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Episode 117 — Is Everyone Racist?

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The point here is we have Freedom of Speech in this country. Thank God. I may dislike the Westboro Baptist Church (or The Onion) but they are free to say whatever they want without the government intervening.

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Garret is a wacky social-justice type who shies away from even typing out the word, "cunt." Conflating the both of us probably isn't going to do your argument any favors. Anyway:

 

A joke is unsuccessful when no one laughs at it, an attribute to which most comics must be fairly well attuned. Whether a joke is "bad" or not is mostly subjective, and depending on who you are a joke can be "bad" and uproariously funny at the same time (so long as it isn't merely bland). If you don't like a joke, that's fine, you can even get mad about it online or whatever. The only thing I really have a problem with is what I perceive to be your desired end-state.

 

There is a chilling effect in comedy caused by the (mostly) manufactured outrage of the last few years. You can act likes it's not serious, I guess, but I don't much hear about Tracy Morgan doing stream-of-consciousness material on stage anymore. I guess (hypothetical) gay people might feel safer now that people are too nervous to joke about (hypothetically) stabbing them but if you actually value comedy I think you can recognize that there might be funny things left unsaid because comics who rock the boat are in danger of having their careers derailed.

 

That the jokes you mentioned are (arguably) bad doesn't do anything for your position, either, because every joke – before its made – is a potential failure, and if you're forced to grovel for forgiveness every time you fail you're going to make fewer, safer jokes.

 

Critical (Race) Theory is more specific than what I had in mind, as “gendered slurs” are in the mix as well. My Google skills are – in fact – top notch (thank you for noticing!). They are not responsible for my knowledge of the subject, however, novitiate though it may be. Try as I might, I could not entirely avoid it through the course of my liberal arts education.

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The point here is we have Freedom of Speech in this country. Thank God. I may dislike the Westboro Baptist Church (or The Onion) but they are free to say whatever they want without the government intervening.

 

So in this idiotic scenario you have created, the people who disagree with the Onion and the Westboro church are agents of the federal government?

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Legalistic and ideological free speech are different animals. It's nearly always a bad thing when expression is suppressed, whether by government or by vocal agitators with influence disproportionate to their numbers.

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There is a chilling effect in comedy caused by the (mostly) manufactured outrage of the last few years. You can act likes it's not serious, I guess, but I don't much hear about Tracy Morgan doing stream-of-consciousness material on stage anymore. I guess (hypothetical) gay people might feel safer now that people are too nervous to joke about (hypothetically) stabbing them but if you actually value comedy I think you can recognize that there might be funny things left unsaid because comics who rock the boat are in danger of having their careers derailed.

 

Do you really perceive this as a problem? It seems to me that the opposite is true, that offensive comedy is the easiest way to make it right now. Louis C.K. is the biggest and most influential comedian working. Even Anthony Jeselnik has his own show.

 

ETA: That's not a judgment on either of those two comics as comics, but their success seems to suggest that there's no real risk to comedians who incorporate offensive material.

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A joke is unsuccessful when no one laughs at it, an attribute to which most comics must be fairly well attuned. Whether a joke is "bad" or not is mostly subjective, and depending on who you are a joke can be "bad" and uproariously funny at the same time (so long as it isn't merely bland). If you don't like a joke, that's fine, you can even get mad about it online or whatever. The only thing I really have a problem with is what I perceive to be your desired end-state.

 

So, here's the thing about the Onion joke. Very few who defend it say it was a funny joke. Very few of the defenders say, "ya know what, calling that little black girl a cunt was one of the funniest things of the night." The joke is bad because no one laughed. That's not subjective at all. In fact people were angry. So, the dynamic was people like yourself -- self-styled anti-PC "rebels" -- who swarm down to invalidate other people's reactions and to give big treatises on the State of Comedy and How It All Works all the while saying they themselves didn't find it funny.

 

If you were such a lover of comedy, you wouldn't be defending a joke that no one laughed at. If you were a lover of comedy, you would be booing just as loudly because the comic didn't have the skills to pull off the joke. You know who can be the toughest audience for a comic? Other comics. But under your stupid worldview, every time those comic bust each other's balls, that is leading to a "chilling effect" (for the record those are bullshit quotes. I use those when I am speaking of things, I think are bullshit.)

 

 

There is a chilling effect in comedy caused by the (mostly) manufactured outrage of the last few years. You can act likes it's not serious, I guess, but I don't much hear about Tracy Morgan doing stream-of-consciousness material on stage anymore. I guess (hypothetical) gay people might feel safer now that people are too nervous to joke about (hypothetically) stabbing them but if you actually value comedy I think you can recognize that there might be funny things left unsaid because comics who rock the boat are in danger of having their careers derailed.

