Two comedians


Good comics challenge those in power. Hacks suck up to power.

Here’s a hack for you: Bill Maher. Bill got together with a Republican, Ben Sasse, and as privileged and oblivious white people are wont to do in conversation, yucked it up by mocking the black and the underprivileged, making light of slavery and using a word white people should never, ever use. I shall refer you to Damon Young, a Very Smart Brotha, for the definitive ruling.

Nigga and nigger are two separate words with two separate meanings and connotations, and White people — regardless of how “down” or woke” they want to be — aint allowed to say either. Sorry, y’all. (And by “Sorry, y’all” I mean “LOLOLOL not fucking sorry at all get the fuck out of here and go kick some gluten-free rocks.”)

It’s a really simple rule. And no, you don’t get an exemption when you’re kicking it back with a chummy conservative senator from a conservative state. Actually, that’s about the worst time you can feel free to get a laugh about black people.

Young has more to say.

It’s apropos that he’d catch this heat — and possibly lose his show — for saying this word, as it provides a convenient intersection for two similar issues: White people vexed that they’re not allowed to say this word, and privileged White people — privileged White men, specifically — lamenting on how political correctness and “outrage culture” has made us too sensitive. Both issues are issues because of (some) White people’s unfamiliarity with the concept of “No.” Where they’re so used to being able to do and say what they want — believing they possess some sort of manifest destined dominion over literally everything — that saying “Yeah, you can’t do this one thing” contradicts their personhood and their Whiteness. “What do you mean I can’t do this one thing? I’m White! I can do everything! I thought the life-long “Do Everything” pass came with the membership package! I need to see a manager!“

I have two objections.

  1. This is Bill Maher. He’s kind of the epitome of neo-liberal white obliviousness. It’s a good characterization, but humility and respect for others ain’t how he got his show.

  2. “possibly lose his show”…I am laughing over here. He won’t lose his show! He’s a white male comedian with a reputation for “edginess”, which covers a multitude of sins! Also, it’s not as if he made a Republican uncomfortable.

But you know who is going to lose a show? Kathy Griffin. This one is more complicated.

She posted a photo of herself holding what looked like the bloody decapitated head of Donald Trump. I have mixed feelings about it.

  1. On the one arm, explicitly joking about killing people, even Donald Trump, is a bad thing. We need to discourage it.

  2. On the other arm, it’s Donald Trump, and it’s definitely punching up. That’s what comedians should do. Did she go too far? I’d agree with that.

  3. On the third arm, shouldn’t the condemnation be evenly spread around? Why is Ted Nugent, who joked about shooting Obama, given private tours of the Trump White House? I thought it was bad when he did it, and it’s fair enough to expect I’d also condemn Griffin when she does it.

  4. On the fourth arm, fairness doesn’t seem to be a universal here. Maher can punch down, and not get even a fraction of the hate mail that Griffin gets when she punches up. Fairness would dictate that I defend Griffin while deploring the specific action.

  5. On the fifth arm, wait a minute, I saw Griffin’s photo and recognized a famous Biblical and classical theme. It’s Judith beheading Holofernes! People, look it up! This is the story of a woman whose city was threatened by a marauding, raping, sacking army of Assyrians, and Judith seduced their general, got him drunk, and then hacked off his head! She was a hero, according to the Bible!

  6. On the sixth arm, this was an incredibly popular theme in art. I mean incredibly popular. I’m not kidding when I say you should look it up.

  7. On the seventh arm, being a popular theme in Christian-inspired art does not excuse the barbarism. That something was heroic in the bloody Middle East B.C.E. does not mean it’s a good model for modern behavior.

  8. On the eighth arm, it worked. Holofernes was threatening annihilation and total destruction of a few cities, Trump is threatening global catastrophe. We are perhaps not reacting forcefully enough.

  9. On the left feeding tentacle, the art implies a solution that sets a terrible precedent. I don’t want Trump assassinated, I want a useful legal strategy for how an incompetent and dangerous president can be removed from office that can be followed for future rogue presidencies. Rule of law, please.

  10. On the right feeding tentacle, I confess to a visceral appreciation of an illustration of the ignominious end of a terrible human being. I have to work to repress that.

