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Posted by on Mar 4, 2018 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

Is It Time to Bury Oscar?



Rambling and Ranting about the 90th Annual Academy Awards


This has been a terrible year for movies and the people who love them.

Foreshadowing the mass mayhem to come, last year’s Academy Award ceremony concluded with the travesty of Moonlight winning the Best Motion Picture Oscar over the far superior La La Land.  If that wasn’t an abomination enough, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, two Hollywood legends delegated to announce the winner, were mistakenly handed the wrong envelope and declared the erroneous victor.

Talk about “fake news.”

Beatty should have announced, “and the winner is — Bonnie and Clyde.”  That’s because Moonlight winning was a robbery.

Last year’s onstage clusterfuck in front of 150 million baffled viewers typifies how badly the Oscar is tarnished.  It’s a prize coveted far more for its marketing boost than any certification of artistic merit.  Sure, winning an Oscar can still make someone’s career.  It can add an extra zero to the next movie deal.  It also means the chance to recycle a forgotten film that departed the theaters months ago.  That’s why movie studios covet nominations like squirrels gathering acorns for the wintertime.  Oscars mean money.

But the talent pool of some categories has become downright pedestrian in recent years.  Put another way — when Casey Affleck bags a Best Actor Oscar statue….while Robert Downey, Jr., Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jude Law, Bill Murray, John Malkovich, Ralph Fiennes, Joaquin Phoenix, Donald Sutherland, Don Cheadle, Martin Sheen, Paul Giamatti, James Caan, and Ed Harris don’t own a single Oscar, something’s amiss.  The award has pretty much been reduced to a bowling trophy given for rolling a 250 game.  Affleck, possessing all the acting skills of the dropout working at the AutoZone counter, won a Best Actor Oscar for the dreadful film Manchester by the Sea.  Affleck, at age 42, already owns more Academy Awards during his career than Cary Grant, Charlie Chaplin, Kirk Douglas, Montgomery Clift, Peter O’Toole, Richard Harris, Richard Burton, and Peter Sellers — combined.  Casey Affleck couldn’t pass an acting class if Peter Sellers was the instructor.  He’d flunk out.

Of course, the huge story in Hollywood this past year wasn’t Affleck winning because you wouldn’t recognize him on the street, or Moonlight’s inexplicable Oscar, which is an annoying film almost no one saw.  The biggest news was the tidal flood of sexual harassment scandals and the dragnet of whales and sharks hoisted out of the hidden sea into the exposure of sunlight.  Careers have been destroyed, and in most cases — good riddance.  Harvey Weinstein got what was coming to him.  Too bad it took 30 fucking years for someone to bait the hook.

One can’t help but sneer watching the same Hollywood elite who fawned over Weinstein for decades now flipflopping against him like the once beloved family pet turned rabid and foaming at the mouth.  Tonight, so many of those who gloriously bombasted his praises in their acceptance speeches, will laugh and clap enthusiastically when host Jimmy Kimmel rips into Weinstein and others.  You tell ’em, Jimmy.  We got your back.

Indeed, there’s a sickening hypocrisy to all of it.  The #OscarsSoWhite and #MeToo movements have clearly won the day.  Their objectives of inclusion and justice have been noble pursuits from the beginning and those who were on the front lines early deserve praise.  Not so much the latecomers, which is mostly what we’ll see tonight.  It’s easy to march in the back of a parade.

I like political movies.  I like movies with messages.  I also like actors who promote social awareness.  That said, the overt politicization of acceptance speeches has probably gone too far, and the movements de jour are unlikely to exhibit any real courage outside of what’s popular within the entertainment industry bubble.  Based on television ratings, many viewers are put off by the spectacle.  They’re tuning out.  There’s no doubt Hollywood’s liberal slant has alienated millions of people who once loved going to the movies.  Such redneck sensitivities don’t concern me, but given Hollywood is a bottom-line business, mass consumer rejection of this year’s nominees (none of the films nominated in the major award categories were in the top five of box office profits) is problematic.

