August 17, 2013

"Excommunicated from the clown community."

"'Excommunicated' is our word, but there really is a 'clown community,'" writes James Taranto, who's apparently a community unto himself, judging by his use of the first person plural.
Judy Quest, author of a CNN.com op-ed titled "A Real Clown Wouldn't Mock Obama"... informs us of the existence of "international clown organizations," a "strict code of ethics" governing "the craft" of clowning, and "clown journals," for which Quest, who's been a clown for 32 years, "writes regularly."
But does the Clown Code of Ethics forbid dressing up as a particular President of the United States and appearing to have your life threatened? Taranto says:
[N]one of the Clown Commandments forbid political humor, so that it would appear to be permissible to pantomime truth to power. 
Yes, but do clown ethics forbid making comedy out of a physical threat to the President? What truth is spoken by saying Wouldn't it be funny if the President's life were in danger?

If you've wondered why I hadn't previously blogged about the rodeo clown, these questions reflect my reasons for avoiding what might seem like such a tempting story. I favor free speech, and I'm sorry this guy lost his job. He shouldn't have received so much attention, which is why I'd refrained from giving him more. But an employer is justified controlling the speech of employees. The speech expressed by the rodeo is the speech of the business that is the rodeo. It's not the individual speech of any particular performer. But I suspect the guy got scapegoated. Did the employer approve of this kind of performance before the nation's spotlight fell on this one clown?

77 comments:

Jason said...

Is there a history of rodeo clowns dressing up like presidents or governors? Has that been traditional in past years? Yes or no?

What's so special this time?

traditionalguy said...

The message behind the clown scapegoating is that George W Bush was our last President. We could ridicule him at will like we did Reagan. But our new Monarch cannot be ridiculed or the power of the State Image Police will stop it.

Insufficiently Sensitive said...

The publicity of this whole episode is a sick parody of 'news', as long as the six long years of grotesque clowns and puppets and posters mocking GWB and calling for his death are omitted from the story.

edutcher said...

I thought he was talking about Choom, after the mess he's made out of Egypt.

But this guy in MO was a rodeo clown, not a circus clown, so the CNN infobabe has her clowns wrong.

And the MO clown's probably better at his job than Choom is at his.

Rob said...

Taranto uses the first person plural.

--G. said...

From this morning's WaPo:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/kathleen-parker-just-clowning-around-at-the-rodeo/2013/08/16/634b989e-06a7-11e3-a07f-49ddc7417125_story.html?hpid=z2

--G. said...

"Memory conquers humor." A fair assessment.

Titus said...

I didn't mind the clown until I read they played with his lips and he had a broom propped up on his ass.

Darrell said...

Many people have come forward saying that they saw rodeo clowns do the same sort of things with masks of other Presidents, the oldest example of which was Ike. But that has to do with the living witnesses part. Bush (W) masks were common. As were Reagan masks. The part where the "dummy" comes to "life" is a standard routine. If there were any principled lawyers out there that would take the case pro bono (rodeo clowns barely make expenses), the Association and all involved would be sued back to the stone age. Rodeo clowns save lives--that's their principal job.

The Godfather said...

If Obama were a classy guy, he'd ask the folks that run the rodeo to un-fire the clown. He'd say, Hey, I can take a joke.

bbkingfish said...

On reading the subject line, I was expecting a post about RINOs.

Shouting Thomas said...

The speech expressed by the rodeo is the speech of the business that is the rodeo.

It is my understanding (and experience) on the rodeo circuit that mocking politicians, particularly presidents, has been standard practice.

President Obama is off limits, apparently because he's black. I doubt if the clown was informed of this in advance. I guess he was supposed to know that blacks are the sacred victims and cannot be mocked.

Gays are also now off limits to satire because of their phonied up persecution. I.e., the search for a scapegoat for the AIDS epidemic found a focus... straight men. Which made gays just like blacks suffering under Jim Crow! Don't you forget it!

Gahrie said...

All of this "outrage" is one more example of elites judging things beyond their experience.

1) All of our presidents going back to at least the elder Bush, have been honored this way by rodeo clowns.

2) People do consider it an honor to be mocked by rodeo clowns in this way.

kimsch said...

