I generally prefer to avoid drama (it’s too dramatic), but given that I’ve taken to talking about free speech a lot lately, I’d be a bit remiss not to address the Kathy Griffin beheading issue.
At this point, the details are out there on the internet in much more… err, detail than I can cram into a blog post. But I’ll leave others to discuss the trees, and focus on the forest:
Basically, Griffin did something pretty tasteless while trying to do something shocking to get some attention. It turned out that the shock value was a good, long step over the line of acceptable, and she started to get backlash. This prompted her to apologize.
This is where it should have ended, if the world acted according to the rules of decency.
Everyone on occasion says things that are wrong, that they regret, the consequences of which they don’t fully calculate. I’m included in that. The thing to do is apologize, make sure not to make the mistake again, and then we all move on.
But we can’t do that: See, the way things work now is that when someone says something offensive, we – the “good” people of the world – have to tear that someone to shreds, even if they acknowledge their fault and try to mend their ways. There are mass movements to boycott certain brands because someone associated with them has the wrong opinion, YouTubers lose funding because of videos making fun of Nazis, TV hosts fired because of something tasteless was caught on a hot mic… That’s the norm.
So, that Kathy Griffin is somehow shocked that she’s losing contracts and venues won’t host her after she did something offensive seems … a bit of out of touch with the world she comes from (ie liberal Hollywood).
Right now, there is a movement going around to get Bill Maher fired for using an offensive word. A word; never mind showing a decapitated head of the current President of the United States, with no content warning in case said President’s 10-year-old son might see it. Kathy Griffin herself was not the least bit sympathetic over Sean Hannity potentially losing his job for… being crazy and Irish?
Anyway, in a world of trigger warnings, demands for banning hurtful speech, safe spaces, boycotts … it seems that Griffin is just not up-to-date on what’s going on in the social justice world.
All the foregoing is based on the assumption that what she was doing was in good faith. Had that been the case … well, she probably wouldn’t have done it in the first place. Certainly not gleefully joked about how offensive it was.
This could have been an opportunity to reflect on how these movements to punish people who say things they disagree with are, over all, bad for discourse and end up harming even people with otherwise good intentions. A person shouldn’t be judged based solely on the content of a single tweet.
We could have talked about the importance of sharing ideas, and defending people’s right to say what’s on their mind even if we very much disagree with it. We could have found some common ground here.
Unfortunately, Griffin took a different route: enlisting lawyers and then proceeding to blame the victim. She’s now claiming that she is the victim here; because she’s getting the very same backlash she’s comfortable with dishing out to other people, and it’s somehow Trump’s fault that he’s annoyed with her for doing something that was incredibly offensive to him and his family.
While the mental gymnastics needed to reach that conclusion are worthy of Olympic gold, it’s still pursuing a simple, and all too human, goal: not have to deal with the consequences of her actions. No, I don’t mean having posted that thing about Trump. I mean about supporting the movements that call for firings, contract cancellations, and other consequences for people who say things they disagree with.
If you go around calling the PC police on people, don’t expect those people to stand up for you when the PC police knock on your door.