Jack Shafer:

I understand why Aflac would want to distance itself from the comedian. After all, the company does three-quarters of its business in Japan. But none of the jokes offended me—I have a pretty high threshold. Then again, none of them made me laugh, either, but since the earthquake struck I’ve been wondering out loud when somebody would shove the taboo aside and mine the misery for humor.

Oh, go fuck yourself. I mean, I’m happy you only had to wait a day or two before being able to satisfactorily jerk off over someone else’s misery, but still, I have to wonder if you’re not revealing more about yourself than you really want by sharing this with us. That was one of the first things on your mind? Huh.
Well, whatever. I guess the thing abou—

I subscribe to all the standard defenses of sick humor. That by springing the overloaded circuit it provides catharsis. That it prevents us from taking ourselves too seriously. That it’s a way for romantics to masquerade as cynics. That it lifts our minds from despair. That it gives us a way to whistle past the graveyard (raise your hand if you live in a potential disaster zone, nuclear or otherwise). And so on.

What are you still doing here? Didn’t I just tell you to go fuck yourself?
Okay, wait. While I’ve got you here, might as well ask you: why do you have such trouble differentiating between the universal and the particular? (It seems to be a pattern with you, is what I’m saying.) Catharsis for whom? For the Japanese people, or for Gilbert Gottfried and whoever has nothing better to do but follow him on Twitter? Lifts whose minds from despair? The people living in the midst of that destruction and chaos, or an American comedian and his fans? Taking ourselves too seriously? Taking ourselves too seriously? Wow, how can I put this…
Okay, given an enormous natural disaster, with an accompanying high death toll and who knows yet what sort of horrific long-term consequences, which response do you think displays more self-centeredness? Taking the time to bear stunned, silent witness to such a gruesome reminder of the fragility of life, to reflect a moment on our own gossamer-thin good fortune while feeling empathy for those not so lucky? Or to simply refuse to acknowledge any sort of situation that might restrain our narcissistic urge to never shut the fuck up? Me, I have to wonder about the kind of people who rush to fill every silence, no matter how profound, with their jabbering voice, as if they can’t bear to stop making it all about them. Not to mention blowhards who take every disgusted look and admonishment to quit being such an obnoxious asshole for two seconds as an assault on the right to free speech itself…

Gottfried’s “mistake,” if you want to call it that, was to tell his vile and timely jokes in a venue that he thought was as safe as a dinner party with a friend. Before posting, Gottfried must have thought, Who but a lover of daring comedy would follow me on Twitter? But he was wrong. The new rules have made everybody—including edgy comedians—accountable in the public sphere for the things they say “privately” in social media spaces.

JESUS CHRIST ALREADY; LESS TALK, MORE SELF-FUCKING. Are you for fucking real? What is this, 1994? People are still using this “Gosh, I had no idea that what I, a famous person, say on the Internet actually gets read by people all over the world!” excuse? There are no “new rules” in effect here — just the same old sensibilities that look at the context of these lame jokes and see them as the response of a smug, pampered prick, far out of harm’s way, taking the opportunity to needlessly mock people in their moment of crisis. Comedy often has a vicious streak, it’s true, but usually when in the hands of otherwise powerless groups with no other means of attacking their social superiors. Using your privileged, safe position to piss all over someone in a weak, defenseless state isn’t brave, no matter how you want to spin it. If you’re okay with being the type of person that kicks others when they’re down, well, then, by all means, joke away. But at least have the fucking guts to quit trying to pose as some sort of everyman’s champion.
You yourself admitted that Aflac, out of basic P.R. considerations, had no choice but to cast off someone stupid enough to cause them so many problems. But other than that, what’s the problem? He made his jokes, and millions of people called him a callous ghoul. Seems to me that free speech is still working just fine. What’s that? Oh, your idea of the concept means that no one should ever have to face angry reactions for saying whatever they want? Come now, Jack, think about what you’re saying! If it’s that easy to be a cultural outlaw, wouldn’t it remove all the derring-do and romance from it? Who ever said being a sacred clown was supposed to be risk-free?

Where I come from, the only power strong enough to defeat radiation is a sick, hurtful joke.

Blink. Blink. Well, I don’t know about anyone else, but I certainly am laughing at the image of some hack writer fighting clouds of radioactive fallout from the safety of his office chair, faded bath towel safety-pinned around his neck, moving rubble, rescuing victims and racing against time to prevent nuclear meltdown with the power of his lulz. What was that again about not taking ourselves too seriously?