“It was just a joke!” or “I was only kidding!” Those were always my responses as a kid when I had offended someone. This past week that was also the response of comedienne Kathy Griffin after she posted a picture of herself with a fake, apparently decapitated President Donald Trump head. The United States collectively lost their minds over the stunt. Kathy Griffin was fired from CNN on which she had a very successful New Years Eve show with Anderson Cooper. Sponsors of her comedy tour and shows cancelled their contracts. Her current stand up comedy tour is in shambles after venues have cancelled her. Personally, I shrugged my shoulders until I gave a little more thought to the national reaction.
In January 2015 Islamic terrorists stormed the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing twelve people and injuring eleven others. The provocation for this attack was a cartoon of religious leader Muhammed which was considered offensive.
In December 2014 Seth Rogen released his comedy movie that focused on a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jon-un using two inept journalists who had landed an interview him. The movie did very well in the United States. Six months prior to release of the movie the North Korean government threatened action against the United States if the movie were allowed to be released. Columbia Pictures delayed the release and edited the film to be more acceptable to North Korea. A month before the release of the movie the computer systems of Sony Pictures, which is Columbia Pictures parent company were hacked by a group that the Federal Bureau of Investigation said had ties to North Korea.
So wait, let me get this straight, everybody in the United States condemned Kathy Griffin for a tasteless joke, but we all thought it was funny when Seth Rogen and James Franco made a comedy about trying to kill another country’s leader? Either both were offensive, or neither was. We can’t have it both ways.
The United States Constitution’s First Amendment gives us the right to free expression. Kathy Griffin isn’t being prosecuted for her “joke” but at the same time is suffering career altering consequences. So, we do have the right to make jokes, but there’s no law protecting us from unintended consequences of those jokes. My issue isn’t with her joke, it is with the attitude of those who didn’t condemn a joke about killing a foreign leader, but did condemn a joke about killing our own leader.
This also brings into question our freedom of speech. If I make a bad joke at work, on my blog or in a book I write, should my employer have the right to fire me like Kathy Griffin’s did? At what point do jokes go too far? Can they go too far if they are “only jokes”? If something appalling is done in the name of art, whether it be comedy, songs, or paintings, should there be some standards which apply and are enforced? Should someone be policing the internet where all types of tasteless and offensive things are posted every day? If I post an offensive rant on my blog, should WordPress have the right to take it down against my wishes?
I know this wasn’t funny as my Saturday posts usually are, but I’m seriously curious as to what everyone else thinks about the Kathy Griffin controversy and the questions I asked in the last paragraph.
Have a great Saturday! ~Phil