Holocaust Shtick.

by: canadian gal

Fri Jul 31, 2009 at 21:49:26 PM EDT

(cross posted at kickin it with cg)

In what can only be described as bizarre, comedian Roseanne Barr and Heeb Magazine have created some controversy surrounding a recent interview and photo shoot.

In the shoot, Barr poses gleefully dressing as Adolf Hitler, complete with a swastika armband, pulling a tray of burnt "Jew Cookies" from an oven. Barr, a Jewish grandmother herself allegedly requested that she be dressed as the f├╝hrer for the photos.

canadian gal :: Holocaust Shtick.

Barr went on the depart some additional pearls of wisdom:

...on politics The rich ain't going anywhere. They are done with that Christian Right- type stuff-there's no more money in it. They have become the Christian Left now.  

...on vegans Vegans are all coke-sniffing, cigarette-smoking faux socialists who listen to music that has no melody at all, so fuck them.

Apparently Barr feels guilty about it though.

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Holocaust Shtick. | 79 comments
good times. (2.00 / 4)

"I spend my days and nights pondering the meaning of life, the state of the universe, and the Home Shopping Network." -- Donald Roller Wilson

Ha! (2.00 / 4)
I caught a piece on Mel Brooks just the other day and found out he was a WWII soldier marching into Germany at the end of the war.  He said (with uncharacteristic seriousness) that the best way to get Hitler was to make him into a joke.

Which all just makes The Producers that much funnier:

On Barr and this article?  I think I agree with Mr. Meinz:

She nails the Fuehrer's facial expressions with twisted glee, and as she takes the burnt gingerbread "Jew Cookies" out of the oven it occurs to me that Barr may be the last celebrity utterly incapable of giving a fuck-

While I don't know Heeb magazine, I imagine taht with a name like that and a subject like Barr you better have your fireproof longjohns handy before engaging.  For any topic there has to be someone willing to laugh at it, and I won't question a Jew's right to laugh at this one.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
If Barr wasn't a Jew would it be more acceptable? (2.00 / 4)
Somehow I doubt it.  Not that I disagree with you; it just kind of reminds me, though, of the use of "n*gger" and how it is acceptable to be said by African Americans but not by whites.  Or the back-and-forth going on at Daily Kos now about making fun of the South (due to the poll results showing the vast majority of those who doubt Obama's citizen status are in the land of the Confederacy).  It's okay to make fun of (or mock) a group of people if you are one of them; from the outside, though, it is unacceptable or at least questionable.  Shoot, I guess it reminds me of my brother who used to torment me as his little sister, but woe unto someone else who tried to do the same thing.

I tend to let people have their humor; I have my own warped sense of it myself (people falling down is hysterical to me).  God knows Roseanne hasn't shied away from doing bizarre things.  Actually, I find this

Vegans are all coke-sniffing, cigarette-smoking faux socialists who listen to music that has no melody at all, so fuck them.

rather amusing given her rendition of the national anthem once upon a time.

"When Fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in teh stupid and waving a gun" ~ Esteev on Wonkette

[ Parent ]
Disagree. (2.00 / 4)
Doesn't matter whether Barr was or was not a Jew. Doesn't matter if she was German either. She's not mocking Jews, she's mocking Hitler.

Personally, I don't believe in limits on comedy. Too bad if it offends. In fact, a lot of comedy depends on the its offensive nature. If it goes too far then people stop finding the comedian funny.

As far as whether something is acceptable from a member of the group but not from an outsider, call me the day Chris Rock stops making fun of white people.

This is not a recession. It's a robbery.

[ Parent ]
personally.... (2.00 / 5)
i don't find the hitler references anywhere close to offensive as the cookies - that's just plain sick.

"I spend my days and nights pondering the meaning of life, the state of the universe, and the Home Shopping Network." -- Donald Roller Wilson

[ Parent ]
The cookies are pretty extreme, (2.00 / 3)
but that's usually the point.  "Dead Baby Jokes" are only funny (if in fact they are funny at all) because they are in outrageously bad taste.

I really agree with John above - comedy has to be kept as the sacrosanct free-zone for unlimited commentary.  Even Kramer (wazzisrealname?) apologizing for his comments was unfortunate: the guy was doing stand-up comedy and for me that means there isn't anything he can't say.

Sam Kineson, Gilbert Godfreid, Chris Rock, Lenny Bruce - the list of comedians who have pushed past the bounds of decency is also pretty well the list of people who have brushed back encroachment of free speech.  When I was a kid Carol Connor pissed me off so much on All In The Family that I couldn't believe the network would let such racist filth be voiced on air.  Course, I was young and stupid then, and now I know better.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
Who is suggesting (2.00 / 4)
limits on comedy?  Comedy should be free from formal institutional limits so that it can spark public debate.  That's what is happening here.  Turning this conversation into a debate regarding the freedom speech, when no one is calling for such "limits," represents an attempt to shut down critical engagement.  It's a bit perverse.

The future is unwritten

[ Parent ]
I think there is a lot of talking past one another going on in this thread (2.00 / 3)
I'm not sure anyone suggested any sort of banning, but for myself I can say that my natural response to the subject of this or any similar diary is something like: "I can see how this might be offensive but I am in favor of comedy being free to offend".  That sort of sentiment or statement doesn't require someone to threaten a ban, it just is what it is.  

