Sunday, June 12, 2011

(Painfully Dumb) Quote of the Day

"Tracy Morgan joked about deadly violence against LGBT youth. He should be fired... In a year when we have experienced horrible suicides of LGBT youth which sparked a national movement called 'It Get's Better' (sic) to not fire Tracy Morgan sends exactly the wrong message at the wrong time. To advocate violence against anyone is disgusting, but against our most vulnerable youth -- it crosses the line."

-- Huffington Post "Senior Religion Editor" Paul Brandeis Raushenbush in a piece called, cleverly, "Tracy Morgan Should Be Fired"

I swear, this wasn't even worth putting up as a Quote of the Day without qualifying it; I wouldn't want anyone to think even for a second that what they were about to read wasn't just stupid beyond rational comprehension.

Yes, Tracy Morgan made a really crude crack about how he'd "stab that little nigger" if his son ever came to him and said he was gay. He's a comic, and a notoriously filthy loose cannon of a comic; to take anything he says seriously and, what's more, to regard it as an actual threat against either gay people or children is just ludicrous. To prove his point that Morgan's routine (and that's what it was, a stand-up routine) is so unacceptable to polite society (which, as a comic, Morgan kind of chooses to shrug off anyway) that he deserves to be punished by his bosses at NBC for it, Raushenbush cites as examples those who've pissed off the hyper-sensitive masses before him and have had to pay the price for their willingness to say something someone may not like. Those examples: Michael Richards, Mel Gibson and Dr. Laura. Richards and Gibson weren't, of course, on the air or promoting a movie at the time of their respective rants, but Raushenbush maintains that both would have earned being tossed out on their asses in some form or another had they been and, of course, Dr. Laura was forced to quit.

The thing is, no, neither Richards nor Gibson deserved to be judged by any authority higher than the general public -- which they were -- and Dr. Laura, as much as I detest her, shouldn't have been pushed out of her job by management either because, while she wasn't trying to be funny, she was being paid to essentially push people's buttons and to speak her mind (what little there is).

It's only contrived controversies created by sanctimonious, professionally aggrieved knee-jerks like Raushenbush that lead to draconian overreaction and will eventually, if they're successful, create a nation in which everyone constantly watches what they say and nobody is willing to push the boundaries of taste and decency for fear of losing their living. The hysterically ironic thing about tolerance in this country is that those who claim to be constantly fighting for it often do so by trying to silence anyone they personally deem intolerant.

Morgan didn't make his comment live on national television, or standing on a street corner in view of kids, or at a state fair -- he made the crack at a comedy show, in front of a group of people who had paid to hear him and ostensibly knew exactly what they were in for (and if they didn't, they deserved to have their sensibilities assaulted for being so damn clueless). Tracy Morgan isn't the lovable doof he plays on 30 Rock; he's raunchy, rude and politically incorrect as hell and -- guess what? -- he's absolutely entitled to be all of the above without having to worry about whether something he says in a comedy club is going to get him fired from his day job. He's not trying to be anybody's role model; he's a fucking comic.

By the way, from a practical perspective, Paul, if you think fourth-rated NBC is gonna fire a marquee star from one of its biggest hits for any reason short of shooting a Comcast executive in the face, you're delusional. Then again, your whole piece -- which also absurdly questions whether there's some kind of anti-gay agenda behind the scenes at SNL -- is so relentlessly dumb that it actually hurts my brain to read it. I'd never push to have you fired just because, God forbid, you offend me but, ugh, just -- stop writing -- please.

I've discussed this particular subject -- our rush to be offended and the reaction some have to not simply request but demand satisfaction in the wake of a perceived offense -- so often throughout the history of this site that I figured I'd bring back just a few quick blurbs from previous related pieces:

From "Battle: UCLA" (Originally Published, 3.15.11)

A girl named Alexandra Wallace was apparently so miffed at the fact that UCLA is overflowing with Asian students and their idiosyncrasies that she -- wait for it -- took to the internet to bitch about it. Her three-minute tirade is mildly offensive to say nothing of unbelievably dumb, but it's not like she's the Secretary of State and it's not like she set a Korean grocer on fire or something. She's a stupid kid whose shitty judgment should preclude her from graduating college long before her skewed belief system does.

But needless to say, there are already those out there demanding that she be expelled. Not because she's an idiot, but because she said something that offended them...

So should Alexandra Wallace be punished in some way for bitching about her experiences with Asian students? No, actually. She's entitled to believe what she believes and to voice those beliefs.

Just like all the Asian and Asian-American kids who'll make response videos mercilessly mocking stupid, overly bubbly California bleach-blonds with big boobs will be entitled to that.

