The great thing about watching The Good Fight is it hates Donald Trump as much as you hate Donald Trump. The bad thing about watching The Good Fight is it doesn’t give you much of an escape from the other things you hate. But, at least it puts up a pretty good fight against them in the process.
This week’s ripped-from-the-headlines case is about alt-right internet trolls in general and Milo Yiannopoulos in particular. If you have ever experienced any online harassment (and if you are a woman or a LGBTQ person or a person of color or possibly just breathing you probably have), this episode will feel uncomfortably close to home.
Right, so we open on an alt-right misogynistic horror show spouting his alt-right misogynistic horrors directly into the camera. I’ll spare you the details, but it might be best to wrap your screen in bubble wrap for this episode. You might not be able to resist the urge to punch it. Hard.
Neil Gross, a.k.a. Mr. ChumHum, has slapped the transcript of a “problematic” post onto the conference table of the Reddick, Boseman & Kolstad (and maybe soon Florrick) partners. He has brought along another 4,758 more. What? That’s all? Your moderators suck. He has called his new Midwest law firm together because of the scourge of sexist, racist posts on his sites. So he needs them to create a Terms of Service for him for his Facebook-like site ChummyFriends and Reddit clone Scabbit. Wow, really went all-out there on those names, writers. Really dug deep.
To welcome his new law firm and celebrate their first task he has gifts for everyone. It’s ChumHum T-shirts with “Team Reddick, Boseman & Kolsted” on them. Yes, of course, he has managed to spell the one female partner’s name wrong. Already you can see where this is going.
But, hey, the guy is bringing in $86 million a year. Who cares if, again, the one female partner’s name is misspelled. Don’t get so emotional, sweetie. Geez, thank God we don’t have a woman president. Could you imagine? Think of the things she’d tweet at 3 a.m. and the world leaders’ hands she’d refuse to shake? Really dodged a bullet there. Really did.
*teeth pop out from clenching them so hard*
Anyway. Gross proceeds to be effusively horrible in that way that only rich, cis, supposedly progressive white dude can be about how great he feels having hired an (almost) all-black law firm to represent him. He even says, and this is verbatim, “I look at all your faces (overly earnest sigh) and I see hope (then taps chest in an overly earnest way).”
If you punched the screen just now, I will allow it.
Another thing Barbara and Adrian have noticed is Gross only makes eye contact with Diane. So not only is he a self-congratulatory weasel who somehow still doesn’t have a ToS for his wildly successful sites, he’s a hypocritical one at that. This is all so surprising.
He needs a new ToS not just because all these sexist, racist, anti-Semitic, threatening and just horrible posts are bad and should be eliminated, but because Disney is threatening to pull their advertising. Money, it’s always about money. Oh, and he needs it by 5 p.m. today. How is it possible his sites don’t have ToS already? They’ve been around at the very least since 2011, when Diane’s firm sued them the first time.
The lawyers decide to split the piles of hate into subgroups of hate. They argue about what is a threat and what is political speech. Who cares if they’re saying you should be chopped up into little pieces, it’s politics not personal. They seem genuinely befuddled by the “rape” category. Oh, kittens, have you ever been on the internet? That’s its bread and nonconsensual butter.
There’s a lot of parsing of language. Like “I want to rape you” is fine, but “I’m going to rape you” is not. OK, here’s a thought experience: I want these sites to protect women, POC, LGBT people, religious minorities and other vulnerable communities from hate. I’m going to leave them if I they don’t. There. Parse that.
Maia has entered the room and her righteous indignation sensor goes off as she hears the discussion. If you’ll remember, she has more than a little experience with people saying they want to rape and dismember her. She reads one of the messages she has received to drive home the point.
But Julius Cain (seriously, how amazing is that name for the firm’s lone Trump voter) says they need to be “fair” and not “censor based on sensitivities.” You know, because if a woman is upset someone says they want to rape her it’s because of her sensitivity. Not because the person who said it is a horrible person who does not deserve access to the privately held means to disseminate that horrible message.
Diane pipes up that Gross can censor whatever or whomever he wants to censor because he owns the sites. This is the whole and entire point, people. ChumHum is not the government censoring a person. This is not a First Amendment issue, period. None of this sort of online speech is a First Amendment issue, as much as people want to wail and gnash their teeth that it is.
The First Amendment clearly states, “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech.” Congress, period. And that means the government cannot censor people. But Facebook is not the government. Twitter is not the government. Reddit is not the government. YouTube is not the government
The other side of this, of course, is that freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequence. I love the dumbasses who post something patently offensive on their personal social media only to be incensed when they later get fired from their private jobs. You have the freedom to say what you want without getting arrested, for the most part. You do not have the freedom to say what you want without other serious repercussions.
