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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Kathy Griffin brouhaha

The recent shot of Kathy Griffin holding up what appears to be Donald Trump's severed head --


-- has gotten a lot of attention. People have likened the shot to an ISIS beheading. It's also brings to mind Perseus holding up the head of Medusa, maybe because of all the hair:


Everybody reacted in predictably silly ways.

Trump himself had to weigh in by Tweeting that Kathy Griffin should be ashamed of herself. (How much better if he had just ignored her.)

The photo evidently came to the attention of the Secret Service. (They do have to weigh each and every last threat, but this is a little ridiculous: Griffin, a comedienne who makes her living by being outrageous, is obviously not a threat.)

A number of people from both Left and Right, eager to demonstrate their virtue, condemned the photo as "offensive" and "inappropriate" and "disgusting" and "wrong."

Griffin herself, reeling from the almost universal condemnation, issued an insincere apology: "I am sorry. I went too far. I was wrong." (She had predicted a negative reaction, and was obviously sorry only for its strength and seeming unanimity.)

The most interesting outcome will be how it affects her career. It will probably have little long term effect. It was, after all, Trump she was mocking. And in the end, Hollywood is not going to punish one of their own for essentially toeing the company line.

What's most telling about the incident is how the reaction compared to what would have happened had some Hollywood figure held up a bloody replica of Barack Obama's head.

That person's show biz career would have ended. The TV show appearances would disappear, the gigs would dry up, and that would have been that. Griffin's career will suffer some short term damage, but in the long run should be fine.

Back in 2010 I wrote about what comedians should have said about Obama -- and the deafening silence we got instead -- here and here and here.

Personally, I thought the photo was sort of funny, just because it was so wrong. I've always been a big Kathy Griffin fan, and what I like most about her is her outrageousness. A comedian's job is to push the boundaries, and maybe step over them. Otherwise, they're just not funny. (Griffin is, by the way, as merciless about herself as she is about everyone else.)

And there's nothing lamer than a comedian who's afraid to offend anyone.

The only thing I find offensive about this incident is the hypocrisy implicit in what would have happened to anyone who mocked Obama similarly.

21 comments:

LBD said...

One thing I find disturbing about our modern discourse is that many of us feel the need to adopt an urbane, blasé attitude when discussing things that are patently disgusting, deviant and abnormal. Years ago I appreciated Kathy Griffin and thought she was witty, especially when talking about celebrities and fashion.

She completely lost me when the political content of her material began to exceed the comedy, complete with the assumption that nobody in her audience could possibly be a conservative. Pretty soon that was a self-fulfilling prophecy and nobody in her audience was conservative.

When Isis is the template for your "funny" photos, you are showing exorbitant hostility and contempt for the half of the nation which voted for Trump. Pictorially she is literally saying she wishes cut MY head off, and I don't take that with any kind of amused detachment. Yes, she really really hates us. It's not funny and a sane person will return the sentiment.

John Craig said...

LBD --
Well it takes a lot to offend me, and maybe I haven't seen Griffin as much recently; most of my impressions of her come from her jokes about celebrities. I agree with you about her politics, she seems to be a knee jerk liberal, mindlessly so, but if you're going to support the First Amendment and mock academe for its attempts to infringe on it -- as I do -- then you have to support Griffin's right to say as she pleases.

Plus, people are reacting to her as if she were a politician; she's not, she's a comedienne. It's just not a comedienne's job to stay within the bounds of good taste and deliver only measured, diplomatic words. It's their job to shock us. So as much as I disagree with her politics, I don't hold this incident against her.

LBD said...

John, you are right. She is not a politician, she is a comedienne. Her job is not to shock us. Her job is to make us laugh. She is no longer funny. She is not doing her job. If she wishes to be a politician, she should put it to the test and run for office.

Supporting the First Amendment means that I do not believe her acts should be illegal. I do believe them to be a sincere attack on the President and all who support him, including me. I don't take a full frontal assault lightly.

Kathy Griffin is clever. Nothing she has done is "mindless", it is mindful and purposeful. To ignore that is to be like the leftists who, every time there is a new Muslim bombing or car attack are swift to explain that it isn't Islam, Islam is peace, Muslims aren't the "real terrorists". They refuse to take the terrorists at their own word.

I take KG at her own word and on her own terms. She hates me and the feeling is now mutual.

John Craig said...