So, how did we get to now?

Many people mistakenly credit (or blame) Marlon Brando as the first actor to politicize the Oscars when he protested winning the Best Actor statuette for The Godfather because of the insensitive portrayal of Native-Americans on film.  One has to admire Brando for walking the walk and taking some career risks.

However, Brando wasn’t the first to use the mighty Oscar podium to make a bold political statement.  Actually, the first actor to politicize the Oscars was Rod Steiger, who four years earlier won for In the Heat of the Night.  Steiger thanked his co-star Sidney Portier who taught him things about race and prejudice which enhanced his performance.  Steiger invoked some famous words that night, “we shall overcome,” in his closing remarks.  The 1968 Oscars were held just days after the assassination of Martin Luther King.

[Watch the short clip of Steiger’s speech here]

By the way, check out the five Best Actor nominees that year in this clip, and then get back to me about which modern performances compare.  

A decade later, British actress Vanessa Redgrave injected politics into her acceptance speech with disastrous results.  She won 1978’s Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Julia, and then shocked the audience when she referenced “Zionist hoodlums.”  Whatever one’s politics about the Middle East conflict, the remark did seem terribly inappropriate and out of place.

Hence, as the Steiger-Brando-Redgrave examples demonstrate, there’s a fine line between pushing the edges of public consciousness for a political cause versus falling off a cliff into the abyss.

Tonight, I expect we will see many winners falling into the abyss.

Persuasion is an art form that often works best when it’s subtle.  To Kill a Mockingbird and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? opened far more White American eyes on race relations than either 12 Years a Slave or Selma.  There’s some talk the recently-released Black Panther, which is breaking all sorts of box office records could finally shatter the old-guard corporate entertainment mindset that “Black movies” don’t do well financially.  That still remains to be seen.

The bottom line is, we remain tribal — not just politically, but culturally.  This is reflected in the movies we go to see and enjoy.  We tend to flock to movies about people like us.  After World War II, over the 25 years which followed, several dozen war movies were churned out which appealed to the millions of proud veterans and their families.  Kids like seeing movies about other kids.  New York Jews have always constituted a disproportionate percentage of Woody Allen’s movie audiences (at least until his recent scandals).  Blacks gravitated to Spike Lee.  Italian-Americans continue to worship everything put out by Martin Scorcese.  However, it’s the directors, writers, and actors who have either broken down or ignored barriers of race, gender, and sexual orientation who usually make our most memorable films.  That’s worth remembering.

Meanwhile, the masses willingly ignore most of the films nominated for Oscars, choosing instead to engulf themselves in a constant deluge of mindless action movies, shitty shlock with limited dialogue and little character development.  This mediocrity problem is worsened by Hollywood’s fixation on international receipts, which have become the standard benchmark of success or failure.

Yes, I will watch the Oscars because no one knows what will happen or what surprises are in store.  Besides, I haven’t missed a presentation since Brando’s win in 1973, which was my first.  It’s been downhill ever since.

My picks for the 2018 Academy Awards major categories:



Sam Rockwell will win.  But I thought Christopher Plummer, Willem Dafoe, and Richard Jenkins were at least as compelling to watch onscreen.  Rockwell will win because his unexpected character transformation is absolutely vital to the story and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has garnered such rave reviews.



I wasn’t overly impressed with any of these performances.  Sure, they were all fine.  But nothing stood out for me.  I didn’t like Lady Bird, but also thought the two lead performances were very good.  Hence, I’d give the Oscar to Laurie Metcalf, who plays a mother struggling to raise a rebellious teen.



Gary Oldman.  The only award that’s certain.  Oldman’s body of work is astounding.  I’m glad he’ll finally get his due tonight.



Sally Hawkins deserves this Oscar for playing a complex role which required far more skill than Frances McDormand, who always seems to play herself in every movie.  Of course, McDormand will likely win.



