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I Dare Say Madam.Dave Chappelle, Louis CK and Narratives of Power.

Louis CK has returned to performing in public. This is of course distinct from his semi-private performances which ultimately landed him in trouble.

Naturally the reaction has followed the standard template. Outrage walks hand in hand with trite expressions of forgiveness. At one end of the self-righteous spectrum a corporate hack announced that CK’s being banished was a workplace safety issue, as if a man exposing his dick to you was the equivalent of being ordered to suck down copious amounts of cancer causing particles, or to keep working for crap wages to pay for your crap apartment, and choose between rent and food.

It is in other words, the sort of comment that provokes mouth breathing, knuckle dragging reactionaries, to start screaming about left tard precious snowflakes, and bellowing, sucks to your assmar as they fight for the conch shell.

Perspective seems to be a rare commodity.

Which bring us to Dave Chappelle.*

In particular we are revisiting a brief set he did at the time of CK’s exposure (so to speak) and his subsequent (temporary) banishment from polite society – you know, the world currently defined by assorted acts of slow motion genocide, children in cages, and environmental collapse.

Chappelle made it clear that he thought CK’s behavior was wrong, but he also made it clear that a step in any one direction, and the whole picture changes.

For example, giving voice to the woman who had told the New York Times that CK had masturbated while she was on the phone with him, Chappelle asked, rhetorically: Don’t you know how to hang up a phone?

The counterargument is predictably, that the disparity in power rendered her freedom of action, limited if not terminally controlled. That is in fact, the very thing CK said about his behavior – that it caused a paralyzing moral dilemma based on the power disparity between his fame and their lack of fame. Except, as Chappelle then said, maybe you’re just weak? In other words (as we have asked repeatedly): Can’t more than one thing be true – even at the same time?

Expanding on this question, Chappelle examined the point made by another woman, that CK’s action had ended her dream of being a stand up comedian. To that Chappelle said: I dare say madam, perhaps your dream wasn’t very strong.

He then expanded the frame by mentioning the FBI’s notorious neo-fascist adventure otherwise known as COINTELPRO – the vast system of surveillance and blackmail used by America’s most famous cross dressing thug, J. Edgar Hoover, to keep the “subversives” in line or risk having their sexual habits exposed.

Chappelle connected this to Hoover’s attempts to blackmail Dr. King who was, as Chapelle says, fucking a lot of bitches.

Imagine, he says, if that had caused Dr. King to abandon his dream.

The counter argument would be, that Chappelle is exaggerating and using the vast difference in scale between an offended, would be stand up, and an icon, to make an absurd and therefore illegitimate point.

Except, he anchors the point in his personal experience.

Don’t forget, he says, who I am or what I am. If Louis CK’s dick is enough to make you abandon your ambition, then what am I, a Black man in America supposed to do in the face of the tyrannical violence I must endure? How am I supposed to navigate the brutal realities of the economic thunder dome that is show business? (Which is of course a subcategory within the economic gulag of America Incorporated).

The counter to that, one assumes, is some variation of saying that two wrongs don’t make a right, which would be a valid argument if it was in fact, a response to Chappelle’s point.

There is, he is saying, a sense of entitlement, and privilege, relative to the wider catastrophes of contemporary America, inherent in both the sense of outrage and the punishment dealt out to CK. And a corollary to entitlement is a blind disregard for the wider dilemma.

Chappelle also aims his rhetorical cannon at The New York Times as well, highlighting not just the almost rococo style of their breathless reporting, but in doing so he exposes the ways in which power is a system of interconnected and arbitrary impositions of control, that claim to be objective.

The Times is (it claims) the paper of record, and when they decide something is important a narrative is created. As a result other narratives go missing.

Chappelle’s point then becomes, where was the breathless outrage over the daily abuse he endured and, as he says when he walked away from 50 million dollars and effectively set his career on fire, there were no guarantees he would ever be able to return and be successful.

The ironic point being that he walked away from 50 million dollar so it’s not as if he was working a minimum wage gig. To which we assume he would respond – yeah and how many shit sandwiches did I have to eat to reach that point. And of course, it’s a valid point – no one handed him the cash just because he said, I’m here.

And so we close the circle.

It need not be an either or, binary situation, but it’s Chappelle who is making that argument, not The Times or the women to whom CK was rude. It’s Chappelle who is expanding the context and widening the perspective.

Through cynical and cheap sentiment, ideas like, I complained about not having shoes until I saw the man without legs, lose their power to inform and to assist in the creation of a sense of proportion, so that you can distinguish between a serious moral dilemma, and needing to just hang up the fucking phone. Or taking the phone and saying to the guy with the dick in his hand – see this phone? Zip up or I’ll shove this down your throat – and damn the consequences because sometimes, fighting for what’s right is more important than getting a deal for your own show on HBO.