Perhaps in part that sort of caveat gets tossed into conversations about topics like this as some sort of autonomic defense mechanism based on a preconception that someone is likely to get really offended.  Not being a member of the subject group of the source content makes me a little more likely to throw around caveats - like commenting on comedy like Chris Rock's "Niggas vs. Black People" bit as a white guy.  I kind of expect at some level to find myself stepping on a hidden mouse trap and offending someone no matter what I say (which ironically supports the idea of not worrying about offending anyone and just saying whatever I feel like saying, leading back to actions like Ms. Barr here...).

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
The cookies are sick, and Barr is a has-been. (2.00 / 3)
Where is the humor in the cookies?  I just don't get it.

I disdain censorship.  Barr and Heeb magazine have the right to do this sort of thing.  But each of us have the right to decide that Barr and Heeb are not worth our attention, time, and money.

The last I heard from Barr, it was last year, on syndicated overnight talk shows on the AM Band -- the Phil Hendrie Show, and Coast-to-Coast, which I sometimes listen to as idle insomniac amusement if the sky waves are traveling in the right direction, and on Stephanie Miller's morning show.

In the spot that aired pretty relentlessly on those shows,  she was hawking condos or time-shares at some newly constructed hotel in Las Vegas, and her own show at the same hotel.

It was pseudo-dialogue in which the host and she would participate.  The funny thing was that her delivery was exactly the same on each show, but with a different host on the other end of the "dialogue."  The two halves of the "dialogue" were obviously prerecorded separately, and then mixed together.  That and a Vegas stage act pretty much sums up where Barr's career is these days.

Back to the shtick, and the cookies....  I'm a huge fan of The Producers, of Lenny Bruce, of The Life of Brian, Bill Maher, etc. Humor is often the best weapon, the best way to deflate overblown ideas and movements.  That said, I can't find any humor in the cookies, unlike LSD, the beatnik stage-Fuehrer in The Producers, or the drug-hazed, bed-wetting, impotent AH of "Mein Fuhrer, the Truly Truest Truth about Adolf Hitler," who plays with a toy battleship in his bathtub.  See http://is.gd/23FLU, http://is.gd/23FP7.  That said, perhaps if a relative of mine had gone down with the H.M.S. Hood, I would not have found that scene quite so amusing.

[ Parent ]
comedic subversion (2.00 / 5)
Indeed, the subversive capacity of comedy depends on its upending of conventional sensibilities.

What Barr thinks she is subverting here escapes me.  This is neither "The Great Dictator," nor "The Producers."

She's free to do this.  I am free to ask what the hell she wants besides attention.  Is this how she shows her opposition to NAZIism?  

I oppose rape and support womens sufferage.  If I decided to express those very controversial stances by filming a "comedic" short where I raped a woman in a voting booth, I would expect everyone who saw it to call me a sensationalist asshole and ignore me from here on out.  

The future is unwritten

[ Parent ]
Of course it is not on a level with The Producers (2.00 / 4)
or Chaplin's movie. It's a lousy little comedic skit. Would you compare an opinion column in the Sunday Times to Gone with the Wind?

As for your example, it would all depend on how well it was done.

This is not a recession. It's a robbery.

[ Parent ]
It's not just quality, it's context (2.00 / 3)
Chaplin's movie was aimed at a contemporary phenomenon.  Mel Brooks film was both situated as a cathartic release and a comment on the and the absurd gullibility of American audiences.

What does Barr's skit comment on?

My example is intended to be absurd with regard to this very question.  How would a contemporary stance against rap and for womens sufferage, which enjoy the broadest consensus, be served by this provocation?  They do not require it.  So it doesn't matter how well I executed my little film.  It wouldn't intervene in anything.  It might have some transgressive value as an exploration of taboos and bad taste.  But like Barr's silliness, it wouldn't accomplish anything beyond narcissistic outrageousness.

The future is unwritten

[ Parent ]
And there is some reason we should (2.00 / 4)
limit 'narcissistic outrageousness'? It would be a much less interesting world if we did.

This is not a recession. It's a robbery.

[ Parent ]
disagree on two counts (2.00 / 2)
I am not trying to limit it, and it's not interesting.

Narcissitic outrageousness is boring and I think the world would be more interesting with less of it.  I think outrageousness infinitely more interesting when it is directed at some context productively, but then it's not just self exhibiting narcissism and outrageousness for the sake of desperate craving for self-affirmation.  That seems to me to be simplistic, immature, and...again...boring.  You are welcome to it.  This is why I yawned at KISS's stage antics and applauded The Clash, even when Joe appeared on stage with his Brigade Rosse t-shirt bearing a rifle.

But before you ride around on your pious free-speech horse, perhaps you would deign to actually read the comments you are responding to.  Just up from here in this very thread I write:

She's free to do this.  I am free to ask what the hell she wants besides attention.

Pay a little attention.  No one is calling for censorship here.  I am perfectly prepared to defend Barr's right to boring narcissistic outrageousness and to oppose anyone seeking to limit it.  I wonder if you are as interested in defending my right to respond critically and dismissively of her vapid gag and pathetic lunge for attention.  But that's the extent of what I have to say on the matter.  It's boring.

The future is unwritten

[ Parent ]
Oh, wow. (2.00 / 4)
I've been put in my place as a boring, pious would-be censor.

If you had been paying attention you would realize that I always come down on the side of more rather than less free speech. Even when it comes to hate speech laws. You are certainly free to respond critically or favorably as the situation suggests. So, yes, I will defend your right to be a pompous annoyance.

