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This Week in Racism: Artie Lange vs. the PC Army

The comedian lashed out at the nameless, faceless hoard of politically correct scolds that chastised him for his racially insensitive tweets about a black ESPN host. Were his comments really worth fighting for?
November 7, 2014, 5:30pm

One of America's favorite punching bags and its most reliable boogeyman isn't a person, an institution, or even the Fox sitcom Mulaney. It's the mysterious, shadowy "PC Army." This is the favored catch-all term to describe literally anyone who gets offended about anything that would have been acceptable behavior 20 years ago. Do you not like it when someone makes a joke about rape? Well, you're just being a big ol' pussyfart killjoy that needs to lighten up. Hate when a stranger tells you that you ​have a nice ass? Guess what? You're destroying freedom of speech, specifically my freedom to tell you you have a nice ass.

The PC Army is coming with their mind control drugs, Big Brother–style surveillance drones, and special episodes of Ellen about the psychological effects of bullying to force you into compliance. Soon, you won't be able to wear ​blackface on Halloween. Is this even America anymore?

This week, comedian  ​Artie Lange ran afoul of the PC Army when he ​publicized a sexual fantasy he had about ESPN host Cari Champion. This probably would have gone unnoticed if not for the fact that Lange's erotic tale was a period piece set in the antebellum American South. In the fantasy, Lange was a cruel slavemaster and Cari Champion was his slave. His dream concludes when he cums and she escapes; small consolation for her years of servitude, but at least his id had the common decency to set her free. Maybe he could have gotten away with this whole thing if he'd also been blown to shreds with a shotgun like at the end of Django Unchained. (Quentin Tarantino gets away with whatever he wants as long as someone dies at the end.) Let this be a lesson for all of you out there planning to masturbate to slave fantasies this Christmas season.

When a public figure gets scolded for saying something inappropriate, they'll always be able to flail his or her (mostly his) arms at the invisible prude that won't let them just say whatever they want. Lange refused to apologize to those he felt were unfairly lambasting him for merely "telling a joke." I happen to love jokes, particularly the ones that end with a money shot, but there is plenty of loathsome material passed off as humor—and I'm not just talking about the average comedy open mic in Los Angeles.

​Niggermania.com—your one-stop shop for all your favorite zingers, LOLs, and racist laugh 'em ups—contains such sterling wit as the following: "What do black men do after sex? Fifteen to life." The "it's just a joke" defense is clearly not an absolute when we live in a world where people retell one-liners from Niggermania at dinner parties, but just about any moralistic stance is open to interpretation. If I kick you in the nuts for cutting me in line at Subway, you could call that assault. I call it payback. See how that works?

Lange is not writing jokes for Niggermania.com (I imagine they're not  ​WGA signatories and Artie ain't no scab) and is not a racist, and because of that, he'd surely admit that there are some jokes that are offensive. Who gets to be responsible for where that line is? When we talk about the so-called "PC Army," we're really talking about the formless mass of slobbering zombies called "society."

Laws are written by politicians and bureaucrats. They're enforced by trained, deputized government employees. When a law is unjust or a police officer behaves badly, we can grasp the mechanisms that allowed these things to happen. They can be changed through the democratic process (theoretically). Manners, on the other hand, are decided by…  ​Emily Post? Kate Middleton? Who is Artie Lange really mad at? The entire planet? We are all at the mercy of someone else's sense of propriety. If I fart on a train, people will be upset. There's just about nothing I can do to change their minds, save for giving them all free Jack in the Box coupons. Who decided that the word nigger wasn't OK to say? I guess we all kind of just agreed after a few hundred years? Some people still don't buy into that, like "Anthony from San Diego," who recently phoned in to CSPAN so he could ​call the president a nigger. Some people are a bit more artful with their deconstruction of the "system." Like Artie Lange, they're comedians.

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Most comics get into their profession due to a contempt for order and a desire to subvert the establishment. Lenny Bruce, Joan Rivers, Richard Pryor, Bill Hicks, and George Carlin all became legends of the craft because they blazed trails and said things that weren't "PC" for their time. All of those comedians suffered for their efforts. Moral finger-waggers haven't taken over the world. They've been here all along. It's just that the line of acceptability keeps moving. Until we can all take a global vote on every single thing that is or could be offensive, there's going to be a "PC Army" hive mind that will push back against whatever the culture of the moment deems transgressive—be it a woman ​wearing pants or a woman ​not wearing pants. No matter what you do or say, there's going to be someone who's offended and you have to decide who you're going to choose to offend. The question for comedians, writers, artists, and anyone who says things in public is: What's actually worth fighting for?

Is it worth fighting for a world where a famous person can pound his pud to a basic cable TV personality and graphically describe his fantasy in the clear light of day? Lange has already suffered greatly for his comments. ESPN has banned him from ever appearing on their networks. The producers of Comedy Central's @Midnight removed him from a planned appearance this week. Was this the joke he wanted to go down for? Was it worth it? That's a personal choice, I guess, just like the number of times I used the word nigger in this article (fun game: can you spot all the times I said "nigger" in this article?) or which celebrities one chooses to masturbate to.

The PC Army is not like a real army. They don't answer to government, to their superior officers, or the general public. They only answer to the passage of time. In 20 years, will we look back on Lange's predicament and say, "I can't believe how people overreacted to his joke," or will we ask, "How was anyone this stupid?" All I know for sure is that I'll probably be too depressed to get out of bed in 20 years.

The Most Racist Tweet of the Week:

teachers tell u to be honest but when u call em a dumb beaner they kick you outta class idgi

— tet (@kneehighlover)November 2, 2014

Follow Dave Schilling on ​Twitter.