A rodeo clown enticed a bull to attack a dummy dressed as then president George H.W. Bush. The bull attacked and destroyed the dummy, sending parts all around the ring. That's far more "apparently life threatening" than the context of the clown in the Obama mask who wouldn't be attacked and destroyed.

Once Mr. Obama became President of the United States, he and all his sycophants lost the right to pull the race card. They pull it for every perceived slight or criticism. There's not any real racism there.

somefeller said...

Ridi, Pagliaccio,
sul tuo amore infranto.

Rusty said...

Clowns got no sense of humor.

Marty Keller said...

Taranto uses the first person, not second person, plural.

poster bear said...

Something lost in the discussion is exactly what these rodeo 'clowns' do.

They're much less entertainers for the crowd and far more important in their ability to protect a cowboy whose just had an encounter with an angry aggressive several thousand pound horned beastly bundle of violence whose belly (read: balls!) is tied up in a special knot to exacerbate those very traits.

To get that beast out of the arena, into the shoot and back to the Stockmen and pens. (and probably that strap off his junk)

Not really Shakes taking on the mimes sort of clowns.

I do love me some passive aggressive James T. I really enjoy noticing essays or op-eds elucidate a point you know likely gleened from Dr. Volokh and crew, Prof. Reynolds, or our gracious host. Y'all some leading lights. It's important, and thank you Prof Althouse.

-bear

poster bear said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael said...

Once again, the issue is not what happened to this poor guy, but that when (or if) exactly the same thing was done 8 years ago with a Bush mask no one on either side would have thought it was anything other than funny. The point is the unbounded hypocrisy of the Progressive left.

Sam L. said...

It's been done before. It's only that Obama Mussst Not Be Mocked!

GrandpaMark said...

Selective outrage.
Jimmy Carter ran away from a rabbit, and was mocked by everybody. Ignored by most was the actual life threatening danger posed by a rabid rabbit.

I want to know where the mask came from. Did the clown buy it? Was it left near his locker by radicals?

Was the clown coerced? Has he worn the mask in public?

Will the mask be auctioned on e-bay?

Did the clown invoke "stand your ground?"

These questions deserve serious answers, not jocularity.

CWJ said...

One not so small point seems to have been lost amidst all the efforts to alternately inflate/deflate this story. Just about the only things a rodeo clown and a birthday party, circus, etc.clown have in common are a painted face and the word "clown." Its like criticizing a gandy dancer for not moving in time with the music.

I assume (or would at least hope) Judy Quest knows that. By applying her eight commandments in this situation she is relying upon her audience's ignorance of the difference. I suspect her column was cynically motivated by self promotion and personal politics rather than by any serious ethical considerations.

Taranto plays her game by seriously trying to refute her points. It deserved mocking rather than refutation.

n.n said...

Selective outrage. This is not the first time an American president has been represented in effigy. I can only assume that they are either nouveau bigots or have received threats of political, economic, or social sanction. Isn't it discriminatory to treat Obama different from Bush, Clinton, et al?

That said, there has been more action on the evil clown front, than on actual threats to life, imminent and realized.

William said...

I'm sure some of the many clowns here will offer a more informed analysis of this controversy. But I wonder if rodeo clowns are not a different breed than circus or children party clowns. They are a grittier lot whose occupation involves more hazards than seltzer bottles and banana peels. Social workers and police officers are both government employees, but I would expect police officers to be substantially more conservative in their views than social workers. My guess is that this woman, despite being a clown, is not entitled to speak for rodeo clowns. She's so prissy she might just as well be a French mime. In the long run, her article, despite its stated objectives, will just serve to further politicize the clown community.

chuck said...

We need more angry bulls running through the Whitehouse along with the occasional wild boar. It's the least the government can do for us peons during hard times: keep us laughing.

Ann Althouse said...

"Taranto uses the first person plural."

Oops. That was a dumb mistake. I guess "second" seemed more plural-y.

Corrected.

TML said...

Taranto has always used the plural. He often pokes good-natured fun at his (their?) use of it and those who object to it. The objections are usually used as a substitute for actually engaging him on an issue.

gk1 said...

I think the whole thing makes Obama's followers look weak and brittle. They can dish it out but crumple like weaklings when just a fraction of the fire is returned. Obama missed a genuine opportunity to "pardon" the clown and look like a man. But as always he's too busy on the golf course or at a 1% mega-mansion to notice.

campy said...