On the whole, I feel like Griffin did the wrong thing, but that it was a relatively small wrong compared to the corruption and treachery and small-minded viciousness of the Trump administration. That’s not an endorsement of either, obviously.

I think, to be fair, that if it was just to dismiss Griffin from a gig for an insensitive and tasteless photograph, it is also just to dismiss Trump from his job for an insensitive and tasteless public life. Fire both.

Griffin would probably embrace that as a reasonable exchange.

Obviously, I have the wisdom of Solomon.

Comments

  1. Cuttlefish says

    I didn’t see the context of Griffin’s photo. I could actually see a context commenting on Trump’s friendship with Saudi Arabia, where last week a court sentenced a protester to be beheaded. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/saudi-arabia-behead-disabled-man-munir-adam-protests-forced-confession-torture-death-sentence-court-a7758041.html

    If she was essentially trying to get his attention to draw attention to what his new buddies are up to, I could see this as being perhaps a tactic to take. Maher, on all the other hands AND feeding tentacles, I have no desire to look for context.

  2. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re OP:
    seems OP forgot to mention The Apology. Griffin sincerely apologized for the photo within hours of its release and instant reactions it received, a genuine apology, and not the typical notpololgy most Conservatives mutter.
    Compare it to Nugent never apologizing for his farted gun threats thrown at HRC and Obama. Now Nugent is doubling down, denigrating people for comparing his farts to Griffin’s photobomb. Essentially claiming “freeze peach” gives him a pass while Griffin is abusing it.
    Yes it was a disgusting picture, clearly a political statement of outrage at a “leader” who only thinks of himself and the people he pledged to lead. The significant thing being dismissed by most, is the sincere apology she issued afterwards.
    [interrupting my chain of thought]
    publishing a photo of a decapitation, even obviously faux, CAN be inferred to be advocating such an event. I don;t understand how it is worse to imply than to actually call for it verbally as Nugent has done, multiple times with regard to Obama?
    [/interruption]
    [getting back OT]
    interesting to be informed of the historic artistic reference the photo was making, after being overwhelmed by the political statement about our current so-called “leader”.
    [back to OP]
    It is fine to be outraged over such a disgusting picture. “Yuck, never do such a picture again”, is the extent of a reasonable reaction I’d expect. For all her sponsors to drop her and all future engagements cancelled, is a little too strong a reaction, in my opinion —> (F.U. CNN, etc)

  3. vucodlak says

    Posing with severed heads is just so tacky. Yes, yes, you’ve vanquished your foe, devoured their heart* to take their power, and cut off their head. It’s not a trophy! You cut off their head so that, should their corpse rise to seek the power you’ve stolen, it won’t be able to find you and eat your heart. Cast the vile thing into the heart of a volcano, where it belongs!

    *I don’t recommend devouring that man’s heart; whatever flows through that withered and malignant organ ain’t anything you want inside you.

  4. cartomancer says

    One thing that struck me about the Kathy Griffin photo was how realistic the severed head looked. It was covered in streaks of blood, and definitely very disturbing. I think there is quite a difference between a realistic-looking blood-smeared severed head and an obviously fake comedy severed head in this context.

    The comedy severed head functions more as a metaphor. It’s of a piece with other hyperbolic exaggerations our culture routinely uses (“Stephen Colbert absolutely massacred Trump last night!”).

    Of course, the whole iconography of Judith and Holofernes is complicated by the other great woman-with-severed-head figure in Western art – Salome.

  5. iiandyiiii says

    Maher apologizes:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/03/arts/television/bill-maher-n-word.html

    [quote]
    Mr. Maher said Saturday in a statement: “Friday nights are always my worst night of sleep because I’m up reflecting on the things I should or shouldn’t have said on my live show. Last night was a particularly long night as I regret the word I used in the banter of a live moment. The word was offensive and I regret saying it and am very sorry.”
    [/quote]

    Doesn’t excuse what he said, but it seems like a decent apology to me.

    I’m the forgiving type, and I have the privilege of a life with no racial slurs thrown my way, so my feelings don’t really mean anything compared to those that actually have to deal with such in their lives, though.

  6. says

    What bugged me about Griffin’s stunt was that it gave Trump one helluva big sympathy boo fucking hoo card to play, and it was milked to the hilt – “Barron screamed!”. It doesn’t matter if that was bullshit, it plays in Peoria, doesn’t it? Griffin literally handed the Fucking Idiot the ‘traumatized child’ card.

