Holding celebrities, politicians, or executives to a different standard undercuts the goals of society.
"With great power comes great responsibility" is an ancient sentiment attributable in its modern form to Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben. The more relevant superhero to this situation is Hancock. Hancock is a mediocre superhero movie starring Will Smith. He plays the titular character who is essentially a god. While super in power he does as little as possible in pursuit of bad guys, leaving a lot of collateral damage, exasperating the residents of L.A. who strongly dislike him.
He is befriended by a PR consultant named Ray, played by Jason Bateman. Ray convinces him to do better and clean up his reputation. It begins with Hancock offering an apology and then going to prison. In a comical scene Hancock leaps out of prison to retrieve a wayward basketball. Despite his ability to effortlessly escape, he jumps back into the prison yard, committing to his atonement despite having the power to abnegate it.
Will Smith is a star and in American society the reality is that stars like him get different treatment. If I walked up to someone on the street and hit him, I would be prosecuted. Even if the person didn’t press charges, the DA’s office would likely realize the societal importance of punishing me. This is all the more important in the case of a celebrity because people in the spotlight—politicians, celebrities, executives and the like—are role models, intentionally or not. The fish from the head down. In our offices bad executive behavior sets the standards for others to engage in similar transgressions. In society the same is true for those in the public eye who are de facto role models.
Some argue that Chris Rock taunted Jade Pinkett Smith. Let’s assume for a second that he did; it’s moot. She was not in any immediate or future physical risk from Chris Rock; no one would rightly think Chris Rock threatened her safety. Will Smith deliberately got up, crossed the stage, and hit (or tried to hit, there seems to be some debate) Chris Rock. Quite simply that is not an acceptable action in those circumstances.
Will Smith would do well to be like Hancock and set a better example. I’m certainly not suggesting jail time, but public service or some other appropriate punishment, as I would suggest for others who make momentary lapse in judgment, is appropriate. (And I suspect his real world “Ray” would be able to spin this into something positive for his reputation.)
We have freedom of speech as a fundamental value in the United States. When others respond to your speech with violence, it both violates societal standards, and undercuts an important tenet of society. The DA’s office should not let it slide.
It’s critical to learn about corporate culture before you accept a job offer but it can be awkward to raise such questions. Learn what to ask and how to ask it to avoid landing yourself in a bad situation.