Alibi V.28 No.46 • Nov 14-20, 2019 

Film Review

No Safe Spaces

Conservatives cry over “cancel culture”

No Safe Spaces ()

Directed by Justin Folk

Cast: Adam Carolla , Dennis Prager

No Safe Spaces
Eh ... seems perfectly rational.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prevents the government from making laws concerning an establishment of religion. It goes on to state that the government cannot abridge freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to peaceable assembly or the right to petition the government for “redress of grievances.” It’s reasonable to assume that these rights were fundamentally important to the Founding Fathers. There were, after all, the first to be enshrined in the Bill of Rights. So any attempt to circumvent them should be troubling to all Americans.

No Safe Spaces is a documentary that ostensibly sets out to cast dire warnings on the state of free speech in America. But like a born-again Christian melodrama about the “War on Christmas” starring Kevin Sorbo, it spends all of its time preaching to the converted. In other words, it’s aimed directly at those of a simpatico political vibe and snidely critical of those who are not. It’s directed by Justin Folk (a special effects supervisor on The Matrix films) and written by John Sullivan (who co-wrote, co-directed and co-produced Dinesh D’Souza’s bat-crap crazy conspiracy films 2016: Obama’s America and America: Imagine a World Without Her). That should clue you in as to what end of the political spectrum the film falls on.

Serving as hosts/primary talking heads in the film are pals Adam Carolla (the comedian and podcast host) and Dennis Prager (the conservative radio show host and writer). The two have traveled across the country, delivering a sort of comic/political stage show centering on this very topic. They’re recreated it here, more or less, with enthusiastic support from a list of other like-minded conservative talkers.

Both Carolla and Prager are terribly worried about the state of the First Amendment in America. Most specifically, they’re worried about free speech on college campuses. As you may know, over the last few years, many schools have canceled talks by conservatives, alt-right celebrities and straight-up neo-Nazis. Heck, even Corolla and Prager got booted from a campus once. So if you’re terribly saddened by the idea of Ben Shapiro, Milo Yiannopoulos and the like not being allowed to host rallies for their drinking-age fanboys on a campus near you, No Safe Spaces is the film for you.

But honestly, there’s something vaguely ridiculous (although increasingly common) about rich white celebrities arguing that they can’t get heard anymore. Carolla co-hosted the wildly popular “Loveline” radio show for 10 years. He co-created “The Man Show” and “Crank Yankers.” He hosted a home improvement show on TLC, competed on “Dancing With the Stars” and got voted off “The Celebrity Apprentice.” His podcast, “The Adam Carolla Show,” was certified by Guinness World Records as the “most downloaded podcast” in the world. Dennis Prager’s conservative video sharing site PragerU boasts more than a billion downloads. Being told they can’t deliver a speech at California State University over concerns about security isn’t remotely equivalent to being beheaded in the Middle East for blasphemy (even though this film implies they’re exactly the same).

Trust me when I say, there are thousands of people in America whose voices are not being heard. These are people of color, LGBTQ people, people at a severe economic disadvantage. And yet, the people complaining loudest these days about not being heard are well-to-do white folks bitching about “cancel culture” and “political correctness.” Often they’re comedians who are pissed off nobody’s laughing at their crude jokes anymore. Carolla once called Hawaiians “inbred” and “retarded.” Referring to transgender people, he asked, “When did we start giving a shit about these people?” And he’s been called out on numerous occasions for his sexist language. Mr. Prager has campaigned vociferously against homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Despite being a Jew, he often aligns himself with fundamentalist Christians and once remarked that Jewish people did not vote for Bob Dole because, “Jews are ignorant.”

“You can’t say anything anymore without someone getting offended,” these poor First Amendment protectors cry—usually while saying something outrageously offensive to a minority.

Are there overreactions and sensitivities, particularly on college campuses? Undoubtedly. But this film misses the point of these as well. Most are wildly mischaracterized by overzealous media outlets. Recently, conservative sites lost their collective minds when students at Oberlin allegedly went full “snowflake,” saying that their school cafeteria serving sushi was “cultural appropriation.” Turns out that wasn’t the case at all. A handful of students complaining to the school newspaper about how crappy the “ethnic” food choices were. There was a small meeting between the cafeteria staff and several students groups. Everybody walked away from the meeting happy. End of story. But not if you read any conservative media sites, who embellished the story to absurd heights.

Again, many young people are capable of being overly sensitive. But this is not some failing unique to the left. It’s an overall symptom of entrenched Republican and Democratic politicians turning politics into a blood sport. It’s not politics unless you violently disagree with people across the aisle. And that’s certainly not endemic only to the left wing. It’s a disease that infects the right wing just as strongly. (Ever read a tweet—any tweet—from Donald Trump?)

Does No Safe Spaces argue for more input from socialists, feminists, Muslims, Antifa members? Of course not. It offers up some snarky cartoon segments making fun of these people and reminding viewers how goofy “safe spaces,” “identity politics” and “social justice warriors” are. Empathize with someone of a different ethnic/religious/sexual/economic background? Ha, ha. It is to laugh! In this film’s worldview, it’s only the conservatives who are put upon. And only the conservatives who need to be heard more. No one on the far right has ever told Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to shut up. And only whiney liberal crybabies want safe spaces.

Seriously, guys? What is Fox News if not one enormous safe space for Trump lovers?

Carolla and Prager spend a lot of time bemoaning the loss of calm and rational debate between conservatives and liberals. True enough. So in the interest of being fair and balanced, No Safe Spaces offers up a couple “liberal” viewpoints, all of whom enthusiastically support the film’s premise. Dave Rubin, for example, is a self-described “Libertarian” who works for Glenn Beck’s Blaze Media, provides a frequent platform for alt-right conspiracy theorists and white nationalists and calls progressivism “a mental disorder.” Yeah, the guy’s practically a hippie. So much for fair and balanced.

The First Amendment clearly states that “Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech.” And what law is Congress making that so concerns the makers of No Safe Spaces? Actually, there is none. None whatsoever. Despite its seemingly reasonable outward attitude, this wildly disengenuous documentary has nothing to do with the First Amendment. This isn’t about the government curtailing free speech. That’s not a thing that’s happening. It’s about jerks wanting to have what they call “free speech”—that is, speech free from any consequences. Guess what, conservatives: Say something insensitive or inflammatory or just plain uneducated and Americans—true, patriotic Americans—are gonna call your ass out on that shit. As well they should.

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No Safe Spaces

Comedian Adam Corolla and author Dennis Preger turn their comedy/political lecture tour into a "documentary" with the help of the guy who co-wrote, co-produced and co-directed Dinesh D'Souza's batcrap-crazy conspiracy theory rants 2016: Obama's America and America: Imagine the World Without Her. The boys are deeply concerned about the state of the First Amendment, particularly on America's college campuses—but mostly because rich white comedians can't tell jokes about gays and blacks anymore, and our good friends the "alt-right" neo-Nazis aren't being given a big enough platform. Despite all the talk about a calm and reasoned debate between political opposites, the film ignores liberals, showcasing them only in snarky cartoon segments that mock "safe spaces," "racial politics" and "social justice warriors." 95 minutes PG-13.

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