I thought The Emperor’s New Clothes was a children’s story, not the plot to the latest media distraction: the wide condemnation by the Trumpverse and many in the mainstream media of Michelle Wolf’s performance at the recent Whitehouse Correspondents’ Association dinner. Everything Wolf said hit a truth about the current administration and many of its players, but in the Trumpverse the media, our civic leaders and the general public ignore and even deny the many lies, inanities and cruelties of Trump and his crew.
Meanwhile, Mika Brzezinski, Andrea Mitchell, Maggie Haberman and other mainstream media continue to look for any way possible to normalize as much of the behavior of the current White House staff as possible, and creating out of the blue the imaginary rule that you don’t make jokes about the White House press secretary is a cheap way to do it. After all, Miss Sarah is just a hard-working professional in a tough situation. True enough, but the way out of Sarah’s difficulties is not to lie, which means either quit or answer questions truthfully. Once you lie again and again and again over months, you become part of the corruption and an open target for the satirists of the world such as Michelle Wolf.
Word to the literally dozens of conservatives who use “it’s not the appropriate time, place and/or words” to condemn all manner of performances, demonstrations, speeches, community actions and other expressions of free speech:
There is no such thing as an inappropriate time and place to speak the truth.
There is no such thing as an inappropriate time and place for a comedian hired to perform to make fun of a person who is front of the news media almost daily.
Unless we’re talking about a death, a horrible accident, the victims of a tsunami or a similar personal tragedy. Or children.
But Sarah Huckabee Sanders is not a child and has not suffered any personal tragedy that she did not bring on herself through her own career choices. She is the public spokesperson for the White House, a public figure subject to comment, parody and joking. Moreover, she has chosen to be part of a corrupt political machine that seems to share more similarities to a crime family than to a political movement, an autocratic kleptocracy based on lies and unproven assumptions that knowingly lies to the public on a daily if not hourly basis.
Then there’s Kelly Anne, one of the longest running of the Trump crew of mean-spirited, racist liars. How is she not fair game for a political comedian?
No one has to think that Wolf was funny. I only liked about half her jokes. But to say it was a mistake to tell them, that the jokes were in poor taste because of the setting, is to assault the first amendment. You don’t have to agree with her or think she’s funny to recognize that Wolf exercised her First Amendment rights in the service of her profession. Whether it’s Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Chris Rock, Lewis Black or Stephen Colbert, comedians who talk about serious subjects often have punchlines that are unfunny, or funny but sad or sickening at the same time, but still a necessary part of the truth they are conveying. Anger lurked or lurks behind the humor of all these comedians. Those they shock are often angry at the joke because it cuts too close to home or it puts the lie to a myth they believe.
I don’t see the difference between what these comedians were doing and what Michelle Wolf did at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.
But my wife saw a difference.
They were men and she’s a woman.
It’s hard to deny the reality of the facts on the ground. Starting with Colbert, male comedian after male comedian has gone after administration figures at these annual dinners, and the butts of the joke politely grin and bear it, while the comedian collects his kudos. A woman does it and she’s widely (but not universally) condemned. For an extended period of time by media standards, she becomes some cross between a cause celèbre and a political football.
Plus, there’s the painfully obvious sexism of the administration, which starts with a lack of female appointees, but includes a high tolerance of sexual harassment in the workplace and elsewhere, a dismantling of regulations that protect women, and a war against birth control and abortion.
I wish I could come up with another explanation for why so much of the mainstream news media, including the White House Correspondents’ Association itself, swallowed the authoritarian and anti-American Trump Kool-aid on Michelle Wolf. But institutional sexism—a reluctance to give women the same rights and privileges as men—is the only rationale that makes sense, the only one consistent with the facts.
Not the finest moment for Mika, Andrea or Maggie.