BTW, you may find narcissistic outrageousness boring, but many people have made careers out of it. Jack was one of the funniest characters on Will & Grace and that character was all about nc. In fact, the entire cast and theme of the show was centered around nc. As was Seinfeld, and a few other shows I could mention. You may find it boring, but there are apparently a lot of people that find it to be an amusing comedic device.

Now I'm going to take the dog for a walk. He only finds me boring when I spend too much time in front of the computer.

This is not a recession. It's a robbery.

[ Parent ]
Those shows (2.00 / 2)
are about mocking narcissism.  That's why they are funny.  They satirize it in a variety of social contexts, they don't embody it.  The joke is on them more than with them.  And even if it wasn't, NBC is free to pump out stupid shows (and I do not consider these particular shows stupid) that people enjoy.  I am free to wish stupid shows that bore me, particularly of the reality Bachelor/Bachlorette variety, were less popular.  Calling them stupid or boring is not an attack on the first amendment.

What I was calling you out on was your pious need to make this into a free speech issue.  Did anyone suggest that Barr be incarcerated or that Heeb be pulled?  In fact, your obfuscation on this point seems to me to represent an attempt to shut down criticism, a de facto anti-free speech effort.

Barr is free to do what she wants.  So is Heeb.  We are free to respond.  You are the one introducing a trumped up debate about censorship instead of addressing the criticism.

The future is unwritten

[ Parent ]
Tastes vary. (2.00 / 2)
I get that. I understand that what amuses one person may be very boring to another and vice versa. What I find most amusing in this discussion is your use of the word 'pious' to describe me. I've been called a lot of things in the last six decades, but pious isn't one of them. It's good to know there are still surprises in store for me.

Now, I think I'll let this die. I've expended enough thought and angst over one of my least favorite comedians.

This is not a recession. It's a robbery.

[ Parent ]
May I ask (0.00 / 0)
why you felt compelled to intervene in a debate about the appropriateness and social context of this "shtick" by suggesting that anyone was trying to ban it?  

That's why I called your attempt to twist the terms of this conversation into a debate about censorship and free speech "pious."

I have indeed been paying attention.  I have followed your vigorous defense of first amendment rights.  But the first amendment is intended to guarantee critical conversation in the public sphere, not a mechanism to shout it down as such.  Opposing debate in the name of freedom of speech makes little sense to me.  The first amendment, which we all support and many of us would go to the mat to defend, is not about nihilism and passivity, but engagement.  

The future is unwritten

[ Parent ]
You may ask and I'll answer. (0.00 / 0)
All I did was ask a question. In no way did I attempt to shout down anyone's viewpoint. As for intervening in a debate, that's the whole point of having a blog with comment threads. Oh, btw, people are saying Barr went over the line and Heeb magazine shouldn't have printed the article and photo shoot. Go read the comments on Heeb's web site. Wasn't the unstated purpose of this diary to explore whether or not she went over some imaginary line?

This is not a recession. It's a robbery.

[ Parent ]
Your question (0.00 / 0)
Your question equated sharing critical viewpoints with intentions to limit speech, and did so in an unfounded and nfair way.  You groundlessly imputes an intention to silence or restrict speech as such and thus positioned anyone criticizing Barr as anti-free speech, when in fact they are exercising their freedom of speech.  

As for "intervening in a debate" there are productive and fair interventions and there are obfuscations that function as bait and switch maneuvers and shut down debate.  

People should indeed voice their objections to Heeb.  That too is the exercise of free speech.  The point of having a free and open public sphere is not to prevent people from engaging one another in an exercise of self-regulation, but to defend all of us from having limits placed upon us institutionally from above.  The point is not that "anything goes" but that we determine what is acceptable as a free society and not subjects of a censor.  If people feel that this went over a real or imaginary line, why shouldn't they voice that position?

I think you confuse the whole principle of free speech with ethical passivity.  If you say or do something people find offensive, people can and should present an argument that criticizes it.  And these arguments should have a function in an ongoing process of shaping the discourse of the public sphere.  There is nothing contradictory in arguing that one should have the right to say what they want but that at the same time there are some things that shouldn't be said.  Then we argue those points as they arise.  This is the whole point of a free and open public sphere.  Not bland acceptance of everything, but mutual engagement around these very questions of what is socially and culturally acceptable.  And "offense" plays an important role as a catalyst for these engagements.  

Conventions need to be vigorously and consistently challenged and tested and renegotiated.  But not all offensiveness serves a socially productive purpose.  Sometimes it's just hurtful.  Sometimes it's just dumb and boring, which is how I see this Barr flatulence.  But me saying that is not the same thing as trying to limit freedom speech.  Rather that, too, is an important exercise of it.

The future is unwritten

[ Parent ]
I'm not confused. (2.00 / 2)
But what I would like to do to avoid this becoming confusing is to separate it from Ms. Barr and this instance and switch to a discussion on certain aspects of free speech as it applies to comedians.

I agree with what you say here.

If you say or do something people find offensive, people can and should present an argument that criticizes it. Then we argue those points as they arise.

People should be able to voice any kind of criticism of another person's exercise of their right to free speech. It's one and the same. They are free to voice their objections or even to act on them more strongly, such as organizing boycotts. It's all a part of the give and take of free speech. Of course, it is also all right to object to someone's objection.

If I may be so bold, where I think we differ is on this point. (my emphasis)

This is the whole point of a free and open public sphere.  Not bland acceptance of everything, but mutual engagement around these very questions of what is socially and culturally acceptable. And "offense" plays an important role as a catalyst for these engagements.