Guillermo del Toro should be a lock for The Shape of Water.  I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t win.



I’ll be pleased if either The Post, Get Out, or The Shape of Water win.  However, Three Billboards Outside Ebbling, Missouri appears to be a solid favorite.


Finally, one thing is certain.  Composer John Williams is nominated for another Oscar.  This marks his 51st nomination, more than anyone else.  The music of John Willilams in a treasure.  He deserves mention among the greatest composers in history.


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Posted by on Jan 16, 2018 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 0 comments

President Archie Bunker



If you think Donald Trump and Archie Bunker are very much alike, wait until you read about the differences.  Fact is, the President doesn’t have any of Archie’s virtues.


America elected Donald Trump.  We ended up with Archie Bunker.

So it seems.

Last week, the president blurted out yet another incendiary comment.  He said nations filled with lots of brown-skinned people are “shitholes.”  That sure sounded just like something Archie Bunker might have said back in his heyday.  For those who don’t recall, a little over a generation ago Archie starred in the most popular television show in the country, which was called All in the Family.  Chances are, if you were born anytime prior to the 1970’s, you tuned-in each and every Saturday night to the Norman Lear-produced sitcom which aired weekly on CBS.

All in the Family wasn’t just a television comedy.  It was one of the most significant and influential television programs in history.  The sit-com was a cultural breakthrough and for its day — a bold political statement that often generated controversy.  Subjects thought to be taboo — including abortion, gay rights, race relations, breast cancer, divorce, infidelity, terrorism, and death — nothing was off the table.  What was most amazing was the show took on so many politically divisive issues, but somehow managed to remain consistently funny, at least during the years 1971-1975, when it steadily ranked as the Number 1 television program.  Just about everyone in America talked about All in the Family the following week.  It was that popular.

Archie Bunker was played by Carroll O’Connor.  Up until then, he’d been a little-known character actor mostly known for small bit parts in war films and instantly-forgettable made-for-TV movies.  O’Connor fit the unprecedented role of a lifetime perfectly as the portly, balding, boorish working-class simpleton.

The show’s political slant was indisputable.  Archie was a flag-waving patriot, a proud veteran, and an unabashed Republican.  He loathed Democrats and hated liberals.  But Archie, always one for malapropisms, also loved President “Richard E. Nixon,” who in a lucky strike of perfect timing igniting the show’s mass popularity, was about to get get caught up in the Watergate scandal.  As it increasingly became apparent that Nixon was a crook, willfully ignorant Archie never lost faith.  Turns out, the affection between the White House and CBS’ Television City where All in the Family episodes were filmed in front of a live studio audience, wasn’t mutual.

[Listen to Outlandish Tape Recordings of President Nixon’s Reaction to Archie Bunker — Here]


Many controversial topics brought up in episodes of All in the Family wouldn’t be touched by mainstream television networks today.  Punch lines about Blacks, Jews, gays, women, hippies, and Archie’s other liberal targets wouldn’t just be considered too risky or politically incorrect.  Such subject matter would likely be scandalous and might even lead to boycotts.  Some activists, even those well-intended, would likely blast the show and call for its cancellation.  That’s a deeply sad commentary on the sorry state of the limitations on artistic expression in entertainment today.

The wonderful irony of Archie’s pathological narrow-minded bigotry is that in real life the actor Carroll O’Connor wasn’t at all like the character he played.  In fact, they were polar opposites.  Like Lear, the show’s progressive creator and lead writer, O’Connor sympathized passionately with Leftist causes.  Some years later, O’Connor even shocked most of America when he openly endorsed and campaigned for Jesse Jackson (who’s Black) when he ran for president.

O’Connor and Lear weren’t alone.  Archie’s son-in-law, Mike Stivic, was played by Rob Reiner.  He later became the famed movie director (This is Spinal Tap, When Harry Met Sally, A Few Good Men, etc.) and an outspoken champion of liberal causes.