Right. I may or may not have some deeply held feelings about the First Amendment. I better stop now, otherwise I’m tempted to dig up my J-Law books from college and form a discussion group. (p.s. If you knew that J-Law is not the star of the Hunger Games franchise we really need to have lunch).
Someone who can’t wait for lunch is Colin. He’s all hot and horny, in an appropriate consensual way, for Lucca and her panties. You know, someone said in the comments the other day that he looks like Paul Ryan and now I can’t unsee it and it’s making me start to dislike him. I keep thinking he’s coming to take away old people’s health care and poor kids’ school lunches. But the way he argues with his boss about Kresteva’s Reddick, Boseman & Kolstad case makes me like him a little more again.
His boss argues it’s great because if they stomp them then a) Chicago saves on police brutality cases and b) other firms will be scared to sue them for police brutality. Hey, here’s a thought, stop hiring police who act brutally. Cut back on that and you’ll also save Chicago a lot of money, eh? Well, at least he gives Colin the completely powerless position of “Oversight Head” of the case.
Maia, who hasn’t gotten much of a storyline recently beyond getting badgered by her parents, gets an unexpected visit from Uncle Jax. She tries to brush him off, but he warns her that her dad will call her soon and ask for a private meeting. And, wouldn’t you know it, her father has been badgering her to come visit. He said, of course, it was because he missed her and not because he was wearing a wire.
So Julius thinks this whole thing is an exercise in shutting down conservative speech. The firm’s women – Diane, Maia, Lucca, Marissa – all take turns giving him the metaphorical snarl lip – sometimes also the non-metaphorical snarl lip. But then Lucca has the brilliant idea to play kick the can, and create an appeals process by which a panel will decide, after a user has created a certain number of harassing/threatening posts, if they will remain banned.
Tada! Problem solved. Now she can go have sex/dinner with Colin. Please tell him that trickle-down economics is a myth and anyone who dreams of cutting Medicare while doing keg stands is a goddamn sociopath.
We then cut to the show’s Milo clone finishing up his next unconscionable opus. But when he presses submit he gets a temporary suspension notice. When he notices the new appeals process his eyes glisten with glee.
Maia goes to see Elsbeth! because this show loves us and wants us to be happy. Also because Maia is troubled by her current familial/legal predicament. Elsbeth! wisely tells her – while they’re seated in beach chairs and loudly serenaded by her Alexa named Aida, naturally – to feed her dad false information and record it. She makes up a client named Travis Leopold and a story about them doing some illegal dealings for him and receiving an $800,000 gift in return.
So the happy troll from earlier is now in front of the partners all nattily dressed ready for his appeal. He is Felix Staples (played by John Cameron Mitchell of Hedwig and the Angry Inch fame), a self-styled hatemongering raconteur hero of the alt-right. I like how this show has literally spelled out the definitions of terms like “SJW,” “cucks” and “dox” to the grandparents who have somehow figured out how to subscribe to CBS All Access.
He promptly asks them who they voted for in the last election and rattles off how much they all donated to Hillary. (Also, Barbara totally wins with a whopping $23,000 to Hilldawg, so I expect
“Fight Song”to play everywhere she walks.) Part of his appeal is it’s all OK because he is funny. And then in another part him bringing in a gay sex worker to fellate him in front of the panel while he sings “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” So, in other words, it is the fucked-up farcical circus we all expected.
Before he leaves Felix “apologizes” to Diane for the terrible things people on the interwebs are about to say about her firm, says she reminds him of his mom and also that she should smile more. See, now that bubble wrap is really coming in handy.
And, wouldn’t you know it, the harassment tsunami begins. But, it seems, the trolls are on to the firm’s formula. They are all posting under 13 posts, and adding legal disclaimers to their rape threats. So someone has leaked their discussions over the ToS. Adrian sends the firm’s investigator, Jay (not Kalinda) to check it out. But because he knows the alt-righters won’t talk to him for obvious reasons he brings along Marissa.
So now Maia goes to see her parents, without Amy. Guys, I’m really starting to worry. Where is Amy? I don’t even think we’ve gotten a mention of her in this episode. Should we check for shallow graves around their apartment? Sometimes intense personal stress makes people snap, OK? I don’t know. I’m just very concerned. I’m tempted to post a search party sign-up sheet.
Maia smartly turns on her iPhone recorder. But then she goes inside and, look, it’s a party. No one could possibly conduct undercover, illicit conversations at a party? So then Maia unsmartly turns off her iPhone recorder. This is one of those unexpected moments you’re glad for the bubble wrap because you instinctively slapped your screen upside the monitor. Papa Rindell talks about Bora Bora and then presses Maia about how her work is going while they’re alone.
