Today I got into an interesting Twitter conversation with ABC’s Chief Political Analyst, Matthew Dowd.
Dowd tweeted out the following question about Ann Coulter getting absolutely pistol whipped by the comedians on the dais for Comedy Central’s roast of Rob Lowe. I answered his question with a question of my own.
Dowd and I had then had a series of tweets back and forth, and he kept calling what the dais comedians did on the roast “hate,” such as with this exchange:
so hate is ok with you?
— Matthew Dowd (@matthewjdowd) September 7, 2016
What I kept trying to get Dowd to realize is that satire, comedy, doesn’t always look like a typical joke. Sometimes, satire itself looks so much like what it’s satirizing that it’s easy to miscategorize it. However, the simple truth is that the comedians on that dais that night were satirizing Coulter using ridicule, mocking, and Coulter’s own rhetorical devices. If, for instance, Coulter had never attempted to generalize about Mexicans the way Donald Trump does, then the joke about her making the Mexican who digs her grave happy wouldn’t have been able to be written.
What Mr. Dowd seems to not understand is the concept of punching up, or punching down. To punch up means you take the position of the underdog, and you comedically jab at the ones in power. But what Coulter does is she makes a career out of punching down. That’s when you take your position of authority and majority and abuse the people lower on the totem pole with “jokes.” Basically, Coulter brought her abuse on herself, and yes, I realize I’m saying she was “asking for it,” because unlike when conservatives use that line of thinking about rape victims, Ann was neither raped, nor victimized, by the roast.
In fact, Ann was invited to be on the roast. She accepted that invitation, and contrary to what some might think, being on a roast dais is in fact consenting to being ripped apart. Usually, it’s being ripped apart with love and respect. But when you’re, say, an opportunistic, hate mongering she-devil, then the rules change. I wasn’t hired to write for the roast, obviously, but I can say with relative assurance that every single person who was immediately turned their sights on Coulter when she agreed to be on the stage.
Unequivocally, Ann is the most hateful person to appear on a roast. That hate inspired vicious satirical jabs to be taken at her, but make no mistake, it was satire, all of it. Ridicule is one of the most valuable tools a satirist has. Direct insult may not be fun to watch, and it may look an awful lot like the same kind of hatred it’s lampooning, but well, that’s kinda the point of satire, isn’t it? Coulter doesn’t deserve a single scrap of sympathy for her self-serving choice to expose herself to a roasting she hasn’t gotten in a long time, if ever.
Dowd is wrong to characterize what the roasters did to Ann Coulter as hate. It’s wasn’t. It was humor. Satire. Snark. Sarcasm. I understand, however, that to some even the noble art form of comedy shouldn’t be allowed to dip so far into the dark well of anger. Let’s just pretend for a moment that Dowd is right, then, and that what Coulter got was a heaping helping of hate. I think, therefore, this tweet of mine, which he didn’t seem to answer directly, gets right to the heart of that issue.
Honestly, I’m not really a fan of playing the Hitler card, and no, Ann hasn’t insinuated we should immolate or cremate Mexicans or Muslims. She’s just done everything in her power to dehumanize them, and you know, if some people have taken that as inspiration to think that exterminating some of them isn’t such a bad thing, that’s not her fault right? It’s not like she and every other conservative bleat every day like skipping records about personal responsibility, right?
But really, would people like Dowd be concern-trolling over Hitler getting roasted? Racism is racism. Hate mongering is hate mongering. And you know, maybe Ann did get a good, healthy dose of it, except Comedy Central and the comedians roasting her weren’t weaponizing their hatred toward all white, waspy, racist asshole women. Just one in particular. Believe it or not, that does, in fact, make a difference.
Here’s the real bottom line though, as far as I can tell. People like Matthew Dowd, while well intentioned are doing comedy and therefore society a huge disservice when the casually dismiss real, biting satire as “hate.” To be fair to Mr. Dowd, in my interactions with him — and all the interactions of his I’ve seen with other Tweeters — he was civil as hell. That’s really, really rare on Twitter. His civility, however, doesn’t change that Dowd is just off the mark on this one.
Labeling humor aimed at satirizing and mocking bigotry as “hate” kneecaps the comedian and the comedy. It’s dangerous and bad. Hopefully Mr. Dowd thinks about that the next time he castigates comedians for doing their jobs.