The show eventually declined in quality and tailed off in popularity.  All in the Family finally ended with barely a whimper in 1979.  Nonetheless, Archie Bunker has since become the embodiment traditional (White) working-class views in mainstream America.  He was loud.  He was bigoted.  He was sexist.  He was intolerant.  But he was also lovable — even to the millions of viewers who vehemently disagreed with his bullheaded opinions.  Perhaps that’s because so many of us saw our own families living inside the household at 704 Hauser Street, in Queens.  Everyone knew an Archie, somewhere.  We worked with Archie.  We drank beer with Archie.  Archie was our father.

What’s the point of all this and what makes Archie still relevant today?  Well, the similarities between Archie and Donald Trump are striking.  But then, so too are the differences.

First, the similarities:

  • Archie Bunker and Donald Trump were both from the borough of Queens, in New York City.  They were born as outsiders of the establishment and lived their early years in the shadows of New York’s powerful elite over in Manhattan.
  • Archie Bunker and Donald Trump were both White Anglo-Saxon Protestants — otherwise known as WASPs.  They shared common advantages as the final generation of those born into privileged ethnic and religious backgrounds before America began undergoing significant cultural diversity.  Later, both came to rebel against these demographic trends.
  • Archie Bunker and Donald Trump exhibited unflappable working-class personalities and tell-it-like it-is attitudes.  They told you exactly what they thought, at all times.  Their comments were unfiltered and often embarrassed those around them.
  • Archie Bunker and Donald Trump were both uncomfortable around people considered to be different.  Excluded groups included minorities, gays, nonconformists, radicals, and anyone that didn’t share their traditional values.  Archie was horrified when a Black family moved in next door.  Trump was guilty of racial discrimination against Blacks when he served as president of his real estate company and paid a hefty fine.
  • Archie Bunker and Donald Trump were both deeply mistrustful of the mainstream media, academics, intellectuals, and cultural elites.
  • Archie Bunker and Donald Trump were both stubbornly irreligious.  They professed to be Christians, occasionally even misquoting The Holy Bible, but almost never attended religious services nor observed the typical rituals of faith.  In fact, both often openly violated religious teachings.
  • Archie Bunker and Donald Trump were both plainspoken.  They weren’t readers.  They spoke in common language.  They didn’t know much about history or the rest of the world, nor were they particularly curious to learn about it.  Both held the belief that most problems could be solved using good, old-fashioned common sense.

Now, the differences:

  • Archie Bunker paid his bills.  Donald Trump often lied, cheated, skipped out on paying taxes, and bankrupted himself and his investors, many times over.  Those who trusted Trump became his victims.
  • Archie Bunker was a proud military veteran who served in World War II.  Donald Trump dodged military service five times, feigning a minor injury (bone spurs in his foot) which he claimed kept him from enlisting.  Archie was brave.  Trump was and is, a coward.
  • Archie Bunker loved his wife Edith, his devoted companion of many years.  From all outward appearances, Archie always remained faithful to her.  Meanwhile, Donald Trump engaged in multiple elicit affairs and bragged about his sexual conquests.  He went through two bitter divorces.  He paid off at least one porn star to buy her silence.  Trump even boasted he could touch women’s private parts and get away with it — something Archie would never do.
  • Archie Bunker always told the truth.  We might not have liked the things he said and what we we hearing.  But Archie didn’t lie.  Trump has lied so many times, he can’t be believed anymore — on anything.  Trump is a pathological liar.
  • Archie Bunker enjoyed the camaraderie of many close friends who were featured regularly on the show as repeat guests, and he stayed loyal to them through thick and thin.  Archie never betrayed those around him.  By contrast, Trump appears to have no real close friends, nor does he show any loyalty to those around him.  He’s turned against just about everyone who’s departed his inner circle.  Even with all his imperfections, Archie was beloved by just about everyone.  Trump, far less so.
  • Archie Bunker was a lower-middle-class working man who often struggled financially, but always somehow found a way to make ends meet.  Donald Trump was born into great wealth, blew his vast fortune multiple times on idiotic business deals, and in the end was finally left with no other option than to hawk his name to try and sell products.
  • Archie Bunker held onto many outdated opinions.  But he also revealed tremendous empathy for everyone, even those he viewed with suspicion.  Many episodes of All in the Family showed Archie’s softer side, usually after he was taught a lesson about the wrongs of bigotry and sexism.  Meanwhile, Trump hasn’t learned any lessons at all.  He appears to have no empathy for others, particularly those he views as his adversaries.  Archie had and often showed compassion.  Trump shows no compassion, especially towards those he considers weak.

