Tired, Boring—and Dangerous—Celebrity Death Wishing

Recently, New York writer Fran Lebowitz told Bill Maher on his HBO program that the U.S. government should turn President Donald Trump “over to the Saudis, his buddies—the same Saudis who got rid of that reporter.”

Lebowitz thought it was cool to imagine on live television that the president might be chopped up in the manner of the recent murder of Saudi journalist and activist Jamal Khashoggi.

A veritable mini-industry of celebrity calls for Trump’s violent death or assassination is now old and boring—and getting dangerous.

As if on cue, actors, singers, comedians, and banal entertainers compete with each other to hope for the most gruesome manner of killing the president—and thereby insidiously lowering the bar for unhinged minds of what could be conceivable or even acceptable to big-screen icons and popular culture’s cool crowd.

The late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain mused about poisoning Trump.

Musician David Crosby thought of incineration.

Actor Johnny Depp and rapper Snoop Dogg preferred shooting.

Former CNN host Kathy Griffin, comedian George Lopez, and singer Marilyn Manson all imagined decapitation.

The rock group Pearl Jam offered up the image of Trump rotting.

The singer Madonna and musician Moby chose explosives.

The New York City public theater fancied stabbing.

Actor Robert De Niro seems pathetically fixated on repeated blows to the head.

Comedian Rosie O’Donnell dreamed of Trump’s death by falling off a cliff.

Actor Mickey Rourke threatened clubbing, while Charlie Sheen seemed to pray for some sort of divine intervention to eliminate Trump.

Comedian Larry Wilmore says he would settle for old-fashioned suffocation.

Hollywood, of course, had been fixated on hating Trump since he first announced his candidacy—an obsession shared by the Obama-era CIA, FBI, and Justice Department.

Yet the idea that liberal celebrities, authors, and entertainers would publicly dream of various ways of killing a conservative president is not exactly new.

Former President George W. Bush was a favorite target of such entertainer death wishing. Remember the 2012 episode of “Game of Thrones” in which Bush’s decapitated head was displayed on a pike? Guardian newspaper guest columnist Charles Brooker invoked past shooters of presidents to kill then-President Bush: “John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr.—where are you now that we need you?”

Alfred A. Knopf published Nicholson Baker’s novel Checkpoint. The book was nothing more than a monotonous dialogue of trite characters offering up ways to assassinate Bush. Filmmaker Gabriel Range gave us the 2006 “docudrama,” “Death of a President.” The slick production enacted a successful killing of George W. Bush.

Our elite entertainers do not just limit themselves to imagining the violent demise of conservative presidents like George W. Bush and Donald Trump. Any conservative elected official or their family will do.

Most recently, actor and comedian Jim Carrey tweeted out his dream that current Republican Alabama Governor Kay Ivey should have been aborted: “I think if you’re going to terminate a pregnancy, it should be done sometime before the fetus becomes Governor of Alabama.” In Carrey’s mind, that way Ivey would not have been able to pass a new restrictive abortion bill.

For greater effect, Carrey included in his tweet one of his macabre illustrations showing an abortion tool sucking out Ivey’s head that is attached to the body of a fetus in a womb.

Last summer, iconic 1960s actor Peter Fonda envisioned a particularly sick form of violence against Trump’s young son, Barron: “We should rip Barron Trump from his mother’s arms and put him in a cage with pedophiles. And see if mother will stand up against the giant a—hole she is married to.”

Try substituting the name of Obama for Trump, and such vile vituperation might earn the hater permanent ostracism, career destruction, or even legal consequences.

Do we remember the obscure rodeo clown who was banned for life in 2013 from the Missouri State Fair, because one of his assistants bought a stock mask of Barack Obama at a store and then wore it while working in the arena?  The ensuing universal outrage at the local rodeo clown was based on the liberal insistence that even mocking the then president of the United States was not only racist but dangerous and would bring presidential haters out of the woodwork to conceive of violence toward then-President Obama.

So why do left-wing celebrities express such political hatred?

First, they assume their supposed goals of equality and fairness justify any means necessary to advance them, including obscenity and calls for violence. Even sick smears are seen as virtue signaling from edgy social justice warriors. It is not unimaginable to assume that if some unhinged nut takes seriously celebrity talk of killing or injuring Trump and acts out one of their quite numerous fantasies, the celebrity death-threateners won’t be all that remorseful—given their boutique hatred of conservatism in general and the Trump family in particular.

Second, celebrities (many of whom are high-school dropouts) are by nature a bit arrogant and sometimes plain dumb. They wrongly confuse their ability to act or sing with some sort of intelligence and erudition. But since Plato, the philosophers have warned us that performance is more of a natural than an acquired gift, and may have nothing to with intelligence, wisdom, or learning.

Third, celebrities do not fear a backlash. The bosses of the entertainment industry are also left-wing for the most part. Even vile attacks against conservatives may be considered career enhancements. As wealthy elites, they believe they are privileged and influential, and so should be exempt from the legal consequences of publicly hoping or advocating for the death of a sitting president.

Fourth, entertainers love public attention, the more, the better—especially as they age or see their careers diminish. For the fading and the vain, even bad publicity is good publicity. A Madonna, Moby, Robert De Niro, or Rosie O’Donnell is not now enjoying an ascending career.

Fifth, many who express such obscenity and hatred are either direct or indirect products of the 1960s and 1970s, which destroyed cultural norms and sanctioned obscenity. For such celebrities boasting about the death of the president is part of their lifelong culture, the sort of vulgar talk they take for granted in music, film, and stand-up comedy. As a general rule, crude youthful actors age badly. The “Easy Rider” free-spirit Peter Fonda of 1969 mouthing off on his chopper now sounds cranky and befuddled when he continues his rebel crude shtick well into his creaky late 70s.

Finally, Hollywood and entertainers especially are divorced from much of America. The wealth, segregation, walls, nannies, servants, gardeners, climate, and privilege of Malibu, Beverly Hills, Montecito, or Santa Monica are not American normal. Almost no Americans live in the royal manner of a Jim Carrey or Johnny Depp. The New York City public theater would not ritually kill Trump every night on stage if they were performing “Julius Caesar” in rural Alabama or central Oklahoma.

If one believes the beachfront of Malibu reflects the norms of American behavior or thought, then he is seriously delusional. So expect celebrity-driven assassination chic to continue until either the country collectively says “enough”—or such sick rhetorical murder leads to the real thing.

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004, and is the 2023 Giles O'Malley Distinguished Visiting Professor at the School of Public Policy, Pepperdine University. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush, and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson is also a farmer (growing almonds on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author of the just released New York Times best seller, The End of Everything: How Wars Descend into Annihilation, published by Basic Books on May 7, 2024, as well as the recent  The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, The Case for Trump, and The Dying Citizen.

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