Tosh and Media Selling
Section: Civil Dialogue
On Friday night, at the Laugh Factory, Comedy Central host Daniel Tosh allegedly said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl [referring to an audience member who “heckled” him about his claims that rape jokes are always funny] got raped by, like, five guys right now? Like right now?” Some claimed that Tosh appeared angry and threatening when making the comments while others claimed he was not. Tosh tweeted “the point i was making before i was heckled is there are awful things in the world but you can still make jokes about them.” He also tweeted “all the out of context misquotes aside, i’d like to sincerely apologize.”
The owner of the Laugh Factory gave a different version of events to Buzzfeed. He said Tosh asked the audience
“What you guys want to talk about?” After someone in the front said “rape,” a woman in the audience started screaming, “No, rape is painful, don’t talk about it.” Then, Masada says, “Daniel came in, and he said, ‘Well it sounds like she’s been raped by five guys’ — something like that. I really didn’t hear properly.”
He continues, “It was a comment — it wasn’t a joke at the expense of this girl.” "
Obviously, in either case the statement or joke was at the expense of the girl.
The story has the media buzzing with the typical hyperbole. Since what was actually said and the way it was said, is not entirely clear, reporters with different ideologies have interpreted what was said in different ways. Typically, reports have only included details of the story that support the reporters opinion. Some defended Tosh because they believed what he said was a joke and some argued that people should be allowed to say whatever they want. Others, were angry because they believe it wasn’t a joke at all but a threat against the woman. Other argued that Tosh was promoting rape myths.
What is clearly illustrated by the media coverage of the story is that there is a problem with civil dialogue in this country. A civil discussion might focus on what we as a society define what constitutes an offence against another person and how we as a society should respond to speech that is hateful or promotes misunderstanding or hatred. A civil discussion might discuss how we as a society want to define and deal with speech that can potentially be harmful, threatening, promote violence and promote false stereotypes, and how we should evaluate conflicting accounts. There were no discussions that we could find among the reporters we reviewed that discussed how our society should educate people in terms of history and issues relating to cultural and gender sensitivity.
The vast majority of the arguments from those who defend Tosh and those who don’t hasn’t been about the core issue of how we treat each other. Rather, most of the dialogue has been in the nature of illogical arguments in an attempt to support an opinion or ideology. For example, Chez Panienza of the Huffington Post responded with a number of Ad Hominem personal attacks on liberals, many whom hadn’t even commented on the Tosh issue. For example, Panienza said
“You just run out of clever twists to put on the subjects you’re passionate about and which inspire you to speak up and so you essentially wind up recycling all your previous points and arguments while hoping no one notices how tedious you’ve become. (This is known as “Greenwalding.”)."
The very widely read Glenn Greenwald reports on pro war spin in the media and not on entertainment news.
Consistent with most discussions, Panienza only used information that supported his arguments and therefore didn’t report what the woman believed was said but only partially reported what the club owner thought he heard. Similar to many others, he failed to point out that part of the accusation was that Tosh was repeatedly saying that all rape jokes are funny. Conservatives suggested that boycotting things is the solution which assumes that what Tosh said wasn’t threatening. Similarly, liberals argued for better enforcement of or stronger hate-speech laws without discussing other possible solutions such as education and boycotts or called for a better understanding of what actually happened.
Similarly, most news entertainment shows had civil panel discussions that only included one side of the argument—either liberal or conservative, and only presented arguments in favor of one’s ideology. Conservatives argued that liberals were being too sensitive and that Americans should be free to say whatever we want. However, in other debates the roles have been reversed. For example, liberals claimed that conservatives were being too sensitive and that Americans should be free to say whatever they want when the Texan lead singer for the Dixie Chicks said to a British audience “we don’t want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.”
Is the issue really about Tosh or is the media reaction simply an attempt to promote their brand’s ideology, or their advertisers’ ideologies? As we’ve discussed previously, the media often attempts to promote itself by appealing to it’s audience. It frequently acts as a champion for a narrow group of ideas and then presents our world in the way their audience wants the world to be as opposed to the way the world really is. Many organizations don’t just stop with that. After gaining our loyalty, they attempt to sell us new ideas that their promoters are interested in selling to us. The problem with that is that biased advocacy encourages us to fight, it’s not informative and it discourages honest insightful reporting. It also insures that no one learns from the situation when the debate is cast in terms of ideological principles to supportive audiences.
by Todd Miller
Sorry! No Links