Norm MacDonald Had a Farm
By Frank Cassano
The chickens have come home to roost. The horses have bolted from the barn. The cat’s out of the bag. (Metaphors sometimes come in meta-threes.)
If Norm MacDonald is the most recent victim, you could argue that Jim Garrison was the first. And it’s interesting to track the progression.
But we’re talking about two completely different eras here. And two completely different transgressions.
It’s finally happened. After fifty-five years of being lied to, forgotten, cheated, swindled, taken advantage of, bullied, deceived, patronized, stepped on, and degraded by the Federal Government… people have finally cracked up. Fifty-five years is a long incubation period!
On his recent appearance on The View Norm MacDonald explained himself. Some days before, MacDonald had made an appearance on The Howard Stern Show in which he was about to use a word which starts with the letter “R” in order to describe a person who is stupid (his own words). But he says he caught himself at the last moment and, instead, used the term “Down Syndrome”. In doing so, he was accused of offending people who have Down Syndrome.
Actor/comedian Hank Azaria has decided to stop providing the voice of Apu on The Simpsons, and the character might be written out of the show. We’re told this was largely the result of backlash from members of the south Asian community who felt the portrayal reinforced negative stereotypes and was demeaning. However, some might point out that perhaps the reason a visible minority was used in that role was for the simple fact that 99.9% of convenience stores are staffed by visible minorities, particularly Indians or Asians (not that I took a poll). If the Simpsons had used an Indian character when 99.9% of convenience stores were staffed by Swedes and Norwegians, then the critics might have a point. Nowhere, and at no time, has Hank Azaria, or the show itself, ever been racist or derogatory or hateful in its depiction of Apu as a person of Indian descent. They simply imitated his voice.
Where does this leave comedians who do impressions as part of their act? Will their impression of Arnold Schwarzenegger be done as though he grew up in Idaho instead of Austria? If you do an impression of Henry Kissinger, will you be called anti-Semitic? Will you have to clean up your Sean Connery so that he speaks like Mister Rogers? And what if another production of “Beatlemania” hits Broadway? You guessed it—you wouldn’t know “the lads” ever hailed from Liverpool. You’d think they were from Cleveland. Wouldn’t want to offend Austrians, Israelis, Scots, or Liverpudlians by speaking like they do, would we? That would mean we hate them.
Before we go knocking down mountains, or bashing over monuments, or forever dismantling our way of life, we must identify who is doing the complaining. Was it, in fact, an entire community which lodged a complaint? That’s the impression that is given. Was it a hundred people? A thousand? Ten? Or was it merely one lone, disgruntled person with thin skin? Remember, it was a LONE woman who couldn’t take the racy humor on Married With Children which succeeded in having the show scale back on its frank subject matter. It was a LONE housewife whose kid got smacked upside the head with a metal lunch box in the schoolyard in the 80s that caused lunch boxes to be made from plastic thereafter. Those metal lunch boxes were cool. They had pictures of our favourite TV shows. We all had them as kids. But because of ONE person…
I realize I’ve ventured into the forbidden territory of “you’d better not go there—nothing good can come from this”. But the fact is, all of this hypersensitivity is nothing less than hypocritical bullshit. It’s a diversionary con job—about as authentic as George W. Bush’s color-coded terror warning. It’s not one that is by the design of one specific person, or one specific political entity, but it appears to be a symptom of the decades-long distrust we’ve had of our inept, corrupt, greedy, and unresponsive governments. To be precise, it’s been simmering since November 22, 1963. That is when the biggest of the big eggs was laid. Hard-boiled. The rest have been hatched sequentially--like in the opening sequence of the Partridge Family.
People like to feel empowered. They like to think their government speaks to the wants and needs of the people. They like to feel they’re capable of achieving a political victory once in a while; a victory which benefits the masses. But when the government shuts out the people, the way it has for decades, the people turn against each other. They become content with personal victories; a pound of flesh. We can sue each other over hurt feelings. It will make headlines. But what, in the bigger picture, are we changing?
