Lock The Doors! Call The FBI! George Lopez Threatens Donald Trump's Life With Instagram Joke
The US assassinated Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani Friday and some Iranians are real mad about it. The Daily Mirror claimed that during Soleimani's televised funeral, an $80 million bounty was placed on Donald Trump's Tribble-infested head. (It's unclear if this officially came from the Iranian government or just state media.) The figure isn't based on the current market rate for presidential assassins but rather on the number of people living in Iran.
"Iran has 80 million inhabitants. Based on the Iranian population, we want to raise $80million (£61million) which is a reward for those who get close to the head of President Trump," it was announced, according to en24.
The crowdsourcing effort seeks to raise $1 from every Iranian. That's less than a cup of coffee. The Chicano Worldstar shared the story on Instagram, and George Lopez, a comedian who tells jokes professionally, responded cheekily, "We'll do it for half."
Lopez wasn't actually entering into contract hit negotiations. His comment is a somewhat obvious reference to stereotypes about "cheap" Mexican labor. But maybe it wasn't that obvious. Conservatives thought he was seriously threatening Trump's life, which is absurd. The president might regularly use social media to advertise all the war crimes he plans to commit, but I doubt Lopez would actually offer to commit a major felony on Instagram.
This isn't a lawsplainer post, but traditionally questionable jokes aren't considered "true threats" against the president. In 1966, Robert Watts stated at a protest rally, "I have already received my draft classification as 1-A and I have got to report for my physical this Monday coming. I am not going. If they ever make me carry a rifle the first man I want to get in my sights is LBJ." Watts was convicted for his words but successfully appealed to the Supreme Court, which acknowledged that "uninhibited, robust, and wide-open" political debate ain't always tea and crumpets. Any truly free society should expect "vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials." The Court ruled that Watts's public comments about President Johnson were "a kind of very crude offensive method of stating a political opposition to the President" but hardly a "true threat." Fifty years later, self-proclaimed "free speech absolutist" and "snowflake melter" Charlie Kirk is calling for the FBI to arrest a comedian.
Kirk wasn't alone in feigned offense. Congressional candidate Erin Cruz called Lopez a "coward" while helping Lopez's offhand joke go viral. People really need to consider the Streisand Effect.
Ted Nugent routinely posted deranged rants about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that involved their grisly deaths, by him, with them either sucking on or being raped by his penis substitute. He's since been a welcome guest at Trump's White House. National Review writer Kevin Williamson liked to "joke" about hanging women who had abortions (a legal medical procedure), and conservatives rushed to defend his constitutional right to work for The Atlantic and receive compensation for his opinions.
It's easy to call conservatives hypocrites because of how hypocritical they are. However, they are consistent in their belief that no one should say anything mean about Trump. Kathy Griffin's career was sent into witness protection for a while because she appeared in an over-the-top photo holding a severed Trump head (like he's a common Holofernes).
Trump regularly raises lynch mobs against congresswomen of color at his hate rallies or on Twitter. He's not joking. I think he can handle a few digs from former sitcom stars. Despite everything we hear about how polarized the nation is now, USA Today reported after "Griffin-gate" that Trump faces the same number of threats as Obama. That's not bad considering Trump is a festering boil on the face of humanity and Obama was just ... black.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.