Tuesday News: Speech and its Consequences
The withdrawals reflect the debate over Charlie Hebdo that erupted immediately after the attack, with some questioning whether casting the victims as free-speech heroes ignored what some saw as the magazine’s particular glee in beating up on France’s vulnerable Muslim minority.
In an essay for The New Yorker’s website after the attack, Mr. Cole noted that the magazine claimed to offend all parties, but in fact in recent years “has gone specifically for racist and Islamophobic provocations.” (Mr. Cole declined to comment for this article.)
This month, the cartoonist Garry Trudeau drew criticism from a number of news-media commentators for saying in a speech that “by attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority with crude, vulgar drawings closer to graffiti than cartoons, Charlie wandered into the realm of hate speech.” –New York Times
What Sandler most often does is parody, which is primarily aiming for comic effect, while satire generally has an element of social critique. It seems clear from explanations of the film’s plot and characterizations that satire is an enormous stretch when describing the movie; in fact, I’d suggest that Zohan is the one Sandler film that employs more satire than parody, and I wonder if that’s because Sandler is Jewish and seems to be using the film to advocate for a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Whatever the case, both satire and parody are protected speech in the U.S.; however, that doesn’t mean each is equally defensive on an ethical or moral level, and that may be the wall Sandler is finally hitting in his work. Compare The Ridiculous 6 to Mel Brooks’s Blazing Saddles, for example, to measure the difference between challenging stereotypes through provocative humor and simply making fun of people.
The films of Sandler’s “ridiculous” genre do, indeed, violate Poe’s law. But that’s not because they’re offensive. It’s because they’re insipid. Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore and Grown Ups and Jack and Jill … these films give no indication that they are self-aware or remotely critical of the subjects they take on. They may deal, if tangentially, with serious topics—race (Blended) and gay marriage (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry) and, um, the Arab-Israeli conflict (You Don’t Mess With the Zohan)—but they lack evidence of the intellectual infrastructure that is a basic requirement of satire. –The Atlantic
Outrage has a valuable place; it is the natural reaction to injustice, to a severe moral breach that must offend every nerve ending of one’s sensibilities. To look at our world at present there’s much to be angry about, and there’s some wisdom to the idea that outrage is better than a placid acceptance of our present condition, better than becoming desensitized to the cavalcade of moral crimes that litter the daily newspapers. But like any emotion or tool, there are right and wrong ways to deploy it, and when we uncritically suggest that all rage is valid so long as it is expressed by activists we thereby foreclose all strategic discussion of the utility of rage.
To invoke “the tone argument” against someone criticizing an activist for, say, wishing death on someone is something that fully misunderstands the very nature of what the actual “tone argument” is about, then. It’s meant to refer to the silencing of an idea one does not wish to hear at all, whitewashing it from discourse; “tone” is simply a lazy, bad faith excuse used to plaster over this discomfort and shift the burden of a moral faux pas onto the activist one criticizes. It is not meant to describe any and all situations where “tone” might be discussed, and we should not take it to mean that rage is the kryptonite to all oppression. –Feministing
This is the basic dramatic situation: a black playwright, in 2014, is somehow unable to move beyond a likeable 1859 work, named after a forgotten word once used to describe nonwhite people in the same terms as breeds of livestock. What do you do with your mixed feelings toward a text that treats as stage furniture the most grievous and unhealed insult in American history—especially when you belong to the insulted group? . . .
How do you rehabilitate your love for art works based on expired and inhuman social values—and why bother? It’s easier to just discard the works that look as ungainly to us now as “The Octoroon.” But if you don’t throw out the past, or gloss it over, you can get something like “An Octoroon”: a work of joy and exasperation and anger that transmutes historical insult into artistic strength. –The New Yorker