The right wing’s new love for satire and ‘It’s just a joke’ defense

The House of Representatives recently voted censor Rep. Paul gosarPaul Anthony Gosar Photos of the Week: President Biden, Kenosha Protests, and a Pardon for Peanut Butter The Memo: Rittenhouse’s Verdict Reverberates Across the Polarized Nation The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by ExxonMobil – The House to Vote on the Biden’s social spending bill after McCarthy’s delay MORE (R-Ariz.) And strip him of his committee assignments. He was punished for posting a cartoon-like video that showed him killing the Democratic Representative. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez on Virginia gubernatorial race: ‘We weren’t welcome to present’ Ocasio-Cortez: spending plan must be approved soon or it will be ‘difficult’ for Democratic leaders ‘to get votes on anything’ Democrats should be about votes, not megaphones MORE (NY) and attack President Joe Biden.

According to a CNN report, the video that got Gosar in trouble portrayed him “as an anime-like cartoon hero… attacking a giant with the face of Ocasio-Cortez with a sword from behind. The giant can then be seen crumbling to the ground. Another scene shows Gosar flying through the air, brandishing two swords at a character with President BidenJoe BidenBiden will speak on the economy on Tuesday, with the Fed election looming, the NAACP chair calling Rittenhouse’s verdict ‘a warning shot that vigilante justice is allowed’ Optimistic Democrats as the bill from social spending goes to the Senate MOREface “.

Gosar’s video is just the latest example of a new trend in American politics. In the Trump era, America’s right-wing extremists embraced the world of the imagination and the satirical as political tools, after having condemned the left’s use of them as supposedly anti-American.

These Republicans have a newfound sense of humor, or so they would have us believe. When called about the extreme violence or racism of the images they post on social media, or when someone objects to the words they use to incite and provoke their followers, they often respond by saying that those images or words were simply ironic. , a joke.

Unsurprisingly, the target audience for those words and images is not swayed by the “just kidding” defense – they know the code.

President TrumpDonald Trump Two Fox News Contributors Resigned Over Tucker Carlson’s Jan. 6 Documentary Republican Senator: Decisions On Bills That Went Made Based On Whether They Hurt Or Help Trump Or Biden O’Rourke Will Not Say If He Wants Biden campaign for him in the Texas Senate race MORE made the “it’s just a joke” defense a regular part of his response when one or other of his actions sparked public outrage.

To 2020 report on The American Independent He identified 11 separate occasions in which the former president insisted that what the report called his “dangerous, misleading or downright offensive comments” were “just jokes.”

But of course it depends on who is doing the “joke”.

In 2013, Trump defendant funny Bill maherWilliam (Bill) Maher What you should never ask about COVID-19 and vaccines, and never reveal Juan Williams: Trump is killing American democracy Bill Maher rejects criticism of Chappelle: ‘What was that reaction? ‘ PLUS for suggesting he was the son of an orangutan.

More specifically: in 2017, the former president and his supporters reacted with surprise and horror when Kathy Griffin posted a photo and video of herself holding an effigy of the president’s decapitated and bloody head. Trump took to Twitter to condemn Comedian: “Kathy Griffin should be ashamed of herself. My children, especially my 11-year-old son, Barron, are having a difficult time with this. Ill!”

But after the Gosar video, the former president did not express such concern for the grandchildren of President Biden or the family of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. On the other hand the praised Gosar for being “a loyal supporter of our America First agenda, and more importantly, the United States.” And he offered the congressman “my complete and total endorsement!”

As the uproar over his video developed, Gosar and his allies offered several different justifications and defenses. Gosar himself first reclaimed that the video was designed to reach “the newer generation who like these animes, these cartoons.”

The later said that he “voluntarily removed the video, not because it was a threat in itself, but because some thought it was … I self-censored.” It is worth mentioning that he uploaded the video again after the Chamber censored it.

But when he was still defending himself, Gosar called the video a symbolic description of the political battle over immigration and “a political battle over amnesty.”

“Even Twitter”, Gosar continued, “The spokesman for the left, did not remove the cartoon, noting that … contributes to the understanding and discussion of the real-life battle resulting from the open border policies of this administration.”

But his last line of defense was to follow Trump’s playbook and tell about his video, “It was just a joke, hahaha.”

Whenever people like Representative Gosar or former President Trump offer the defense that “this is just a joke,” we must remember what the famous psychologist Sigmund Freud said. said about jokes: They reveal our repressed desires and allow us to express taboo thoughts.

Representative Ocasio-Cortez clearly called the danger in what Gosar’s joke revealed about his wishes in his speech during the censorship process. “As leaders in this country,” he said, “when we incite violence with representations against our colleagues, that turns into violence in this country.”

And she rightly scream the “It’s just a prank defense”.

“I have seen other members,” he said, “advance the argument, including Representative Gosar himself, the illusion that this was just a joke. That what we say and what we do doesn’t matter as long as we plead a lack of meaning … That what we say here doesn’t matter, as long as we say it’s a joke, it doesn’t matter … And I’m here to say yes. Our work here matters. Our example matters. Our service makes sense. “

Democracy in the United States today is in great danger in part because Representative Gosar, the Republican House leadership, the former president, and their allies refuse to listen to those words. They seem more interested in stimulating their followers and in “own the bookstores“Than to honor the work, the example and the service that your constituents and all of us need you to do.

Austin Sarat is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College. He is the author of numerous books on the death penalty in the United States, including “Gruesome shows: failed executions and death penalty in America. ” Follow him on Twitter @ljstprof.

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