Well I've said a lot of things that were worse than what he said. I have my things that make it OK for people when I say them. I have my irony and different levels that I'm working at, so that makes it OK for people around me, for people that come to my shows. And people heard this Tracy shit mostly third-hand. He didn't stand on a public stage and say this stuff. He didn't make these announcements: "Here, America, are my views."
Where you say something makes a huge difference about what you say and what it means and what you let yourself say.
There's a lot of times when I let myself channel bad ideas as a way to do comedy. I think it's something that's a healthy thing to do, honestly. And I think the person who really fucked people up and hurt people with Tracy's words was whoever took it out of that Nashville club and put it on the national stage--whoever called Huffington Post or whoever started this shit, and said, "Guess what Tracy Morgan said," and announced it to the rest of the world. He wasn't trying to say it to the rest of the world.
So when I read stuff like, How are gay people going to feel when they read this? Well they didn't have to read it! They weren't part of that show. Maybe there were gay people there who were laughing. You don't fucking know. Nobody gets to say that they represent anybody and they're offended on behalf of the whole world.
You can see this shit really bothers me. I didn't carefully inspect what he said.
I heard some of it, and it made me laugh. I didn't get the context, but I have to defend it, because if I was in his role, if I was in his situation, which I might be someday--which I already am for having said something on his behalf--I would want someone to step forward and say something. This is a freedom that I live off of. I think, whatever, if Tracy made a mistake, he certainly didn't deserve all of this.
And I don't know him well, but he's a good guy. So I'm using that judgment, of just, hey,
I met him and he's a good guy. And I get a sense of him as a father, and there's no way he would stab his kid. It's a dumb thing to take at face value. You'd have to be a moron. And if you do, you are not allowed to laugh at any more jokes. You are not allowed to laugh at any jokes that have any violence or negative feelings attached to them, ironically or otherwise.
I think there's a lot of hypocrisy in that. If anybody thinks that what he said is true and there's no comedy in it, don't come to my shows. I've said to many audiences that I think you shouldn't rape someone unless you have a good reason, like you want to fuck them and they won't let you. That's worse than what he said! And I didn't wink and say, just kidding. I just said it.
Not that he cares, but I like Louis CK. A lot. I think his show is weirdly, borderline genius and has a kind of introspective brutal honesty that I find really courageous. I think that last joke exhibits what I'm talking about. It sounds like a statement about women, but in fact the absurdism of the claim reveals CK's on-stage persona as the joke's target.
Very few people would (publicly) claim that there are "good reasons" for rape. Many people on the other hand, do believe, and do publicly claim, as Tracy Morgan said, that gay people are not "born this way," that anti-gay bullying is insignificant, and that if gays can "take a dick up the ass...they can take a joke." Moreover, those people tend to hold political power in states like Tennessee.
I think it's also important to understand precisely how this story came out. Kevin Rogers, a fan of Tracy Morgan's, who happens to be gay, went to Morgan's show, was offended by his act, and via Facebook, posted a write-up of what he saw. Louis CK admits that "he didn't get the context," and is upset that "people hear this shit mostly third hand." But Rogers isn't reporting third-hand. He was there, saw the context and was offended. From the write-up:
The sad thing is that none of this rant was a joke. His entire demeanor changed during that portion of the night. He was truly filled with some hate towards us. As far as I could see 10 to 15 people walked out.
Now perhaps Rogers overreacted and missed the joke, but he was present for it. Moreover, Morgan himself apologized and has not challenged Rogers characterization of the actual events.
In terms of those events, I fail to see why CK is any more qualified to say what happened than the "third-hand" listeners he's inveighing against. Louis CK, himself, is a third-hand listener. The person "who fucked up" is not. The person "who fucked up" is a gay man living in a state where the government is actively trying to make it easier for gay kids to get stomped out at school.
All together, I think this defense has a lot more to do with Louis CK than it does with Tracy Morgan. CK makes a living saying impolite things, which by his lights, take us to "scary places." He's damn good at it, but I suspect he could easily see someone taking one of his bits and either out of ignorance, or out of malice, causing him a lot of pain. I understand that fear.
But I also think it's worth pointing out that America is not exactly starved of dissident humorists who take us to those "scary places." This is not 1956. South Park is in its fifteenth season. Sarah Silverman is a star. The right to say impolite things is sacred and essential. Unfortunately, the right to not be misinterpreted is not.