Ask yourself a question. Who keeps emerging unscathed during our bickering and pettiness? Who keeps ploughing ahead; business as usual; another day in paradise? It’s not so hard to see, if only you would pull your head out of your ass, and stop being so goddamned sensitive about everything. Who keeps profiting—at a record rate--regardless what we, the voters, say? All around us are certain ugly truths that only continue to fester--unchecked, unbalanced, and unaddressed. We’re all so sick and bloody tired of it. The disparity between rich and poor grows ever wider. Never ending wars continue to wrack the planet. The military has never had a bigger budget, more outrageously expensive hardware, or a more pervasive world-wide presence. Jobs that pay a decent living wage are harder and harder to find—especially if you don’t have Ivy League connections. Wall Street is still too big to fail—but never too big to crash. Scientists agree (that is, the ones who haven’t been paid off by corporations) that Global Warming is a perilous threat to us all. TV news has become a reality show. Newspapers and magazines are nothing but puppet partisan mouthpieces. An ever-increasing number of billionaires has wiped out the middle class. Despite all of our new-found sensitivity, the world is a complete and utter total lop-sided fucking mess. Most importantly, NOTHING EVER CHANGES!
When Henry Ford began producing the Model T in the early 1900s, he felt it was important to pay his employees a competitive wage for the work they performed. This decision wasn’t an altogether altruistic one. The way he saw it, if the workers had more money, then they’d be able to buy one of his cars! Makes sense, right? Compare that to today. One could make the argument that the Apple iPhone is the Model T of today. But whereas Ford was an American-owned company, manufacturing its products on American soil, using American labour, so that Americans could benefit, Apple earns its zillion-dollar annual profits by employing cheap Chinese labour on Chinese soil. According to numerous well-documented news reports, these workers are packed into production plants like sardines. They work gruelling, stressful hours for a pittance. Because of no union presence, they are often badgered or harassed by their superiors. As a result, the suicide rate is through the roof. Back home in their boarded-up cities and towns, Americans don’t see a dime of this money.
Sadly, Apple is not alone. Not by a long shot. Corporations have learned their lesson, and learned it well. Overseas is the way to go. Cheap locations. Cheap labour. No pesky unions. Tax breaks. Massive profits. “Screw the American workers! Fuck ‘em! Let ‘em start their own goddamn company! We’re not operating a charity over here! What are we—Santa Claus? Why should we be forced to pay people $25 an hour over there when we can pay them $25 a day over here? Seriously, are you people out of your minds? We don’t give a shit how you’re supposed to get by! Buy more lottery tickets! Pimp out your sister! It’s not our problem!”
If Americans tell their politicians that they would like, say, free health care (which they have, unsuccessfully), the politicians will shriek and bluster about the evils of socialism…as the Health Insurance lobbyists stroke bigger checks for them. No matter what you do, who you complain to, or where you turn, there is just no winning. The system is hopelessly rigged. This out-of-control locomotive of greed, corruption, and elitism is just too powerful to stop.
The former Soviet Union may have proved that their form of communism doesn’t work.
But the United States has proved that their form of democracy doesn’t work either.
Is this mess the type of society that people really want? It is? Fair enough, then it must apply to everyone. Across the board. No exceptions. Otherwise, it will remain the elephant in the room, which is what it is now. People will continue to whisper amongst themselves--even though they’re now reduced to having to check over both shoulders to make sure the coast is clear before they address what is so clearly staring them smack dab in the face; and what is stinking the joint out.
Have you ever seen an African-American stand up comedian who didn’t make fun of white people in their routine? “How about those white people! They walk like this, and they talk like this…” (Sound of crickets). Comedians are not alone. Even Mike Tyson ventured there in his one-man show, quite gleefully. And quite disparagingly. So have black singers. So have black athletes. So have black ministers. In neither of these cases did I ever see an outraged Al Sharpton rush to the scene. Did you? And if the “N” word is so caustic to the sound, then why do black people use it so freely? Shouldn’t that word repel them most of all? Or has it become the equivalent of some sort of secret hand shake? Or a high-five? With a nudge-nudge here, and a wink-wink there…
So give me a break, ok? Either put up or shut up. None of this has anything to so with being sensitive or offended. It is gamesmanship, pure and simple. The whole thing is downright dumb. It does nothing towards addressing or preventing real racism, sexism, or homophobia—the kind we know really exists out there. It merely promotes cliquism, suspicion, cynicism, self-censorship, distrust, resentment, and paranoia.
How did we ever get to such a deplorable state? Was it because of the way children have been so overly molly-coddled, pampered, sheltered, and indulged for the last twenty-something years? Is it possible that that whole exercise in protecting those precious, helpless, fragile tots from the cold, cruel world turned out to be a failed experiment--one which has come back to haunt the rest of us by way of the wholly unrealistic “Time Out,” and “talk it through” mentality? For decades our kids haven’t been allowed to venture outside and play or ride their bicycles unsupervised because the boogeyman might snatch them from under the protective noses of their doting mother hens. Concussions in pro sports have led to fewer and fewer parents allowing their bubble-wrapped children to play sports for fear of injury. If you’re looking for a can’t-miss investment, consider putting your money in the bubble-wrap industry! Everywhere you look—widespread panic and fear!