My conclusion is as follows:  While Archie Bunker and Donald Trump possess a number of similarities, there are just many stark differences.  It’s an astonishing indictment of the President to say, but Trump lacks all of Archie virtues.

Indeed, Donald Trump can only wish he was more like Archie Bunker, who is a much better man.



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Posted by on Aug 26, 2017 in Blog, Essays | 6 comments

Writers on the Storm




Don’t be fooled by the fake news of a “hurricane.”

There’s no “hurricane.”  It’s a false flag.  

It’s a false flag created by evil Leftist-globalist financier George Soros and his corrupt cronies at CNN to boost ratings.  They want to distract America from President Trump’s fight to #MAGA.

Someone with a Russian-sounding name told me they saw ads were posted on Craigs List. They’re paying $25 an hour for “extras” to stand next to giant wind turbines and get their hair messed up. I heard organizers are spraying the extras with garden hoses, so it looks like they’re standing in the middle of a hurricane. They’re “performance actors,” just like the Leftists who were hired a few weeks in Charlottesville to stir up shit. It’s probably a racket, paid for by Soros.  Someone needs to look into this.

You can’t trust the film footage you see, either.  Notice they always show the same flimsy palm trees blowing?  Palm trees are everywhere — especially in Florida.  Those look a lot like Florida palm trees to me.  Not Texas palm trees.  Florida palm trees.  I’ve got people down in Florida doing an investigation into the origin of those palm trees right now, and you won’t believe that they’re finding.  My theory is — that’s probably stock footage from some other old storm, most likely in Florida.  That’s what I heard.  I’m just saying.  Someone needs to look into this.

I’m also hearing the scenes of that flimsy piece of sheet metal blowing off the empty shed in high winds is fake.  You know the footage I’m talking about.  CNN shows some shackle of a metal shed out in the middle of nowhere, and all the sudden the sheet metal blows off the roof.  Wow!  That really looked real.  Someone needs to look into this.

Listen up.  There’s no way this hurricane is real.  It’s fake.  Fake news.  Seriously, do you think the President would pardon a convicted racist on a Friday evening and then spend the entire weekend on vacation (AGAIN!) if he *really* believed there was a hurricane slamming into a state that he won the in 2016 election?

Hell or high water — NO!!!

Someone really needs to look into this.

Mr. President — you are in my thoughts and prayers.


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Posted by on Jun 10, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 1 comment

My Take on the Bill Maher Controversy



My Take on the Bill Maher Controversy:

(1) If you fear the occasional provocation, then don’t watch the show.

(2) If you don’t want to risk being offended, then don’t watch the show.

(3) If you are bothered by salty language or objectionable words, then don’t watch the show.

(4) If you demand politically correct content at all times, then don’t watch the show.

(5) If you demand that writers-comedians-performers adhere to a strict safe zone of family-friendly content, then don’t watch the show. In fact, don’t go *any* adult comedy show, because many stand-up acts are far *more* “racially insensitive.”

(6) If you accept the premise that Bill Maher has always been a risque comic who sometimes says and does inappropriate things, but are STILL offended, then don’t watch the show.

(7) If you don’t see a far bigger picture that Maher is an experienced comic who has built a successful career while offending people indiscriminately, then don’t watch the show.

(8) If you called for Maher to be fired but haven’t done jack shit to object to far more incendiary material put out and sold by Sony Records and other major record labels, then don’t watch the show.

