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The First Casualty of Politics Is Humor

June 22nd, 2007 · 1 Comment

The folks at ThinkProgress are purporting to be upset about this exchange on Glen Beck’s show:

[Michael] Graham asked Beck if he wanted to see the Clintons murdered in the [spoof Sopranos] video. “[S]eriously, Glenn, didn’t you at one point want to see, like, Paulie Walnuts or someone come in and just whack them both right there. Wouldn’t that have been great?” Beck responded with a smile, “No, I did not want to see that.” Graham said, “C’mon. … I wanted that.”

Now, I think the joke here is both drawn out too long and inapt in its choice of Paulie Walnuts—I would have gone with a simple “Where’s Phil Leotardo when you need him?—but it’s also clearly a joke, in a way I think is pretty plainly distinct from the other genuinely creepy quotations the post references, where pundits just fantasize about bludgeoning their political enemies with tire irons absent any apparent context. Sure, “just a joke” isn’t an automatic pass to say repellent things: Kidding about rape or using “faggot” as a pejorative (say) are offensive quite independent of whether the speaker “really means it.” But this just doesn’t seem to be in that category. It’s on par with saying “Can we send Bush another pretzel?” —a tongue-in-cheek way of expressing dislike. All normal people engage in this sort of occasional hyperbole. So I’m having trouble bringing myself to believe that anyone was authentically offended by this, unless they were trying very hard to be.

I don’t really want to harp on this one post, but on the general phenomenon of what I’ve elsewhere called outrage kabuki: The disingenuous practice of hunting for any utterance by a political enemy that might serve as an excuse to work yourself (and your fellow travelers) into high dudgeon. It’s a pointless distraction that has an unhealthy chilling effect.

Tags: Journalism & the Media


       

 

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Sandy // Jun 22, 2007 at 11:04 pm

    Michael Graham used to be on the radio around here, when he was fired for calling Islam a “terrorist religion.” He has a history of being fired for saying dumb things, sometimes in the name of humor, sometimes not.

    I did initially like him in SC when he was fired for suggesting the citizens were safer with the state legislature out of session than in. But that’s what you get for taking a job with state-funded radio.

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