When is it okay to joke around about political figures being killed?
Probably never, I would say. So would most people.
However, since Donald Trump declared for the presidency three years ago and was elected nearly two years ago, that number has steadily declined.
Stars like Kathy Griffin and Johnny Depp have casually tossed off statements, whether they be visual or spoken, that sought to “normalize” (to use that ubiquitous word that’s also been brought into vogue by the president’s opponents) the death of our commander in chief.
Now People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is getting in on the game, although its target is another member of the Trump family: Donald Trump Jr.
In a Halloween costume listed for pre-order on the group’s website, Trump Jr. — a noted hunter — is being mauled by a leopard while wearing hunting fatigues and carrying a gun (which isn’t included). Just in case you didn’t know who it is, he’s also wearing a MAGA-like cap with his name on it.
We warn you that some readers might find the picture of the costume objectionable; viewer discretion is advised:
“This limited-edition Donald Trump Jr. Halloween costume was inspired by and is a twist on the trophy-hunting photo that showed the Trump brothers grinning over the body of a dead leopard,” PETA’s website reads.
“PETA’s motto reads, in part, that ‘animals are not ours to abuse in any way,’ and we’re known for our position against gun violence and trophy hunting.
“Hunters kill millions of animals every year and have contributed to the extinction of species all over the world, including the Tasmanian tiger and the great auk, and leopard populations in sub-Saharan Africa have plummeted by more than 30 percent in the last 25 years. Unlike natural predators who kill primarily sick and weak individuals, trophy hunters specifically seek out large, healthy animals who are needed to keep populations strong. Animals who are injured but not killed by hunters escape, only to die slowly from blood loss and starvation.
“The costume includes one ‘bloody’ camouflage jacket with a name tag that reads ‘Half-Cocked’ and a red cap. It comes with one plush ‘pouncing’ leopard. (Prop gun not included.)”
Oh, well, thank goodness for that last part. At least the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals draws an ethical line at selling fake guns.
The whole thing costs almost $170. Overall, the package is proof that PETA’s audience consists primarily of out-of-touch, upper-class liberals who are fine with violence against animals so long as those animals are human and conservative.
It’s also out of touch in more than one way. Consider, for instance, the fact that big game hunts are used as a source of revenue by countries to help ward off poachers. As you may be aware, unlike big game hunters, poachers don’t care a whit about sustainability and, unlike big game hunters, actually pose an existential threat to species.
But the icing on the cake is a quote from PETA President Ingrid Newkirk at the top of the product description: “There’s nothing more frightful than an entitled ghoul who gets his kicks from gunning down wild animals.”
I don’t know. What about entitled ghouls who think it’s okay to joke about the killing of human beings?
The reason we hold jokes about the deaths of politicians in such contempt isn’t a sign of snowflakism. It’s because there are enough crazy people out there who want to be perceived as messianic heroes, the same way that John Wilkes Booth believed he would be lionized for killing the object of the Confederacy’s contempt.
In a digital age, where heated rhetoric can travel at the speed of light, and unstable people can be inspired to murderous actions in ways and numbers previously unheard of, a social media post showing Donald Trump Jr. getting mauled by a leopard — a situation which would almost certainly end in death — is profoundly irresponsible.
Then again, when it comes to the Trumps, responsibility has long since gone out the window.
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