Though it likely wasn’t her intention, Kathy Griffin may have done us a solid.
Let’s hope her apology, as well as CNN’s dismissal of her, were both acts of genuine, scene-altering conscience — not simply craven attempts to move on as quickly as possible to the next form of cultural subterfuge.
And if that’s truly the case, let their acts of conscience be ours as well.
For when the belief exists that there was a sincere audience for presidential beheading humor, and you orchestrated a photoshoot (complete with effects) to pull it off, you cannot feign reactionary faux pas in the ready-fire-aim era of social media.
This was a calculated, intentional, attempt to tap into some sinister zeitgeist no free people should tolerate. In other words, Griffin and her collaborators clearly had (good?) reason to believe there was a market for this.
Misguided attempts at humor that draw a wince instead of a laugh are one thing — and ultimately not particularly dangerous on any level, regardless of how offensive they may be. Tasteless, sure, but not dangerous.
Yet that’s not what this was.
This was a woman, given a national platform by a major name in news, who somehow believed parroting ISIS-level acts of villainy was appropriate. It is doubtful she did this on a lark, or simply took a joyride into the forbidden zone by failing to step away from the keyboard before hitting “send.” In this day and age, that can happen to the best of us, and has happened to me.
She thought wrong, and now her career may be in jeopardy.
But before we congratulate ourselves on being morally superior to such dreck … not so fast. While Griffin crossed the line, the current political environment has created too many on both sides who have flirted with doing the same in their own way.
We have made stars out of discredited conspiracy theorists, who admit in sworn court documents they’re click-bait peddling frauds for the masses. We are legitimizing an anti-American anarchist who helped get our soldiers killed. We made a racist, anti-Semitic frog an actual thing.
Of course, as bad as all of those examples are, none of them probably stoop to the heinous level Griffin lowered herself to. But they are on the same highway to hell.
This is why Christ commands us to first remove the beam in our own eye. For if too many of us had not rewarded those appealing to the worst aspects of political tribalism, it is unlikely Griffin would’ve ever attempted such a stunt for shock value and attention; she would’ve attempted something tamer, like hanging Trump in effigy. That, by the way, was already done earlier this year.
Typically this is a practice reserved for protesting tyrants and despots, not U.S. presidents who simply disagree with you about a handful of issues. The truth is if you’re taking Trump so seriously as to protest him like was Mussolini, that says more about you than it does Trump.
It says you take Trump more seriously than he takes himself. It says you probably need to walk away from social media and cable news for a while, and maybe try gardening and gaming before skipping right to the guerrilla warfare.
Especially since, as David Harsanyi aptly put it this week, there is no political tribe so loyal to you that it deserves you making a menace of yourself for it.
Quite the contrary — both parties and all of their various tribes are far more deserving of your scorn, mockery and satire. None of them are worth throwing your life and reputation away for, as Griffin has done. And when you consider what we permit people to get away with nowadays without kicking them to the curb, that’s saying something.
So what would it look like, then, if Griffin’s gruesomeness truly opened our collective eyes to something better? It might include taking seriously the truth bomb dropped recently by Fareed Zakaria, who is another CNN personality:
“American universities seem committed to every kind of diversity except intellectual diversity. Conservative voices and views are being silenced entirely. The heart of liberty in the Western world has been freedom of speech. From the beginning, people understood that this meant protecting and listening to speech with which you disagreed. It's an attitude of self-righteousness (on the Left) that says we are so pure, so morally superior we cannot bear to hear an idea with which we disagree. Liberals think they are tolerant but often they aren't.”
Boom. Case closed.
Now employ that kind of thinking across the culture and let’s make political discourse great again. See, if we incentivize spirited debate the right way, we’ll close down the black market for the Griffins and Pepes of the world.
However, first we must agree decent people with whom we disagree are human beings who deserve to be heard, too.