Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Why So Serious? (Post-Script)

A follow-up to Monday's column in the Huffington Post (HuffPo: "John Gibson's Truly Tasteless Joke, and Why You Really Shouldn't Care"/1.27.08)

I've written at length before about the slippery slope involved in allowing any offended party the powers of censorship. For some time now, a trend has been developing in this country, one which dictates that all someone has to do is claim aggrieved status and shout it loud enough and to the right people and it'll almost certainly make whatever happens to be offending him or her go away.

Don Imus makes makes a crack you think is racist -- regardless of whether or not it was aimed in your direction? Pitch a fit and get him fired.

Paris Hilton says something cruel toward gays on a videotape you were never supposed to see to begin with? Start a petition.

John Gibson makes fun of the death of Heath Ledger? Off with his head.

Please understand, all three of the people I've just mentioned rank about as high on my list of likes as, say, colon cancer. The question remains though, who gets to decide what's offensive and what's acceptable art, humor, gossip, etc?

I bring this up because in my diatribe against Gibson's ineffectual idiocy, I viewed his comment not as an insult to any one group, but rather as generally insensitive. Apparently, not everyone has taken it that way. A quick look at the comments some have posted in response to my editorial would seem to indicate that some in the gay community considered it a slam against homosexuals specifically. I hope I can be forgiven for not seeing Gibson's tasteless joke in this context, simply because Ledger himself wasn't gay and to the best of my knowledge Gibson never implied as much. (For the record, there's no doubt in my mind that Gibson and his audience giggle like Beavis and Butthead at the entire premise of Brokeback Mountain, but once again, trying to bully them into evolving will accomplish absolutely nothing besides maybe eliciting a wholly insincere apology.)

Most interesting of the comments though, is one which not only rails against Gibson's "homophobic rants," but also includes a link to a petition being circulated by perpetually pissed-off gay-rights group GLAAD as well as a list of Fox News's advertisers, ostensibly ripe for boycott, provided by -- Perez Hilton.

Now if you can already see the laughably jaw-dropping irony of Perez Hilton demanding that someone have his forum revoked for being generally offensive, feel free to stop reading.

For everyone else, the balls on Hilton -- the erstwhile Mario Lavendeira -- are positively staggering.

This is a guy who makes a living, and a depressingly nice one at that, drawing semen stains on celebrities, models and anyone he damn well pleases. He literally lives under the protection of the first amendment and the imprimatur provided by a satirist's ability to claim that it's all one big, mischievous joke. No harm, no foul.

Fact is, Perez Hilton needs to shut the fuck up and sit this one out.

As for the overall belief that Gibson was specifically ridiculing the gay community in his targeting of Ledger, I'm not sure that's the case. Gibson was simply being what he always is: a juvenile asshole. In the interest of full disclosure, I could very easily be accused of having mocked the death of Kanye West's mother, Donda West, a few months ago (Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger, Deader/11.12.07). I wouldn't be able to put up much of a fight if you called me an insensitive prick based on those comments. However, if you insinuated that I'm racist or sexist because I made an admittedly crass joke about the death of someone who just happened to be a black woman, I'd think you were an idiot.

Gibson wasn't making fun of gay people -- he was making fun of Heath Ledger.

And to those who think otherwise and insist on turning this into an opportunity to shout loudly about their own particular cause, I can only repeat the words that almost every girlfriend I've ever had has said at one point or another.

It's not always about you.


Boo said...

you know, it's magic sometimes, how i can come to your site, and you have already, and far more eloquently, ranted about the very thing wriggling under my skin.

so you rock, chez.

Caitlin said...

I agree that Perez doesn't belong anywhere near this, and I'm also in agreement that censorship is a complicated issue. I have to disagree with one of your central points here, though: I think Gibson's comments really were about homosexuality. The fact that Heath himself was not gay serves to underscore the point. If not for Heath Ledger's role as a gay man in a movie a few years ago, do you believe Gibson would have mocked his death? Brokeback Mountain, and its homosexual characters, is the only reason Heath was on John Gibson's radar. In reference to your comparison to your own reaction to Donda West's death, your comments were about vanity and celebrity, not her identity or affiliation with a particular group.

Anonymous said...

I second that! You just freakin' rock!

B said...

I completely agree about that Perez Hilton guy. I think he needs to learn when to shut the fuck up. As for the comments made, I agree that what he said was fucked up, but it's true that you can't be picky about cencorship. You have to either be for it fully or against it. John Gibson is just an asshole, I doubt he was insulting the entire gay community.


Sasha said...

The only fault I find in your argument is that neither Paris, nor Don Imus are actively involved in a political forum attempting to make or alter public policy with legions of willing believers who follow every word like it's sweet gospel from Heaven- JOHN GIBSON IS.

That makes his words exempt from the 'oops just kidding' clause that people have shoe-horned into public political discourse. It's not censorship -it's responsibility. People of that stripe should be held to a higher standard of how they express themselves and be held accountable when they cross the line.

kelley said...

But - where do we get off censoring/criticizing/whatever people (your Imuses, Gibsons, etc.) based upon the rationale of "They have an audience of thousands of dumbasses who may ignorantly follow in their stead and adopt that same thought process"?

You can't teach someone (your Imuses, Gibsons, etc. and also your Britneys, Parises, etc.) social responsibility, the whole axiom of 'to whom much is given, much is expected' - that's an inherent thing. They either get it or they don't.

So all the petitions and firings and finings in the world won't change that, or 'teach them a lesson'... at least, I've not seen evidence of a direct cause-and-effect.

Vermillion said...

For those of you feeling that Gibson's position as a "mewsman" or "journalist" or whatever, look at it this way:

What if some hyped-up litigious know-it-all went after, say, Jon Stewart or Colbert for making fun of their targets? They don't necessarily say they are kidding when they make fun of certain public figures(mostly because they don't have to, the jokes write themselves), and they are just about as credible and believable to a certain segment of the population (more so, even) than Gibson. Does that mean someone has the right to call for their jobs because of it?

The sad part about Gibson is that he didn't do it for laughs or commentary, as they do; he did it as a cheap ploy for attention. Like many a parasite, he saw publicity in this tragedy and made it about him and his dumbassery. And folks fell for it.

RottweilerTOM said...

As a gay man, I do not count Perez Hilton as one among my tribe. He's trash....everything I despise in the homo ethos

Boo said...

Hmm, I've given this a bit more thought since yesterday, and this is what I've come to:

Censorship is bad. Yes. On all levels. Freedom of speech is good. Hopefully, what freedom of speech allows us to do IS complain when sacks of shit like Gibson make a truly stupid and tasteless joke. No, it won't get him fired. But I'm pretty sick of the "silent majority" sitting by so silently these days...
This doesn't mean we should all be looking for something to bitch about. Simply that saying something out loud really can help change a climate, and maybe a culture.

So I say RAGE against the dying of the light.

Perez Hilton, though...what a waste of fucking copper wire and megabytes.