The courage table

Maybe I???m not Charlie Hebdo. But I sure as hell am not David Brooks. Using the massacre of twelve people by Islamic terrorists to create some kind of satirist caste system is truly the gold standard of elitism.

Over the weekend, New York Times columnist David Brooks stopped short of ???they had it coming,??? but in his ???tsk, tsk??? tone he did his best to discredit their work while promoting himself. He called Charlie Hebdo-style satire ???useful,??? no matter how ???puerile.??? For good measure, he wagged his manicured finger at prominent American satirists and commentators like Bill Maher and Ann Coulter.

His point? These people don???t deserve a place in sophisticated, polite, adult conversation with the likes of him. They have their place. We shouldn???t kill them. But, they are to be relegated, in his words, to ???the kids??? table??? of social commentary.

Separating our satirists, commentators, and comedians into ???adults and kids??? in the midst of such horror is not only smug, it???s cowardly. We don???t have the luxury of pretentiousness any longer, Mr. Brooks. People are being murdered for their speech.

There are now only two tables – the courage table and the coward table.

Brooks ought to call and make his reservation quickly because the cowards are running out of room.

The reluctance or refusal of mainstream, American media outlets to even rebroadcast, or print the cartoon images that led to the slaughter of their French colleagues is not adult. It???s cowardly.

The New York Times and shows like ???Meet the Press??? are losing readers and viewers annually for their absence of courage. They???ve long been viewed as partisan, lacking in honesty and fairness. Speaking truth to power stopped when George W. Bush left the White House.

Ironically, these are the venues in which Mr. Brooks chooses to deliver his ???adult table??? commentary.

I???ve also noted over the years that our most popular comedians and comedy shows are broadly suffering from an inability or unwillingness to speak truth to power, too. In some cases, it???s blind partisanship. For the most part, it???s leftists and progressives in their audiences turning into mobs when one of their own dares tell a joke they deem unacceptable.

Noted liberal-progressives such as Bill Maher, Chris Rock, and Patton Oswalt are recent examples. They???ve expressed their concerns, if not outright disdain for the very people they vote for and with on Election Day. They???ve been targeted as ???offensive??? by everyone from college kids to feminists for nothing more than their jokes and commentary.

Speaking to the Daily Beast about the frustration he feels with his fellow progressives, Oswalt said, ???That is going to hurt the progressive movement in this country more than anything, is people suddenly going, we???re the scolders, we???re the shushers, we???re the ones offended by everything.”

Rock said in last month???s New York Magazine he wouldn???t play colleges anymore for fear of the blowback from his jokes. Oswalt and Maher have pledged to fight those that mischaracterize, threaten, or harass them.

That???s courage ??? table for two.

Sunday night???s Golden Globes featured many celebrities pretending to stand tall for speech and expression. ???Je suis Charlie??? has become the verbal equivalent of a lapel ribbon. A nice sentiment certainly. But how do their words and actions back it up?

When Sony Pictures??? computers were hacked and their chairman???s emails were leaked containing racist jokes directed at President Obama – what did she do to keep her job?

She picked up the Reverend Al Sharpton???s check at the coward table by donating to his National Action Network. Apparently some speech has a literal price, too.

When North Korea threatened further cyber-attacks on Sony if they released their movie ???The Interview,??? what was the initial reaction? Sony granted total compliance with the hostage takers.

While Sony cowered in fear, actor George Clooney circulated a petition among the most powerful and influential stars, producers, directors, and studio heads in Hollywood to push Sony to not only show the film, but also show the world that Hollywood wouldn???t be cowed. What happened? Not a single signature.

Clooney told his colleagues refused to sign his petition for fear they???d be exposed, just as the head of Sony Pictures had been.

???The Interview??? was eventually released. But the cowardly precedent had been set.

What about the Golden Globes broadcast itself? Perhaps their most talked about host in years, Ricky Gervais, no longer hosts the show. Why? His jokes, as the former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press put it, ???definitely crossed the line.  Some of the things were totally unacceptable.???

Can we squeeze one more in at the coward table, please?

Without Gervais, the show hired the very talented and funny, but much less unpredictable hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. After a few years at the helm, perhaps the pair???s most memorable moment came Sunday night.

Fey and Poehler did dueling impressions of Bill Cosby, referencing the allegations against him of drugging and raping multiple women. As they delivered punch after punch, the audience nervously groaned and tittered in a way only Gervais had made them before.

Some took offense to Fey and Poehler???s jokes as mocking rape victims or rape itself.  To me, it was a single moment of courage found in a town sorely lacking it.

They spoke truth to power. One of the wealthiest, prominent, historic men in television was ridiculed in front of his peers and colleagues.  Bill Cosby will never recover from this. If you believe there are women without a voice who suffered at the hands of Bill Cosby, then you must send Fey and Poehler a thank you note for their courage.

No doubt, David Brooks would say Tina Fey and Amy Poehler belong at the kids table for daring to tell such puerile jokes.

I???d say courage, table for two.