From "Ruffled Feathers" (Originally Published, 3.14.11)

Aflac hired one of the most gleefully loutish and obscene comics on earth -- a guy who's made a career out of defying good taste and who'll go to any length to offend and instigate -- then suddenly grew a conscience and cut him loose only when the people he was threatening to piss off happened to be valued customers (since Aflac does a lot of business in Japan). It almost goes without saying that while it's absolutely the company's decision who it wants to be associated with, it's interesting that Aflac apparently never concerned itself with whether Gottfried's material throughout the years might be offensive to its gay, black, Hispanic -- basically anybody he's ever mercilessly ribbed at one time or another -- clientele.

Aflac should've known what it was getting into when it decided to make Gilbert Gottfried the voice of its corporate mascot -- reacting with righteous indignation now is either disingenuous or ridiculously ignorant.

By the way, Gottfried's jokes -- while tasteless -- were fucking hilarious. And that's what a good comic is supposed to do: make us laugh, even through our pain.

From "Tuesday Is Recycling Day" (Originally Published, 10.27.09)

At this rate, ESPN's going to run out of people soon.

Hot on the heels of the decision to continue on without the services of both Steve Phillips and the psychotic little troll he inexplicably chose to put his penis in, production assistant Brooke Hundley, ESPN managers have announced that they're suspending Bob Griese for a really stupid crack made on-air over the weekend. In case you haven't heard because you have, you know, a life, the former star Miami Dolphins QB was calling a college game last Saturday when, during a promo for the network's upcoming NASCAR coverage, he joked that driver Juan Pablo Montoya wouldn't be racing because he was "out having a taco."

For the record, Montoya isn't Mexican -- he's Colombian. Which means it would've made more sense to say that he'd be out because he was "getting busted for trafficking coke and killing a federal judge and his family with a MAC-10."

By that last comment, you can probably tell where I come down on this whole thing: Really, when did we become an entire nation of hyper-sensitive, well, pussies?

Within minutes of the offhand on-air gaffe, Griese apologized -- twice. As expected, these apologies sounded sincere but couldn't be, simply by virtue of the fact that they were almost certainly the product of a stern talking-to off-camera by ESPN executive producers. The question, though, is, did Griese need to apologize at all? Was what he said really all that earth-shatteringly awful? He's a sportscaster doing locker room-style banter and it was obvious he didn't mean anything hurtful by his silly little crack. But after getting Griese to essentially grovel on national television, the suits at ESPN have decided that he still hasn't been taught enough of a lesson (which of course is merely a smokescreen; the reality is that they have to prove to a handful of potential angry protesters and a few jittery sponsors that the network takes "racist" comments seriously) and so they chose to bench him.

In a terrific bit of meta-broadcasting, radio hosts Opie and Anthony picked apart this supposed scandal yesterday on their show -- and used the opportunity to expose contrition-as-theater for what it is 99% of the time. They did it by replaying their own very serious-sounding public apology for a comedy bit that got them suspended for a month back in 2007 -- a rant by an on-air regular that targeted Condoleezza Rice, Laura Bush and the Queen of England, among others. What was fascinating about their dissection of the uproar over the Griese comment and their own brush with America's perpetually aggrieved usual suspects was the level of refreshing honesty on display: O & A admitted flat-out that they were forced to apologize under the threat of losing their jobs; they came right out and said that they weren't, in fact, sorry and didn't mean one fucking word of what they were told to say on-air -- what was written for them by someone else.

From "Insolent Jest" (Originally Published, 10.30.08)

By now, regular readers of this site have probably figured out that I'm not very easy to offend. Sure, ignorance and stupidity piss me off to no end, but generally the kind of thing that will cause one group of people or another to demand blood, or at the very least an immediate public apology, will barely get a reaction out of me (and if it does, that reaction will usually be to laugh my ass off not only at the offending behavior itself but at those overly sensitive enough to take it so goddamned seriously). Don't get me wrong: Despite what you read here, I don't wander through my day wondering whose buttons I can push next. I may say some pretty obnoxious things from time to time, but rarely is any of it offered with malice or the intention of riling someone up just for the fun of it. That said, I'm a very firm believer that almost anything can be a legitimate target for a little ribbing -- myself included. What makes mocking or satirizing ostensibly untouchable cultural institutions like God, the church, political figures, and even, yes, Oprah so much fun is that they are held as sacrosanct by so many -- and that makes them, in a word, oppressive. There's a visceral thrill to be had going against the grain once in a while and defying the tyranny of political correctness. But more than that, it's necessary. Unassailable ideals and social mores are dangerous, and while holding something above criticism or ridicule, no matter the context or intent, may seem like the ultimate form of respect -- in fact, it's nothing more than the product of fear or idolatry. Just ask the editors of a Danish newspaper that dared to publish comic images of the Prophet Muhammed a couple of years back.

Which brings us to Denis Leary.

