Should Victoria Jackson be Ashamed?

Victoria Jackson, former Saturday Night Live regular, is in the news for some comments she made about Muslims on her web talk show. Jackson claims to have attended a meeting with government officials where she was shown proof that radical Islam is making inroads into the US government. Specifically, she said the radical Muslim Brotherhood is attempting to bring the United States under Sharia law. Jackson also insinuated Barack Obama’s policies are pro-Islam and that he is, in fact, a Muslim.

The former comedienne’s comments were vilified by many in the media, and Jackson is an easy target. Her high, breathy voice and ditzy appearance served her well in the world of late-night comedy. Not so much in the political commentary arena, where it undermines any credibility she may have. Many people more or less dismiss her because of the way she presents herself. I have to admit, it’s hard for me to get past her appearance and demeanor to seriously consider her views… and it is also true that Islamic law bores me.

Freedom of speech does interest me, and it’s fascinating that someone like Jackson, who has no power to speak of, can cause an uproar simply by stating her opinion. It happens, though. Think of John Lennon’s “We’re more popular than Jesus” remark.

Jackson’s controversial comments brought all sorts of opinions out of the woodwork. Some people accused her of making irresponsible, malicious comments, and questioned her intent in voicing them. Why deliberately inflame tensions and create animosity? Others drew parallels to pre-World War II Germany when ordinary citizens were complacent about (or afraid to protest) the new culture permeating their country… until it was too late. Maybe she has an obligation to speak up?

At first, it seems like a pretty vanilla case of freedom of speech. Jackson’s comments might be construed as rude, unpopular, or unfair, but she has a Constitutional right to state them.

Victoria Jackson’s own history sets this story apart from any others, though. In the early 1990s, she was a semi-celebrity, but after nearly twenty years out of the spotlight, she was all but forgotten. In March 2011, Jackson resurfaced unexpectedly, when she made some disparaging remarks about the show Glee, and homosexuality, in general. Her politically incorrect views incensed some people, and she was labeled as an intolerant right-winger for expressing them.

Who knows whether Jackson anticipated the fallout from her comments. I doubt her agent was being inundated with blockbuster scripts anyway, but it’s pretty safe to assume this flap didn’t do much to help her career. If any remnants of the 1950s practice of blacklisting certain entertainers still exist, you can bet Victoria acquired a prominent spot on the Do Not Hire list, along with Mel Gibson and Tiger Woods. And any hopes she ever entertained of keeping up with the Kardashians were annihilated.

Victoria Jackson may have been unprepared for the backlash in the spring, but she walked away with one thing: a crystal-clear understanding of the consequences for refusing to get in line. That’s why this story stands out. She knew from personal experience how she would be punished for expressing her politically incorrect views, but she refused to be intimidated into silence. That kind of courage must be respected.

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