Can We Please Admit Now That Conservative Outrage Over Kathy Griffin Was Complete Garbage?

Culture Wars

Comedian Kathy Griffin is trending on Twitter this morning, largely due to reactions to Rep. Paul Gosar tweeting out a charming cartoon video of himself murdering Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. "The Right was outraged about Kathy Griffin's picture of her holding up a bloody Trump mask but not this? Hypocrites!"

And that would be very true, if they actually gave a flying fuck about that picture, which they did not.

At the time, many liberals (not anyone at Wonkette, mind you) fell all over themselves to "disavow" Griffin over the picture. Lots of "I don't like Donald Trump either but this just goes too far!" nonsense, lots of "If we sink to their level, they win" bullshit, particularly from those whose real problem with Trump had less to do with his politics than his overall tackiness. One of these was Vanderbilt scion Anderson Cooper, who was supposed to be her actual friend and who banished her from his New Year's Eve Spectacular instead of standing by her. Anderson Cooper is, by the way, an asshole.


This may come as a shock, but no, the people who went around screaming "Fuck Your Feelings" and "Lock Her Up!" did not suddenly become delicate flowers who needed smelling salts over a comedian doing a bit. They just knew that acting like they were outraged and hurt would likely lead to some good will from clueless pundits desperate to believe in the polite fiction of "principled conservatives" and eager to take the so-called high road.

The biggest initial support for Trump came from the troll pits of the internet — 4chan in particular — and those, like Milo Yiannopoulos, who prided themselves on being trolls. Trump himself was and is a troll. The whole movement was animated by internet troll culture, which is why "pretending to be outraged by a thing they don't actually care about" was and is a hallmark of that movement. That is what trolls do. They say and do disingenuous shit for the explicit purpose of provoking a certain reaction, and then laughing at that reaction. Their little shriveled hearts were not warmed by the calls for civility and Kathy Griffin disavowals, they were laughing at those people the whole damn time. They got the reaction they wanted.

They took delight in people taking them seriously. They loved it when Griffin was interrogated by the Secret Service, as this allowed them to pretend to believe that the star of "Suddenly, Susan" was just taking artistic photographs as a pretext for her evil plan to actually decapitate Donald Trump.

Even without the troll influence, Republicans do not have a history of respecting these kinds of IOUs. They do not send thank you notes. They will ask Democrats to do something because it is just the right thing to do, and then when the time comes for them to do that exact thing, or to decry someone in their own party for the thing they were mad about a Democrat doing, they have some other reason why they won't do it. Usually that reason is that we were unfair to them in some other way. See: Barrett, Amy Coney.

There will always be a reason, there will always be a story, and there will never be any "thank you notes."

While the Right is disingenuous and mercurial when it comes to many things, one thing they really do sincerely believe is that the Left "weaponizes victimhood." Specifically, they believe that the Left doesn't call out racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, whatever, out of care for those people or even themselves, but a) to make conservatives feel bad about themselves and b) to give members of those groups a pass on something. They believe it with their whole heart and soul and it informs their reality and every move they make. They also happen to deeply envy the power they believe comes from this thing we are not actually doing and very much wish to weaponize some victimhood for themselves. When they pull this shit, they imagine that they are "beating us at our own game."

That is what they thought they were doing with the Kathy Griffin outrage.

My one caveat is this — the Right does not like to be disrespected. That, they actually do take very seriously. They want to be considered "patriots," they want to be considered "The Real Americans," and they want to have enough social power to keep people from questioning them or publicly calling them out for their bigotry. But in terms of feeling genuinely hurt or frightened? Nah.

The best thing we can do, really, is to not play their reindeer games, to not take their "pain" seriously, to not take the bait of getting to have a "Sister Souljah moment" (Sister Souljah, by the way, did nothing wrong), to not grant them the goodwill of treating them as though they are sincere. Because not only are they not going to give it back, they are going to weaponize it for their own gain.

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse

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