...Whether or not Denis Leary hates homosexuals I can't say for sure. I do know, however, that simply using the word "fag" doesn't automatically make someone a homophobe any more than simply using the word "nigger," irrespective of context, automatically makes someone a racist. I get that it's sometimes tough to tell a person's intent simply by his or her language -- and that the knee-jerk inclination might be to make broadstroke declarations banning anything that anyone may find offensive -- but that's when it's best to consider the source. Denis Leary, once again, is a comedian. He's made an entire career out of being an asshole; he even recorded a song in the early 90s proclaiming as much. Only a moron -- or, more likely, someone looking for something to be pissed about -- would pick up a book written by Leary and expect not to have his or her magnanimity challenged. Leary's stuff isn't designed to be everyone's cup of tea, but neither is it supposed to change the world. If you really think a book called Why We Suck should be filed under the self-help section at the bookstore, you need to have your head examined. It's meant to be funny. It's a fucking joke.

From "Occupational Hazard" (Originally Published, 1.10.08)

In case you haven't heard, The Golf Channel (Motto: "You're Fucking Kidding, Right? THE GOLF CHANNEL?") announced last night that it's suspending its lead anchor, Kelly Tilghman, for two weeks. The punishment comes in the wake of an offhand comment Tilghman made on the air last Friday night while casually bantering with analyst Nick Faldo. The two were talking about how Tiger Woods must seem unbeatable to young players on the circuit; Faldo joked that nothing could stop Tiger short of up-and-coming golfers physically "ganging up on him," at which point Tilghman chuckled "lynch him in the back alley."

I have no doubt that the second Kelly Tilghman said this, she regretted it and wished she could get a Mulligan -- mostly because she in no way meant it to sound the way she realized it could be taken (and of course has been taken by at least one demagogic jackass whom I'll get to in a minute).

The management of The Golf Channel, in justifying its reprimand called Tilghman's words "hurtful and grossly inappropriate."

Except that, once again -- she didn't fucking mean anything by it. It was a thoroughly innocuous comment made sinister only by the intractably cursed connotation we've bestowed upon a single word. Not that a person's true intentions are ever allowed to be taken into account in cases like these, but how insane is it that Kelly Tilghman is now having to apologize up and down -- she's forced to publicly prostrate herself at the feet of the aggrieved few who should have no say whatsoever in this matter anyway -- all because she accidentally blurted out some supposed linguistic pariah?

Turns out Tilghman is good friends with Tiger Woods and has been for some time. She apologized to him -- and guess how he responded?

The way you'd expect someone with Tiger's grace, class and good goddamned sense to respond. (Note: How funny is this line now?)

His spokesperson said this:

"Tiger has a great deal of respect for Kelly. Regardless of the choice of words used we know unequivocally that there was no ill-intent in her comments. This story is a non-issue in our eyes."

Needless to say, the fact that the only person who has a right to feel insulted by any of this doesn't feel at all insulted isn't stopping at least one other guy from voicing his substantial and ridiculous ire.

Care to guess who I'm talking about?

I won't even bother spelling it out for you. I'm just going to dispense with the decorum once and for all and issue a heartfelt plea:

Please, please, please -- would Al Sharpton just crawl into a bathtub somewhere and drag in a toaster-oven?

From "Jock Bitch: The Ongoing Saga of Don Imus" (Originally Published, 4.13.07)

I didn't find Imus's comment particularly offensive or incendiary -- though I admit to not being the target of it. I also didn't find it to be the least bit funny -- but I'm betting that some people did. Who determines that they don't have the right to find it funny -- or that I don't have the right to be indifferent to it? Who decides what's acceptable and what's unacceptable language -- which jokes are funny and which ones are without social merit?

At the moment, it would seem like the people who have cast themselves as deserving of the job are the same ones who never made amends for their own past transgressions (Hymie Town? Tawana Brawley?), who derive their power and authority from the very divisiveness they claim to decry, and who can rarely be counted on to express so much as an indignant thought when a group other than their own comes under attack by the intolerant.

This last fact should provide all the evidence needed to prove that the overall motivation of people like Sharpton and Jackson isn't justice or morality, but rather the subornation of an adherence to their own personal agenda.

If by some chance you'd like more more proof, consider this: no matter your opinion of Imus, it's an absolute fact that he spends a substantial portion of his time, both on-air and off, raising money to help children with cancer, through an initiative founded and maintained by his wife and himself. He has also, in the past, raised funds for U.S. troops overseas as well as raising awareness of the inadequacy of the V.A. hospital system. The point is that there are not only people out there who find Imus entertaining -- there are people who legitimately benefit from his presence on the air. These people have neither been consulted nor even considered by the torch-wielding mob now stationed at the gates of Imus's hilltop home -- that's because, to this particular mob, the good that Imus does for these people simply isn't as valid as the good to be achieved by removing him for making a completely insignificant comment. If you'll forgive such blatantly instigative language, they're essentially saying that the needs of kids with cancer aren't as important as the hurt feelings of a bunch of female basketball players -- that Don Imus, in fact, does more harm than good.

