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March 2012

March 16, 2012

Despicable We

Final

Oh Michael Jackson, musical prophet. You always had the words when words failed us. Wasn’t it you, possible molester of boys, who told us:

    If you want to make the world a better place

    Take a look at yourself and make a... change.

Had I heeded your words all those years ago, perhaps I would not be struggling with my own mixed emotions regarding a column I recently wrote for Vice magazine entitled “Dead Celebrities.” In that column, which was about phony piousness in the wake of a celebrity death (a piousness which reached hysterical highs upon the passing of the aforementioned possible molester of boys Mr. Jackson), I called the recently deceased Internet publisher Andrew Breitbart “a despicable human being.”

This was about twenty-four hours after he died.

Several weeks later, I had occasion to rethink these words for reasons that are unimportant. Upon reflection, I began regretting that exact choice of words because I did not know Mr. Breitbart, only the clown nose he put upon his face when shaking his seltzer bottle and dick pics at Liberals intent on destroying all that is good and holy.

The only Andrew Breitbart I knew was the public one, not the husband and father of four. The public Mr. Breitbart was, in my estimation, indeed despicable. Not for his political ideology, but for his seemingly gleeful destruction of individuals, organizations, and reputations.

Upon the passing of Ted Kennedy (husband, father, grandfather) he said, “Why do you grant a bully special status upon his death?” Which was a similar point I was making in my column. But Mr. Breitbart’s tactics were nothing if not bullying; he did not use the word “despicable” in his obituary to Senator Kennedy, preferring the terms “villain,” “duplicitous prick” and “bastard.”

So the question I had to ask myself was, “Am I also being despicable for expressing my opinion about Andrew Breitbart?” Was I being despicable for writing in a separate tweet that Rick Santorum was going to allow Ricky Martin to cum on his face as an, admittedly crude, point about Santorum’s homophobia? Was I being despicable for calling Rush Limbaugh a cunt? Or for making a joke about admiring Sandra Bullock’s “new dress and face” at the Oscars?

Yes, I suppose I was.

My question to myself: where is the line? Opinions are like Newtonian physics. Every one will have an equal and opposite counter-opinion. So how do you express yourself without offense? The more forcefully you make a point, the more you offend. As entertainers, comedians, radio hosts, pundits, or just ordinary citizens, that’s something we have to accept.

I regret saying that Andrew Breitbart was a despicable human being because I did not know the totality of his humanity. I did not know him as a father or husband or friend. I only knew his public persona, which was indeed despicable. And kind of scummy.

Rarely do we know more about each other than the public faces we present to the world. The private person can be very different. The question I’ve been asking myself, though, is which is the “real” person? It’s a question I’ve been asking about a lot of people during this horrible political season we’re experiencing, in particular myself. 

Like anybody else in my profession, I am trying to use humor to make larger points. Some of them are offensive. Some of them just aren't funny. But that's the risk I take. Every day. In the case of calling of Andrew Breitbart “despicable,” I wasn’t making a joke. It’s what I think. And just as I stand by my jokes, I stand by my opinions. I piss people off sometimes. Words have consequences and I will attempt to accept mine whenever and however merited. Just as possible molester of boys Michael Jackson asked me to do, I am currently looking at the man in the mirror.

 

 

March 10, 2012

Slut Bitch Whore

Everybody is outraged – OUTRAGED! – over language hurled against women these last few weeks. First it was Rush Limbaugh. Then Bill Maher. Now Louis C.K. has resigned from hosting the Radio and TV Correspondent’s Dinner after Greta Van Susteren threatened a boycott because during the last election Louis called Sarah Palin a cunt.

From Greta Van Susteren’s blog: “he changed his mind less than 24 hours after I called for a boycott.  I assume many others jumped on the call for the boycott and thus he made the right decision.  We did it together.”

Sincere congratulations to Ms. Van Susteren. You asked for his removal and you got it. The lesson: words have consequences. His words, your words, everybody’s words. Mr. Rogers would be thrilled.

No word yet on Ms. Van Susteren success in her boycott of Rush Limbaugh’s show because no such boycott exists. Why the selective outrage? Because, as always, these things have far less to do with what was said and more to do with who said them. Like the words themselves, they have to be viewed in context.

The difference between what Louis said, and what Rush said is this: in his apology, Rush made a point of saying that his personal attacks on Ms. Fluke, were not intended “as a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.”  

In other words, when he specifically called Sandra Fluke a “slut,” “a prostitute,” and encouraged her to post sex videos of herself online so he could watch, it was not personal. It was, therefore, general. Which I, for one, believe because it fits perfectly within the larger context of Rush Limbaugh’s twenty-plus years of ad hominem attacks on “feminazis” and gratuitous comments about all female journalists as “news babes.”

With Louis, his insult was actually the opposite: it was a highly personal attack. The target of his insult, Sarah Palin, so infuriated him that he felt the need to call her the very worst name he could think of. His insult referred to a specific woman at a specific time and place.

Did Louis cross the line? Yeah. Did Bill Maher? Yeah. Have I at times? Yeah. Has Greta Van Susteren ever crossed the line? Have you, in your personal conversations? Yeah. We all have. The difference is context. Do a Google search of the horrible shit Rush Limbaugh has said about women. Then do a search on Louis C.K.  See if it’s comparable.

Louis did use those words, and opted to drop out of an incestuous Washington dinner party rather than make himself the focus of this recurring debate on language. But the reason more people don’t give a shit about what Louis C.K. said is not because of a liberal bias – does anybody even know what Louis C.K.’s politics are, aside from hating Sarah Palin (a sentiment shared by many Republicans)? – but because the charge of misogyny just doesn’t hold a lot of water with Louis. 

With Rush it does. Regular listeners to Rush Limbaugh’s program, as I have been for years, are not surprised when he finds himself lambasted for his petulance, name-calling, and race baiting. It’s what he does. He’s kind of a cunt that way.