The portrayal of Michelle Wolf as either villain or victim is predictably partisan. The vast majority of those on the right have cast her as the latest Satan. The vast majority of those on the left have embraced her as a hallowed martyr.
She is neither.
Michelle Wolf is a comedian. She is talented and snarky, brilliant and brazen. While she may have taken the White House Correspondents Dinner to new places (“not in the spirit of the event “ evidently), she has not brought the country to new lows. The level of incivility and disrespect which she reveled in throughout her monologue is not new or surprising. It is par for the course these days.
The course has seen better days.
The right has been accused of being disingenuous in their outrage at Wolf’s vulgarity and insensitivity. After all, have they not put a man in the oval office who tweets frequent character assassinations and who prides himself on being exceedingly blunt and combative?
The left is accused of duplicity for their defense of Wolf’s invective. Have they not sunken to the very depths that they have continuously decried on the right?
The answer is yes, to both questions. Guilty as charged on both sides.
Yet both sides of the aisle have claimed a moral superiority. Each seems to believe that its noble ends justify its vituperative means. If it is anger and outrage that will motivate the masses, then we’ll stoke the fires, stir the pot, and say whatever nasty things need to be said in order to win the good fight.
But is the fight good? Is it good for us to fight this way? Is there no other way to settle these issues than by fighting dirty?
Each side will insist that the other instigated and initiated this conduct – “s/he started it” – and it’s impossible to win by playing fair against a foe who fights dirty. Yet it is worth pausing to consider what we are trying to win, and what we have already lost.
We have lost our decency and our dignity. When we treat each other with such disregard and disdain, it is not just the other that we are disrespecting, but we have clearly lost our respect for the humanity that we share.
We are all guilty and sullied. We are so busy accusing each other, that we fail to recognize how similar we have become.
Perhaps we can now bond over the fact that we have all sunken so low. I am biased and hypocritical and mean-spirited at times, and so are you. Let’s admit it, and let’s commit to working on it together.
Michelle Wolf is not just a talented comedian. She, like the civil servants on both sides of the aisle that she lambasted, is a faithful servant who delivered precisely what we ordered. If we would prefer a more tasteful and positive presentation, then we will need to reconsider and reconfigure the discourse that we engage in ourselves.