of a man who was truly a national treasure. While the passing of any great figure is terrible, this tragedy has been compounded by the news that Williams committed suicide.
The majority of the responses to his death have been touching and restrained. Many celebrities have used Twitter to express their shock and sadness. Comedians Chris Rock and Louis C.K. posted some of the most succinct and poignant messages.
Meanwhile, other tributes to the man many of us grew up loving are circulating.
His death has also reignited a discussion about the mental health crisis in our nation, which, unfortunately yet unsurprisingly, tends to only occur when a tragedy has already taken place.
But of course, there's always someone who decides to leave their decency and good sense at home and scrape the bottom of the barrel for a story or angle. There's always someone talking out of their ass about a person they didn't know or some hotshot television producer hoping to jack up their ratings on the back of a tragedy. And then there are just some insensitive, nosey people who forget that we're talking about an actual human being who deserves respect.
ABC kicked off this tawdry parade with live aerial footage of Robin Williams' home. They did eventually take the stream down and released a statement on their decision.
"When we realized there was no news value to the live stream, we took it down immediately. Our intention was not to be insensitive to his family, friends and fans, and for that we apologize."
Notice that use of the word "when." His family asked for privacy. There is nothing private about flying a helicopter over their property. I'm no ABC journalist, but I'm having a hard time brainstorming any news value they could have possibly gleaned from that footage.
Paramedics had been called to the scene hours before so they weren't going to get a shot of the body being removed. Were they hoping their cameras would magically develop x-ray vision so they could see what exactly was going on inside? Someone perhaps didn't get the memo that he didn't die in a house fire? Did they expect his family to be wailing from the rooftops? There's no justification.
Then Fox News host Shepard Smith decided that Robin Williams hadn't been disrespected enough for the day. Smith told a story about Williams reading a book to one of his daughters and added: "one of the children he so loved. One of the children grieving tonight because their father killed himself in a fit of depression."
Hmm. Does it get it worse? Of course it gets worse because this is a man hired and groomed by Fox News we're talking about. Smith then goes on to call Robin Williams a coward for committing suicide.
It's hard to imagine, isn't it? You could love three little things so much, watch them grow, they're in their mid-20s, and they're inspiring you, and exciting you, and they fill you up with the kind of joy you could never have known.
And yet, something inside you is so horrible or you're such a coward or whatever the reason that you decide that you have to end it. Robin Williams, at 63, did that today.
I'm not even sure what else to say besides Shepard Smith acted like an asshole. A disrespectful, top o' the line asshole who does not understand how depression or suicide works. Which would actually be understandable—many of us are not experts on depression—if he didn't make dangerous accusations on national television.
Smith has since apologized, stating that he was just "wondering aloud," which a pretty stupid thing to do on a live television show. He adds: "I would just like to apologize to the end of the earth to anyone who might think that I meant to openly call him a coward." Right, even though you openly called him a coward, you didn't mean to openly call him a coward? Got it.
In what I believe to be the most egregious move of them all, today a gossip website posted a photo of Williams seeking treatment for substance abuse. The photo was clearly taken without Williams' knowledge in an environment that is supposed to be of infallible privacy. It is disgusting and thoroughly unethical. While it may sound a bit cliche, I don't know how anyone could sleep at night knowing they contributed in any way to the releasing and publicizing that content.
And filed under "highly believable," we have TMZ grasping at every thread they can find in hopes of pulling a blanket off of some hidden scandal. TMZ and their team of macabre pornography enthusiasts are really having a field day with this but frankly, I expect no more from them.
All of this is to say nothing of the jokes on Twitter making light of Robin Williams' death and tweets like these:
There was also this particularly idiotic response from the Deputy Chairman of the Republican Party of Minnesota, who spun a tweet about Williams' death into a campaign pitch.
Chris Fields has since deleted is tweets, perhaps unaware that it is 2014 and screenshots exist.
An important takeaway in the death of any beloved figure is that it's not really about you. Sure, you may have cared deeply for them and their work, but it's mostly about that person's life and the loved ones he or she has left behind.
Those people are the ones who should always be kept in mind first and foremost as they deal with their loss. While we may want more information, it is in no way necessary for us to have it. While clueless speculations may seem like a good idea, they are, in fact, not. What I'm saying is, have some fucking dignity and let the man rest in the peace he obviously wanted.
Image via AP.