That's not simply unjust -- it's immoral.

From "The Nth Degree" (Originally Published, 11.21.06)

Allow me to begin by simply coming right to the point:


You obviously wouldn't be able to tell from where you are, but after typing that word I put my laptop aside, got up from the couch and walked to the refrigerator to pour myself a glass of iced-tea before returning to my computer a minute or so later. What's important about this isn't what happened during the short interval -- it's what didn't happen. The world didn't explode. Lives weren't lost. Hordes of people didn't pour out onto 125th street, or the corner of Florence and Normandie, or MLK boulevards all across the land to engage in weeping and gnashing of teeth at the assured knowledge that they would immediately be returned to a life of indentured servitude. The universe, as far as I know, didn't collapse in on itself, sucking reality -- or at the very least, a substantial portion of the population -- into a giant black hole of nothingness.

The reason of course is simple: Despite whatever heft, whatever power to destroy or dehumanize, that we've unwisely granted a single word -- any word -- in the end it is still just a word, and nothing more.

Except that in the most advanced and preeminent culture to ever exist upon this Earth, in the early days of the 21st century, it isn't just a word. On the contrary, the word "nigger" holds an unparalleled level of ascendancy in our society. There's no better testament to the truth of this statement than the fact that otherwise educated, intelligent people -- the type who normally would rather step on a live land mine than be taken for an idiot -- will gladly allow themselves to be reduced to spouting the vernacular of a four-year-old to avoid speaking it.

No matter the alternative's power to offend and instigate, is there anything -- anything -- more painfully ridiculous than a grown man or woman saying, "The N-word?" It's an absurd verbal tip-toe that not only proves that there is apparently no safe context in which the actual word can be uttered, but also that there exists an unspoken implication that those whom one would expect to be angered by the use of such a word are so stupid that they can't discern between the desire to dehumanize and subjugate and the need to openly discuss, and therefore should be protected from hearing the word altogether -- for the good of everyone. This latter possibility -- an indictment of an entire culture, whether out of condescension or outright fear -- is infinitely more offensive than the utterance of any one word.

From "On the Offensive" (Originally Published, 10.15.06)

By preaching the gospel of diversity -- by insisting that every person's every little hang-up be respected and that no one ever be made to feel the least bit uncomfortable -- we create a completely homogenous workplace which is actually devoid of any real diversity. True tolerance of the uniqueness of each culture and personality would allow for the occasional insensitive act or rude comment. That's not what we're after, though -- not these days. Instead, corporations are attempting to stave off ludicrous lawsuits by opportunistic employees and in doing so are catering to the culture of victimization which now holds us all hostage.


Josh Fernandez said...

Yours is an unpopular view, mostly because it isn't kneejerk and melodramatic, but I agree wholeheartedly. There should also be an "It Gets Blander" campaign, where anything out of line (yet kind of hilarious) gets silenced by self-righteous fuckwads.

Conchobhar said...

A real commitment to freedom requires a willingness to be offended
without trying to silence or change the behavior (by any means other than argument) of the offender.

A Bowl Of Stupid said...

"[A] nation in which everyone constantly watches what they say and nobody is willing to push the boundaries ..."

Wow, it's like you're writing either a eugoogly for the United States, or an inaugural address for the Idiocrocy (brought to you by Carl's Jr.)

Broadway Carl said...

Well thought out and spot on, Chez.

I have a question for you: How do you feel about what I consider the thinly veiled racism of Fox Business News' Eric Bolling? He's not a comedian, he's a "newsman" (if you don't consider it a stretch to call a talking head on FBN a newsman). He wasn't trying to crack a joke or make a specific point when he used his "chugging 40s" line or his most recent "hoods in the hizzouse" crack while Obama was hosting the President of Gabon.

To me, those were dog whistle racists statements. That's not to say definitively that Bolling is a racist, although in my opinion he is, but that his comments are.

There's a huge difference in what Morgan and Leary said in comparison.

Anonymous said...

read tina fey's statement here:

long live tina fey

Chez said...

What offends me about all of this is that, like, ironically, Don Imus, Morgan has apologized and yet for some groups and people that just isn't enough. He has to be made an example of -- to prove that there are some things you cannot say and expect not to have your life utterly decimated. He has to learn, as does everyone else, that intolerance will not be tolerated.

Jonathan Stover said...

If you ever have a chance, Chez, check out Nat Hentoff's early 1990's book of essays, FREE SPEECH FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE. It's a fascinating tour through the speech wars of the time, from which we've apparently learned nothing.

Cheers, Jon