    So, she helped the Tiny Tyrant, and that ain’t helping. I don’t give a shit about whether or not people think it was tasteless. It certainly wasn’t any more tasteless than Trump.

  7. consciousness razor says

    PZ:

    On the other arm, it’s Donald Trump, and it’s definitely punching up. That’s what comedians should do.

    I don’t know if you really mean what you’re saying here, but I don’t see how anyone could seriously call this “punching up.”

    I mean, if I accept that “comedians should (among other things) punch up” is reasonable enough as a proposition, and if what Griffin did is not an example of “what comedians should do,” then what Griffen did is not an example of punching up. So, I’d drop the idea that “it’s definitely punching up” and just say unequivocally that she did the wrong thing. Trump is “up” in the relevant sense, but that’s not all you need for the concept of “punching up.”

    On the fourth arm, fairness doesn’t seem to be a universal here. Maher can punch down, and not get even a fraction of the hate mail that Griffin gets when she punches up. Fairness would dictate that I defend Griffin while deploring the specific action.

    Why are we measuring things in terms of hate mail, and how would “fairness” dictate that you defend Griffin? I’m just not following here. Is it right to say that we should be sending “hate mail” to Bill Maher? I haven’t been. Isn’t it fair to defend neither of them?

    Also, to say it again, since you apparently thought it was worth repeating, I don’t think this has anything to do with punching up vs. down.

    On the seventh arm, being a popular theme in Christian-inspired art does not excuse the barbarism. That something was heroic in the bloody Middle East B.C.E. does not mean it’s a good model for modern behavior.

    Doesn’t mean it’s a good model for ancient behavior either. Or that it was ever “heroic,” whatever that’s about.

    On the whole, I feel like Griffin did the wrong thing, but that it was a relatively small wrong compared to the corruption and treachery and small-minded viciousness of the Trump administration. That’s not an endorsement of either, obviously.

    Again, I don’t get it. When first reading this, I was expecting something about Maher and his routinely shitty behavior, as he is likewise a comedian. And the issue is likewise about speech/expression which is morally unacceptable, even in “comedy,” because that is not even close to a satisfactory justification in these circumstances.

    You also could’ve said that what Maher did, although indefensible, has less severe consequences compared to practically anything Trump (or his administration) does these days. So how does it help to bring Trump into this? It’s pretty clearly an apples to oranges comparison either way, whereas relating Griffin and Maher isn’t. Or if it is, that’s not nearly so clear-cut.

    It’s certainly relevant that there was no credible threat in what Griffin did, very much unlike Maher’s behavior. But what I mean is that it doesn’t address the problem that “I’m doing it for the lulz” or “it’s for the sake of art” or “I’m trying to make a legitimate political statement,” or whatever it is these people think they’re doing, simply isn’t enough to make either one acceptable.

  8. Bruce says

    The Western culture associated with the Abrahamic religions goes back to some old Mesopotamian stories recycled in the book of II Kings (or was it II Chronicles?). That is the origin of the story that goes with the idea PZ mentioned of “the wisdom of Solomon”. This wise act was a credible threat of violence (decapitation or dividing in half) upon the one living infant surviving. King Solomon said Dividite, and the bad woman replied Rectum Judicium Infantum Vivum, as the song goes. And all our cultures agreed that this threat of violence was the best case of Bronze Age wisdom ever seen.
    But in this modern era, we have higher standards, and we don’t expect Kathy Griffin to sink to the barbaric level of Solomon or of Nugent.

  9. says

    Bruce:

    But in this modern era, we have higher standards, and we don’t expect Kathy Griffin to sink to the barbaric level of Solomon or of Nugent.

    Oh? Who exactly has a higher standard? Nugent? Or all the people who put up effigies of President Obama with a noose around his neck, and all the people who cheered? Or would it be Christians who have a very El Shaddai blood lust, and think that sort of thing is grand, as long you’re mock decapitating the “right” person?

    Don’t know about your planet, but the one I’m on, civilisation is a bloody fuckin’ joke, and so are those so-called higher standards.

  10. consciousness razor says

    And all our cultures agreed that this threat of violence was the best case of Bronze Age wisdom ever seen.