LBD --
Most comedians include political material. (By the way, since your last comment, I inserted a link in this post to some jokes I thought should have been made at Obama's expense back in 2010.)

If a comedian is good, he'll make fun whatever deserves mocking, regardless of his politics. But too many liberals will only make fun of Republicans, which is very limiting to them. Robin Williams -- to me one of the most overrated comedians of all time -- was another liberal who would only make politically correct jokes, and that's partly why he wasn't funny. Plus, he never made fun of himself, which is always telling.

When I said that Griffin was "mindlessly so" I was referring to her liberalism, as in, knee jerk. I don't think she thinks deeply about political issues, I doubt that she's particularly numerate, and she wouldn't dare look into racial differences. I do think she deserves credit for having been to a couple of war zones (while fighting was going on fairly nearby) to entertain the troops. Sure, there's always an element of PR in doing that, but at least she did it.

And she also, as I said before, doesn't spare herself from her acid tongue, and that always wins points with me. I'm going to give her the benefit of the doubt on this one.

Anonymous said...

CNN fired her. People are incensed over her stunt. I emailed CNN this morning expressing disapproval over her actions. I don't see how the photo shoot could be considered funny.

- Susan

John Craig said...

Susan --
In that case it looks like I could be wrong about the impact on her career. But I still think the long term impact will be minimal. In fact I'm guessing that at the end of her life, when do a retrospective on what a great comedienne she was, they may even include this picture in an epater-le-bourgeois spirit. Remember how when George Carlin was banned from TV for searing that later became almost a badge of honor for him?

Anonymous said...

Apparently, Trump's youngest son, Barron, was upset by the video image. That image will stay in his mind for life. People are calling for the Secret Service to investigate her, along with the photographer, Tyler Shields. This story is big news.

- Susan

Anonymous said...

"I was reading this morning on nbc news about the sultan of oman...buying artwork, buckets of maggots...they love buckets of maggots...images of dead children covered in maggots...crystal skulls...formaldehyde with cows covered in gold....jesus covered in maggots...they'll spend ten twenty million a piece...they'll spend 99 million on one of them...and the artists all have names like Damien, and have body modifications, these chicken necked cowards flutter in there an all the elite flutter in and buy...that's who rules things, that's who runs things...imagine having a JAR OF MAGGOTS! covered in some rotten flesh, or dead babies covered in maggots, but because of laws they'll say they are all fake babies covered in maggots...images of demons eating babies...images of maggots covering everything...maggots and cans of human feces...for millions of dollars a piece...and they'll tell you "we buy 99 million dollars buckets of maggots because we appreciate the maggots"...they are the rotten flesh maggot cult!"

Alex Jones on the art tastes of the elite and famous.

-Ga

Mark Caplan said...

If Kathy Griffin was referring to ISIS in her beheading photo, she should have been wearing a head scarf. Otherwise, the joke doesn't work.

If she was referring to cannibals, she should have worn neck-stretching rings and a bone through her nose. That picture would have been pretty funny.

LBD said...

I am not worried about the impact on KG's career; I am worried about the impact of this image on our culture. In my lifetime I have seen our shared American culture degenerate until it is unrecognizable from the place I grew up. Much of the cause is that the left has been allowed every destructive act without consequence.

Beginning in the 1960's, the left was permitted to riot in the streets on a regular basis. People would be arrested but released soon thereafter. Rarely were "demonstators" tried, convicted and jailed for massive property destruction. It has become such a routine feature of urban life that it goes unquestioned.

Once we allow the destruction of our shared space, it cannot be fixed. As the poster above me said, it becomes not only routine but celebrated and financially rewarded. One picture is worth a thousand words. An image can outlive a person, and it delineates what we find acceptable in our culture. Politics is downstream from culture. What we allow to be pictured today will happen in the streets tomorrow, and be routine the week after.

John Craig said...

LBD --
I don't care about Griffin's career either, though I do think she's funny.

And I couldn't agree more about the lax attitude toward rioting these days. when there's full scale "civil unrest" (i.e., rioting) going on, the police are almost inevitably told to stand by and not make arrests, while keeping a bare minimum of order. It's almost as if the powers that be are saying, okay, let's let them blow off a little steam, it'll be good for them. And in the meantime, it's the middle class shopkeepers who suffer.

