How Not to Heal the Nation’s Wounds, Kathy Griffin Edition

Trump Maladministration

Comedian Kathy Griffin posed with what looks like the severed head of Donald Trump. Although some are defending this as “performance art,” I say it was a boneheaded thing to do, and I won’t be sorry if she loses work because of it.

Suggesting violence toward a real, living person is stupid and reckless. “It was just a joke” is no excuse. It was wrong, and not funny, when Ann Coulter said “We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens’ creme brulee.” It was wrong when righties burned President Obama in effigy and erected billboards suggesting he should be lynched.  Stooping to the Right’s level accomplishes nothing.

Here’s a post I wrote back in 2007 about humor as aggression. In it, I wrote that political art should be judged by the point it makes. Is the point true? Or is it just about mocking someone the artist doesn’t like? What point is Griffin making other than “I want Donald Trump dead”? There are copious things about Trump that are worthy of being mocked; why stoop to this?

I don’t like him, either, but I don’t want him dead. I want him investigated; I want his transgressions exposed; I want him out of office. If his maladministration is soundly ridiculed along the way, fine by me. But no, I don’t wish any physical harm to him. Maybe I’ve been a Buddhist for too long, but that’s how I feel.

Adding more hate and aggression into our political discourse accomplishes nothing. Roger Cohen wrote yesterday,

Tens of millions of Trump opponents cannot communicate with tens of millions of his supporters. There is no viable vocabulary. There is no shared reality.

This is the chasm to which Fox News, Republican debunking of reason and science, herd-reinforcing social media algorithms, liberal arrogance, rightist bigotry, and an economy of growing inequality have ushered us.

It’s perhaps the most important problem confronting the United States, because the end point of hardening fracture and mutual incomprehension is violence — like last week’s fatal stabbing of two men by a Muslim-insulting white supremacist on a Portland commuter train.

America is full of enraged people just looking for an excuse to act out their rage. Feeding the rage is irresponsible. Political expression that expresses nothing but hate or a wish for violence is self-indulgent and stupid.

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  1. LongHairedWeirdo  •  May 31, 2017 @5:36 pm

    I have mixed feelings about this, and not about “was this okay, or not”. It wasn’t “okay”.

    But: am I outraged by this? Do I consider this to be ridiculously over-the-top and completely damning of Kathy Griffen?

    “Eh. I think it was wrong, and a bad idea.”

    “But doesn’t this show that, in the marketplace of ideas, this outrageous, hateful thing…”

    “Eh. I think it was wrong, and a bad idea.”

    “YOU’RE NOT LISTENING! This sort of HATE…”

    “WOW! You *nailed* that! You’re right. I’m not listening. And, by the way, ‘eh. I think it was wrong and a bad idea.'”

    Show me people who are aghast at the “liberal hunting permit” and “journalist; tree; rope; some assembly required”, who call out how hideous it was to support pointless wars and torture, etc. ad nauseam, and I’m willing to listen to them complain about this.

    The rest of the right? “You know, there are actual *important issues* to be concerned with, like some bozo trying to create an unofficial back door with the Russians, rather than going through proper channels, so everyone knows that he’s not trying to, I dunno, commit treason or something, and the Republicans, who never found a D they won’t investigate to death, blowing the whole thing off.”

    Just between you and me, I do have a stronger reaction – but I feel like, why should we do all the condemnation of hideous, hateful behavior? Why aren’t Republicans called out for the same thing? I mean, other than how it’s so common they’d have nothing else to do?

    (Actually, that’s a benefit, isn’t it? They wouldn’t have time to plot how to cut taxes by killing millions of people.)

  2. JDM  •  May 31, 2017 @6:34 pm

    I’d like Trump to be the mirror image of Nelson Mandela. Mandela spent 27 years in prison and then became president and worked to heal his country’s wounds. Trump worked to wound his country and became president; now he should spend the 27 years in prison.

  3. c u n d gulag  •  May 31, 2017 @7:25 pm

    You thought that was a good idea, Kathy Griffin?
    You thought that was funny?
    It’s neithet.
    It’s stupid, ignorant, and malevolently violent!

    Look, I know the Reich-Wingers have done the same type of thing – or worse.
    But we don’t need to get down to their Cro Magnon level of “humor.”

    Enough, please.
    Watch the late night comedy shows.
    They make their comedic points without graphic displays of fake violence.