When my parents moved here from Italy they were commonly called nasty, malicious, vile names. So was I. But except for two heads, a third testicle, and a spastic colon, I think I turned out fairly normal. ((I’ve probably just offended people with two heads, three testicles, and a spastic colon.)
The words “Wop,” “Dago,” “Guinea,” “Greaseball,” “Goombah,” and others, are still out there. They were never formally expunged from the lexicon. They were never granted hands-off status. They’ve never been designated as being the W-word, the D-word, or the G-words. They still hurt. All I can tell you is that never once have I ever heard any of my elders call themselves those words. Are they free to? Of course. They just don’t. Do people-at-large still tell Italian jokes? All the time. Do they bother me? Not at all! Funny is funny, for Pete’s sake! However, if the person telling the joke did so in a malevolent, prejudiced, derisive, or hateful tone…that’s different. It means he’s a racist prick. He’s not just out for a harmless laugh—as in a joke which points out our differences, or celebrates our similarities. What would I do then? I’d likely counter with an ethnic slur about him. And a much better one at that. The bastard. Even Whoopi Goldberg said once on The View that in times of agitated confrontation—like, say, a road rage incident—she’d let loose a verbal barrage of anything and everything possible in order to piss off the other person, hopefully ruin their day, with the end goal of emerging victorious. And then we move on with our lives. In this fucked up world we live in.
Get over yourselves, people!
In the current era, the pendulum of political correctness has swung so far out into the land of the absurd that Edgar Allan Poe could have written a story about this! It’s reached the point where we’ll all have to start carrying around a guide book before we open our mouth. If you feel you want to say something, you’ll have to stop yourself, open your guide book, and see if what you plan to say is considered acceptable. By everybody. By every single person in the entire world.
But could Poe, with all of his imagination and mastery of the macabre, have even dreamed up something so bizarre? Because what we’re witnessing here is a trickling over the line of the surrealistic and the suspenseful directly into the prying domain of the Thought Police. In that case, we’d need to enlist George Orwell to assist Poe with his tale. Together, their talents combined, they might have a shot at giving the story some intelligible semblance of subtext, meaning, or sense.
Oh, well, you say? You’re right--it is very Oh, well-ian.
Listen, anyone with half a brain should know what is and what should always be considered off limits, no questions asked, and without exception. This includes hate speech, and/or racist, sexist, or homophobic slurs. It’s simply basic common sense. Yet in this sentence alone, I’ve already risked offending people without any common sense, and people with half a brain. (Where is Dr. Humes when you need him? He could have found these people a full, intact brain--just like the one he magically produced at the hocus-bogus sham that was JFK’s rigged autopsy. Humes was a Wizard who could make a brain appear when there was none there to begin with! And if you compare his photo with that of actor Frank Morgan, you’ll notice a startling similarity! Good one, Dr. Humes! But a little more courage, and a little more heart, would have been nice. Ka-ching!)
The list of celebrities who are guilty of having let something slip is a long one. And you know what the consequences will be. They’ll have to apologize, then make an apology for their apology, then they’ll be blacklisted, they’ll lose their careers, they’ll lose their endorsement deals, and were Larry King Live still on the air, it would have been on Larry King Live for a week. Or even Egregious and Kathy Lee. They’d be smeared. They’d be branded. They’d be marginalized. They’d be finished.
None of this comes as any big surprise to me. Why? Because I actually bother to go out of my way to find out the true facts behind many of the most whopping, nose-growing, how-can-they-keep-a-straight-face-while-they’re-telling-us-this stuff, bold-faced lies the government keeps trying the pass off as actual history. History, folks! You know--something that actually, really, factually happened? John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, Vietnam, Watergate, the Oil Crisis, Iran Contra, 9/11—need I continue? “No,” the politicians tell us, “that didn’t happen, this happened!” Is it any wonder that the jaded, fed up, had-it-up-to-here public has now begun to construct their own realities as well? Why the hell shouldn’t they? After all, there appears not to be any such thing anymore as AN EVENT THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED. Isn’t that right, Wikipedia?