IMHO, comedians practice the same role in our society that jesters did during the days of the aristocracy. They should overstep the boundaries that societies erect. If I'm reading this correctly, there are some things that are 'sacred' and shouldn't be profaned. I think that is antithetical to the purpose of free speech. Societal pressure to conform to some unwritten accepted code of behavior is a form of censorship and should be opposed.

If I can't be eccentric then what joy is there to life?

This is not a recession. It's a robbery.

[ Parent ]
Actually (2.00 / 2)
I think we agree on the second point as well.  I totally concur with regard to the jester analogy.  That's why I think shows like Seinfeld and W&G were successful social criticism.  They constantly and humorously interrogated how self-obsessed bourgeois narcissism led to all kinds of anti-social absurdities.  And their ability to construct characters that played on our sympathies while also holding them up to ridicule at the very same time is exactly why and how they successfully approximated (or inherited) the jester function.

The phrase of mine you italicized is not intended to suggest that these norms should ever be sacred.  On the contrary, my comment endorses the need for constant testing and re-evaluation by immediately asserting that "offense" has a constructive social function in that very context.  To return for one moment to the Barr example, I don't think Heeb shouldn't have run it because laughing at the holocaust should be a priori taboo.  I think it's unfortunate that they ran it because it offends the sensibilities of many without really pushing anything in a productive direction.  Not true of Chaplin and Brooks.  The humor of Chris Rock, whom Chris invoked above, or Lenny Bruce, or countless others employ comedy to challenge our sensibilities and to provoke critical reevaluation of social norms.  August traditions of satire extend back into classical and biblical sources.  Many read the Book of Jonah, for instance, as a satire.  As for contemporary satirists, even if I disagree with a particular routine or sketch in particular, I find their work generally productive and necessary.  The ethicality of any particular is open for debate.  Barr and Heeb failed that test here in my opinion.

My entire dispute with you regards what I perceived as a knee-jerk protectiveness of Barr's right to do whatever she wants, as if anyone was trying to undermine that right.  I perceived that as shielding her from criticism and impeding critical discussion of her performance, while painting her critics as puritanical and perhaps tyrannical opponents of free speech.    

The future is unwritten

[ Parent ]
I know it's been testy.... (2.00 / 4)
...and probably got off on the wrong foot, but I must say I was both enthralled and enlightened by the debate between you and John on this.

The whole issue of when 'disapproval' amounts to 'censorship' is a very tough one when it comes to blogging. Why? Because unpopular view points easily get discouraged, marginalised or indeed self censor.

I hope this doesn't sound patronising, but I applaud both of you for not self censoring yourselves.

In the UK, I think there are still archaic laws on the statute books which seek to ban statements or cultural productions if they cause 'public offence'. I'm sure that law has be overridden by subsequent legislation, but I'd find insipid writing, socially conformist thinking and mediocre humour deeply deeply offensive.

None of which has been apparent in yours and John's vigorous debate.  

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
It has been interesting and it is a good topic to peel. (2.00 / 4)
The very discussion feeds right back into the issue of offensive statements, so it is not inappropriate that it is hard not to give offense when debating it.

It is very true that the "soft censorship" of social disapproval is just as real a throttle on speech as the "hard censorship" of rules or dictates, and that blogs are probably more susceptible to soft censorship than hard (*telling* bloggers they can't say something is sure to make them say it, implying that they are not is more likely to shame them into silence).

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
It has made me think a little deeper about the subject. (2.00 / 4)
Since I am advocating almost total free speech it was up to me to see if I could find an exception. The first thing that came to mind was child pornography. Society has decided that child pornography is over the line. I agree completely.

Yet, is it? Aren't there enough laws in place already? It is very similar to hate crimes legislation. Several crimes have already been committed by the time a video or photograph is released. It isn't the 'speech' part of child pornography that needs to have prohibitory laws. It is the production of such filth. We already have plenty of laws on the books to handle that.

This could be taken further to cover any 'speech' that shows criminal behavior. But then we would create more problems. Staging a protest without the proper permits is criminal behavior. Showing video of those events would be prohibited under such a law. That would be going too far.

The one exception I keep coming back to is the standard one applied to free speech issues. You can't shout 'fire' in a crowded theater. I can't think of any arguments against this prohibition.

This is not a recession. It's a robbery.

[ Parent ]
First Amendment Free Speech (2.00 / 5)
It's a very complicated issue with an even more complicated body of law.  It runs up against the legal definition of "obscenity" which is even worse to pin down, and that's what you seem to be sorting through in this comment, John.  One Supreme Court justice said that he would know obscenity when he saw it, but that scares the shit out of me.  What Thomas (or any other Justice, regardless of political leaning) might think is offensive (or not) should be no bellwether for the rest of this country.


Any society does a lot of self-policing on these issues.  There are legal constraints, such as yelling "fire" but beyond that, it just gets really messy.  I would prefer for the courts to stay out of it for the most part.  Otherwise, I think we start delving into "thought police" type behavior, which really bugs me.  Isn't it Germany (and Canada) that outlaws the promotion of holocaust denial?  Those people who believe that are complete idiots (much like the birthers), but let them say it.  After all...

"It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."
-- Mark Twain

[ Parent ]
Many interesting points (2.00 / 4)
I'm always a little out of my comfort zone when arguing these legal issues since I have no legal training of any sort.