Thankfully, Maia goes back to being smart and represses her iPhone recorder. Hey, wanna hear about this guy I know named Travis Leopold?
The next day Maia is back with Elsbeth! who is very happy/fake sad about her family subterfuge. She also gives Maia her Aida to cuddle. Would it be wrong if I said one of my new life goals is to eat ice cream and listen to Roberta Flack with Elsbeth!?
After Marissa goes to visit an alt-righter desperate for any female attention, he spills the beans that Felix has the transcripts of the firm’s ToS discussions. So they have a leak. The obvious culprit, at least in Adrian’s mind, is Julius. So he directs Jay to check him out. Hey, remember when that pro-Trump partner at that new law firm gave Julius his card? What font did he use for the lettering again, oh yeah, Foreshadow.
Felix is now back for this third day. I realize this is fiction and suspension of disbelief is required. But there is no way in Hell or whatever afterlife or non-afterlife you believe in an appeals process like this would take three days. The billable hours alone for having so many law firm partners sit in together for one case would be astronomical. I mean, we’re talking almost Disney ad account astronomical here. And wouldn’t that defy the whole point of this charade?
Felix brings up the left-wing attacks he has received in his defense. Let me just say that “the other side does it, too” is a terrible defense for either side so let’s all just try to be decent human beings for a change. Before the racist asshole (hey, their words, not mine – I’m being a decent human being-ish) leaves, he drops a little nugget into Diane’s ear. He asks why Neil Gross would hire an all-black law firm to head his censorship committee.
So now Elsbeth! and her 500 brightly colored Vera Bradley bags (I know, that’s redundant) are at the office. She tells them about her ploy. They’re concerned, in equal parts perhaps because of her love of Vera Bradley and her crazy plan to catch Kresteva in a lie. But if they do, they will be able to use Papa Rindell’s betrayal to their favor.
Jay and Marissa, whose chemistry is growing on me, go undercover to pump Felix’s realtor boyfriend for information. He swears their politics are totally different and Felix isn’t like that in private. Oh, good, just a hatemonger for the fame then. Even better. He shows them the IP address for the leaked transcripts which they trace back to … wait for it … ChumHum. Oh great, so they’ve been set up.
So just when the plot has thickened nicely, the alt-right charmers have come up with a new, fun way to circumvent the ToS. They’ve turned Neil Gross’ name into a racial slur to get around the ToS. Everything is horrible and the dolphins should go ahead and take over.
Before we can get into those repercussions, Julius realizes he has been investigated as the leaker. He rages at Adrian and Barbara about how loyal he was to them and then quits in a huff, only to call his fellow #MAGA lawyer about joining his firm immediately afterward. Um, my only big takeaway from this is that maybe Jay isn’t a great investigator because he apparently was so sloppy Julius realized the stuff on his desk had been moved. Kalinda would have never let this happen.
After learning he is the new n-word, Neil Gross snaps at Diane and tells her to “make it end” with Felix. And, again, the problem isn’t that Felix and his posts are despicable, it’s that he has a lot of followers and they’re all threatening to leave his services which would mean he would lose, you guessed it, money.
So now Felix is back for the last time in what I think is probably the best suit we’ve seen so far. Is this from the Laura Ashley Fire Island collection? And, just like that, he has been reinstated. This actually upsets Felix because his goal was never vindication, just attention. He tries to gloat to Diane, but online trolls and their crude instruments of oppression have nothing on a smart woman who knows her own strength. So she summarily dismisses him as “what we have to tolerate” for free speech.
So now Gross is recapping the firm’s work. No expulsions, except Felix’s which was ultimately reversed. He brings up the leak of the ToS discussion, and Diane calmly says it was from his company. And she calmly tells him the reason as well: they were going to be his scapegoats if the censoring campaign failed. He could point to the liberal, all-black law firm and say, “They did it.”
He doesn’t argue her points. But he does turn to Adrian and Barbara before leaving and ask them to talk over some international issues with them. They happily oblige, because this means now they have the in with Gross and his $86 million account instead of Diane. Money, guys. Money, money, money, money. The truth will set you free, but it might also make you broke.
So after unsuccessfully trying to make Colin jealous with her beefcake personal trainer boy toy and then going on a frisky ride to Colin’s country estate (oh yeah, Colin is loaded), Lucca gets a surprise visit from him in the office. He has come to warn him to stay out of the company’s finances because of their shady dealings with one Travis Leopold. Well now, seems the whole firm suddenly has daddy issues.
I am not going to lie, this was not been my favorite episode. I can’t tell if it is because the belabored explanations of alt-right terribleness, or because of some collective alt-right PTSD. Either way, yeah, I’m pretty sick of these assholes on my TV, my internet and my government.