2010, only 40% of incoming college freshmen agreed it was safe to hold
unpopular opinions on campuses. When polled again as seniors four years later,
only 30% agreed. That is terrifying, because it suggests future adults have
been acclimatized to an environment without free speech. As a result, in a
recent Pew survey 40% of millennials supported curbs on free speech on social
justice warrior grounds. That is obscene. It is our rights they are willing to
trade away, but it is comedians who are the canaries in the coal mine. Director
Ted Balaker and a platoon of outspoken comics ask WWLBD or “what would Lenny
Bruce do?” in the funny and alarming documentary Can We Take a Joke? (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
comedian has been arrested on obscenity charges since Bruce’s 1964 trial in New
York. His biographer and posthumous attorney readily point out the irony that the
cops and politicians who once targeted Bruce would now respect his First Amendment
rights, but he could never play college campuses today. Chris Lee is a case in
point. Washington State University administrators actually recruited a mob to
disrupt the staging of his gleefully tasteless campus production, Passion of the Musical. Now that’s obscene.
of stories of rampant political correctness are just plain ludicrous, like
Gilbert Gottfried getting fired from his gig as the voice of the Aflac duck
because of a joke about the Japanese tsunami. Seriously, what part of Gilbert
Gottfried didn’t they understand? Obviously, they never saw him on the Comedy
Central roasts. Clearly, Gottfried is not about to shut-up anytime soon.
Indeed, he offers plenty of no holds barred commentary throughout the film,
along with unintimidated colleagues, like Adam Carolla, Penn Jillette, Heather
McDonald, and Jim Norton.
the other hand, Justine Sacco remains in hiding, but her story clearly illustrates
the point. She became the face of internet mob justice when she Tweeted: “Going
to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” before boarding a
plane. While she was offline, she was pilloried by the righteous (naturally led
by Gawker) and fired by her employer, IAC (they own Tinder and Chelsea Clinton
sits on their board of directors) without giving her a chance to tell her side
of the story. That’s obscene. For the record, it was a bad joke, but it was
meant to be satirical.
this kind of political correctness deliberately deafens the masses to notions
of context, which profoundly impoverishes the level of public discourse. The
implications for a relatively free democracy are absolutely chilling.
There might be a little too much Lenny Bruce
love slightly unbalancing Take a Joke,
but its analysis is always spot on, particularly that of Greg Lukianoff, the
president the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). It will
make you offended by the professionally offended and outraged at kneejerk
outrage. Timely but hopefully not too late, it also features a good deal of
laughs (albeit often bitter ones). Highly recommended for free-thinkers as well
as any Millennials not afraid of getting their feelings slightly bruised, Can We Take a Joke? opens this Friday
(7/29) in New York, at the Cinema Village.
Labels: Adam Carolla, Documentary, Gilbert Gottfried, Penn Jillette, Political Correctness