But, one thing I do know about is quote origins. That quote has been attributed to Mark Twain and many others, including among them Samuel Johnson, Abe Lincoln, and Mark Twain. As best I can tell, it comes from this verse in the Bible.

Proverbs 17:28
Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.

This is not a recession. It's a robbery.

[ Parent ]
Copyright infringement! (2.00 / 2)
Just kidding.  Now I'm just being a dork.  So who said that there are no original ideas in the world?  Just the same idea repeated in a different way.  (Other than me, of course) :)

[ Parent ]
I suppose the other limits to free speech... (2.00 / 4)
...are conspiracy and incitement. Certainly that's the case in the UK. It's not just yelling fire, but suggesting lynchings, spread malicious rumours about a rape etc. certainly abrogate the rights to free speech.

All rights have the same limitation as far as I understand it; you are free to enjoy your own liberty, as long as that does not harm the liberty of others.

Libertarians forget that second qualification, and basically profound a kind of anarchism in which there are no protections for the vulnerable.

The big philosophical problem comes with the notion of 'harm' to others. Two cases...

1. The guy who doesn't want his daughter to be treated for a life threatening condition because it conflicts with the freedom to pursue his religious belief

2. A woman who thinks that AIDS is God's plague on homosexuality, and pickets a clinic with signs to that effect.

The first I assume constitutes real harm, while the second only offence.  

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
Libel and Slander legal issues (2.00 / 3)
Other areas of law that conflict with it...sort of...assuming that the government is acting against the speaker.  U.S. Constitutional law gives me a headache more often than not.  I leave theoretical debates to smarter minds.  ;)

[ Parent ]
I think NBW is right here. (2.00 / 3)
We are now getting into esoteric territory.  

This is not a recession. It's a robbery.

[ Parent ]
It's only esoteric, John... (2.00 / 3)
...because you don't understand it.

:-) Only kidding.

I love your first amendment, but there's nothing esoteric about asking about limitations to those rights.

It wasn't esoteric when we discussed that Phelps guy. He was banned from entry into the UK because of his activities. If I remember, it was discussed here as an example of the UK having 'hate speech laws' (which we don't). However, like the US, we have quite stringent immigration and visa laws. Viz.

You have to apply in person to the US embassy, and are most likely to be refused entry if you've ever had a criminal record (despite the statute of limitations) or have a communicable disease like HIV.

So there are always qualifications to the rights of free speech. In this case, do they apply to aliens?

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
Not "very true" at all from my perspective (0.00 / 0)
It is very true that the "soft censorship" of social disapproval is just as real a throttle on speech as the "hard censorship" of rules or dictates...

The former is a formalized authoritarian mechanism that inhibits critical and democratic engagement.  The latter, social disapproval, is not "soft censorship" but part of the dialogic (or multilogic) engagement that distinguishes a free and open public sphere.  It is a function of the critical processes whereby democratic citizens constantly construct and reconstruct the social space in which we interact.  It invites challenge and presents an argument.  It therefore represents one of the ways in which citizens exercise responsibility for the public sphere.

I think these are frequently blurred in these threads (I refer to the diaries about holocaust deniers on Facebook).  And I think the distinctions are extremely important.  Suggesting that a free critic is a repressive censor makes a mockery of the very idea of free speech.  The freedom to speak is the freedom to critique.  

The future is unwritten

[ Parent ]
This is a good point. (2.00 / 2)
However, it is difficult to pinpoint when societal disapproval crosses over into repression.

This is not a recession. It's a robbery.

[ Parent ]
Indeed (2.00 / 2)
The only protection against that is a healthy amount of pluralistic engagement that consistently tests and evaluates whether norms of acceptability have ossified into anti-critical dogmas and toleration of minority and marginal discourses.  This goes to one of the central challenges of democracy itself: how to maintain a civil society that avoids collapsing into a tyranny of the majority.    

The future is unwritten

[ Parent ]
John Stuart Mill wrote brilliantly about this... (2.00 / 2)
...the tyranny of the majority. I wish it wasn't late here or I'd dig out the quotation. It was his biggest fear after, after state suppression of liberty.  

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
Kant also (2.00 / 3)
addresses this possibility in his political essays.  It's why he ultimately supports an autocratic form of a democratic mode of government.  As an enthusiastic and subsequently horrified observer of the French Revolution, he ultimately opts for the model of a benevolent despot in Frederick the Great as the only way to ensure that the mode of government stays democratic in the face of majoritarian tyranny.  The problem, of course, is that most autocrats do not protect freedoms of speech and press the way F the G apparently did.  So it's a rather flimsy attempt at an end run around the problem.

The future is unwritten

[ Parent ]
Kant like Hegel after him... (2.00 / 3)
...(though I prefer the guy from Kalingrad) found various justifications for the status quo. They lived under various forms of autocracy, benign and not so, and I guess they had to show some obeisance to those paid the bills.

But you don't need autocracy to protect the rights of minorities - you just need strong constitutional law, and a judiciary willing to defend it.  

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
Agree (0.00 / 0)
with all of this.  The oddity about the conservative, even reactionary strains in both K and H is that they seem to have a lot to do with their formulations of "progress."  Philosophical perversities, or perverted philosophers?  Inquiring minds want to know.

The future is unwritten

[ Parent ]
Immanuel Kant was a real pissant (2.00 / 5)
Who was very rarely stable


[ Parent ]
Actually (2.00 / 1)
Kant was so stable, legend has it that the hausfrauen in Konigsberg told time by his afternoon walk and that the one time he woke late from his nap his whole neighborhood was thrown off schedule.  