    It is a common bit of atheist/skeptic rhetoric to talk of “Bronze Age” this and that, but none of the things that are usually on the table actually happened then. I don’t know why this is so common. Maybe just because it’s common, and people tend to repeat whatever they’ve heard. Maybe it just doesn’t sound punchy enough to talk about “iron age wisdom” and so forth… if you happen to be a fan of iron, I guess. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I like iron. But it’s not obvious what metallurgy could have to do with any of this, so perhaps other ways of chopping up history into different periods would be more helpful.

    Anyway, the Bronze Age was very roughly 3300-1200 BC in the Middle East. And wiki also says “The conventional dates of Solomon’s reign are circa 970 to 931 BC.” If you’d be happy saying that 2017 and the American Revolution are basically the same point in history, then maybe this isn’t very concerning. But I wouldn’t be very happy to do that.

    Oh? Who exactly has a higher standard?

    Well, you do, for instance. You’re not going around doing any of those things, because you have better standards than that. And those standards (not those of the whole “modern” world, as you rightly point out) are not a bloody fuckin’ joke. I’m assuming that’s supposed to be the basic idea behind Bruce’s sentiment. Such things do obviously still happen, of course (like all sort of crimes and whatnot); but by now at least (if not a very long time ago), people should know better than that. Like you and lots of others do, in a very real, non-jokey sort of way.

  11. rpjohnston says

    In a saner time, I might condemn Griffin’s stunt.

    But now? Right Wingers can kiss my ass. They don’t have a moral leg to stand on to demand that we condemn it. And I’m sick and tired of being the adult in the room while they fling their mushed peas everywhere – indeed, I’m sick of BEING DEMANDED OF to be the adult in the room, and obliging, while they cackle over their power to make “liberal pussies” put on a show. So no, any of them demanding that we perform the ritual self-flagellation can kiss my ass.

    And frankly, as a decent human being in isolation, I don’t condemn her either. Any more than I would condemn “go back in time and kill hitler” jokes, or a reformulation where she holds Stalin’s bloody head. Or if she held McConnell’s and Ryan’s head. When those animals are actively hurting people, and inciting others to hurt people, to claim that the perpetrators should be protected from violence is to say that their victims do not deserve protection.

  12. jrkrideau says

    Saudi Arabia …where last week a court sentenced a protester to be beheaded.

    Indeed, very tacky. Electrical current or leathal injection is the way to go. Err, how many US states have death penalty?

  13. robro says

    Not having heard of Sen. Ben Sasse, I did an internet search and in the news bites at the top what should I behold but Maher saying “Sorry.” Yeah, right. I bet he is at this point.

    Sasse says he didn’t react strongly enough to Maher. Apparently, he “just cringed.” Yep, he’s right about that.

    jrkrideau — 31 states have a death penalty, but of those 4 have a moratorium declared by the governor. California has capital punishment, but hasn’t used it in a while: 2006 was the last execution.

  14. pita says

    How does Bill Maher even still have a show? He’s been shitty for years, and I’m not even including transphobic shitty or islamophobic shitty, he’s just plain shitty. Sometimes he gets off a witty line, but then he immediately follows it with the kind of groaner exclusive to the edgy fuckboys that want you know how edgy they are. Taking him off the air for his shitty opinions would just make him a martyr; taking him off air for being boring, unfunny, and a living embodiment of the Steve Buscemi “how do you do fellow kids” meme would have been justified five years ago.

  15. colonelzen says

    It was wrong, foul, and over the line. I have no problem with her suffering some pain in consequence for the act; I doubt that in real world terms her pain will amount to much more than some lost opportunities and possibly some minor social snubbing for a year or two.

    At the same I should say that I’m glad that some such over the line acts of expression (rather than expression of acts!) are happening now.

    Because it was clearly an intended act of angered defiance at those in power.

    Towards the powerful who have made it plain that they are no respecters of the lines of propriety.

    Methinks it good that those in power so willing to cross such lines be reminded that such lines CAN be crossed. I suspect it would be a better world if more not just privileged but superprivileged brats had sleepless nights and horrible nightmares about what happens when such lines cease to be respected.

