What is happening to freedom of speech in America? The recent backlash against Stephen Colbert, Kathy Griffin, and Bill Maher over jokes which may be offensive and inappropriate is frightening. The attempts to intimidate and silence these comedians is based on the same mentality used by those extremists who tried to silence Salman Rushdie, Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, Charlie Hebdo, as well as countless others.
Anyone who finds a joke or any other comment offensive has every right to express their opinion. Where I part company is in the demand by these people for sanctions against these entertainers.
It may not be funny to me. It may be offensive and degrading. They are just words and images. They are meant as jokes even if they miss the mark. Look at the source. I have been involved in the comedy business as a lawyer for over 30 years. Some comics are crass, ignorant, and not funny. I have rarely, if ever, seen a comic who was malicious. By and large most are trying to entertain and make people laugh. They try to find humour through observation and commentary on life through a lens with their own unique perspective. It is not easy to put yourself out there.
Then there are a class of comics who stand out from the rest. They are smart and politically savvy. Part of their comic DNA is based in their sense of social justice and their desire to affect awareness and positive change on pressing social and political issues. They remind us of the realities and hypocrisies of the world around us.
As long as it is done in that spirit, whether or not it is funny or offensive, it is important that the right to express it is not impeded by intimidation from those who disagree. If that right and responsibility is not vigorously defended, and preserved it will be the first dagger in the heart of freedom. Sorry, that would be the second dagger in the heart of freedom. Donald Trump is the first.