Shock and Awfulness

These days, it seems like people are always outraged about something. Well, I say “these days,” but I’m sure it’s pretty much a constant. Still, the rabble had just gotten over Kathy Griffin holding Donald Trump’s disembodied head before we started getting stuff about Bill Maher saying the N-word and Reza Aslan calling Trump a piece of shit.

Oh, and there was some guy I’d never heard of making jokes about the terrorist attack during an Ariana Grande concert pretty much immediately afterwards. Does the Stephen Colbert thing still count as recent?

My own opinions vary, although for the most part I’m not all that shocked by much of anything anymore. Maybe I’m just desensitized, but the Griffin thing seemed neither outrageous nor funny. I did wonder about the legality of it, since the conventional wisdom seems to be that you can’t even jokingly threaten the President’s life, but apparently it’s a gray area. But really, John Waters could shock people by having Divine eat dog poop in Pink Flamingos, and now there’s poop-eating in children’s movies. Family Guy makes a recurring gag out of a pedophile. What’s really shocking these days? I suppose it’s possible that society just hasn’t thought of the next way to push the envelope yet. There are still taboos, but for the most part it’s not that you can’t talk about them, just that a lot of the time making jokes about them is punching down. I think that’s the thing with the Maher comment. I’m generally someone who doesn’t go in for censorship. I don’t curse a lot in print (I’m more foul-mouthed in person), but I also don’t do any of that “f**k” crap. If I’m talking about a word, I write the actual word. I used to think that way about the N-word as well, but I’ve seen enough comments from black people (the ones whose opinions really matter the most in this case) that they find it offensive for white people to use it even non-maliciously, so now I try to make an exception. I was a little surprised at Maher because I swear he said not too long ago that he wouldn’t use that word, but I probably shouldn’t be as he seems to be making an effort to be as offensive as possible as of late. I don’t know if he’s trying to remain relevant, get fired, or what, but there you go.

I generally supported Maher even after he’d started to get a lot of flak from liberals, but he just keeps doubling down on his stupider positions and largely ignoring the ones that actually made sense. My wife sent me this Esquire article on Maher last week, and it gets to the heart of a lot of what’s obnoxious about him. He’s always had extremists as guests, presumably for the entertainment value, but it seems like his interest in people like Milo Yiannopoulos goes beyond that. Instead of just letting him eviscerate himself like is recommended with his ilk, Maher instead tried to find common ground with him, and wants to have him back on the show again. Hearing alternate viewpoints is all well and good, perhaps vital in some cases, but that doesn’t mean you have to give a platform to those who don’t have a coherent argument at all. We all have the right in this country to say what we want to say, but that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed a national platform. And no, I don’t think Yiannopoulos is joking about his views. I don’t think he’s smart enough for that. I’m still not entirely sure about Ann Coulter. I’m kind of going in the opposite direction from Maher, in that I feel that so many Americans supporting a racist, sexist, totally incompetent con-artist is proof that they don’t need to be taken seriously. The way I see it, if you actually believed Trump was going to help the working class, you’d probably believe just about anything. Well, anything that doesn’t come from the liberal media or scientists, I suppose. And Maher’s Islam thing at first sounded like it was just about statistics, but he’s increasingly brought it outside the realm of facts. I have no idea whether his supposition about the majority of Muslims in the world supporting Sharia law is at all accurate, but he said he understands how Trump’s message resonated with Americans. Aren’t those both cases of people being convinced to go against their own interests? And it’s just over-the-top political correctness to apologize for potentially offensive costumes, but old white guys who date a lot of young women are being persecuted? That seems a bit skewed. And that brings me back to the idea of punching down, and how I don’t think saying mean things about one guy, President of the United States or not, is at all on the same level as insulting an entire minority group. Besides, EVERY President gets mocked and insulted, and most of them didn’t seem to talk about it in public. Trump has to launch a bevy of tweets every time someone mentions him on Saturday Night Live. That’s going to happen when you’re a public figure, even if you AREN’T horrible at your job.

As far as people like Aslan being fired, well, the networks can do what they want. But in a way, isn’t firing anyone who says something offensive an impediment to speaking truth to power? I’m not saying there aren’t lines that have to be drawn sometimes, just that maybe news shows shouldn’t be about the ratings, and should sometimes make people uncomfortable. Funnily enough, I think Bill Maher made a similar argument not too long ago. But then, the twenty-four-hour news channels are an anomaly in this respect, as there are so many up-and-coming anchors competing for those shows. Besides, we don’t always know the internal politics involved. Just because the official reason someone was fired is one specific comment, that doesn’t mean it was the ONLY reason.

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4 Responses to Shock and Awfulness

  1. So, funnyish story: the other day at the library’s art club the kids were making collage art and Sam-age-10 decided to decapitate a picture of Trump for his. He was very proud of it, and I was trying so hard to keep a straight face what with all the flack about Gifford and the modernised in that particular way Julius Caeser production– and his dad (who incidentally is still not nearly as anti-Trump as he ought to be) was like “Great, now the Secret Service is watching us!”– and it’s just kind of funny because he’s, you know, just a kid expressing his feelings through art, but grownups are getting into big trouble for expressing things the same way.

    • Nathan says:

      I think it was around 2004 or so that a kid (probably a teenager) wrote a LiveJournal post jokingly asking God to kill George W. Bush, and she actually got a visit from the Secret Service, although I don’t think there were any charges. I’m not sure how that could be considered a threat, although this was the President who thought God talked to him regularly, so maybe he was afraid God would listen.

  2. rocketdave says:

    I actually kinda like Kathy Griffin, but making jokes about killing the president just seems like a bad idea (I could say the same for when Madonna talked about burning down the White House), and she’s been rightly condemned by both sides for the decapitation thing. However, there definitely seems to be some hypocrisy on the part of the right, who will probably never let this incident go, yet oddly enough, didn’t bother to speak out against Ted Nugent when he made some not-so veiled threats on the life of Obama. Nugent even got himself invited to the White House a few months back, alongside Sarah Palin and Kid Rock.

    I also find it hard to believe that conservatives were suddenly really concerned about homophobia when Colbert made it so-called “controversial” remark. That manufactured outrage struck me as a rather pathetic and desperate attempt to shut up a critic of the president.

    • Nathan says:

      While I agree Griffin probably shouldn’t have done the decapitation thing, I do object to people who say it was basically an invitation to right-wing trolls. If it hadn’t been that, it would have been something else they complained about. And that’s true of some people elsewhere on the political spectrum, too. I also thought it was ridiculous that Trump’s immediate reaction was to say it bothered Barron, as if he gives two cents about how Barron feels about things.

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