    — TWZ

  16. jrkrideau says

    @ 16 robbo
    31 states have a death penalty, but of those 4 have a moratorium declared by the governor.
    Thanks for the stats. So only 31 states or roughly 65% remain in the Dark Ages {1}. Progress is being made! Soon the USA may even reach the 20th Century.

    1. The term “Dark Ages” is in dispute among many historians. Fucking murdering people is not.

  17. chrislawson says

    consc.razor:

    Punching up means aiming your humour at people with power. Punching down means aiming your humour at people with little power. Specifically, relative to the person making the joke. Which means it’s almost always punching up to make fun of the President and almost always punching down to make fun of, say, slaves in the antebellum South.

    That doesn’t mean a joke is a defensible just because it’s punching up.

  18. methuseus says

    I was horribly turned off by Griffin’s picture, and Maher is just wrong, though his apology hits the right points (I think; I’m white so help me if I’m wrong).

    What gets me is Trump saying “Barron screamed”. How did the kid see it unless Trump himself showed him? That seems pretty tasteless for him to show his own kid just to see him scream, but fits with the type of personality Trump seems to have.

  19. marinerachel says

    He was never concerned for the children when his buddies like Ted Nugent talked about killing Obama.

  20. says

    Doesn’t excuse what he said, but it seems like a decent apology to me.

    Oh ffs. Maher isn’t sorry for being a racist bastard, but for facing negative consequences.
    White people who actually believe and understand that these words are not theirs to use don’t “accidentally” do so.

    ***
    As for Trump and “Barron screamed”:
    It’s pretty clear that Trump couldn’t care less about the kid as he spends as much time away from him as possible and only parades him around at show events.
    This weekend, Trump is golfing again. No “spending time with your son to assure him that daddy is here and safe.”
    Also, Trump has declared publicly that he wants to kill children to punish their fathers.

  21. KG says

    Last night was a particularly long night as I regret the word I used in the banter of a live moment. – Bill “Racist Fuckwit” Maher

    Anyone who uses “banter” as an excuse for saying something foul just compounds the offence.

    I don’t want Trump assassinated, I want a useful legal strategy for how an incompetent and dangerous president can be removed from office that can be followed for future rogue presidencies. – PZM

    Unfortunately, there isn’t one. And, quite apart from the very real danger that he will launch a nuclear war in a fit of pique, this pusbucket just declared war on the entire planet.

  22. consciousness razor says

    That doesn’t mean a joke is a defensible just because it’s punching up.

    Okay, so you disagree with PZ that “that’s what comedians should do.” That isn’t right, because there are ways of punching up that they shouldn’t do, and what Griffin did (if it counts as an example of punching up) may or may not be one of those. If you want to picture a Venn diagram, there’s a nice big shape containing the things comedians should do, while the things outside of that shape shouldn’t be done. And “punching up” is another shape in this space, which might overlap with the first somewhat but isn’t entirely within it. Is that the idea?

    Then, it would be pretty empty to appeal to punching up as some kind of valid justification for whatever it may be that you’re doing (as opposed to punching down, which in contrast is invariably construed as bad or not justifiable). That’s not how I’ve ever seen the term used, and I think the context makes it clear that PZ wasn’t doing that, which is what I was trying to address. At that point in all his waffling about his mixed feelings, I think PZ was making a case that for that very reason it does seem sort of okay, not that everything he brought up in that item is simply irrelevant to whether or not it’s okay.

    But of course you can use words and phrases however like, although I doubt many others will go along with it in this particular case.

  23. says

    I thought the picture would have been better if she had been holding some bloody knitting too. And I don’t see why it has to be “funny” to talk about beheading politicians – especially ci-devant aristos who threaten the body politic. I’m comfortable nudge-nudge wink-winking about tumbril rides for the elite – maybe she shouldn’t have said she was joking. Maybe she should have said she’d be dead or in prison or something awkward like that.

  24. says

    I’m disappointed that none of the people complaining about the beheading picture have realized that if she was taking the position that beheading an unwanted politician was a state-sanctioned act (i.e.: authorized by the committee for public safety) then it’s not murder, it’s the state doing what the state does. After all, they argue it’s not murder when a drone pilot fires a missile into a crowd or an executioner pushes curare into a death row inmate. She was simply commenting on a forseeable future in which the powers that be authorize a particular judicial sanction – a future in which that action is not illegal or even murder because the state says it’s OK. Such is the weird logic of state-sanctioned killing.