For a look at CK’s return see the following:


For a look at Chappelle:


Update: 9/1/18

For a glimpse into the narrow precincts of The Guardian’s narrow vision, see the following:

*The Ink had committed the writerly equivalent of not realising your pants had an embarrassing tear or stain or both and had posted “Chappelle” as “Chapelle.” We regret the error. Typos, a defective motherboard, bad spelling, and worse editing, are among the banes of our existence.

5 comments on “I Dare Say Madam.Dave Chappelle, Louis CK and Narratives of Power.

  1. I’ve noticed the fake or idiotic outrage on social media. I was trying to ignore it. But your post is a breath of fresh air. The entire #MeToo movement has mostly focused on upper class white.

    The daily and far worse injustices and sufferings of the masses, poor and minority, doesn’t even register in the corporate media nor is ever given much room within middle class activism. This is even seen within minority communities, such as the middle lighter-skinned class blacks who wanted MLK to shut up and quick causing problems in their hopes of assimilation.

    Nothing really changes. And I can’t be bothered to care one way or another about Louis C.K. and his career, in spite of my enjoyment of his past work. My ears are deaf to the outrage factory and to the privileged caught up in it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. rauldukeblog says:

      Agreed. It is remarkable the extent to which the system is successful in what is clearly a divide and conquer strategy. Chapelle’s set received modest commentary and hype but his points about CK as a prism of the wider/deeper issues were of course ignored. The outrage industry is a colony of the wider media industry and so on.

      I’d add that it’s probably no accident or mere coincidence that the system is beginning to cannibalize itself

      A famous actress (can’t remember which one but “Oscar famous”) mentioned in passing that the truth about the Weinstein story is money – in that his company was suddenly closer to broke than not and that opened the gates – and it had nothing to do with journalistic integrity/bravery.

      I kept that in mind but couldn’t find anything about it until I stumbled over a small piece that mentioned that the NY Times had been told about Weinstein years ago but as he was a major – if not the largest – add buyer they let it sit. Then the internet caught up with the Times and add revenue fell like a rock. Weinstein lost his leverage and the Times lost their incentive to protect him so the story became “news.”

      What has gone missing then is the meta story – Weinstein’s fall is about the state of the economy and not about sexism except as sexism is contextualized by economic power. One does not eliminate the other or lessen personal tragedies but the wider meaning is elided from the breathless coverage.

      A point Chapelle is making with subtlety, intelligence and wit.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. As always, the real news about the deeper truths is always more interesting than the corporate-presented news narrative of the acceptable half-truths and falsehoods spun for rhetorical effect. It’s the same thing with actual history versus what is taught in most history classes. Keeping it boring while simultaneously creating spectacle as distraction discourages too close of public scrutiny and independent thought. It’s the same old game, but highly effective.


      2. I’m willing to bet that Weinstein wasn’t only giving ad money to the NYT. To keep the info suppressed, he had to be spreading a lot of money around to every major news media company and elsewhere as well.

        It’s similar to how plutocrats give money far and wide, funneling most of it through various organizations until the dark money ends up in the pockets of individuals from both parties, of diverse interests, and across the ideological spectrum. All bases are covered to ensure everyone knows they need to play by plutocratic rules and serve plutocratic agendas to keep the money flowing.

        That works out well in general, but will fail only when any given plutocrat runs out of enough money or gets cut out of the plutocratic system for some reason. Plutocrats will gladly sacrifice a fellow plutocrat, especially when the entire system feels under threat. That is when things get interesting, plutocrats turning on one another. All kinds of possibilities (reformist, radical, and even revolutionary) then emerge.

        Ignoring the hyprocrisy of it all, it’s fun watching the privileged attack each other and obsess over their fights of power, in their trying to decide who to vote off the island. The same basic dynamic is going on with the Trump gang right now, as happened with much of #MeToo. Some of Trump’s own family is likely to turn witness against him when it gets really bad.

        Pretense of loyalty guaranteed by money can only go so far. There is only so much money to go around. And these assholes are already rich enough to remain comfortable for the rest of their lives. There isn’t much Trump can offer any of them to keep them silent forever, unless he or one of his handlers is blackmailing them which is quite likely.

        But eventually there is failure in such tangled webs of threats, deceit, and manipulation. Something gives, as there is always a weak point, no matter how brilliant the scheming.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. rauldukeblog says:

        Absolutely! I’ve been harping on the wider narratives that extend from Weinstein pointing out that the form mirrors everything from Pynchon to hardboiled detective novels. Crime is a network of connections. So as you say not just the Times but everyone else. The anxiety of this pops up in the question “did you know?” which is the post industrial, end phase of capitalism in America version of the post ’45 question, who collaborated?

        I’ve been thinking of writing something about this with Murder on The Orient Express as the central metaphor – in other words, they all did it.

        Liked by 1 person

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