First, the Laugh Factory fining comedians 50 dollars every time they say “nigger” is ridiculous. I just learned about this policy today. Anybody should be able to say anything at all in the act of speaking for themselves in a forum created to allow you to speak freely (Cheech and Chong would be impossible today, a tragic reality). Furthermore, as a fan of comedic angles such as those pursued by Bill Hicks and Michael Richards, I understand where bits like that are going. The majority of people who heard Richards’ rant didn’t get it because they haven’t spent any time studying that style of humor. It was difficult to watch Michael Richards apologize for what he said because he knew he couldn’t explain the point of the bit because ignoramuses would accuse him of rationalizing racism so he had to grovel. I was, in fact, a bit angry that he didn’t stand up for himself. But he knew he was toast and I understand his actions. Whites lined up to make themselves look like dedicated non-racists by holding Richards up in contrast. “I would never say the ‘N-word,’” they all chanted as mantra. I criticize Jackson for condemning Richards. All this fuss over language is excessive for all sides.
Now the owner of the Laugh Factory, Jamie Masada, wants Jackson to pay the stupid fine he created for saying “nigger” during a break of a interview show on Fox News, Fox and Friends, taped on July 6, 2008. This demand is as ridiculous as the Laugh Factory’s policy on using the word “nigger.” First, Jesse Jackson wasn’t speaking at the Laugh Factory. He was speaking in the context of a Fox News program, and however much Fox News makes us laugh with their ideological exuberance, they are not the Laugh Factory. Second, Jesse wasn’t really speaking in the context of anything. He said what he said privately to the man sitting next to him, Dr. Reed V. Tuckson, Executive Vice President and Chief of Medical Affairs UnitedHealth Group. Jackson was answering a question Tuckson put to him during a commercial break. They never play that part. Jackson was even whispering, which means that he did not intend to be heard. Tuckson agreed with Jackson, but nothing has been made of that part either. You can hear Tuckson’s approval of Jackson’s complaint. Then there’s edit and Jackson repeating what he said. I would like to see what Tuckson said in the edit, but I am not requesting it because it was a private conversation that I shouldn’t have been privy to in the first place. I am only talking about now because I must in order to expose the attack against Jackson.
The whole affair is disturbing not because of what Jackson said—a black man calling black people “niggers” is hardly controversial—but because Fox News broadcast a private conversation, edited it in a way that was designed to distort the context (even though the context is so clear they couldn’t pull it off), said Jackson said worse things in order to drag the affair out, drawing the curiosity of the press and public, did it all this to smash Jackson’s legacy, and the corporate media picked up the ball and ran with it. O’Reilly saying that he didn’t want to release the rest of the material because it would harm Jackson, which was not his intent, was comically disingenuous.