  25. weylguy says

    I always considered myself to be a caring, tolerant progressive. I would occasionally use the N* word in the context of how racist, bigoted Red State hillbillies are wont to talk about minorities, mostly in a sarcastic response to what I heard from them. But I’ve learned never to do that anymore, because it doesn’t hurt or educate the rednecks at all.

    Meanwhile, the U.S. military routinely uses words like raghead, towelhead, Haji, Habib, Arab N* and even worse terms in countries that we have invaded, bombed and occupied, and nobody says boo. As the only adults in the room, we progressives are expected to always be polite to our “warriors” and hawkish political leaders, yet when one person steps out of line they’re immediately attacked by the media regardless of the context. In short, the stunt that Maher pulled (and I know damn well he’s not a racist) just makes progressives even weaker, if such a thing is possible. Again, IOKIYAR.

    The same goes for Kathy Griffin, although I will join her here by admitting that I’d love to see Trump’s head and those of his administration publicly mounted in the Rose Garden.

  26. Saad says

    Sorry, I didn’t have time to figure out how I feel about a completely unrealistic and impossible joke about a comedian beheading a very, very powerful evil man.

    I was still busy thinking about the very powerful evil man who has sexually assaulted/raped women saying he does whatever he wants to women’s bodies against their will.

    That one just seemed much more real and problematic.

  27. chrislawson says

    c.razor,

    I’m not sure what your sticking point is here. There are many things that make a good comedy. Punching up is just one of them. Which is why it’s entirely possible to punch up and still make poor comedy. I can’t work out why you think PZ or myself see good comedy and punching up as identities in a p/not-p dichotomy.

    (There are also good comedians who don’t punch at all — Steven Wright’s comedy was largely about surreal observations and logic fails.)

  28. mond says

    I offer this ‘joke’ for your consideration.

    It’s a powerful rich white man saying he could murder a random person in the street and would still get people voting for him.
    (complete with hand shooting gesture)

  29. tkreacher says

    Frankly, I’m surprised there haven’t been more blatant and less “jokey” threats of violence against those who take power for the sake of self-enrichment at the expense of very real “regular ol’ people’s” lives, up to and including destroying the planets viability for human life at all.

    They are entrenched enough, the propaganda has won over enough of the populace to keep them entrenched, and inspired enough apathy in enough of those not won over to prevent any legal way of removing the rot, that what else are people going to do.

    Sooner or later people will either break out the guillotines or be beaten into submission long enough that it won’t matter, because what’s the point of fighting over the uninhabitable?

  30. says

    Marcus:

    I thought the picture would have been better if she had been holding some bloody knitting too.

    I hate to say, but I imagine a lot of people wouldn’t get the reference. It would have been a much better scene to have a guillotine, a Trump dummy under the National Razor, with Griffin sitting in a rocking chair, knitting. And maybe a tumbril in the background.

  31. Reginald Selkirk says

    and using a word white people should never, ever use

    I’m sorry, but I don’t get this. If you think it’s acceptable for one man to use that word, but not another man; because of the colors of their skins, then your point of view seems inherently racist.

  32. edmond says

    Another thing about Kathy’s apology… if you’re familiar with her routine, she frequently says that she NEVER apologizes for her humor. She’s often rude, graphic and extremely candid while skewering celebrity behavior, and has practically sworn that she won’t apologize for being that way. She feels that, as a comedian, she would weaken the strength of her delivery if she cows to demands for apologies from offended celebrities.

    This makes the fact that she finally DID apologize that much stronger. It’s clear that she was able to step back from this and see that it was over the line, and required an apology even from someone who makes a habit of never offering one. This is something we pretty much never see Republicans do.

    People have also said that she only apologized because of the backlash. Please. Who remembers when she won the Emmy? “Suck it Jesus, this award is my god now!” She’s used to backlash. Her apology was sincere.

  33. tkreacher says

    Reginald Selkirk #37

    I’m sorry, but I don’t get this. If you think it’s acceptable for one man to use that word, but not another man; because of the colors of their skins, then your point of view seems inherently racist.

    Won’t someone please think of the poor white people and their plight to finally be able to say “ni**er” without oppression?

