The Kathy Griffin Controversy

Comedian Kathy Griffin got into some hot water for a staged photo of herself holding a realistic-looking severed head that looks like President Trump. I won’t reproduce the photo here. It is disturbing. People asked me what it all means in terms of persuasion, if anything. I’ll tell you.

Disclosure: Kathy Griffin played the voice of the Alice in my old Dilbert TV show on UPN. I like Kathy, both personally and professionally. I’m a fan. Feel free to factor in my bias when you read this post.

The fascinating part of the story is that Griffin and at least one photographer thought this photo would be provocative but within bounds. The Internet quickly informed them they were wrong. Griffin issued a video apology that some people judge to be insincere. But it looked 100% sincere to me.

I have been telling you since before the inauguration that the country was going to split into two movies on one screen. Some of us are watching a new president do his best to make America great. But half the country is watching a disaster movie in which we unknowingly elected a Hitler-monster to destroy civilization. The Kathy Griffin situation illustrates the two-movie idea perfectly. For Kathy and her associates at the photoshoot, this photo was intentionally provocative, but in a silly way. In their movie, beheading the Hitler-monster is a widely-approved fantasy. Perfectly acceptable. Nothing to see here.

Then they published the photo.

And learned there was another movie on the same screen.

You and I get to live in the movies in our heads until your script and mine come into conflict. That’s what happened with the Griffin photo. The photo showed us with disturbing clarity that we are not experiencing the same movie. In some of our movies, Griffin literally took the side of ISIS (EviLosers) against the Commander in Chief of the United States. But in Kathy’s movie, a comedian made a provocative joke, as she often does. That’s all.

Obviously I support Griffin’s right to produce provocative and sometimes offensive art. That is part of her job. And I also respect her rapid and thorough apology. To feel otherwise about Kathy would make me one of the overly-sensitive folks I have been mocking for years. You don’t get to turn me into that person. But you can go full-snowflake on this topic if you like.

The takeaway here should not be so much about Griffin. The takeaway is that a room full of people involved in the photoshoot did not see this as a huge problem from the start. They were living a different movie. If you judge this situation to be an error of taste, judgement, intelligence, or morality, you are missing the bigger picture. The bigger picture is that the country is living two movies at the same time, and Griffin was acting “normal” in one of them. 

Persuasion-wise, Griffin’s photo was so over-the-line that I assume it ruined the movie for a lot of people following the anti-Trump script. The audience in Griffin’s movie just had a mirror held up to them. If they liked what they saw, they will stay in their seats. If they don’t like being the villains in their own movie, they might change the channel.

History might record this as the beginning of Trump’s rise in popularity. I have been predicting you will see the rise in the polls by year end.

Do you consider Kathy Griffin’s disturbing photo to be “art”? That’s a purely subjective evaluation. But Griffin did turn most Trump supporters into hypocrites by making them complain about political correctness.

If that isn’t art, you don’t know art.

You might enjoy reading my book because of all the art that isn’t in it.

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