“We don’t like Huckleberry Finn the way it currently reads. Too many N-words. We would prefer it were rewritten so that it reads like this! We’ve decided Mark Twain wouldn’t mind. And after that, we’d like a moustache painted on the Mona Lisa. DaVinci could have shown more sensitivity to the LGBT community. Who’s to say Mona didn’t see herself as a man? That’s not something for DaVinci to have arbitrarily decided. So we’ll do it for him.”
“That TV show really hurt my feelings. Just because I have no sense of humor whatsoever—zilch--and, frankly, am rather annoying, I would prefer the show stopped being funny, or taken off the air entirely. I’m sensitive.”
“I once bought a quart of milk that had a beautiful picture of a yellow flower on the carton. The milk was delicious and very reasonably priced. Then one day, while walking with my wife in the country, she bent over to pick a lovely yellow flower that resembled the one on the carton. As she bent over, she tripped, fell into a creek, and drowned. I think the milk company should now put a different picture on their carton. Otherwise, every time I open the fridge and reach for some milk…it will remind me of my dear, albeit slightly uncoordinated, drowned wife.”
“The CN Tower looks like a thin penis. We don’t want people around the world to think that Toronto males have thin penises. They should knock it down and replace it with one that’s more, you know, fatter. And with a bigger head. But not so big that it resembles a dome, because we already have one of those. But sometimes the retractable roof doesn’t work, which implies that our foreskins don’t work either. Which isn’t true.”
Now let’s go back to Jim Garrison in the 1960s.
Jim Garrison was smeared. Jim Garrison was branded. Jim Garrison was marginalized. And in a very frightening way, Jim Garrison’s career opportunities, not to mention his personal reputation, were forever tarnished. You could say he was ruined. (But you’d better not! You might offend somebody who is ruined.)
And we all know why.
Garrison committed the atrocity of atrocities; the mother of all faux pas. What he did was worse than Norm MacDonald, Roseanne Barr, Michael Richards, Mel Gibson, Don Imus, and Gilbert Gottfried combined. It was worse than hate speech. It was more appalling than sexism. It was more abhorrent than racism. It was unforgiveable.
Celebrities can, and often do, rehabilitate themselves over time. A tearful apology here, a press conference there, and before you know it, they are back on the movie screen, or TV screen, or the radio.
But something else sets Garrison apart from mere celebrities. As far as I know, none of them ever had the CIA or the FBI barrel down on them with all their might. None of them ever had their investigations infiltrated by undercover agents, or their offices wired for sound. None of them ever had an entire television network produce a hit piece against them. None of them ever had a battalion of newspapers and magazines conspire to write outright lies about them. None of them ever had money planted in their homes in order to try and frame them for bribery or corruption.
This is the thanks a person gets for never uttering a racial, sexist, or homophobic slur.
Oh, he offended some people alright—people who did not want the murderers of President John F. Kennedy to ever be caught.
So now, here we are, some fifty years later. The pit has been widened. The pendulum swings precariously from above. Every one of us is now in danger of being sliced, diced, chopped, or fricasseed at any time. It’s not just “conspiracy talk” that is off limits anymore. Everything, and everybody, is fair game. A smothering Cone of Silence has been lowered. KAOS runs rampant. Apprehension and anxiety have gripped the nervous citizenry. Speak at your own risk!
Before you call me any vicious names, don’t forget to check your guide books first. Otherwise, the Thought Police might be coming after YOU! For you might end up saying something that’s offensive or insensitive about me! And I have rights and feelings too! Which means that once I’m finished my apology to you on national TV, then you will have to apologize to me on national TV! The networks will show it, rest assured. They revel in this type of smokescreen nonsense. It allows them to keep playing hide-the-sausage with topics that really matter…and which they refuse to discuss.
(My sincerest apologies to any barnyard animals I may have offended in this article. This extends to the San Diego Chicken, Elsie the Cow, Sherri Lewis’s Lambchop, Arnold the Pig, the Corn Flakes Rooster, and even Barney the Dinosaur. They all have feelings we should be sensitive to. I’ve learned my lesson and promise to never do it again—that is, if I actually did anything—which I’m not sure I did. But if I did, I don’t know what I could have been thinking. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll attest to the fact that nobody has been more pro-livestock than me. And as any free-range beef cow will tell you, the thought of being branded sears through my hide like a red-hot poker. It stings. It singes my already-thinning hair. It smokes. The guy who’s doing it risks receiving a swift back-kick to the nuts. And it will leave a mark for life.)