In an era in which so many unhinged individuals have proven that they have absolutely no problem turning to violence to make their voices heard, there’s been an increasingly fierce debate about where the comedic line ends on edgy jokes surrounding U.S. politicians, particularly President Donald Trump.
This discussion hit a fever pitch last month when comedian Kathy Griffin participated in a disturbing photo shoot that featured her holding a faux bloodied and severed head that resembled Trump. Then, the debate kicked up another notch last week when Rep. Steve Scalise was shot along with a congressional staffer and two Capitol Police officers.
And as concerns over elevated rhetoric in today’s political climate continue to swirl, yet another controversy broke out on Thursday night when actor Johnny Depp spoke at a screening for his film “The Libertine” at the Glastonbury Festival in the U.K.
“When was the last time an actor assassinated a president?” Depp said to the crowd, after proclaiming that he believes President Donald Trump “needs help,” the Daily Mail reported. “Now, I want to clarify. I’m not an actor. I lie for a living.”
There were mixed reactions from the audience, but cheers seemed to shockingly be the most prevalent response. According to the Daily Mail, Depp prefaced his question about assassination by stating, “This is going to be in the press and it’ll be horrible, but I like that you’re all a part of it.”
Naturally, outrage and concern have followed. The Secret Service and the White House are aware of the remarks, with Kellyanne Conway, counselor to Trump, calling Depp a “nut job” in an interview with The Washington Post, warning that his remarks could “easily inflame lunatics who wish to bring harm.”
“The joke is no laughing matter,” she said. “These things are real.”
So, it’s clear that there’s yet another celebrity who is making a troubling dive into anti-Trump waters. But as the public increasingly learns of Depp’s remarks, it’s important to remember some key lessons we learned from the Griffin debacle.
The central take-away? Critics of Depp should watch their own tones when reacting.
In the wake of Griffin’s anti-Trump antics, I published an op-ed that focused on this very issue, titled, “Here’s How America Should’ve Responded to the Kathy Griffin Debacle.” Let’s revisit some of its sentiments:
We’ve created a culture that is absolutely possessed by an insatiable lust for turning people into mere objects. And no, I’m not just talking about rampant sexualization.
I’m speaking more specifically about the troubling penchant that too many of us have for embracing a herd-like mob mentality fueled by profuse anger and unrestrained banter, as we clot together in an amalgam of fury and take to the Internet to collectively lambaste a pointed target.
The recipe is almost always the same: Person A reads or sees something that outrages him or her, he or she turns to social media to spout off, persons B through Z then see it and they, too, start rambling on — and, before you know it, there’s a mass of people and media outlets piling on.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
But here’s the problem. So many of us — myself included — get so ginned up, so frustrated, so disgusted that we take that formula, put it on steroids and begin to take part in an elevated attack on people like Griffin without actually thinking deeper about the root causes or elements that are at play. And before you know it, the person or issue starts trending on Twitter, yielding a few thoughtful reflections sprinkled amid a sea of insane rants and personal attacks.
For all of the benefits that come along with social media — the ability to connect humanity like never before and the power to inform and educate the masses — it also encourages and even rewards our most guttural, self-serving and unrestrained reactions. As a result, too many of us are willing to say things that we would never dream of uttering to a person’s face. […]
As Christians (though this should extend to all of humanity), we’re commanded to love others, even those who do or say stupid things. Gosh, even our enemies. […]
It’s time we think deeper, love harder, pray with more fervently. Sure, commenting on social media is fine, but we’re called to watch our words. There’s a profound difference between critique — and incessant attacks and excoriation. Let’s be better.
Read the rest of the op-ed here. Let’s all remember to show some grace in our responses to Depp’s rhetoric.