DISCUSSIONS: 5 – (June 2) Is TV making society into senseless boors?

Comedian Kathy Griffin went too far when she held up what was meant to look like Donald Trump’s severed head went too far. Is she solely to blame for this horrific attempt at humour?

Maybe we should look at ourselves.

 Kathy Griffin is a stand up comedian who broke into TV in the 1990’s. She has done comedy albums and been awarded Emmy’s. Her routines are not to everyone’s taste, some would label them as too ribald and too outlandish. But she was popular.

For a decade she had co-hosted the New Year’s eve TV special from Times Square along with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. However, Griffin may have gone too far recently when she posted a video of her holding up a likeness of Donald Trump’s severed head.

The fallout has been widening. Her New Year’s eve gig has been cancelled. A scheduled performance at a casino in New Mexico has been cancelled. She has lost a commercial promotions contract.

Trump was not amused
Even Donald Trump has entered the fray saying Griffin “should be ashamed of herself” for creating the video. Melania added, “…that photo is very disturbing. When you consider some of the atrocities happening in the world today, a photo opportunity like this is simply wrong…”

The Internet is media’s wild west
The Internet is like the wild west, unpoliced and unregulated for the most part. That is changing. Google and Facebook have taken initial steps at self-regulation but there is no regulatory body policing what is posted on the wide (wild) world of the web. Well, that last statement isn’t blatantly true. There is a policing body but it lacks real authority or real powers. It lacks enforcers. It lacks a dedicated staff of censors but that last point may be its biggest power and its most powerful dynamic. Because there are no real regulators of the Internet, the Internet is the epitome of free speech. You can voice any opinion that you wish, provided it isn’t libellous.

The video Griffin posted may not be breaking any criminal law. It may be much like those who burn flags or burn effigies of political leaders. This is free speech, as distasteful as it may be. But it is not a criminal offense in western democracies. Therefore, she may not be charged. However, she is guilty of violating social values as accepted by most people. Therefore, it is the society which needs to respond, a society which has as much variation in tastes and acceptance as there are clouds in the sky. One person’s tastes may be another’s abhorrence and vice versa.

The impact may be too much
Some control is necessary over everything and everywhere. But that control cannot be a body, a corporation or even a government. Our court systems must be firmly grounded in protecting society as a whole from hate and moral incursions but theses judges must tread warily to avoid costly errors against the freedoms we value so greatly. Control must come from within, from within each person in society and this control comes through education.  Parents teach. Society’s elders teach. Teachers teach. Many leaders in society teach. But lessons must be absorbed by each person in the form of awareness of the impact of any activity, in the form of the repercussions of any activity, in the form of not only open-mindedness but also fair-mindedness. One may believe doing drugs has no repercussions on anyone but the user, but a cursory investigation and examination shows otherwise.

Community values?
Griffin violated the tastes of the community in many people’s eyes. Thank goodness people in positions of authority and significance stepped forward to criticize her for this outlandish video. However, is she the one who is culpable here? Or is she just pushing the envelope to see what flies? We need people like Griffin to kite the balloons of society’s limits. But we also need a modicum of good sense and reasoned thinking to recognize that not everything acceptable to one person is readily acceptable to everyone else. Nor should it be.

Griffin has heard the criticisms against her act and has had second thoughts. She has apologized. I am ready to forgive her for her mistake. Certainly, I admire her for recognizing that it was a wrongful act. Let’s disregard her motives for apologizing. Instead, let’s accept the apology outright.

However, should we as members of society do anything more about this kind of thing?

What do you think?

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