Television humanoid Kathy Griffin did something stupid on Tuesday, and then lost her job hosting a New Year's Eve show on Wednesday.
The stupid thing that Kathy Griffin did involved President Donald Trump — namely, posting a photo of her with a blood-drenched, fake severed Trump head. The problem wasn't that the blood apparently flowed upward from the site of the beheading that drove most people crazy, but rather that she and a dismal brand-name photographer decided to surf the click wave by crossing the line.
The attention-getting device set off a proxy battle between auto-drafted supporters of two ineradicable TV entities — Griffin and Trump — whose "self" entries on IMDB dwarf all other credits; their even standing and Trump's personality made it easy to take sides, as is now required of every citizen on everything related to Donald Trump.
America in 2017 is a soul-void with no respite, and all we have left are the "hot takes" we formulate each day to help pass the time, inflicting opinions about a ruling class that we are all powerless to stop onto peers we cannot hope to persuade. The dystopia is now; being angry in front of people is our Thunderdome; we are all going to die.
There are only six acceptable takes, so choose your weapon for the neverending battle.
1. Brand is everything; content is nothing
Kathy Griffin's apology video began with, "Hey, everybody, it's me, Kathy Griffin" — another iteration of brand enhancement. Maybe it's just a tic, or maybe she was genuinely concerned the average offended American might not know that an apology video posted by "Kathy Griffin @KathyGriffin" and next to an avatar of a Kathy Griffin book with the words "Kathy Griffin" on it was actually an authentic Kathy Griffin apology video. Who can say?
Kathy Griffin is like Regis Philbin: She has been on television forever for reasons no one can remember anymore other than that she is Kathy Griffin. She emcees celebrity-TV events because executives have decided that dead air is marginally worse. She once starred in a show called My Life on the D-List to commodify being the sort of person who shows up in a golf tournament on The Apprentice.
She riffs on celebrities from a position above the common citizenry, but too menial in comparison to actual stars to generate offense. She gives the audience a voyeuristic sense of hanging backstage and puncturing egos without ever constituting a threat to the real ratings draws. If you're famous, you can laugh at Kathy Griffin clowning on you because, at the end of the day, she'll never be anyone else.
The Trump beheading photo fell within her schtick: mock people higher up the ladder, play it for naughtiness. The Trump beheading might have transformed her into Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People, but at worst she remains where she is, within brand parameters — Kathy Griffin issuing an apology from Kathy Griffin, for viral acts of Kathy Griffindom.
2. This is not an act of "resistance."
To the extent that most of "the #resistance" amounts to clicktivist in-group commiseration and climbing atop horrifying news to throw zingers in keeping with one’s personal brand, yes, it's an act of #resistance. In terms of actual resistance, calling it a "nothingburger" is generous.
It's dimly possible that people at marches will carry placards with the beheading image on it, but what it will signify is anyone's guess. Would it be to show solidarity with Kathy Griffin? Would it be calling for the president's beheading and, if so, by whom, for what cause and under what rationale? The American aristocracy is beyond fearing electoral, civil or criminal punishment; it may only fear the incivility of encountering a small group of Americans in the wild complaining about losing health insurance. Any stronger emotion than annoyance will require an intimidating density of the citizenry demanding change, not just internet memes.
3. Celebrities are not helping.
If Hillary Clinton's phalanx of New York-blog-baiting A-listers wasn't enough to stop Trump and his coterie of six people who appeared on Battle of the Network Stars in 1978 from wielding power in Washington, Kathy Griffin ain't doing it. That's not her fault.
4. The right-wing can shut up.
Griffin's beheading image was clumsy and disproportionate to the target of its loathing. Though the process of calling Trump to account is glacial in its progress, it has not yet failed.
That said, the right wing can cram it with walnuts. If they want to see fewer riffs on American regicide, they can abandon knee-jerk obstruction of a lawful investigation into "nothing."
Besides, the far-right spent the last eight years indulging — at all levels of representation — repeated, banal invocations of "watering the tree of liberty ith the blood of tyrants." That they got away with it by cutely failing to explicitly name the "tyrant" in question does not obviate their culpability or mask their intent. Conservatives, for instance, did not seem particularly exercised by the sight of Ted Nugent in the Trump White House, despite his threats against Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Democrats as a whole.
5. All we have left is outrage.
Bounded by obdurate institutions we lack the financial or legal ability to budge, our only remaining means of cathartic release for the left or the right is rhetorically firing upon the fungible representatives of concentrated power. When you have two parties unresponsive to the urgent needs of the majority and no material means of compelling action, you turn to tools as intangible as shame.
For instance, take Sean Hannity’s relentless flacking of the Seth Rich conspiracy theory, and liberals’ demand that he be fired, or that one insurance company stops sponsoring him long enough for another to sign on. Meanwhile, Kathy Griffin does something asinine, and she becomes the avatar of CNN that anime Nazis can leverage to topple "fake news."
Firing Kathy Griffin from CNN’s New Year’s Eve party broadcast does nothing to stop the mainstream news from reporting on Donald Trump, and bleeding Sean Hannity's show as white as a pointed hood only punishes one wedge-headed mascot of proto-fascistic eliminationism and corporate veneration. The body will grow another appendage if the head doesn't die. These punitive shamings represent the vicarious low-order victories of a conquered people. They only change your serotonin.
6. Everything is awful, and I want to turn off the internet and go home.