My father, a man raised in an era of plantation homes and a gentility long lost, a man who somehow managed to get smarter the older I grew. He said on more than one occasion, that the measure of a civilized society was how it sets and maintains standards for decent behavior. Where the line of propriety was drawn exactly, was far less important than that a line be drawn in the first place.
In these days and times of instant everything, his notion of standards is a considered by many to be an antiquated notion at best. These are the days of anything goes, and it grows increasing apparent that almost any type of outrageous behavior gathers a growing non-judgmental, approving crowd, hiding conveniently behind the all-powerful shield of the First Amendment. I know, you have your rights….
In all my years with him, dad never once suggested taking the dangerous slope of trimming First Amendment freedoms as a path to dignity. He truly hoped—apparently not in vain, as the last week has shown—that society in general would maintain the line of what is appropriate and what is not. And since this is America, society regulates your behavior through bestowing or withholding acceptance and approval in ways that hit your bottom line. A big mistake can be expensive, as Kathy Griffin has learned.
We all recently saw the pic of Kathy Griffin lifting the disgusting, fake, bloody decapitated head of President Trump. Heck, it swept the Internet and led to her firing from CNN and the cancellation of one stop on her current comedy tour. Today in the news Ms. Griffin declares herself the victim…yep, she sure did!
Now, and are you really surprised, the liberal celebrities are starting to suggest to Americans not to worry about it.
The first of them is Jim Carrey, everyone’s favorite comedian. He told his own audience that Griffin should “double down” on the infamous photo. The gentle comic, Mr. Carrey, opined, “Hold up a severed leg as well.” Wow…nice talk.
What has happened to civility in public discourse? I recognize that comedians live by a different set of rules of discourse than the rest of us, but doesn’t there come a time when enough is just… well, enough? Mr. Jimmy went on to say, “I don’t know if it’s funny, but I don’t think the joke is the problem. Don’t worry about it. Don’t worry for your existence. All of this is meaningless… all of creation is just God’s Fidget Spinner. It’s really not important. What’s important is that we’re all here.” God’s Fidget Spinner”? Now that was deep…even for a comedian.
I want you folks to use your imagination here. Just imagine living in a place, in a big gilded bubble where it never crosses your mind that presenting a photo of the decapitated head of a president of the United States, or his severed limbs, to the nation is a good thing? Can you imagine living in a manner that you think the photo would be good for your business, your career? You saw the one of Donald Trump; can you imagine if Whoopi Goldberg held up one of President Barack Obama? Can you imagine the outcry?
Well, Ms. Griffin didn’t give it a moment’s thought as they snapped the pics that have—at least for now—ruined her career. After all, she claimed it was art. What could be wrong with art?
The vile, and now public, photo of the fake, bloody, severed head of our president has caused a harsh push back by everyone from the First Lady to Chelsey Clinton and CNN. As it turned out, the world disagrees with Mr. Jimmy, (imagine that) Griffin lost her job with CNN, and the Route 66 Casino canceled her next performance there, and venues are canceling on her daily now. In some sort of cosmic humor event, the advertiser Squatty Potty, pulled their advertisements in which the potty-mouthed comedian was a star.
This Dupont Circle, Louis Vuitton knockoff of Joan Rivers, lives in just that kind of world where all of that has been kosher until now. So has Mr. Jimmy. She imagined herself to be edgy, provocative, and in the main stream of her progressive East and West Coast friends. As it turns out, she is no more provocative than peanuts in your coke. She spends her life trying to shame people who fail to make celebrity status. How edgy is that? Dangerous? No. Creative, not so much….
In his hubris, the elegant Mr. Jimmy thinks that in times of great political upheaval, like the ones in which we live, that the comedic world is the last source of comfort for concerned citizens. Really?
He told his wide-eyed audience:
“I think what happens is, when these extraordinary times politically happen, and we’re going through terror and the fear of the end, comics are the last line of defense,”
He went on to say:
“We tell them the truth, and we make something beautiful out of it.”
Has this become a country where an image put out for public consumption like the one offered to us by Ms. Griffin is considered something beautiful? Hmmmm, I guess their world view isn’t that far outside of the main stream, from Steven Colbert, to Bill Mahr and Jon Stewart.
Anyway, meanwhile in Mr. Jimmy’s own life, he has a lot to deal with. The judge in Los Angeles decided that the wrongful death case against him could move forward. Ouch. Tough blow.
Has this become a country where an image
put out for public consumption
like the one offered to us
by Ms. Griffin is something considered beautiful?
You see, back in 2015, Cathriona White, Mr. Jimmy’s ex-girlfriend, died of an overdose of painkiller meds. Ms. White’s parents have publicly accused Mr. Jimmy of being the supplier of the prescription meds that she used to commit suicide. Not exactly an LA corner drug dealer but as they say, “the source is the source.” Yes indeed, you bet he fervently denies the claims, but it makes me wonder; doesn’t he have enough on his plate to refrain from taking on the civilized world and approving of what Ms. Griffin offered the gentle people of America as an art project? Is the bubble in which they apparently live actually that thick? Do they ache so deeply for our love that they go to this extreme?
Do they ache so deeply for
our love that they go to this extreme?
Doesn’t the Dumb and Dumber actor whose late girlfriend’s mother claims he gave her daughter three sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and pressured her to keep it quiet before her suicide in September 2015, have more important things, more critical issues to focus on rather than ridiculous support of hideous images disturbing to people from the president’s own son, all the way to the presidents most vigorous opposition? Or is he just trying to change the discussion from his life to someone else’s?
When I was at LSU in the late 70s, there were words and images that we were taught to never say or use in front of a girl; now the girls themselves use those words and images, while the rest of us can’t say “girl.”
Other than voting your taste with your wallet, there’s not a lot you can do about any of this. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once famously said, when trying to define pornography, “I know it when I see it.” Unfortunately, the constantly moving target of what exactly is offensive speech isn’t easy to discern. Face it; the First Amendment rightly provides the freedom to say what’s on our minds, offensive or not.
Unfortunately, the constantly
moving target of what exactly is
offensive speech isn’t easy to discern.
In a New York Times review on “What the F,” Josh Lambert wrote that the real enablers of coarse language are the tongue-clickers, like my dad, I suppose, who struggle against it. “When the last prohibitions fade away,” he wrote, “so will the power of the words.” That I would call a dangerous day indeed. On that day, every writer becomes irrelevant.
On the day that the words of crude comedians like Ms. Griffin, Mr. Maher, Mr. Colbert, Mr. Stewart and all the others lose their ability in turn to amuse or offend us; as artists they become irrelevant. The worst part is, like most bad things that happen, they did it to themselves.
And by the way, Mr. Carrey knows all about irrelevant; he recently said that the accusations of this late girlfriend’s family were “irrelevant.”
My dad calls all of this as “less civilized” than in his day. I think he’s correct.