(9) If you fail to weigh Maher’s lifetime of countless words and actions, which reveal an *indiscriminate* attack-dog persona without regard to race, then don’t watch the show.

(10) If you can’t tell the difference between the abject cruelty of a “nigger joke” which was/is a deplorable example of rampant racism versus Maher’s self-deprecating attempt at humor, told off-the-cuff in an unrehearsed setting, then don’t watch the fucking show!


There are thousands of television channels available to you for alternative mainstream entertainment which won’t ever risk offending you. For every Bill Maher, there are 100 preachers trying to pluck you wallet. For every Bill Maher, there are thousands of scripted shit shows which never take a risk, nor will ever make you think.  Go there. Make that choice on your own.

One not need be a fan of Bill Maher or agree with his politics to see that this is a very troubling episode. In fact, he should be supported by everyone who values free expression, and is a fan of uncanned humor.

My Conclusion: Maher should NOT have apologized. His apology was especially troubling, given Maher’s long advocacy of free expression and self-professed championing of anti-political correctness. It’s also a severe setback for ALL comedians and artists everywhere which will inhibit future exploration of touchy subjects.



Note:  To follow the Facebook discussion on this topic, please click HERE.

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Posted by on May 23, 2017 in Blog, Book Reviews, Essays, Politics | 2 comments

When Is It “Too Soon” to Joke?



On November 22, 1963 at a nightclub in New York City, stand-up comedian Lenny Bruce decided to go on with the show.  Just hours after President John F. Kennedy was declared dead, Bruce walked onstage in front of a uneasy audience.  No one in the crowd knew what to expect.

According to witnesses, Bruce wallowed around the stage for several moments, seemingly lost in his own thoughts, perplexed about how to proceed.  He didn’t know quite what to say.  Finally, after this awkward silence, Bruce stepped up to the microphone and blurted out, “Boy, is Vaughn Meader fucked.”

Not everyone will get that reference, so here’s the cliffs:  Vaughn Meader was a fellow comedian, a one-trick-pony who specialized in doing Kennedy impressions.  The previous year, Meader had even released a Grammy-award winning album which sold millions.  The Kennedy assassination also meant the death of Meader’s comedy career.  As things turned out, Bruce was right.  By 1965, Meader was broke.  He was fucked.

While the boundaries of good taste have since been blurred to the point of obscurity, society back in Bruce’s time was much more rigid.  Among the many idiosyncrasies which established Bruce as an insurgent of comedy was his willingness to take enormous risks during his act and directly challenge authority.  He ventured into once-sacred territory no other comedian during his day would dare touch.  For this, we was arrested several times and charged with crimes.

Although Bruce was unfazed by obscenity laws and other legal restrictions on free speech, he still had to be particularly nervous about cracking a joke like that on the day Kennedy died.  His joke might have bombed.  His audience could have stormed out in anger and disgust.  No one really ever knows how comedy will play out until, when invisible boundaries of expectation are crossed, and it’s too late.

A generation later, things for comedian Gilbert Gottfried didn’t go so well.  Shortly after 9/11, Gottfried attempted a polemical stand up sketch during which he made several references to the terrorist attacks.  The act wasn’t received well at all by the audience.  Someone in the crowd yelled out, “too soon!” — presumably speaking for a majority which viewed making light of the deaths of thousands of people as highly inappropriate and insensitive.

Over the years, comedians have been confronted with mixed reactions to cutting edge material alluding to tragedy.  When is it “too soon?”  That’s hard to say.  Indeed, the passage of time seems to be the only salve which gradually eases the sting of shock and pique of pain.  A more cynical explanation could be that time allows us a mourning period to anesthetize ourselves.  Whether we care to admit it or not, we begin to forget.  Time becomes an unwritten statute of limitations for alleviating the guilt of believing human tragedy can be funny.  Nervous muted giggles can and does eventually become bellowing laughter.

