Culture

Kathy Griffin Can’t Be Criminally Prosecuted for What She Did — and That’s Great

(Reuters photo: Danny Moloshok)
Griffin’s stunt was disgusting, but the fact that her disgusting stunt is protected from government retaliation is beautiful.

The picture of Kathy Griffin holding a replica of President Trump’s severed head is disturbing, and it makes sense that people are upset.

What does not make sense, however, is the fact that people are calling for Griffin to be criminally prosecuted over it.

In order for something like this to qualify as a criminal threat, it has to be a “threat to take the life of, to kidnap, or to inflict bodily harm” that was “knowingly and willfully made” — and no reasonable person could possibly think that this is the case when it comes to Kathy Griffin. I understand if you’re saying you’re upset. I understand if you’re saying that you’re sick of seeing President Trump be slammed by the celebrities who spent eight years gushing over President Obama. Hell, I even understand if you are wondering what our culture is coming to — those are all takes that a reasonable person could have.

A reasonable person could not, however, actually believe that Kathy Griffin “knowingly and willfully” decided that she was going to transition from making jokes about celebrities’ plastic surgery into legitimately threatening to murder the president, and that the Secret Service needs to get involved in order to prevent our 45th president of the United States from being assassinated by the former star of a Bravo reality-TV show called “My Life On the D-List.”

This was not a threat. This was a desperate plea for attention coming from a woman who has made a career out of desperate pleas for attention, and who is now finally as famous as she has spent her whole life trying to be. Was the picture gross? Obviously — but we live in a country where even our grossest speech is protected by the Constitution. It’s not that there aren’t consequences for being disgusting (such as, say, losing your gigs at Squatty Potty and CNN’s New Year’s Eve telecast in the same 24 hours), it’s just that those consequences exist outside of the realm of criminal punishment — and that’s exactly where they need to stay.

We as Americans are completely free to criticize our leaders in any way we choose, without running the risk of those leaders punishing us for it. Sure, Kathy Griffin’s stunt was disgusting, but the fact that her disgusting stunt is protected from government retaliation is pretty damn beautiful. I don’t know if you know this, but other countries don’t exactly have that kind of freedom, and I’d rather see every single person on the planet carrying around a replica of my own severed head than think for even a second about giving it up.

This was a desperate plea for attention coming from a woman who has made a career out of desperate pleas for attention.

If you say, “But this is different! The government should be able to punish her, because this was really bad,” then fine — just please understand that you are also saying that you want the government to be able to decide what are and what are not acceptable ways for citizens to speak about the government. And if that’s how you feel? Well, then, I don’t know what to tell you — other than that you might really love living somewhere more like North Korea.

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