“'Cold Dead Hand' is abt u heartless motherf%ckers unwilling 2 bend 4 the safety of our kids.Sorry if you're offended…” tweeted actor Jim Carrey over the weekend.
For those who haven’t caught the Funny or Die sketch ‘Cold Dead Hand’ released Monday morning, chances are you’re probably going to be offended, if only because of the sheer number of stereotypes portrayed. Jim Carrey stars as the actor turned gun rights advocate Charlton Heston, and also as lead singer of the fictitious anti-gun group “Lonesome Earl & The Clutterbusters."
Not only does Carrey directly insult Heston in the sketch, he does his best to insult every person who owns a gun or thinks owning one might be a good idea.
Normally, I’m not one to take offense from those who are opposed to gun ownership rights. In fact, I tend to share their views, but this time it was a little (read: a lot) too much. Carrey goes so far as to claim “only the devil’s true devotees could profiteer from pain and fear...” in a clear insinuation that those who own guns are out to cash in by using their firearms to inflict suffering of some kind.
The entire video just seems like a rich, white actor trying to cash in on his fame and use its accompanying clout to promote a political message that gives no consideration to those who might think differently.
Hmmm, what does that remind me of? Oh yes, Charlton Heston.
In 1995, Charlton Heston formed his own pro-gun rights fund and, in 1998, became the head of the NRA. Famed for his proclamation that the only way to take away his gun would be to pry it from his “cold dead hands,” Heston used his clout to tell Americans that guns “give the most common man the most uncommon of freedoms, when ordinary hands can possess such an extraordinary instrument that symbolizes the full measure of human dignity and liberty."
While Heston’s speech wasn't a distasteful spoof of western shows or a direct assault on another individual, it was just as polarizing and, frankly, offensive. While guns have been a necessary part of the fight for freedom, human dignity and liberty are inalienable rights, and the suggestion that a gun is a symbol for something other than force is woefully misguided.
But here’s the truth: in the end, offensive messages are the ones that actually have an impact on the direction of political discourse and, eventually, policy — the entire point of Justice Holmes’ “marketplace of ideas.”
Were it not for a few vocal women with messages and ideas that offended most of the country, would they have ever been given the right to vote? These women were probably as wantonly offensive in their time as Carrey’s video is to me now.
Using fame, wealth, and clout to deliver messages has been a part of the American experience since our nation became a colony. At least our digital lives afford us some opportunities to express our beliefs, even if we’re not wealthy.
Are these men offensive in the way they deliver their messages? Yes. But just like the readership of books skyrocketing once they've been banned for being "offensive," so too do messages, and in a spectacularly rapid manner. These are the ones we need to hear, because these actually breed change.
What do you think: will Carrey’s new video change the shape of public discourse, galvanize anti-gun activists, or just offend everybody? Can those who aren't wealthy or famous shape public opinion without those who are?