If Obama were a classy guy, he'd ask the folks that run the rodeo to un-fire the clown.

If Obama were a classy guy, he'd do a lot of things differently.

F. A. Alsbach said...

I live 30 miles from the MO State Fair. Rev. Emmanuel Clever, leader of the Congressional Black Caucus is our US Rep. Here, most farmers, heck most people vote Democratic most of the time. I'll bet 60% or more of the people in those stands voted for Pres. Obama both times. The D. party is messing up a good thing locally by trashing Rodeo's and rodeo clowns around here. Our local college rodeo team is usually ranked in the top 10 nationally. Several times #1. I notice Rev. Cleaver has wisely been mute.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Taranto first wrote about this case days ago, and made the obvious point about one of the criticisms of the clown's behavior: What sort of bigot sees a man wearing a mask depicting the face of the President of the United States and immediately thinks: Minstrel show!

Inga said...

It makes the Republican party look even less inclusive and more ridiculous when a Texas Congressman invites this clown to the Texas state fair. Good thinking! What a way to get minorities to vote Republican.

Molly said...

Ann, two things--

The use of the first person plural in Taranto's column is standard, or used to be standard, editorial usage. It's known as the "editorial we" (analogous to authorial we, royal we, etc.).

Second--remember "Death of a President," the movie that came out in 2006 fantasizing about the assassination of President Bush and including clips of Bush CGI-ed to make it look as if he'd been shot?

There was less uproar about that than there's been about the rodeo clown. The Bush administration did not comment at all, not even obliquely, as Missourian Josh Earnest did for the Obama admin (although, interestingly, Hillary Clinton, then a Senator, said of the movie, "I think it's despicable. I think it's absolutely outrageous. That anyone would even attempt to profit on such a horrible scenario makes me sick").

But there were no repercussions more broadly. In fact, the film won an award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Yet that movie seemed far more of a direct assault on a sitting President than one rodeo clown in Missouri does.

Irene said...

The context of rodeo clowns.

Emil Blatz said...

The nation's spotlight has been on one clown since January 20th, 2009.

etbass said...

It's that Obama is not merely a King but as Rush Limbaugh said, Obama is a god.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

Lance said...

"'Excommunicated' is our word, but there really is a 'clown community,'" writes James Taranto, who's apparently a community unto himself, judging by his use of the first person plural.

See the disclaimer at the bottom of every column. The "we" and "our" is, I presume, his way of acknowledging that he's not the sole author/compiler.

Hyphenated American said...

It's racist to claim that making fun of Obama is wrong. Ad I believe FBI needs to investigate NAACP instead of clowns.

From Inwood said...

Selective indignation would be more amusing than the clown if only it weren't so readily accepted by the low-info PC Police & the short- memory public to whom it's directed.

Clown Schools don't need a course on sensitivity; just one on PC.

Hell, where are these people when Christian saints or Jesus himself are mocked in the Brooklyn Museum or at the Greenwich Village Halloween Pageant?

Left Bank of the Charles said...

NPR is reporting that the clown in the Obama mask wasn't fired, rather the announcer. That the announcer is also a clown is true, but that's not really the community he is being excommunicated from.

jacksonjay said...

I seem to recall a minor kerfuffle after the election in 2008 when the speech writer for newly elected Barack Obama was photographed groping a likeness of newly nominated Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Jon Favreau, said brilliant speechwriter, was quickly forgiven and has since gone on to fame, fortune and Hollywood!

Mocking Hillary is obviously not the mortal sin that mocking President Barack Obama is!

hombre said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Garbage Mahal said...

A real totalitarian government advocate would become enraged if anyone mocked their dear leader.

Bruce Hayden said...

Problem here is that there are essentially two types of clowns, those whose job is entertainment, and those whose job is safety. The author was one of the former, and her job, as well as that of other entertainment clowns is to be funny. As has been pointed out, that criterium is irrelevant when it comes to distracting bulls from riders. So, the disdain of entertainment clowns is pretty silly here, and his being cast out of a community that he never belonged to shouldn't bother him, or the other rodeo clowns, all that much.

D. said...

IGNORE THE COSTUME, LOOK AT THEIR SHOES!!