The future is unwritten

[ Parent ]
And Wittgenstein... (0.00 / 0)
...was a beery swine
Who was just as sloshed as Shlegel.

There's nothing Nietzsche
Couldn't teach ya
About the raising of the wrist.
Socrates himself was permanently

Yes, all from memory. The great thing about being a boy in Britain when Monty Python was broadcast, was that you ended up singing songs about Philosophers and Lumberjacks down the local pub.

The Python team, a bit like John Lennon, made it cool to know about philosophers and be funny. I'd never heard of those philosophers, or John Paul Sartre, until Monty P came along.

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
You miss a crucial qualification (2.00 / 1)
Monty Python had you singing about gay philosophers and lumberjacks.  There's a reason we refer to Britain in the US as "that closet across the pond."  OK, we don't.  But we could.  And we should be free to do so.  I lived in NY for a decade and can't tell you how many times I overheard a snippet of conversation at a party or a street-corner that went:

"I thought he was gay."

"No.  Just English."

The future is unwritten

[ Parent ]
One of the great thing about the last 30 years... (2.00 / 1)
...is that I take the closet accusation as a badge of praise. Seriously. Think of David Beckham or David Bowie; the appearance metrosexuality for straight men is kind of the best of both worlds. Working in theatre and TV, people often make the assumption I'm gay. Though a misunderstanding, it has some great advantages in the acting world. Oh, and the best place to meet straight women is in a Gay Club ;-)

This whole reponse is well off thread but now I've started....

I'm not quite sure where this image of Englishness and the 'closet' comes from, However. The French often repeat it, but unlike many cultures I know, there's been a long tradition and tolerance of homosexuality in academia, cinema, theatre, and the armed forces (especially the Navy), so there's nothing closet about it. An English accent has always been a boon on the East and West Coast (excepting Boston perhaps on St Patricks' day). People there assume you're intelligent or aristocratic just because of the sonority - wrong, but I'm not complaining.

But where it is dangerous is in rural areas, especially in the South. I actually manufactured an American accent while driving through red states like Georgia for this reason. The odd thing is that, at gas stations or supermarkets, my English accent was like by women but hated by men, the latter assuming (somewhat contradictorily) that I was both gay, and trying to steal their women.  

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
Indeed (2.00 / 1)
Two famous Brits responded to their misidentification as Jews in a ways that provide brilliant examples.  In 2003, Peter Mandelson responded to the accusation that he was part of  Blair's "Jewish cabal" by simply saying: "Apart from the fact that I am not actually Jewish, I wear my father's parentage with pride."  Charlie Chaplin was widely rumored to be Jewish, in part because of his Marxist leanings and his half-Jewish half-brother.  On the eve of WWII, at a party in Hollywood, a German official alluded to his Jewishness.  He looked him straight in the eye and said: "I'm sorry, but I have never had that honour."

Liz Troubishi, the 16-year-old murdered in Tel Aviv this week, was also apparently not Gay, but a supportive participant in the community and an activist.  

The influence of active and public gay culture has had wider benefits, as had feminism, in breaking down the homogenizing barriers of what we have considered "masculine" and "feminine."  Metrosexuality has opened up the acceptability of performing one's identity as a man more creatively, variously, and interestingly.

As for the paradox of fearing those gay woman-stealers, this certainly has something to do with an insecurity regarding masculinity.  It has a lot to do with the stereotype of the hag and the appeal of being one to many women who find traditional masculinities repressive and boring.  

The future is unwritten

[ Parent ]
I am Spartacus (2.00 / 3)
Yes, I like that. Next time someone asks me if I'm gay, or Jewish, I will say:

"I'm sorry, but I have never had that honour."

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
Love it! (2.00 / 3)
Who thought Roseanne Barr would raise the intellectual discourse?  Certainly not this gal.

[ Parent ]
and I still want (2.00 / 2)
to form a band just to call it "Strummerson and the Jew Boy Jukes!"

The future is unwritten

[ Parent ]
During the late 80s I wanted to start a punk band called (0.00 / 0)
"Prudent Juncture" and see if anyone got the joke...

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
Judent Puncture? (1.00 / 1)
Procol Harum?

Is it a joke in Latin?

Probably a good thing you kept to Spinal Tap, because that one is lost on me.

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
Sounds like a Bond girl (1.50 / 2)

This is not a recession. It's a robbery.

[ Parent ]
Fail and Fail again! (1.00 / 1)
It stood out like sore thumbs to me, so it must be everyone else's fault.

OK, I'll spell it out for the short bus crowd:

"I don't that that would be prudent.  Not at this juncture."

Bush Sr. used the words "prudent" and "juncture" like someone who was proud that he knew the words (something Dean Koontz also does that bugs the hell out of me).  I never knew why people didn't pick on him more for it.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
Yeah (2.00 / 1)
A punk band name in the late 80s? Based on a Speech by Bush Snr? Inspired by the fact he used unusual words?

Like I said. Stick to the day job, Chris :-P

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
It wasn't just that he used unusual words in general, (2.00 / 1)
he used "wouldn't be prudent, not at this juncture" at every turn.  Made me want to poke him with a stick.

Mojo none the less, though, because you are right.  Being really chick and swave has never been my strong suit...

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
I've been meaning to revisit Mill one day soon. (2.00 / 3)
I'd love to find a hardcover copy in a used book store.

Here are a few Mill quotes on the subject.

