I think we can all agree Kathy Griffin made a bad decision. The comedian, provocateur and activist decided to stir the pot by taking a startling photo with what appeared to be the decapitated and bloody head of Donald Trump. Even though initial attempts to explain her decision included Trump’s disgusting remarks about Megyn Kelly, it just reminded me of the old saying I learned in childhood that “two wrongs don’t make a right.” I don’t fault Griffin for exercising her first amendment right to freedom of speech, but I do think she crossed a line from being funny and provocative to just plain gross. That said I also don’t think any reasonable person can think she was seriously threatening the President of the United States. It was an artistic expression, even if in poor taste, and for all we know the notoriety she has received from it may elevate her from the “D-List” to the mainstream again.
Perhaps Ted Nugent was thinking the same thing back in 2012.
For those who had forgotten, the aging rock star (then 63) famous for the song “Cat Scratch Fever” and a lifelong 2nd Amendment supporter gave a rather provocative speech of his own at a NRA convention in St. Louis. In the midst of then-President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, “Nuge” uttered the following words: “If Barack Obama becomes the President in November, again, I will be either be dead or in jail by this time next year.” To be fair to Teddy it’s hard to imagine that his remarks were any more of a literal threat than Griffin posing with a simulated decapitated head, but that didn’t stop the Secret Service from looking into it. I suppose that’s their job and they have to do it — taking all threats to the President seriously whether foreign or domestic or just plain absurd.
The problem I have isn’t specifically with either Griffin or Nugent. The problem I have is with both the left AND the right revealing their own moral hypocrisy on this issue. You simply can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that Griffin meant it but Nugent was just kidding nor vice versa. If you’re going to stand up and say you’re appalled and outraged by Griffin’s photo, you should be just as bothered by Nugent doing his best to rally the faithful by implying that Obama’s re-election would push him over the edge. Perhaps he feared the President would take away his guns. He needn’t worry about that — there are more guns in America now than ever before. The constitutional right to bear arms has not been dismantled nor could it be without an amendment that was ratified by three fourths of all states in the union. I don’t see that happening. Unfortunately the threat to women’s health and reproductive rights from Trump is a clear and present danger with only the Supreme Court to stop Trump and a Republican majority in Congress from doing what elderly WASP men typically do to empowered young women — and I’m not talking about Roger Ailes. That’s to say nothing of Trump pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, a decision which puts ALL healthy people at risk by ignoring a clear scientific consensus about carbon emissions and global warming.
Let’s get back to the issue at hand though of HYPOCRISY. Kathy Griffin and Ted Nugent are both endowed with an inalienable right that’s constitutionally protected as the law of the land. Even when the Supreme Court has been stacked with conservatives, the trend over the two plus centuries of this country’s existence has been to protect and expand upon that freedom. Even things deemed offensive, vulgar, pornographic or hateful have been shielded with the basic understanding that when you pick and choose who gets that freedom and who doesn’t, it’s a slippery slope that slides us straight into an Orwellian nightmare. It’s not as though I’d advocate threatening a President in either case, whether through veiled remarks or provocative photos, but it’s not akin to yelling “FIRE” in a crowded theater when there is none and getting innocent people killed in the panic that ensues. That’s really the only form of free speech that’s limited and with good reason — public safety.
I don’t think either Ted Nugent or Kathy Griffin showed good taste, but thankfully good taste is not the barometer of permissible free speech. If you’re going to get offended though at least have the decency to be equally offended by both. Don’t tell me it’s cool for one to do it and not the other, because if you do, then I can plainly say with all offense meant that you’re full of crap.