The Monika Lewinsky Effect: Questioning Our Approach To Kathy Griffin’s Controversial Image

The morning that Kathy Griffin released the photo of herself holding a bloody mask of President Trump, I was watching Monika Lewinsky’s 1999 interview with Barbara Walters (I literally cannot even remember how this happened—I fell down a very deep Youtube hole, idk). One of links that Youtube recommended when the 80-minute interview was over was Lewinsky’s much-more-recent TED talk on cyberbullying, and the role her story played in how we use the internet today (she refers to herself as “Patient Zero” of the internet crucifixion culture we’ve grown accustomed to since then).

So as I’ve observed coverage of Griffin play out, and as I watched her apology video, and then her press conference, I’ve been thinking a lot about Monika Lewinsky. Lol. I know, maybe bizarre.

But there is something to this.

Kathy Griffin took her situation to the next level last week when she cried at the podium of a nationally televised press conference over the consequences of her own poor decision-making skills.

A lot was said that wasn’t true, much of it by her lawyer, Lisa Bloom, who’s a famous (infamous?) civil rights lawyer, most recently known for her public take-down of Bill O’Reilly on Fox News.

But there was also a lot said that did have truth to it—claims to Griffin’s right to free speech, for starters. And what I’m about to say will inevitably be an unpopular opinion, but hear me out: as Americans, we should not pride ourselves on our freedom of speech if we do not also enact it.

Here’s what I mean:

A number of conservative speakers have been forcefully denied access to college campuses because of pushback by the universities, kicking and screaming (and in some instances, more serious violence) by protestors, and a general blowback on the internet for their message and ideas.

And the conservative side of the aisle is (rightfully) critical of this. They say liberal university administrators and lefty activists are stifling people who have a right by the First Amendment to say whatever it is they want to say when they’re invited to speak at these campuses. Conservatives say that denying them that right is an attack on the American values we hold so dear.

I’m willing to make the argument that Kathy Griffin could and should be lumped in with the Ann Coulters, Ben Shapiros, and Ryan T. Andersons of this narrative.

Griffin is the most recent subject of this trend in our country that’s stamping out the First Amendment. True to her grotesque sense of humor, Griffin created an image that offended the vast majority of people who saw it. It’s clear some people were not offended, however, because just as she took the image down, it had already garnered thousands of retweets and shares on social media (everyone knows a retweet presented without comment is totally an endorsement, come on). Now I, in absolutely no way, support or agree with the image she made—nevertheless, her right to make it is protected under the First Amendment. By way of the law, she did nothing wrong.

That didn’t stop social media users, and politicians, and journalists, and the Trump family… from calling for her to be fired from her job, dropped from her contracts, and boycotted pretty much across the board. And I suppose that just as Griffin owns a right to free speech, so do all of the people I listed above. They’re free to pressure CNN to do that. But just the same—is it right?

I don’t agree with Kathy Griffin, nor do I especially like her… but does that make it right to assault her via the internet the way so many of us did? Here’s where I think of Monika Lewinsky, who’s been the butt of jokes on the internet before the word “meme” was even in the dictionary. There is so much power in the small gesture of a keystroke. We wield so much opportunity when we post online—and those people who have a following beyond their own circle of family and friends have an even greater responsibility.

It’s time to take responsibility, and for all of it. Griffin should have been more responsible with the broad audience that she has access to. But does her wrong justify our right to annihilate her for it?

I think that’s something for us to think about.

An Open Letter To Tomi Lahren: Stop Making Me Look Bad

Tomi –

You and I have a lot in common. We’re both conservative, both women, both 24, and both passionate about politics and current events. We’re also both markedly opinionated and outspoken about our beliefs. Good for us!

I’ve kept an eye on you as your career has escalated because I admire you for many reasons. You’re especially bold in your ‘Final Thoughts’, which takes a notable amount of courage and gumption—God knows you get a lot of hate on social media, so I respect your thick skin and perseverance. You’re also incredibly well-spoken, which I’ve found is not the norm amongst conservative women our age, so I’m grateful for that—you’re clearly intelligent, and I love it. I’m always happy to see fellow smart girls find success.

Recently, though, I’ve got a bone to pick with you. It’s been my experience during my short time in the work world that older, more experienced professionals are hesitant to trust girls like you and me. It’s not that we’re bad at what we do, or that we’re not smart, or capable—they’re simply hesitant to take us seriously.

I used to work in a job where my boss made me feel valued for what I did. He complimented my hard work, my willingness to go the extra mile, and my patience with difficult coworkers—but he also winked at me every time he passed my desk, and responded to my request for more responsibilities within my role with, “well, you’re very young.”

Do you see what I’m getting at here? It’s a fight for girls like us to be taken seriously in the work world. We’re expected to prove ourselves before we’re given a chance, meanwhile men our age and with comparable experience are often given those chances first. I’ve got to be reliable. I’ve got to be mature, trustworthy, sincere, serious, and I’ve got to be very, very careful.

Tomi, you have not been careful.

You’ve been loose with your words, reckless with your actions, and you’ve mishandled your conflict with The Blaze in a very public way. I’m happy for you that it’s over. I’m sure it was stressful. I’m sure you’re relieved to have your Facebook page back, which was rightfully yours to begin with. Those are very good things.

But yesterday, you did an interview with Playboy, and quite frankly, I’ve had enough. First of all—Playboy? Really, Tomi? You’re a strong, outspoken, opinionated woman, and you lent your voice to the single publication most infamous for objectifying women? Be serious.

And second, I don’t care how you feel about abortion. I really don’t. I’m pro-life, but I don’t care whether you agree with me or not. What I do care about, however, is how frivolous you’ve looked as you’ve flip-flopped from one stance to the other. I get being unsure how you feel about an issue, but here’s my advice: if you’re unsure, don’t comment. It is really, REALLY that simple.

I sympathize with the struggle you’ve had these past few weeks. Truly, I get it. But for the sake of your fellow 24-year-old smart girls, get serious.

And stop making us look bad.