Griffin v. Trump: On the First Amendment, on Government Criticism, and on the Boundaries of Good Taste
By Ken K. Gourdin
“Comedienne” Kathy Griffin—quotation marks used to denote that I don’t think anything Ms. Griffin has ever said or done, or anything she will ever say or do, is all that funny—received tremendous blowback (and rightly so) for tweeting a picture of a mock beheading of President Donald J. Trump with herself holding the president’s severed head. (Though, as I note below, I’m no particular fan of the president.)
In a move which has the fingerprints of her public relations handlers all over it, Ms. Griffin issued a “heartfelt” apology, acknowledging that she crossed—or, pehaps better said, she obliterated—the boundaries of good taste (though there’s no evidence that she was even aware such boundaries existed prior to this incident) and assuring the United States Secret Service that she harbors no terroristic or criminal ill-will against the president.
While it’s certainly possible that Ms. Griffin genuinely recognizes the dire inappropriateness of her actions, I think it is far more likely that she’s simply “sorry” about the aftermath—the consequences, the loss in public esteem, and most importantly, the loss of paying gigs, endorsement deals, and so on.
To be sure, the recent drop in civility of our public and political discourse is concerning. More than that, though, the popularity of such marginally-talented acts as Ms. Griffin’s illustrates the coarsening of society as a whole. It hardly seems sufficient that the only thing I can do is simply decline to patronize the Ms. Griffins of the world and to encourage those within my sphere of influence to do likewise.
For coverage of the Griffin-Trump controversy which appeared in Salt Lake City’s Deseret News, see here (this and all other links last accessed June 5, 2017):
I commented as follows:
Some people think any publicity is good publicity. Perhaps Ms. Griffin falls into that camp. If so, it worked: basically, I ignored her until this latest stunt received wide coverage in the mainstream media, so … mission accomplished, Ms. Griffin? Congratulations for, basically, being famous for being famous. (I’ve found that often, fame is inversely proportional to talent.) Yes, the First Amendment does guarantee us the freedom to say almost anything about government and its officials, but simply because one can do something doesn’t necessarily mean one should. I, too, I have grave misgivings about Mr. Trump. The thing is, stunts such as the one Ms. Griffin pulled serve only to galvanize his supporters even more, providing further evidence, in their minds, that his opponents believe nothing is out of bounds when it comes to criticizing him.