Comedy is a very valuable reflective and introspective tool in our society. Comics can make us laugh at ourselves or, at least, not take ourselves so seriously. Comics can put the world in perspective when we get too caught up in political combat to “see the forest for the trees.” And they can speak truth to power as only a court jester can and has for centuries.
Comedy is an art, not a legal court proceeding or a news item. I honestly believe this cause célèbre is more of a distraction than a real issue. We are confusing the biased and deliberately inaccurate reporting by the MSM with comedy, which is an art. And, like all arts, art is in the “eye of the beholder.”
The right to free speech can only be measured by how a society treats the speech with which it does not agree or approve. Should there be reasonable limitations? Of course! And there are — in factual media: they are libel and slander law. But in comedy, where it is clear the comments are not meant to be factual, but rather entertaining, libel and slander do not apply, or, at least, the bar is significantly lower. And this, for the most part, is a good thing. Comedians like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and programs like Saturday Night Live may often blur the line between information and entertainment, as Katie Couric called it on her first broadcast, “infotainment,” but there main function is the entertain. If they can inform in the process, so much the better.
Was Letterman making a “bad” joke? Maybe. Was it in poor taste? Possibly, but he did not cross the line or even lower the bar — all these kinds of jokes had been made before about other teenager girls (Paris Hilton, Nicole Richey, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Courtney Spears, Chelsea Clinton, Amy Carter, the Nixon girls, the Johnson girls and the Bush twins) in the public forum — even as underage teenagers. His intended “victim” was the “of age,” formerly married Bristol Palin (who he confused with her younger, underage sister Willow).
Sarah Palin, like all politicians, knew when she entered the political arena that she and her family would be “fair game” for the media, both journalistic and entertainment. She knew that any mistake her kids made would be subject to public scrutiny.
She also knew that, when Bristol got pregnant out-of-wedlock and underage, that, given her political beliefs and her public evangelical Christian-based positions, that both she, her family and, especially, Bristol, would be the fodder for many jokes, and, frankly, reasonably so.
When Bristol decided to make “abstinence” ads targeted to prevent teen pregnancy, certainly Sarah should have known and informed her daughter if she didn’t know, that Bristol would be putting herself in the public forum and inviting public scrutiny and public humiliation.
So the false outrage shown by Sarah and her family mischaracterizing what Letterman said was not only a bit hysterical, it was more than a bit hypocritical.
II honestly believe this is “much ado about nothing,” or, at least, almost nothing. Certainly, it is not a measured and rational response. Further, it distracts from the real issues facing women.
If women want equality with men in all areas, including politics, they must be willing to accept the good with the bad. Men in politics have been the brunt of jokes and personal attacks from the MSM for centuries now, as evidenced by every president, especially Bill Clinton and GWB.
We wanted equality, now we have it. Suck it up and focus on the real issues that can advance the causes of women.