Today, we’re free to laugh about many of history’s worst tragedies.  Take Lincoln’s assassination, for instance.  There’s a popular witticism many of us have used on occasion, which goes:  “But other than that, how did you enjoy the play, Mrs. Lincoln?”  That quip is intended to downplay misfortune in comparison to something that’s far more consequential, and it’s widely understood.  No one today would dare consider this remark insensitive, perhaps because everyone connected to the tragedy died a very long time ago.  But that sure as hell would have bombed had any comedian of the day used that line at Ford’s Theater in late 1865.

Yesterday, there was another terrible tragedy, this time in Manchester, England.  Many people died when a terrorist planted a bomb which exploded at a pop music concert.  Within hours, some people had taken to social media where they attempted to crack jokes which many viewed as “tasteless.”  The most noteworthy of controversial comments came from David Leavitt, a writer.  He posted to Twitter:  “The last time I listened to Ariana Grande I almost died too.”

In defense of Leavitt, I think the selected means of communication is very important here.  Social media is understood to be an unfiltered forum of expression. That’s what makes it a useful tool, sometimes.  Using an extreme example, no one (least of all Leavitt) would make insensitive remarks at a hospital where the victims’ families are gathered.  However, social media is widely understood to be a continuous lightning blast of free expression.  It’s the world’s biggest bar during happy hour.  Anything goes.

Let’s acknowledge as fact that Twitter is a younger, edgier, often sardonic forum of expression.  It’s not like your grandmother’s kitchen table, or the bus stop, or a Kiwanis Club.  Many people sign onto Twitter precisely for the entertainment value of quips and barbs — especially from the famous.  Isn’t that kinda’ the point (for a lot of readers?).  Hence, suddenly professing some moral objection to insensitivity while also perpetually blood-thirsty for scandal does an absurd contradiction.

Predictably, the public backlash to Leavitt’s Twitter post was swift and resounding.  With hours, Leavitt had to issue a public apology.  But the damage had already been done.  The dregs of the junk press pounded on the Leavitt wisecrack like a pack of wolves.  The very worst of the media mucus, TMZ — which has created a cottage industry empire out of outtakes with salacious shock value — had a field day.  What a disgraceful double standard.

I wonder — might we all be inflicted by these same double standards?  Are we hypocrites?  How can a joke be unfunny one day, and then funny the next?  Do we grant greater latitude to some people when they tell an off-color joke, while judging others far more harshly for an identical act?  Why do some among us receive a free pass on certain critical remarks about human tragedy, the ills of society, or race — while others who say identical things get vilified?

Here’s one possible explanation.  I think there’s an inherent desensitization to victims who are different from us.  The more alien they seem, the easier they become targets.  In the Manchester bombing incident, it’s easy to make fun of the torturesome music that’s popular with teenage girls.  Just as I remember years ago when the Union Carbide toxic gas leak tragedy in Bhopal, India killed hundreds of people, jokes were circulating in the streets within hours.  Presumably, those jokes would not have been told (not so fast, anyway) if the victims were our neighbors or our fellow countrymen.  It’s far easier to laugh at something the further we’re removed from the horrors.

For another reaction, I’ll borrow a (slightly edited) Facebook post from my friend, stand-up comedian Roger Rodd:

If you call yourself a comedian, and you have any rule book whatsoever for any premise, or you’re any part of the “too soon” police, you aren’t a comic.  You’re just another speech fascist.  That does not mean I feel sorry for, nor do I defend those who do insanely offensive premises, poorly timed material, or make asinine statements on a stage.  I simply defend their right to say it — and pay the price when it isn’t funny, well received, or costs them work or the respect of others….As a comedian, you’re either with free speech or you’re just another sanctimonious asshole of a SJW.  Judgement of material is the right of the audience — PERIOD.  That is not the right of anybody posing as a comedian.  Free speech BEGINS when somebody says something you DON’T like.

Comedy = Tragedy + Time.  Such a ridiculous equation.

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