Finally, I think it's worth flagging CK's point that Morgan is a "good guy" and the attendant notion that the only case for offense is rooted in an obsessive literalism. The "good guy" excuse for homophobic utterances is a cousin of the "good guy" defense for racist utterances. The implicit idea is that only orcs and child-molesters exhibit hateful bigotry. It's a deeply self-comforting line of thought, that allows people to excuse all sorts of evil, unintentional and otherwise, in their midst.
I am sure that Michael Richards is a nice guy too. I'm also sure that he wouldn't actually lynch someone. Does that then make it OK? It's just jokes, right? Mickey Rooney was a "nice guy" too. He still fucked up one of my favorite movies.
MORE: There's also this kind of credentialism which holds that, somehow, real comedians know what Tracy Morgan meant, and as CK says, only "morons" would be offended.
I fault the TN lawmakers. They've created an anti-gay environment. Don't believe Tracy would be so ignorant in LA. I do believe in free speech, but for a youth in TN or any other numerous place, Tracy just yelled, 'Fire,' in a crowded theater.
Ro, [Roland Martin] I love and respect you, so I feel that I can tell you that your column is some bullshit. We can do better. Tracy has the right to say whatever he wants to say, just like we have the right to say, not acceptable. and WE as a country. We used to picnic to watch public hangings, but WE figured out, that was some sick shit.
I wonder what would have happened if, say, Larry The Cable Guy had said this in Tennessee. I'd be very interested in who would line up to defend him.
Memorials to the Lost Cause have always meant something sinister for the descendants of enslaved people.
For most of my life I didn’t know Confederate statues could come down.
Throughout my childhood, those equestrian statues of victory, obelisks, and granite figures of soldiers were as immovable and immutable as the hills and the lakes. Other symbols of the South as it was before 1865 were also part of the fabric of reality. Old battle flags were inevitabilities, waving in the wind. Plantations might as well have been wonders of the world, and old battlefields holy places. Part of living in the South, just as much as eating and breathing were, was partaking in a perpetual reenactment.
In my hometown of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, we have our own little shrine to the Confederacy. The Nash County Confederate Monument is a column with one soldier standing atop its apex, surrounded by four shorter empty columns.The base is engraved with two rifles crossed.
It was a performance that seemed designed to garner immediate approval, and it failed to grapple with long-term challenges.
President Trump will not rapidly withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan. But then, you already knew that: The first year of his presidency is two-thirds over, and there has been no move to implement his campaign promises to withdraw them.
Trump will focus the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, not on nation-building, but on chasing and killing military enemies one-by-one. But you already knew that too: The tempo of violence in all overseas U.S. operations has been accelerating under Trump, while other arms of U.S. power have shriveled from neglect.
Trump hopes to bluster Pakistan into solving the Afghanistan problem for him. You did not already know that, but you could have guessed from studying his approach to North Korea, where he is trying the same method with China.
More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis.
One day last summer, around noon, I called Athena, a 13-year-old who lives in Houston, Texas. She answered her phone—she’s had an iPhone since she was 11—sounding as if she’d just woken up. We chatted about her favorite songs and TV shows, and I asked her what she likes to do with her friends. “We go to the mall,” she said. “Do your parents drop you off?,” I asked, recalling my own middle-school days, in the 1980s, when I’d enjoy a few parent-free hours shopping with my friends. “No—I go with my family,” she replied. “We’ll go with my mom and brothers and walk a little behind them. I just have to tell my mom where we’re going. I have to check in every hour or every 30 minutes.”
Those mall trips are infrequent—about once a month. More often, Athena and her friends spend time together on their phones, unchaperoned. Unlike the teens of my generation, who might have spent an evening tying up the family landline with gossip, they talk on Snapchat, the smartphone app that allows users to send pictures and videos that quickly disappear. They make sure to keep up their Snapstreaks, which show how many days in a row they have Snapchatted with each other. Sometimes they save screenshots of particularly ridiculous pictures of friends. “It’s good blackmail,” Athena said. (Because she’s a minor, I’m not using her real name.) She told me she’d spent most of the summer hanging out alone in her room with her phone. That’s just the way her generation is, she said. “We didn’t have a choice to know any life without iPads or iPhones. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.”
A best-selling author submits a draft to his editor. Hijinks ensue.
I had written five books for Scott Moyers, following him as he moved from editing jobs at Scribner’s to Random House and then to Penguin Press. We worked well together, and in part thanks to his strong editing hand, my last three books had been bestsellers.
