As many of you have heard by now, there’s been quite the kerfuffle about this year’s Shakespeare in the Park production of ‘Julius Caesar’; specifically, its use of a Donald Trump lookalike in the role of Julius Caesar. The backlash is coming almost exclusively from the right, and the play, along with Kathy Griffin’s photo shoot, are being held up as evidence to support the narrative that liberals are bullying and threatening anyone who doesn’t agree with them, so they’re the REAL Nazis!
This is, of course, nonsense.
First, Griffin somehow can only be described as both a has-been and a never-was — as I’ve mentioned before, nobody is listening to Kathy Griffin. Second, the outcry is coming from the far right. Lest we forget, the far right’s mission for the past, oh, five years or so has been to mock the left for being an oversensitive bunch of “special snowflakes” while also pointing to strict literalist interpretations of the Constitution as a means to support their beliefs. I find it more than a little ironic that this same group is suddenly so appalled and offended by the exercise of free speech. It’s also hypocritical: you can’t defend free speech when someone puts a sign depicting a noose with the caption “HANG IN THERE OBAMA,” then turn around and start whining “B-but the left is advocating viiiiiolence, mew mew mew” when the shoe’s on the other foot.
Yes, the play features a man who (kinda) looks like Donald Trump as Julius Caesar, just as a 2012 production in Minneapolis featured a man who (kinda) looked like Obama in the titular role. You know what the reaction was from liberals in 2012? Pretty much nothing. Maybe it’s because liberals don’t really care about their President or America…or maybe it’s because the message of ‘Julius Caesar’ is a condemnation of political violence.
The entire point of the play is to demonstrate that political violence is never the answer, that it causes more problems than it solves. And now, just as it was in 2012, that message is timely and culturally apropos, especially considering last week’s shooting in Alexandria. Of course, that hasn’t stopped Fox News and other right-wing outlets from wringing their hands (one Fox News pundit went so far as to label it a “perversion of Shakespeare”).
This all came to a head this past weekend, when alt-right mouthpiece Jack Posobiec and his pal Laura Loomer staged an impromptu protest during one of the shows. Loomer stormed the stage, halting the production while screaming that this particular production of ‘Julius Caesar’ is part of the reason that Rep. Steve Scalise was shot last week. Posobiec, for his part, stood up and announced that those in attendance were “all Goebbels” and that “Goebbels would be proud.” Loomer was arrested and spent approximately 3 hours (at most) in a holding cell. And for her efforts, she’s being hailed as a hero on the right, someone who took on those mean and nasty liberals. (The header image has been circulating as proof that Loomer was somehow in danger from a bunch of theater nerds holding fake knives, and one Twitter user went so far as to compare her to Rosa Parks.) And then there’s this:
So not only did Loomer and Posobiec make a giant spectacle out of protesting political violence at a play (the message of which, again, is that political violence is a bad thing), they also stand to profit handsomely from it. How convenient.
Frankly, I don’t even really care all that much that they’re using this stunt as a way to boost their public profiles and line their pockets. I care that, for some unfathomable reason, it’s working. It boggles my mind that nobody on the right seems to understand that you can’t mock people for being too sensitive and then respond to a fake political assassination (the purpose of which, yet again, is to demonstrate how political violence is wrong) by filling your diaper on Twitter.
But that’s what the right does. If they do something that everyone else doesn’t like, they’ll cling to whatever they can to defend themselves (“First Amendment!” “Second Amendment!” “I sure am a Deplorable!” “Obama’s not MY President!”), and anyone who criticizes them is either “not a patriot,” “doesn’t love America,” or is a “liberal snowflake.” But if they don’t like something, suddenly they’re the reasonable ones, the ones who bemoan such hatred and negativity (“I can’t believe people don’t respect the President!”), swooning onto their fainting couches while conveniently ignoring the significant role they’ve played in the coarsening of the political discourse in this country.
They don’t care whether or not what they’re standing for is a hill worth dying on, or even if their position is defensible. They’re not interested in hearing the other side, because the other side is “too worried about PC culture and which bathroom to use to focus on the real problems in the world.” Everything is black or white; there are no shades of gray. Either they win the argument or they lose it, and anything short of complete triumph (including compromise) is counted as a loss. All that matters is winning the argument, no matter what the argument is about.