Saturday, June 3, 2017

Kathy Griffin, President Trump, Ted Nugent, Free Speech and Double Standards

I never found Kathy Griffin to be very funny. But I'm not in her primary target audience. Everyone has their own sense of humor. So when I saw the photograph of her holding a replica of Donald Trump's severed head I didn't find it amusing. I thought that the picture from the video was in bad taste and not funny. I thought it was an excellent example of how the Trump Presidency has unhinged some people. I also thought that it wouldn't be long before there would be a backlash. The thing I've noticed about the Right after all these years is that they have no problem dishing it out. They're really good at that. But taking it? No that's not what they do. Suddenly they turn into sensitive little snowflakes. The very same people who were angered about the Griffin picture were evidently laughing it up when Ted Nugent told Obama to suck on his machine gun, called Hillary Clinton a "toxic c***" , called Obama a subhuman mongrel or said that if Obama were re-elected that he (Nugent) would be either dead or in jail (because you know what he'd have to do). Trump didn't have a problem with Nugent's statements. He invited him to the White House. Of course when you came to prominence peddling racist birther stories, why would you have a problem with a racist like Ted Nugent? Birds of a feather.

The same people bemoaning the ugliness shown to Trump apparently had no issue at all with President Obama being burned or hanged in effigy, being called every single sort of racial slur imaginable, being called a skinny ghetto crackhead, being threatened with assassination, having Senators pray for his death or obviously getting the monthly run of the mill monkey-ape-gorilla comparisons. That was all just fine with conservatives. They had no problem making incredibly ugly hateful and threatening statements about President Obama, his wife, his daughters, his mother, his father and anyone associated with him. But when someone of a different political faction plays in the same dirty sewer conservatives have a problem? What changed? I have little use for selective outrage. 

If it's wrong to hold up the severed head of a white US President, then it is also wrong to pray for President Obama's death. So if you are on the Right and weren't outraged by all the foul stuff that was said about President Obama then no you don't get to cry crocodile tears about the impact of Griffin's stunt on Trump's family. You're a phony if you do that. 

There has been an increasingly insistent claim among some younger progressives that the First Amendment does not include the right to "hate speech", as defined by them of course.

 For some people anything to the right of NY Governor Andrew Cuomo is "hate speech". And people spewing "hate speech" should be arrested, fined, and prevented from exercising their non-existent rights to free speech and free assembly. Well when you hold up someone's severed head ISIS style it's a pretty clear indication that you're not a fan. It's probably safe to say that you hate that person. So aren't you engaging in "hate speech"? Shouldn't your speech be curtailed? I would say no. But I am closer than most people to being a free speech absolutist. If speech that inspires hate should be stopped then clearly Griffin's speech falls into that category. If you're running around campuses yelling that "hate speech" has no constitutional protections then be prepared to see many things that you like and find amusing or at least tolerable to be defined as "hate speech" by people who do not share your political beliefs. This is one of the most important reasons why I think the concept of "hate speech" has no place in American law-at least in the public sector. Everyone has different ideas about what is right and what is wrong or about what is gut shakingly funny and what is horribly offensive. As the saying goes I'll let you ban "hate speech" just as soon as you let me define it.

For what it's worth Griffin apologized. She lost her CNN New Year's Eve hosting gig. I imagine that for a short period of time she will take a hit on some bookings. Eventually there may be a few places that will be more likely to try to book her. I think that the key takeaway here, to paraphrase Muhammad Ali, is that if you kill someone's dog, don't be surprised when they chop up your cat. If we want to bring civility back to political discussion then it has to be something agreed to by both sides. Conservatives can't do the political equivalent of throwing feces at the President for eight years, but suddenly give pious speeches about respecting the office and the First Family once their guy gets the gig. It doesn't work that way. Check out Griffin's tearful non-apology/apology press conference where she blamed sexism for the response to her picture. A defiant Kathy Griffin vowed Friday to continue making jokes about President Donald Trump, and stressed that she believes she's been personally attacked by the president and the first family. Flanked by civil rights attorney Lisa Bloom, a tearful Griffin said she stands by her original apology for the gruesome photo she shared on social media Tuesday. But the comedian became defiant when speaking about the backlash she's faced, particularly at the hands of the president and members of his family.

Griffin admits that her brand of shock-comedy does not meet everyone's taste, but she said she believes backlash against her photo is rooted, in part, in sexism.
"Cut the crap, this wouldn't be happening to a guy — this is a woman thing," she said. "I'm not afraid of Donald Trump. He's a bully. I've dealt with older white guys trying to keep me down my whole life — my whole career." Bloom backed Griffin's sexism charge, noting that male musician Marilyn Manson, and all-male bands Municipal Waste and Gwar, have shared graphic images depicting the death of President Trump — with relative impunity.


What's your take?

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