But I do think we have to be specific about what we're referring to when we talk about the degeneration of our culture. As far as rioting goes, we're in complete agreement. But a lot of people would say that, say, Howard Stern represents the degeneration of our culture. Is he coarse and vulgar? Of course. But I like Stern simply because he's so honest (as well as funny, in my opinion). He was the original "shock jock," and part of the reason he was so shocking was because he dared to be honest (as well as vulgar). My guess is that you don't like Stern because of his vulgarity, and that's fine, that's purely a matter of personal taste, but it's an entirely different thing than the authorities sitting idly by and watching property destruction on a massive scale.

I happen to dislike rap music; to me, it's just rhythmic tuneless chanting by untalented "musicians" who want to show how badass they are, and isn't worthy of being called "music." (I don't quite understand how black music could have degenerated from Motown to rap in one generation.) Anyway, that, too, represents a coarsening of our culture, and in this case, without any redeeming value, but even that is a far cry from actual rioting.

LBD said...

Nobody's said Sodom and Gomorrah weren't fun--degeneracy would not have prospered were it not entertaining. I agree that people like Howard Stern are clever and insightful in many ways. That's the problem, the poison pill has such an attractive wrapper.

Black music degenerated rapidly because ther were no gatekeepers. Once there was nobody to say "you can't say that and expect to get a record deal", it all went to the lowest common denominator. Bill Bennett once had a famous meeting (this must have been twenty years ago) with record company executives (Sony, Time Warner, etc.) in which he handed out sheets of lyrics to then current rap "songs". He asked the executives to read them aloud, and they could not bring themselves to do it. They all agreed there was a problem, and proceeded to spin off their rap divisions to separate labels. There was so much profit to be made that they only did this for window dressing.

It takes people of uncommon character to say no to money when public good is at stake.

I disagree that rap is a far cry from actual rioting. It is the cry of the rioter. Once you allow rap to be the sound track to young people's thoughts and dreams, it is inevitable that the rioting is on the near horizon.

John Craig said...

LBD --
That's interesting about the Bennett meeting, I hadn't heard of that.

To me, "degeneracy" means two things: sacrificing the rule of law, which we've discussed, and sacrificing the truth. (Bad taste concerns me less than it does you.) But now that I phrase it this way, I'd say the biggest loser of all is academia. Colleges have become nothing more than propaganda mills, and even the faintest hints of honesty about race or gender are met with overwhelming hysteria. Witness what happened over the past couple days at Evergreen State in Washington. (I suspect we agree about academia.)

Is rap the sound track to rioting? I suppose it is, and I applaud your clever phraseology. But I'd still say it's a far cry. Blaming rap for the rioting (which, by the way, far predates rap music, there were plenty of riots that occurred during the heyday of Motown) is a little like blaming violent movies for various murders.

I completely agree that it takes someone of uncommon character to say no to money; I can think of very few who have. (Bennett himself wouldn't have been sacrificing any money by stopping rap.)

Anonymous said...

I hate a lot of modern art, of course maybe older art was full of bad pretentious crap too, just all the good stuff survived. There were people like Napoleon, he had de Sade imprisoned for his literature, literally was reading his book Justine and said he wanted this guy thrown in jail, he had to be close to vomiting when he finally gave the order.

Not saying that was a good thing, jail without trial, but when you have powerful people looking at similar stuff and praising it instead of losing their shit, and that's been happening for ages. It says something that this has not changed yet. There are few napoleons here and there who just don't give a shit. Griffin is lucky Trump didn't go as far as Napoleon would have. Napoleons have their faults, they are violent and prone to authoritarianism and hurting plenty of people, but I'd rather have a few more of them in office to just balance the degenerates, keep eachother's flaws in check.

-Ga

John Craig said...

Ga --
I wrote about modern art several times in the earlier days of this blog, but there's only so many ways you can say it's just a hoax. Here are a few examples:

http://justnotsaid.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-politics-of-art.html

http://justnotsaid.blogspot.com/2011/04/straw-man-department.html

http://justnotsaid.blogspot.com/2009/01/andrew-wyeth-vs-critics.html

http://justnotsaid.blogspot.com/2010/09/art-imitates-life-too-well.html

Anonymous said...

There may be a difference between bad art in the past and modern in the sense of preservation. The internet's existence and other forms of recording which allow the old to be preserved and not die out will only allow bad art to flourish since it cannot be replacement nor a refining can happen in people's beliefs, hence no change in art style.

Like that link I once posted to that video game cutscene where the hero meets the villian supercomputer which has been censoring information who tell hims why.