  4. Bill  •  May 31, 2017 @7:30 pm

    Maybe if she’d said that this is what you do to alligators posing as populists…

  5. Swami  •  May 31, 2017 @10:54 pm
  6. vagabonde  •  May 31, 2017 @11:32 pm

    I agree with you 100% – suggesting violence against a political person or any person should be taboo in a civilized country. But at the same time I wonder why – and since living in Georgia for decades I have seen it – it is OK to make fun or threaten people of color. While at work I saw many drawings, being passed around, showing African-Americans with a noose around their necks (even one of President Obama I recall.) I think it is still done in areas of GA. Why US citizens don’t get outrage at this as well? Where is the clamour from the Right? On the 4th of July they will all stand up and tell how free this country is, for everyone. Really? How can vandalizing LeBron James’ house with racial slurs happen still in 2017?

  7. maha  •  Jun 1, 2017 @12:22 pm

    “Why US citizens don’t get outrage at this as well?” We do; it just doesn’t get as much publicity.

  8. Swami  •  Jun 1, 2017 @1:26 am

    I don’t want to see any physical harm come to Trump either, but I wouldn’t be adverse to the idea of a just God rewarding his wickedness with a prolapsed rectum. A couple of weekends convalescing at Walter Reed would save the taxpayers millions and allow the members of Mar-a -Lago to enjoy the full benefit of their membership without the security restrictions imposed when Trump is in the house. win win!

  9. maha  •  Jun 1, 2017 @12:19 pm

    “I don’t want to see any physical harm come to Trump either, but I wouldn’t be adverse to the idea of a just God rewarding his wickedness with a prolapsed rectum.” Let us pray … 🙂

  10. Shannon  •  Jun 1, 2017 @11:45 am

    I disagree. This image is the closest to healing that I’ve gotten since the election, and it’s because it has given Trump and his wife a tiny window into what it must have felt like for little Hispanic children to hear a major presidential candidate call their people rapists. Or how it feels to be black or Jewish, and see a major presidential candidate dog whistling white supremacists. I could go on and on. I wish that Kathy Griffin would have said that she’ll apologize when he apologizes to THOSE children, and then resigns.

  11. maha  •  Jun 1, 2017 @12:18 pm

    Shannon, Um, no. “it has given Trump and his wife a tiny window into what it must have felt like for little Hispanic children to hear a major presidential candidate call their people rapists.” Sorry; but if he’s the sociopath he appears to be, he is incapable of feeling any such thing. Griffin’s little stunt was nothing but a self-indulgent expression of hate that will cause Trump supporters to feel even more entitled to punish anyone who is not Them.

  12. Bill Bush  •  Jun 1, 2017 @12:22 pm

    Shannon, I understand what you said, and I like it, because it is a wider view. But as far as posting the photo with no commentary, as it was evidently done, I still don’t like it.

  13. c u n d gulag  •  Jun 1, 2017 @3:51 pm

    Well, our asshole POTUS, t-RUMLE-thin-sKKKin, the festering boil on the sphincter of humanity, has taken the US out of the Paris accord.

    I just don’t know what to say anymore…

  14. Dan  •  Jun 1, 2017 @4:31 pm

    Someone needs to cobble together a collage of all the racist, sexist, misogynist, homophobic, anti-christian, anti-muslim, anti-insert-religion, and otherwise stupidly unfunny but widely-published Republican/alt-right/etc. visuals, even if just those used during the campaign, with KG’s contribution squarely in the middle but of the same scale and caption it: “Can you find the example of LIBERAL-hate-speech?”
    Then her idea may have made sense and perhaps an impact…

  15. LongHairedWeirdo  •  Jun 2, 2017 @1:45 pm

    Maha, I kind of agree with what you say about how Trump won’t feel anything, but I think the more important point is not that Trump won’t feel, but that no one else will care.

    There’s a packaged response to this. “This is horrible and unacceptable and despicable and should never be forgiven or forgotten!”

    And because good and decent people will be asked about it, they’ll respond to it in good and decent ways, unlike when right-wingers are asked about something their side does.

  16. maha  •  Jun 2, 2017 @3:25 pm

    LongHairedWeirdo: More than anything else, my concern is to get Trump and the right-wing crazy machine out of political power. Anything that gets in the way of that is a mistake, and I’m saying Griffin’s stunt is the kind of thing that backfires against us. That worse behavior doesn’t backfire against the Right may be unfair, but that’s the reality. Already the Right is running ads trying to tie John Ossoff to the Griffin photo, and while that’s nonsense, it’s the sort of smear that has worked all too well in the past. Griffin’s stunt could cost us a seat in the House, in other words. Stooping to their level like this is self-indulgent and undisciplined, and it’s crap we can’t afford.

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