Inspection- Pushing the Envelope Towards Violence
Our drive back from the Adirondacks is always long, tiresome and tedious. Ohio defines “tedious” through its dominant pattern of interstate scenery: cornfield, cornfield, “Grandpa’s Cheese Barn!” cornfield, cornfield, “YOU’RE GOING TO HELL!” Which seems to invite that short stint before death called sleep driving. We tend to trade driving duties and a chance to sleep back and forth. Hopefully there won’t come a time when we get confused between the two.
Occasionally we may stop for a meal or to do the internet. We were almost into Louisville when we stopped at a McD’s. Behind me there were 3 guys discussing politics and Kathy Griffin. What they were saying definitely fit Lost in Space Robot’s fav saying: “Does not compute!”
”These %$#@ liberals don’t get it.”
”Yeah, all they want to do is raise taxes.”
”And this Griffin thing shows how violent they are, how much disrespect they have for the office of the presidency. If anyone on the right dared to do anything like this, boy, would they howl…”
I am not one to confront people. In fact it was their conversation and therefore none of my business until they got so loud I swear they each had bullhorns. So I started muttering just loud enough they might get the idea in a public place not everyone had to hear their one sided blather. I feel the same when I’ve heard lefties do it.
I muttered about Ted Nugent’s many “suggestions” like that the Clintons be hanged, or Barack can suck on his machine gun. Eventually they left. I doubt I had anything to do with it, except they seemed to get a little quieter, and that’s all I wanted.
Nugent declared the machine gun comment was just a metaphor. So lifting up a fake bloody head that kind of looks like the president wasn’t? Metaphor, or not, kind of misses the point here. They were both bad, wrong and a step way too far in pushing the envelope to get attention and press.
Look, I’m going to make no claims as to which side spouts more violence encouraging “jokes,” or uses such images more; because that dilutes a point I need to make. Besides, I have my opinions, you have yours, and exactly how would we ever do a decent survey on this to prove either is more culpable anyway? Who gets to decide what counts and what doesn’t? The whole discussion breaks down into silly-anity. (Closely related to both insanity and profanity, but mostly just silly.)
Shouldn’t the object be to get entertainers to stop “going there?”
I certainly won’t defend a comedian I have found distinctly unfunny long before this incident. Why anyone would think that “funny” I haven’t the faintest. But why anyone would find Nugent’s violent imagery-laced rants against the Clintons and Obama amusing or entertaining? No matter who uses this envelope pushing shtick: it’s wrong and counter productive if the purpose is to humiliate the other side into complying or being quiet. That’s because the real result is usually “game is on,” to use a cliche’, then to push the envelope even more over the edge.
As with so many situations the left will blame the right, the right will blame the left and both claim the other started it. Apparently a large segment of partisans on all sides never learned to heed the teacher who said…
”I don’t care who started it. This will stop.”
History proves this is a longstanding trend in comedy, and that should be looked at. Why? Because just insulting or suggesting violence against one side or the other only assures it will get worse no matter who apologizes, or not.
All of this is the obvious result of where humor and entertainment has been going for years.
Should we start with Don Rickles? Maybe not. Maybe we could go to Eddie Murphy’s obsession in his original act with content that consisted mostly of the F-bomb. But that was just a minor push of the envelope compared to all that would come after that. Insult humor has been with us a long time and, to be honest, I think that’s the lowest form of humor. It takes intelligence to create a good pun despite its low standing. Calling someone a “pus face,” or an idiot, a loser, a pinhead… not so much. Oh, some insults can be creative but they’re also destructive. One of the more mild ones is at a roast, but such “kind” trading of insults is only funny if the target gets the jokes, as Donald Trump himself has shown. Let’s not even start on his obsession with unintentionally increasing Saturday Night Live‘s ratings.
This trend isn’t just political. At one time Ren and Stimpy and South Park were “edgy.” Now they’re approaching “quaint.” The move has been on to push more and more.
Yet one must ask: why do humans find hurting people intentionally “funny?” Once, in slapstick, seeming fools hurting themselves was “funny.” But I think this trend toward violence inciting humor may go back to the same reason Nazis found Jew jokes “funny:” feeling superior and justified.
Perhaps the political grandfathers of this might be The Smothers Brothers? I admit I enjoyed their skits. But even I knew at 15 that the skit that got them kicked off the air was a tad too far: a black and white couple marrying while the white, redneck, preacher pointed a shotgun at the black groom’s head, which also had a noose around it. Even in the 60s not all of the South was like that and many areas, like Nashville, were trying to improve. Yet it also seems quaint compared to some Limbaugh or Saturday Night skits… which seem quaint compared to Griffin and Nugent.
I believe adding a political dimension to humor based on simple insult, violence-inspiring content, that demeans whole groups making them to blame for all ills, is a very dangerous trend. And I see no end to it because, instead of focusing in on the nature of the “joke” we focus on which side to blame. This raises the bar for the next outrage.
Blame the left.
Blame the right.
But if that’s your only point you’re missing the more important, bigger, less partisan, picture.
Because we collectively still accept, laugh, and encourage this purely partisan form of hate humor there will be more of it. Violence and hate will follow jacked up to new levels. Those willing to go to the kind of extremes that successfully silences, even exterminates, the others will “win.”
But, until then, we have bipartisan support for probably only one thing in America: pushing the envelope in different directions politically. If this continues I suspect a severed head and blowing a president into little pieces with a machine gun may soon be viewed as “quaint.”
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 40 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks, and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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