If mankind minus one were of one opinion, then mankind is no more justified in silencing the one than the one - if he had the power - would be justified in silencing mankind.

The despotism of custom is everywhere the standing hindrance to human advancement.

We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavouring to stifle is a false opinion; and even if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.

and here is one supporting Strummerson's point.

We have a right, also, in various ways, to act upon our unfavorable opinion of anyone, not to the oppression of his individuality, but in the exercise of ours.

This is not a recession. It's a robbery.

[ Parent ]
Big hug and thanks John (2.00 / 2)
Those were exactly the quotations I was thinking about, and now I know where to find them quick.  

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
Okay, I know. (2.00 / 1)
I've gone beyond belaboring my point in this thread.  Forgive me.  But for one (I hope) last clarification, I suggest something that goes beyond Mill here.  Not only do I suggest that we have the right "to act upon our unfavorable opinion[s]," I think that their expression is crucial to the operation of the public sphere.  I go further than the passive guarantee of a "right" to the active exercise of an obligation.  Constant and vigorous criticism from all sides is exactly that which shields us from passivity and dogmatism.  

John and I disapproved of one another's postions fairly strongly above, and I am sorry if my tone offended and distracted, but as Brit noted it moved the conversation somewhere.  And I think both out positions gained nuance from the process, if not in concept then in articulation.  That demonstrates exactly what I advocate.

The future is unwritten

[ Parent ]
Just found some more JS Mill on the incitement issue (2.00 / 1)
"An opinion that corn dealers are starvers of the poor, or that private property is robbery, ought to be unmolested when simply circulated through the press, but may justly incur punishment when delivered orally to an excited mob assembled before the house of a corn dealer, or when handed about among the same mob in the form of a placard"

On Liberty, pg 55.

My only caveat Strummerson is that somehow contrary opinions, or unreasoning dissent, is valued for it's own sake. To a certain extent, that has happened in the UK over the last 12 years of Labour rule, with our blogosphere dominated by libertarians and the Conservative right, who delight in complaining about 'political correctness' and making statements like 'Prominent Black/Asian is racist, feminist is sexist' as if there mere contumeliness guaranteed veracity and vigour.

This is especially galling when the liberal orthodoxy they so vociferously oppose is only a majoritarian tendency in their eyes, and on the street, pub or Mason's meeting, their racist and sexist comments are the norm.

I don't think we should always praise dissent for dissent's sake. I'm not proposing banning it - let me make that clear - but knee jerk conspiracy theories, whether originating from Militias or Marxists, can equally sap the energy and innovation from debate. You see this happening with Avant Garde art movements in the 20th century, and boy is it tiring when it comes to Birthers and their ilk. Sometimes heterodoxy becomes its own orthodoxy. Something is more important than agreement or dissent, and that's some reference to proof, truth, value, call it what you will. Ultimately, that's what the arguments are all about.

Quick illustration of this from my days in theatre. Often great shows would have turbulent rehearsal periods, with the actors, director and writer (me), often experiencing a tough emotional journey as we staged the production, and explored the usually troublesome and challenging nature of the story.   But some directors/actors/writers, confound causation, and deliberately cause upset and argument during rehearsals, thinking this will lead to a good show. Unfortunately it didn't.

You can't manufacture dissent, any more than you can manufacture unanimity.  

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
PC (2.00 / 2)
Political correctness has become a dogma in and of itself and a dangerous one.  Basically it simply provides reactionaries with a code that often makes acceptable what that code is trying to make unacceptable.  So for instance, as long as the Republicans don't use the word "faggot" and substitute the "acceptable" terminology of "gay american" they can pursue bigoted legislation without appearing as bigots.

I agree that not all dissent or offense should be praised or protected.  Each individual situation must be treated according to its context and performance.  That was my initial tussle with John.  But I don't think it problematic or contradictory to promote the right to dissent, or to offend, or to critique in general while treating each instance critically itself.

As for the limits of free speech, I haven't been involved much in that debate here.  I think in general one needs to make a compelling case that something has a direct connection to violence, like child pornography or snuff films, to place formalized limits upon it.  Holocaust denial is a more interesting test case.  It's not just a controversial reading of history, it's a conspiracy theory that depicts a group as perpetrating a fraud for its own political and economic motives.  It comes close to incitement, as witnessed recently at the museum in DC.  But I don't think the connection to violence is direct enough that we should try to ban it legislatively at all.  On the other hand, I do support all efforts to discredit it and position it as socially unacceptable.  I don't think that is "soft censorship," in Chris's terms.  I think that is part of the ethical operation of the public sphere, in which we are all obligated to participate as democratic citizens.

As for manufacturing dissent or unanimity, it recalls of course Chomsky's famous "Manufacturing Consent."  I take it you are skeptical regarding his thesis?  (Chomsky, btw, has I think the correct attitude towards Holocaust denial.  People like Faurisson should be able to publish drivel and potentially dangerous calumnies and we should not hesitate to confront it when he does.

The future is unwritten

[ Parent ]
joke's on them (2.00 / 2)
I meant on the characters, as opposed to with them.

The future is unwritten

[ Parent ]
Whoa. (2.00 / 3)
But before you ride around on your pious free-speech horse, perhaps you would deign to actually read the comments you are responding to.

Uncalled for.

Just because they are posting on a progressive site doesn't make them progressives. - John Allen

[ Parent ]
I disagree (2.00 / 3)
Suggesting that someone is trying to inhibit freedom of speech when they are not is an unethical way of trying to discredit and silence them.  

