Peter Boyle, Holy Crap and Self-censorship

I was very sad, yesterday, to hear of the death of Peter Boyle, who was such a talented actor in both film and television. The guy could do anything, drama or comedy, but he’ll most likely be remembered for two particularly outstanding comedic turns, as the Monster in “Young Frankenstein” and as the slobby patriarch Frank Barone in “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

Looking around the web, yesterday I saw a brief remembrance of Boyle, entitled “Holy Crap,” at Couric & Co., the blog for the CBS evening news, and I posted an appreciation of Boyle, there. Later in the day, several others had also left comments, all positive, about Boyle and about the blog post. One of the things that struck me was that the commenters were one in their fondness for Boyle, regardless of whether they were coming from the left or the right. Having just posted this piece, I made note of it, and planned to link to the Couric & Co comments section as a bittersweet example of what I meant when I wrote about “left and right” coming together to form a whole.

Today, I went looking to link the CBS post and could not locate it. A quick inquiry gave the answer that the post had simply been taken down. “Oh,” I wrote, asking further “was it because people were complaining about the ‘Holy Crap’ headline?”

The answer seemed to be that no one complained, exactly, but it was better to be safe than sorry – the post might have offended someone, and that would be bad. While no one has said this to me, the sense I’m getting is along the lines of “why risk offending uptight conservatives who can’t handle the word “crap”? And CBS had actually focused on Boyle’s having been a monk earlier in his life. That might have been too “christianist” for some on the left – they might have gotten mad, too.”

Better to just take that post down, then. That way no one gets offended.

Well…except me. That offends the hell out of me. I find it enormously offensive that the press seems to be taking to duck-and-cover tactics of self-censorship because we are living in the Era of the Tyranical Minority; let one voice be raised in objection, and multitudes must do without.

This is troubling. If a news organization is hobbled by worries that it “may” offend, even when it clearly has not (why would the FCC or any reader become offended by “Holy Crap” when Boyle yelled it almost every week on a CBS sitcom?) then this is just one more “acceptable restraint” a news group has put upon itself, the sort that could get in the way when real news develops. I’ll never forget the NY Times illustrating its story on the Danish Muhammed cartoons with Chris Olifi’s The Virgin Mary from a few years back – the painting which had elephant dung and cut outs of genitalia on the canvas. They wanted to talk about “artwork that offends” but they dared not offend the Muslims as they did it. Consequently they looked both foolish and cowardly, and too irony-challenged to understand that while they were going out of their way not to offend Muslims, they were offending the hell out of Catholics, who are – these days – the group which may be offended without fear.

For whatever reasons, CBS’s excellent and brief post on Peter Boyle is gone, and that is sad because the artist deserved his tribute, and his death had given commenters a chance to put down their partisan swords and murmur appreciation for a man pretty much everyone respected. We see too few instances where such commonality of thought and purpose can flourish, these days. And allowing that piece to remain required a mimimum of testosterone on CBS’ part.

If they’re afraid of the American left and right, what WILL they do if they ever have to face an angry Islam?


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