    Won’t someone please, for once, think of the white struggle?

    STOP THE RACIST OPPRESSION OF WHITES!

    FREEDOM!

    FREEDOMS! EQUALITY!

    WE SHALL NOT HAVE PEACE UNTIL WE HAVE “NI**ER” FOR ALL!

    I had a dream, that one day little white children and little black children would be playing on a mountaintop, and those little white children were free to say the word ni**er. On that day, freedom and equality will reign.

    Let’s bow our heads and pray that context, history, social dynamics, systemic racism, culture and human differences are finally exposed not to exist so that finally white people can be free to shout ni**er from the rooftops without this vile, racist reaction to their freedoms speech freedom of free equality and free and right-for-one-right-for-all freedoms of truth.

  34. Saad says

    Reginald Selkirk,

    I’m sorry, but I don’t get this. If you think it’s acceptable for one man to use that word, but not another man; because of the colors of their skins, then your point of view seems inherently racist.

    Is it the color of their skins or something to do with current events, history, civil rights, systematic oppression, etc.

    If you think it’s acceptable for one person to use that word, but not another person; because of the genders of the person, then your point of view seems inherently sexist.

    If you think it’s acceptable for one person to use that word, but not another person; because of their sexual orientations, then your point of view seems inherently bigoted.

  35. consciousness razor says

    chrislawson, #32:

    I’m not sure what your sticking point is here. There are many things that make a good comedy. Punching up is just one of them.

    I also explicitly said that, not that it makes a difference.

    Which is why it’s entirely possible to punch up and still make poor comedy.

    Hold on. At the moment, I don’t care about what’s “good comedy” or “poor comedy,” in the sense of what’s funny or not funny. The issue is about what sorts of things are morally good or acceptable, as applied to the specific types of circumstances that comedians find themselves in. If they’re in some kind of special situation, such that we ought to be careful about how that fits in with what we consider morally acceptable compared to generic people in generic situations, then the pressing questions are about how we might do that and about which factors are morally relevant and require some kind of special considerations. If comedians are like everybody else in the relevant ways, then nothing new or different has to be taken into account.

    Think of a slightly different situation: if an author writes a story, we can evaluate it with aesthetic criteria and on focus strictly on its formal properties as a piece of literature. The plot might be interesting or not, the characters well-developed or not, etc. You can evaluate the imagery, settings, pacing, dialogue, blah, blah, blah. Now, I point out to you that this story is promoting Nazism, which is a moral problem, not necessarily a problem with any of those other features that you had been focusing on. It may after all be a very beautifully-crafted piece of shit which is promoting Nazism. And you shouldn’t have any trouble seeing what is problematic about that. You might say “that’s a good story” and mean something very specific by that; but you better not equivocate when the subject turns to why it’s not a story that is morally good or acceptable. Is that fairly clear?

    I can’t work out why you think PZ or myself see good comedy and punching up as identities in a p/not-p dichotomy.

    Look at how PZ was using it, like here for instance:

    2. On the other arm, it’s Donald Trump, and it’s definitely punching up. That’s what comedians should do. Did she go too far? I’d agree with that.

    Yes, there may be many other things comedians should do, as both of us have pointed out now. I assumed he meant “comedians should (among other things) punch up” when that is literally what I said in #8: that it is only one thing among others, which may be morally acceptable for comedians. That was a friendly amendment to what he actually wrote, so I could move on to the crux of the issue, since I didn’t see a need to dwell on that or even point out that I was doing it.

    Of course it still may not be true that punching up fits entirely inside of the realm of acceptability. Maybe sometimes it doesn’t. But PZ was treating it as if doing that would be sufficient to land you somewhere into acceptability; it was offered multiple times as that kind of a reason. (Granted, he also says this goes “too far,” but there’s nothing to help anybody sort out whatever that might mean or how it might affect anything else in any part of the argument.) And that does seem to be the idea, when others have appealed to the concept and used it in the normal/familiar way. So if you’re holding onto that, and if this particular act isn’t acceptable, then the only coherent option left would be to say it’s not a proper example of punching up. If you’re not saying anything coherent, just spitting out whatever random excuses and diversions and slogans and so forth that pop into your head, which might somehow look like they’re giving you the conclusion you wanted, then I’m not going to take that kind of thing seriously as an argument.