The future is unwritten

[ Parent ]
I thought it was rather obvious I was talking more about the tone ... (2.00 / 3)
... than the content of what was quoted.

Just because they are posting on a progressive site doesn't make them progressives. - John Allen

[ Parent ]
An accusation (2.00 / 4)
of censorship or of violating the freedom of speech is dirty pool.  I think the tone was called for.  Particularly given the blatant disregard of my comment in this response.

I generally support civil rhetoric.  But pugilistic snark has its place as well.

Your objection is noted, however, and I'll keep it in mind going forward.  

The future is unwritten

[ Parent ]
I agree with Strummer, (2.00 / 1)
and Barr is an asshole.(imho).
I know this is art to some, and I'm not asking anyone to ban it, but it would seem she is using the pain and suffering of some to make a buck. ( Some wierd parallels to the health insurance industry)  

[ Parent ]
Some things to me are never funny. (2.00 / 5)
And this is one of them.  I don't get the humor.  And I don't think it takes away any of the power or pain that Hitler caused to the Jewish people.  I have yet to meet one Jew who jokes about the holocaust in any manner.  And I keep wondering why anyone gives her a public platform.

Oh, I don't know. (2.00 / 4)
There's always someone to give everyone a public platform, and as an atheist gentile I won't question the actions of a Jewish publication and a jewish comedian mocking this sort of content.  I think it is safe to say that the magazine, the author and (if she didn't say something contrarian just to piss you off for asking) Barr herself would confirm that the holocaust is not ha-ha funny, but that mocking it can be.

This just in!  Desert nomads discovered who worship the number Zero.  Is nothing sacred???!!

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
There's nothing I won't question. (2.00 / 2)
Question everything, I say.  Some may find this funny haha, funny uhoh, or not funny at all.  I'm in the last category.  I wouldn't find it funny if someone dressed up as Jack the Ripper and mutilated Barbie dolls for a photo shoot.  She can do what she wants, and so can Heeb, but I damn sure don't have to look at it, promote it, or in any way, shape, or form support it.

Would I get all kinds of pissed off if the GOVERNMENT stepped in and tried to limit it?  Oh hell yes.  But there is no guarantee of free speech in the private sector.  Otherwise, we would all be forced to listen to the rants and ravings of lunatics (e.g. birthers, neo-nazis, etc.) in places we generally are not bothered (work, home, malls, grocery stores, other privately owned property, etc.)

[ Parent ]
For some real holocaust shtick (2.00 / 3)
I must let the whole Moose know about David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party and most likely our new Prime Minister next year, and his new allegiance in European Parliament.

Basically, the EU represents the same bug bear of Federal 'Communism' that Obama does to the far right in the US. The Tory party have been obsessed with Europe ever since her hatred of it caused Margaret Thatcher's demise in 1990. To those now in power in the party, the EU is the new Napoleon/Hitler/Soviet Union, and must be resisted at all costs.

As a result of this, the Tories have formed a new grouping in the European Parliament with other 'anti Europeans', now led by former Polish Law and Justice Minister, Michal Kaminski, who was a member of an anti semitic movement in his youth, and opposed any apology for the the massacre of Jews by Poles at Jedwabne.

I know Poland well, and it's a complicated story, and best explained by Timothy Garton Ash here. But I'm still amazed by the ability of people to use the Holocaust, the one irreducible evil of Western civilisation, to a political pawn in some short term debate.  

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

Desperate for some attention... (2.00 / 6)
...would be my guess.  It's either this, or leak a sex tape.  I'm not liking the idea of either.

Earth is the best vacation place for advanced clowns. --Gary Busey

Ewww! (2.00 / 6)
Delete delete delete!!!

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
heh. ew. heh. ew. n/t (2.00 / 6)

"I spend my days and nights pondering the meaning of life, the state of the universe, and the Home Shopping Network." -- Donald Roller Wilson

[ Parent ]
If those were our options, (2.00 / 6)
I'm certain even the most sensitive in the Jewish community would agree -- have all the Jew cookies you want, lady, just please for the love of god, keep your clothes on.

If she can put on that kind of production to eat a snack in front of a camera, can you imagine the crazy get-ups she'd be wearing in the bedroom to make a sex tape? **shudder**

Come to me in my dreams, and then
By day I shall be well again!
For so the night will more than pay
The hopeless longing of the day.

[ Parent ]
No, I can't imagine. (2.00 / 6)
I will not imagine. I refuse to imagine. I will die before you can make me imagine. Never! Not in a million years. Not ever. Never. Don't think about purple elephants either. Especially ones with green stripes.

This is not a recession. It's a robbery.

[ Parent ]
MENTAL PICTURE!!!!!!! (2.00 / 9)
Terrified Pictures, Images and Photos

Just because they are posting on a progressive site doesn't make them progressives. - John Allen

[ Parent ]
why do I get the impression (2.00 / 6)
I'm reading Harry Potter's newspaper when I see your comments?  x

What, me worry?

[ Parent ]
I think its very clever and extremely twisted. (2.00 / 5)
She's pushing the limits as most comedians do.

Sometimes the joke bombs and sometimes its a hit.

Just because they are posting on a progressive site doesn't make them progressives. - John Allen

Well, you are a certified expert on twisted, (2.00 / 6)
so who am I to question you on such things?

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
Zing! (2.00 / 6)
COL An evil little chuckle.

This is not a recession. It's a robbery.

[ Parent ]
Holocaust Shtick. | 79 comments

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