Summary: The Code of Ethics for people trying to make a living as Kid’s Clowns does not apply to stand-up comedians, politicians, or rodeo clowns. We need to get past the the name “clown” to look at their actual jobs, and cut the rodeo clown the same amount of slack we’d cut other professionals in dangerous jobs.

link

Cedarford said...

edutcher said...
I thought he was talking about Choom, after the mess he's made out of Egypt.


==================
I dare say the Egyptians have made a mess of Egypt.

Get used to a post-American world. We are 70 trillion in debt, in steep decline thanks to free trade and globalization, and a population perverting democracy into an unworkable system obsessed with rights and entitlement cheddar vs. duty to others and personal responsibility.
Our cities are wastelands in various stages of becoming Detroit.

Our days of fixing the world to help our "special friends" in Europe and the Middle East are no longer sustainable. We have to focus on fixing America now.

And as part of that, screw Egypt. They should matter only in how they affect our vital interests.

Brian McKim & Traci Skene said...

If you read the same column all the way to the end, Taranto mocks his own use of the first person plural.

"Wouldn't it be funny if the President's life were in danger?"

But the president's life (or, more correctly, the life of the clown portraying the president) was never in danger. Folks get stomped by bulls all the time. Missouri residents know this. There is danger, to be sure, but rodeo clowns, riders and rich Hemingway fans rather routinely volunteer to get stomped-- in Missouri, in San Fermin, even in my native New Jersey (home of Cowtown Rodeo, the longest running weekly rodeo in the United States).

Jupiter said...

Actually, Taranto uses the editorial we.

Illuninati said...

Years ago I had a business partner who happened to be black. About a year into the partnership, I was treated to a constant stream of reports about sexual trists with female subordinates some which didn't end well.

After the partnership terminated, I was approached by one of the women who still carried a torch for my former partner. She suggested that I was racist for ending the business relationship. My response was that it would have been racist for me to ignore my former partner's behavior.

I feel the same way about Obama. In my opinion it is racist to treat him as if he is not quite up to the job and needs to be handled with kid gloves. When Obama is wrong, he should be treated just like any other politician who has transgressions. If clowns have warn masks of previous presidents without without repercussions, then they should continue to do the same with the present president.

Brian McKim & Traci Skene said...

"Actually, Taranto uses the editorial we."

Which is defined as: "The first-person plural pronoun used by an editorialist in expressing the opinion or point of view of a publication's management."

So... you're both right.

Titus said...

What is the clown community like?

How about clown pay?

I imagine clown conventions, sales conferences, a clown union.

John said...

I wonder if the rodeo clown in particular or rodeo clowns in general, are members of the Clowns of America Inc guild?

As someone else mentioned, rodeo clowns are very different from regular clowns in what they do. Wikipedia even says that they are also know as "Rodeo Protection Athlete"

I went to the clown guild site and could find nothing about whether membership is open to rodeo clowns.

In fact, you can't find much info on the site without being a member. Not even the qualifications for membership.

If not, or if this particular guy is not a member, then he is in no way bound by its rules.

Did Quest say he is a member of her guild? I didn't see that in her article

John Henry

John Cunningham said...

There is no lese-majeste permitted of the High Gabongo of BRA [Black Ruled America]

averagejoe said...

And everyone laughed and cheered when a muslim threw a shoe at our president, an actual physical attack on the president of the United States. Hey AA, can you reach back in the wayback machine and reveal to us and yourself what your take was on that actual physical attack on the U.S. president?

Alex said...

Inga - you promised to stop trolling.

Dixie_Sugarbaker said...

Is there a Code of Ethics for journalists? If so, should we be as outraged by any violation of it as we are told we should be about rodeo clowns?

Fernandinande said...

Inga said...It makes the Republican party look even less inclusive and more ridiculous when a Texas Congressman invites this clown to the Texas state fair.

So, including the guy is not inclusive, but excluding him, to the point of shunning, is inclusive.

The logic of liberal racists is that the inclusion "trope" is solely a function of race, but not of ideas, as they imagine everything to be.

david7134 said...

