Today’s deep answer: No, not really. However, this Christmas card “from all of us at Hustler” should prompt many on its staff to seek psychiatric supervision. It starts off as a riff on a quote from Donald Trump four years ago about the loyalty of his base, and ends with this image sent to Republicans on Capitol Hill:
A number of GOP congressional offices have received the following Christmas card, per sources.
I confirmed its authenticity with Hustler, which told me “the card was sent by HUSTLER and was our official holiday card for 2019.” pic.twitter.com/bRvkin0T8n
— Melanie Zanona (@MZanona) January 2, 2020
Hustler Magazine is under fire of a graphic Christmas card that was sent to several lawmakers featuring a depiction of President Trump’s assassination.
The cover of the card shows an illustration of a gunman saying, “I just shot Donald Trump on Fifth Avenue. And no one arrested me.”
The inside, however, shows a figure resembling President Trump laying in a pool of blood in the middle of a busy street with smiling civilians along with the gunman saying, “Merry Christmas”
The card adds, “from all of us at Hustler” in the bottom corner.
Trolls gotta troll, I suppose. And suckers just have to take the bait, too:
Here's all you need to know about the radical Left. A young staffer of mine opened this in a stack of holiday mail today. Just imagine if a conservative had distributed such a disgusting and hateful piece about a Democrat. I hope this will be investigated by the @secretservice pic.twitter.com/0q4FRQGdkY
— Rep. Mike Johnson (@RepMikeJohnson) January 2, 2020
Ahem. The Secret Service investigates threats, not political satire, which this clearly is — as distasteful, puerile, and self-revealing as it might be. We do not need members of Congress calling law enforcement to intimidate those who engage in political speech on what would clearly be a malicious-pretext claim that this was some sort of threat. One would think that after watching the FBI’s work on Operation Crossfire Hurricane, Republicans would have grown at least a wee bit more skeptical about government intervention in politics.
Besides, this is precisely the reaction Hustler wants. It hit its peak relevance in its fight against Jerry Falwell, popularized in the film The People vs Larry Flynt, when it won a unanimous Supreme Court decision that protected satire from lawsuits over “emotional distress.” The card was precisely calibrated as both satire and an open invitation to media martyrdom at the hands of a GOP-backed Secret Service vendetta. That would make the organization once again the toast of the culture, rather than its current and accurate status as a sleazy peddler of third-rate raunch with a fourth-rate or worse clientele.
So what is the proper response to Hustler? Mark Zaid, the attorney representing the Ukraine-Gate whistleblower and fierce Trump critic himself, hits much closer to the mark:
This is unacceptable, and clearly I'm no fan of this President. But this absolutely crosses the line and there should be a public apology. Something like this is not a joking matter. https://t.co/5nuY1IslTM
— Mark S. Zaid (@MarkSZaidEsq) January 2, 2020
We can outlive our pensions waiting for an apology from Hustler. In the meantime, though, we can demand that each and every member of Hustler’s team answer for this card. Does this really speak for them as individuals? Do they really think that a presidential assassination is a joking matter? And — most importantly — would they have made the same joke during a Democratic administration, when it would have been in exactly the same worst taste as it is now?
Let more speech be the antidote to bad speech. If we make government intervention the answer to bad political satire, we will have no one to blame but ourselves for the silence and fear that follows.