Lynn Wenzel: Defending the right to say it
June 6, 2017
I believe Kathy Griffin made an error in judgment by pandering to the lowest impulses in our society.
We bemoan the lack of civility and respect today. This doesn't help.
That being said, I will always and forever come down on the side of the First Amendment. A couple of weeks ago I spoke out in defense of Ann Coulter's right to speak at a university despite the fact that I have no use for her brand of sarcasm and hatred.
We either have free speech or we don't.
And the cowards who threatened the Center. Really? There are individuals in this community who found Griffin’s act so distasteful they are going to attack their very own Veterans Hall? ... Shameful.
Comedians are a special bunch. They exist to break metaphorical walls, leap outside the pretty conventions of society, engage and, yes, sometimes, horrify people to make points about society. Think Louis C.K. and his meandering musings on pedophilia in children's parks. I don't like it at all, but I would never demand that his show be shut down. Remember that Lenny Bruce was jailed for his particular brand of humor. There are those who are so appalled by Sarah Silverman they boycott her shows. Or wouldn't give a dime to hear Milo Yiannopoulus speak anywhere or to listen to Bill Maher's explicit brand of misogyny for that matter. Exactly. If you don't like a comedian/entertainer then don't attend her show! Period.
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If enough people don't attend, the show will close and the entertainer will lose money. The free market speaks.
My husband and I are enthusiastic boosters of the Center. We are Encore members and we will continue to support the Center in its goal to bring quality entertainment to this region. I am friends with Center employees and board members. I understand this must have been a hellish time for the staff and board and a difficult decision. I sympathize. Nevertheless, the Center calls itself "a place where the artists find their voice, a place where stories are told" and says it strives to "bring diverse arts programming for [the] community." I feel sure the Center director and board knew the kind of comedy Kathy Griffin offered and considered that there would be a large contingent of Nevada County residents who would like to hear her. It is so disappointing that they were cowed by a few craven threats against them, their building or the Vets Hall.
And the cowards who threatened the Center. Really? There are individuals in this community who found Griffin's act so distasteful they are going to attack their very own Veterans Hall? Or threaten the Center itself? Why would anyone want to hurt a Grass Valley institution? Shameful. I think that says more about them than anything else. And what if the show had gone on and there had been protesters across the street? And what if there had been extra police called in to protect everyone? Wonderful! That is a pure expression of the First Amendment.
Sadly, this is not the case. Where were these self-righteous protesters when President Obama was "lynched" in effigy and tarred and feathered as a "joke?' Or when he was called a subhuman mongrel? They may have muttered tsk in public, but in private they were laughing. How do I know? Because I received some pretty execrable stuff during the last couple of elections that senders thought was "funny." I may have been appalled, but I defended their right to express it. Comedians are jerks sometimes, no question about it, but they should be allowed to be jerks. Comedy is one of the last great arts left untouched by filtering and political correctness. If you don't like it, don't go.
At the end of Saturday's editorial by the Editorial Board (which I abstained from participating in) it stated, "Griffin's violent delight was stopped. Let's ensure the next ones are as well." No, no, no. It is not our responsibility under the First Amendment to stop the freedom of expression. It is incumbent upon us all to encourage it, whether we approve or not. The first censorship always seems prudent. Then, before you know it, it is your voice that is being suppressed.
I understand the Center's decision to cancel Griffin's show. Nevertheless, I believe democracy just took a hit. And I am sad about it.
Lynn Wenzel, who lives in Grass Valley, is a member of The Union Editorial Board. Her opinion is her own and does not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of The Union or its editorial board. Write to her at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.