So what happened when I finished years of work and sent him the manuscript of my sixth book stunned me. In fact, I was in for a series of surprises.
They began about 18 months ago, after I emailed to him that manuscript, a dual appreciation of Winston Churchill and George Orwell. When I had begun work on it, in 2013, some old friends of mine thought the subject was a bit obscure. Why would anyone care how two long-dead Englishmen, a conservative politician and a socialist journalist who never met, had dealt with the polarized political turmoil of the 1930s and the world war that followed? By 2016, as people on both the American left and right increasingly seemed to favor opinion over fact, the book had become more timely.
“Medicare for all” is a popular idea, but for Americans, transitioning to such a system would be difficult, to say the least.
French women supposedly don’t get fat, and in the minds of many Americans, they also don’t get stuck with très gros medical bills. There’s long been a dream among some American progressives to truly live as the “Europeans1” do and have single-payer health care.
Republicans’ failure—so far—to repeal and replace Obamacare has breathed new life into the single-payer dream. In June, the majority of Americans told Pew that the government has the responsibility to ensure health coverage for everyone, and 33 percent say this should take the form of a single government program. The majority of Democrats, in that poll, supported single payer. A June poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation even found that a slim majority of all Americans favor single payer.
“Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him.”
Ever since it was first published in 1982, readers—including this one—have thrilled to “Total Eclipse,” Annie Dillard’s masterpiece of literary nonfiction, which describes her personal experience of a solar eclipse in Washington State. It first appeared in Dillard’s landmark collection, Teaching a Stone to Talk, and was recently republished in The Abundance, a new anthology of her work. The Atlantic is pleased to offer the essay in full, here, until the end of August.
It had been like dying, that sliding down the mountain pass. It had been like the death of someone, irrational, that sliding down the mountain pass and into the region of dread. It was like slipping into fever, or falling down that hole in sleep from which you wake yourself whimpering. We had crossed the mountains that day, and now we were in a strange place—a hotel in central Washington, in a town near Yakima. The eclipse we had traveled here to see would occur early in the next morning.
At some point, a president might have to tell the military that enough is enough.
Trump is the American Everyman on Afghanistan. He is frustrated that we’re still there after 16 years—who wouldn’t be?—and questions why we’ve spent so much blood and treasure in a land-locked country in Central Asia when roads and bridges go unrepaired at home.
But Trump the president is not Trump the private citizen and, like every policy maker who has looked at Afghanistan with actual responsibility for U.S. interests there, Trump was confronted with a series of bad options and chose the one that offered the least resistance: following the advice of his uniformed military officers and following the same basic strategy as the Obama administration while committing more troops to go on the offensive, again, against the Taliban.
In recent decades higher-education institutions have tried to lure students with extravagant amenities, but some are finding that these attempts can actually threaten enrollment and retention.
When I was a college freshman in the early 1990s, I lived in a dorm that was as sterile as a hospital room, a 193-square-foot box with white cinderblock walls that I shared with two other guys. The bathroom was also shared—with an entire floor.
Such basic living quarters greeted generations of college students before me. For much of the history of American higher education, dorms and other student amenities—from dining halls to recreational centers—were an afterthought to the primary business of campus planning: grand academic buildings. In fact, in the 1840s, the president of Brown University described dorm life as “unnatural” and blamed student housing for most of the evils of college life. Brown and Columbia University even attempted to eliminate dorms from their campuses. While that move ultimately proved unsuccessful, student housing and other facilities that supported student life on most campuses remained a fairly spartan experience up until the 1990s.
Members of the president’s faith board did not step down after Charlottesville. They say they’re fulfilling their duty to advise America’s leader.
Last week, a few days after white supremacists rallied in Charlottesville, A.R. Bernard became the first member of President Trump’s evangelical advisory board to resign. “It became obvious that there was a deepening conflict in values between myself and the administration,” the pastor of New York City’s Christian Cultural Center wrote in a statement. He had been quietly backing away for months, he wrote. Trump’s reaction to Charlottesville seemed to be what it took to make Bernard’s decision official.
So far, he’s been the only one to step down since Trump took office. None of the other members have appeared to consider quitting over a “conflict in values,” despite the critics in and out of the church who have called on them to step down. While Trump’s advisers are largely standing unified behind him, the evangelical world is deeply split over the right way to approach politics. Are Christians better off trying to influence an imperfect president? Or should they disengage from a process that will never produce a leader who perfectly represents their worldview?