Did 'SNL' ISIS skit cross a line?

Why shouldn't ISIS be fair game for jokes?
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Why shouldn't ISIS be fair game for jokes? 02:59

Story highlights

  • Dean Obeidallah: Twitter blew up over "Saturday Night Live" skit about girl joining ISIS
  • He says ridiculing and laughing at terrorists undermines them, diminishes their power

Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM's weekly program "The Dean Obeidallah Show." He is a columnist for The Daily Beast and editor of the politics blog The Dean's Report. He's also the co-director of the documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!" Follow him on Twitter: @TheDeansreport. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)It's outrage time again.

This time it's over a "Saturday Night Live" commercial parody that aired over the weekend. The subject (take a deep breath and prepare to be shocked): ISIS. Yes, that barbaric terrorist group was ridiculed in a parody of a Toyota Camry commercial.
Dean Obeidallah
The original Toyota ad depicted a father driving his daughter to the airport. He then tearfully says goodbye as his daughter heads off to join the U.S. Army.
    In the "SNL" parody, the daughter is played by Dakota Johnson, star of the hugely successful S&M film "50 Shades of Grey." (Good to see America has gotten over being offended by the mainstreaming of S&M.) As the parody commercial ends, however, it's revealed that the daughter is not joining the Army, but ISIS.
    We then see a pickup filled with ISIS fighters drive up as a worried Dad comments to his daughter: "You be careful, OK?" Johnson replies reassuringly: "Dad! It's just ISIS." The father then turns to an ISIS fighter and says, with emotion, "Take care of her."
    In reply, the militant whispers: "Death to America."
    And ... cue the outrage!! Twitter lit up instantly.
    Twitter user @ematrudo called NBC and "SNL" "Tasteless Scum!"
    And Steve Bucci of conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation even went as far as to tweet: "SNL ISIS skit also draws a moral equivalence between ISIS murderers and the U.S. Military (based on the spoofed commercial), that is wrong."
    Some, apparently in the minority if the media coverage is any indication, also praised "SNL":
    But my favorite tweet was this one:
    @kmorrison is 100% correct. The sketch mocked ISIS and on some level those who would fall for its sales pitch, like, perhaps, the three young British girls who reportedly headed to join them.
    Using comedy to counter ISIS
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    Using comedy to counter ISIS 01:57
    Comically skewering ISIS is exactly the right thing to do -- it should be done even more. In fact, in Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and even in Iraq, where ISIS is slaughtering people, brave Muslim comedians are ridiculing ISIS on TV, in YouTube videos and in cartoons. And I can assure you that if ISIS were to catch these comedians, it wouldn't just tweet about its outrage, it would kill them.
    So why do these comedians take the chance? Because, they say, it undermines ISIS, and also, for many, it is cathartic to laugh at the terrorists, as opposed to shivering in fear about them.
    This is the same reason Mel Brooks featured "Springtime for Hitler" in his hit musical comedy, "The Producers": It was a way of using comedy as revenge. Brooks saw it as a way to rob Hitler of his power (even if posthumously) by causing audiences to laugh at him.
    What's more, the "SNL" parody makes an important but subtle point. On the side of the ISIS pickup, the Arabic writing does not state a religious expression. Rather it says, "I love cats."
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    'SNL' mocks Giuliani in 'Birdman' skit 01:34
    As someone who worked at "SNL" for eight years, I can assure you this was not happenstance, but rather was by design. To me, the "I love cats" line shows that "SNL" grasps what many on the right refuse to. As I heard firsthand when I attended the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism two weeks ago, ISIS will despicably use any means to recruit people. Consequently, as ludicrous as it may seem, saying "we love cats" to young girls is not beyond ISIS.
    When I look at the outrage over this "SNL" political parody, I have to wonder: Weren't we all "Je suis Charlie Hebdo" just a few weeks ago? Remember when we stood firmly with political satirists. Well, apparently that sentiment ended for some as soon as they saw political satire they didn't like.
    I understand that some will be offended by political comedy with which they don't agree. But in a time when freedom of expression is under attack, if you are offended by political satire on TV, then change the channel.