Bad art in the past would die off and the few good survived, after all Sturgeons law:
90% of everything is crap. Shakespeares works survived, his contemporaries who made bad works are forgotten now. The majority of created material is low quality whether in substance or taste, but the good will stand the test of time through selection.

Modern bad art may not die since Art is based off human feelings and ideas, and if those ideas linger, the internet being a perfect place to keep those ideas alive. New ideas can come into existence but they will have to coexist with old ideas, not defeat them. It will all turn into a gigantic cesspool of information.

Like with facebook pages still running after a person is deceased and the hassle of even getting FB administrators to shut it down means it will turn into a graveyard someday.

One person said that there should be a new right, the right to be forgotten. If you pass away but social media sites or companies refuse to erase your accounts, that is a violation.

And the right for us to see things such as bad art or ideas be forgotten or face extinction as a consequence of natural selection is one thing I want to extend. The right to see things be forgotten so there won't be so much to sift through to get to what you want.
It may explain the sudden halt in huge breakthroughs in science, nothing can replace the old because it may hurt someone's feelings, or there is no chance through all the opposition from years ago.

The internet has no graveyard or archive, 40,000 years from now you may still see the same links when you google something, as if the older idea is as valid as the new. Should we go all the way and allow dead people to vote?

This is information dysgenics!

Either that, or what Alex Jones says about bad art being created by Satanists or disguised Aliens is true.

-Ga

John Craig said...

Ga--
Good point, people really haven't grappled with the effect of the internet preserving everything, forever. My guess is that they will eventually institute rules whereby anything that hasn't been updated for 20 years or so will be deleted. But who knows.

Speaking of Shakespeare, I have to think that there was some good, old stuff that simply didn't survive because of "bad luck."

LBD said...

There are a few of Shakespeare's plays which did not survive. In Elizabethan theater there was only one copy of the complete play. Each actor received only his part written out, the entire play was kept under lock and key because theater companies were notorious plagiarists of each others' work.

My time machine fantasy would be to go back to 1614 or so and get Shakespeare to make copies of his own work. He was a fast writer nd could do it. The only reason his plays survive is that his friends collected them after his death, with the help of their own memories and the memories of his actors.

When you have a town (London) which had wooden buildings and frequent fires, paper ephemera from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are exceedingly rare, especially from popular culture which is what Shakespeare was. It would be like finding TV sitcom scripts four hundred years later, if the Internet did not exist and the material only existed on paper.

A few of his contemporary Christopher Marlow's plays survive, but he is one dimensional compared to The Bard. There's a reason why there are Shakespeare festivals all over the world, but you never see a Marlow festival. His Faust is compelling, but he's no Will Shakespeare.

John Craig said...

LBD --
Interesting about the plagiarism....And about how his plays survived.

And yes, paper is awfully perishable, which is why I was thinking that a lot of good stuff -- as well as the bad -- didn't survive.

BTW, don't know if you saw the post from yesterday, but I moved a lot closer to your viewpoint about Griffin after that embarrassment of a press conference.

LBD said...

The press conference was such a s**tshow that it raised my hopes that she has actually tanked her career for good. How typical of the lefty crybully to claim that she is a strong woman who will not knuckle under to oppression by powerful white men while simultaneously weeping about how Trump "broke" her and whining about the power disparity between herself and the President. He didn't lift a finger, just tweeted twice.

Libs are such strangers to common sense it must seem like a superpower to them. Don't bring a knife to a gun fight. Don't start a war of words with someone who buys his ink by the barrel. Start a fight with a guy who received north of sixty millions votes and then be surprised when it has an impact on your popularity? She is so deep in the Hollywood bubble that she genuinely does not have a single acquaintance who does not share her politics.

The press conference was so offensive and incoherent she did her enemies' work for them, Another common sense aphorism? Don't stand in front of someone on a fast train to destruction.

John Craig said...

LBD --
This time I agree with you completely. Except tat I think a year from now her career will be fine. All the people in her world, as you say, she her politics, so they're not going to penalize her for that photo. Some of them will find the press conference embarrassing, but they're not going to not allow her to tour because of it. And the people who attend her shows are mostly gays and liberals, and they're all on her side. So she'll be fine.

But yes, offensive and incoherent and the hypocrisy was incredibly thick. And the way that lawyer looked at her approvingly after everything Griffin said was sickening. She picks on the President, he responds, and she whines about that. Disgusting.