What we need is another country, preferably down here is the South, like we had in 1860. That way, those of us who desire freedom could come here and the rest of you that desire the communism that is being promoted by the clown in chief can continue with your own destruction. To cause so much fuss over a clown mocking one of the worst presidents in US history is beyond belief. Have you ever heard of hanging the president in effigy? It is an old tradition. As to clowns and entertainers mocking the president, that is also beyond belief that you can not remember the 8 years that Bush was president. As for me, I reserve the right to criticize the clown that still has his job, despite the fact that we are all losing ours. I will also mock him and I would have enjoyed the rodeo in Missouri. By the way, I don't honor the office of the President and don't feel he is any better than I am, that is called a democracy.

Michael K said...

"Good thinking! What a way to get minorities to vote Republican."

Good thinking. What a way to prove that minorities are at home on the plantation.

Henry said...

Time for a fart summit.

The Godfather said...

@David7134 -- There was freedom in the south in 1860?

pplassm said...

You should what they do at a GWAR concert.

Unknown said...

----It makes the Republican party look even less inclusive and more ridiculous when a Texas Congressman invites this clown

It makes the Republican party look like they give a fig (toned down) about our Freedom as Americans to ridicule those who we deign to elect to represent us.

denbeste said...

Of all the people who are getting mad about this, I wonder how many have ever attended a rodeo?

Charlie Martin said...

And if harm to the president is the issue, why weren't the clowns who made the same jokes about Bush_41 "excommunicated"?

http://articles.philly.com/1994-08-19/news/25842089_1_bullfighting-clowns-rodeo-arena-clown-smile

Paul said...

It is obvious the Obama administration has a lot of people scared. I do mean scared or the mans firing would never have happened.

What are they scared of?

Chicago politics.

Tom Coyne said...

I wish that rodeo clown had been President on 9/11/12. He would not have taken a powder while our people were under attack like Obama did.

Carey J. said...

Of course a clown shouldn't criticize President Obama. Hasn't anyone heard of professional courtesy?

Annie said...

Inga said, "It makes the Republican party look even less inclusive and more ridiculous when a Texas Congressman invites this clown to the Texas state fair..."

How does it make it look less inclusive for a republican rep from TX to invite, in all probability, a democrat, to Texas? How is standing up for the 1st Amendment ridiculous?

The MO state fair is run by democrats, in a democrat stronghold, using taxpayer money most taxpayers had no idea was being wasted in that manner.

Do you really want to live in a country where it is a crime to mock your politicians? Or as this administration thinks, your betters.

Titus said...

But you freedom lover southern peeps do know you are the biggest takers of the federal government?

Us northerners give to you southern takers.

Hyphenated American said...

For sme reason, liberals now fully support blacklisting artists who expose popular and yet anti-left wing views. I wonder if they now agree that senator McCarthy did nothing wrong when he blacklisted the sympathisers of Stalin, one of the worst murderers of the 20th century.

TMLutas said...

Way to bury the lede.

Q: Who banned the clown?
A: The Missouri State fair.

Q: Is the Missouri State Fair a public or private institution?
A: It is established by legislation and run by a 9 member commission exclusively appointed by the Governor of Missouri.

Q: What party is the governor of Missouri?
A: Democrat.

So a public institution does not fire but lifetime bans somebody for expressing a political opinion in an act that is part safety/part entertainment and 100% covered by the 1st amendment.

Why are so few stories covering this as government censorship? It's not like it's a secret that the commission is made up of gubernatorial appointees. It's on their web page:
http://www.mostatefair.com/commission

Mikio said...

I'm surprised the rodeo clown hasn't become a Fox News analyst by now.

Hammond X Gritzkofe said...

The rodeo worker was punished because of the President's dermal hue.

Strange. Such isn't the fault of the Pres. nor of the rodeo guy.

Wise man once said "You should not criticize a giraffe for having a long neck."

SDN said...

Titus, that lie comes up with some frequency. It's based on two fallacies. The first is that the value of lands seized by the Federal government somehow counts as spending, and the second is that we're too free with allowing damyankees and leftists to retire from blue states, so it affects various pensions and Social Security amounts.

hughroe said...

"I didn't mind the clown until I read they played with his lips and he had a broom propped up on his ass."

1. He was adjusting the mask, not playing with the lips, need to be able to see and breathe when your dodging a half ton of pure mean.

2 He was portraying a scarecrow/dummy hence the broom, I have seen this done with other politicians, actors, and just straight make-up for over 50 years.