Monday, November 2, 2009

Fight The Powers That Be

I haven't seen the Curb Your Enthusiasm episode in which Larry David accidentally urinates on a picture of Jesus and the droplets are mistaken for tears which is then seen as a sign of a miracle. From a purely comedic standpoint, this actually sounds pretty funny, satirizing the desire of some fervent Christians to (mis)interpret seemingly innocent, explainable images or events as proof that Christ was indeed an immortal savior.
Of course, David isn't only going for laughs here. He's trying to be provocative and sacrilegious, targeting that large demographic that the left disdains so profoundly, the "Religious Right". He's also trying to show that he's a brave, outspoken critic of a powerful political force, willing to risk his career to speak "the truth".
It brings to mind when Jonah Goldberg some time ago mocked Americans who say, "I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it." as something one says to establish one's courageous free speech bona fides without actually having to be courageous. It takes bravery to make that statement in, say, Iran, but certainly not in the U.S.
Mark Steyn's latest column on NRO makes the point that if David really wanted to be seen as a brave, transgressive artist he'd go after a true reactionary entity.

As many commentators pointed out, Mr. David’s splashy stunt is a dreary provocation: It’s easy to be provocative with people who can’t be provoked. If he were to start urinating in a more Mecca-ly direction, he’d find an entirely more motivated crowd waiting for him at the stage door.

Steyn also suggests that David try focusing his satirical wit on another crowd that doesn't take kindly to criticism.

But I liked the point made by the Anchoress, a writer at the magazine First Things: Putting Mohammed et al aside, if Larry David had a yen to urinate hither and yon, wouldn’t it have been “braver” to have done it to the religious icon du jour? That’s to say, Barack Obama. And then maybe Ashton Kutcher could have marveled at how even Obama’s image was empathizing tearily with all 687 million Americans without health insurance. Or, alternatively, dribbling warm champagne from his Norwegian Nobel banquet toast. C’mon, Larry. Sure, you might not have a career afterward, but, unlike any Islamo-provocations, you’re not gonna get killed. Just fired, and probably damned as a racist. But at least you wouldn’t be a simpering suck-up to power like (National Endowment For The Arts Chief) Rocco Landesman and the other creeps.

Besides the case of Larry David, Steyn notes the absurdity of someone like Valerie Jarrett speaking "truth to power".

Who’s Valerie Jarrett? She’s “Senior Advisor” to the president of the United States — i.e., the leader of the most powerful nation on the face of the earth. You would think the most powerful man in the most powerful nation would find a hard job finding anyone on the planet to “speak truth to power” to.

...“I think that what the administration has said very clearly is that we’re going to speak truth to power. When we saw all of the distortions in the course of the summer, when people were coming down to town-hall meetings and putting up signs that were scaring seniors to death. . . . ”

Ah, right. People “putting up signs.” Can’t have that, can we? The most powerful woman in the inner circle of the most powerful man on earth has decided to speak truth to powerful people standing in the street with handwritten placards saying “THIS GRAN’MA ISN’T SHOVEL READY.”

Vintage Steyn

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