    PZ also said this right at the beginning: “Good comics challenge those in power.” So one question you might ask is whether Griffin’s picture is any serious kind of “challenge” to Trump or anyone else in power. It’s not “punching up” in any sense that I have any reason to care about. And I also don’t think it’s challenging, just some pointless, gratuitously attention-grabbing horseshit that challenges nobody and nothing, which I’d say is about par for the course for her work. In this case, the stunt backfired a bit, and for some mystifying reason or another, some people seem to be upset about that. But my feelings are obviously not very mixed, and I don’t see anything compelling in the OP or the thread, which would pull me the other way.

  36. says

    You’re really overanalyzing this, and ladling lots of your own interpretations into it.

    PZ was treating it as if doing that would be sufficient to land you somewhere into acceptability

    Nope. Would a series of videos of people getting kicked in the crotch be hilarious if they were all, say, senators? No, I wouldn’t think so at all. The idea that punching up is sufficient for good comedy is an invention you get to take credit entirely for yourself.

  37. says

    My first reaction was that I’d have fired her too, though this context (unknown to most people including me just now) makes that less of a sure thing.

    But here’s what I don’t understand about Maher. White dudes should have a subroutine running in their heads all the time. And if it sees that word and certain jokes headed from brain to mouth, it should intercept; “Woah, woah, WOAH! Best think twice before saying this!” And this is a pretty low-level TSR; it should not matter if you are tired, or drunk, or angry or what. Its nice priority should equal 1. It’s a very compact instruction, so it shouldn’t have much effect on vocalization performance.

  38. consciousness razor says

    You’re really overanalyzing this,

    If that’s a roundabout way of saying that you’re not giving very rational arguments in this post when attempting to defend Griffin, so there’s nothing much for anyone to analyze, then maybe we should just agree to leave it there.

    Nope. Would a series of videos of people getting kicked in the crotch be hilarious if they were all, say, senators?

    Wut? It doesn’t matter whether or not it’s “hilarious.” People (including employers, advertisers, etc.) don’t have a major ethical problem with the Griffin picture because they think it fails to be hilarious, because that wouldn’t make any fucking sense. The problem with Maher is also not merely that his shit isn’t funny. And that’s not why you care whether or not people challenge power or suck up to it. And that’s not how you would go about determining whether a person is doing one or the other.

    Would getting kicked in the crotch ever count as “punching up,” no matter who is kicked? Or is that not how the term would be used, by a reasonable person with a basic understanding of what it does and doesn’t mean? (Also, would that seriously count as “challenging” in any meaningful sense?) Maybe I’ve just gotten the wrong impression of the concept somehow, so I should fix that for myself, but it doesn’t seem like that’s the issue.

  39. says

    Reginals Selkirk

    I’m sorry, but I don’t get this. If you think it’s acceptable for one man to use that word, but not another man; because of the colors of their skins, then your point of view seems inherently racist.

    1. Racism =/= prejudice. Learn the difference.
    2. Here’s how I explain this to my kids and students:

    Let’s say I stub my toe. I swear and say “I’m such an idiot”.
    I stub my toe. You say “you’re such an idiot”.
    Do you see a difference?
    Now there’s tons of social situations where the relationship between the people involved determines what people are allowed to say and what they aren’t. Skin colour is just another one.

  40. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    The idea that punching up is sufficient for good comedy is an invention you get to take credit entirely for yourself.

    Is punching up even a necessary condition for good comedy? Can good comedy involve no punching at all? (Or perhaps punching sideways? Is that even a thing?)

    I think a lot of this debate and over-analysis could be avoided by saying that punching down is never good comedy, and leave it at that.

  41. Tethys says

    I dislike her stunt, but I generally do find her rude, obnoxious, and not funny. The double standard where the woman gets fired for her tasteless publicity stunt, but Maher is allowed to be an edgelord is simply the status quo when the edgelord king is allowed to rampage through the WH.

    Jael and Sisera was another popular subject for classical art. Griffins stunt might have been better received if she had made it aesthetically pleasing, and not referenced various scary mid-east terrorist groups by brandishing a bloody head. Brutality isn’t cool, but somehow the paintings in my link are beautiful.

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