 

 

That means that every audience member at every comedy show ever much give the comic a standing ovation after every show, regardless of whether they thought the comic was good or not. I mean, if you show a comic any kind of negativity, that is going to stifle their creative powers and then they won't be able to insult minorities the way you like.

 

And I love how you think that people getting upset over shitty jokes is somehow fake. That must mean in your mind that you believe that there is no possible way how someone can be upset that you called a child a cunt. It's literally impossible for you to fathom.

 

But this is not about comedy or the comedic process. Like I said, if you valued comedy you would be booing just as loud at a bad comic as the person who said comic inartfully insulted. No, I believe white males (overwhelmingly white males defended the Onion's crap) defend these sort of jokes because it the last socially acceptable outlet for them to say all of the racist, misogynistic homophobic crap that they would like to say in public. By hiding behind the "its a joke" defense, they can say whatever they like and then turn any disagreement about the joke into a bullshit conversation about comedy, a bullshit conversation about sensitivity, or a bullshit conversation about freedom of speech. I love how you paint some sort of bleak, dystopian comedic future where every budding comic is given a Book of Taboos and told not to make jokes about anything written within or else they will be taken to the public square and beaten. If you truly believe that the underpinnings of comedy rely on calling minority children gendered slurs, making light of sexually assaulting a woman, or rehashing racist street jokes from the 1850s, then I am glad that people like you are suffering public backlash. Hopefully that will stop them from going to an open mic and spreading their bullshit.

 

Maybe all of you like-minded anti-PC rebels can join a club in this futuristic, bleak comedy landscape. Maybe you guys can wear funny uniforms when you get together. Oooh, and light up bonfires on people's lawns at night. Of course, you'd have to wear white hoods to keep to smoke from your faces...

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Legalistic and ideological free speech are different animals. It's nearly always a bad thing when expression is suppressed, whether by government or by vocal agitators with influence disproportionate to their numbers.

 

But that means that the group that spoke first is the one that has the freedom. If another group disagrees, they can't express their disagreements.

 

Sounds like you went to the Sarah Palin School of Gumnit

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If it's overwhelmingly white males turning the conversation to bullshit then why are you the only one here caricaturing the other side as an AM radio pastiche? Don't get your Dashiki in a twist, bro. We're just having an internet conversation like two maladjusted adults.

Do you really perceive this as a problem? It seems to me that the opposite is true, that offensive comedy is the easiest way to make it right now. Louis C.K. is the biggest and most influential comedian working. Even Anthony Jeselnik has his own show.

CK is an aberration, Jeselnik is a hack hanger-on. It was interesting to see some of the mental gymnastics left-bloggers (mostly Slate guys) had to go through to reason why it was okay for CK to do rape material but not for Tosh (to whom Jeselnik owes nearly his entire career). Comedy Central is interesting in that it just doubled down when the concern trollers came for their Danegeld, which speaks to my point that the agitators in question enjoy an influence disproportionate to their numbers (although I think someone might have proffered a fake and undeserved apology). No action was taken, no one was fired, and regardless of the number of online petitions started and signed there was no significant loss in ratings or revenue.

 

This is actually a good question but I'm going to hold off on engaging with it fully because this conversation is already off-track. I really just wanted to needle ST for jumping on race-argument dilettantes when they don't immediately grasp his first principles.

If you were such a lover of comedy, you wouldn't be defending a joke that no one laughed at. If you were a lover of comedy, you would be booing just as loudly because the comic didn't have the skills to pull off the joke. You know who can be the toughest audience for a comic? Other comics. But under your stupid worldview, every time those comic bust each other's balls, that is leading to a ;chilling effect; (for the record those are bullshit quotes. I use those when I am speaking of things, I think are bullshit.)

I don't think I have to explain the difference between ball-breaking and opprobrium. In fact if you just admit that the Onion guy is a talentless shithead and not guilty of some unspeakable act of verbal defilement I don't think we have any real dispute.

That's not subjective at all. In fact people were angry.

People wont to get angry about that kind of thing got angry. Most people either didn't hear about it or didn't care. And yeah it's difficult for me get into a mindset where I would get angry at anything the Onion says because the semantic crux of most of its comedy is outrageous headline belied by inverse subtext, i.e., the actual joke of calling a nine year old girl a cunt is that no reasonable person would call a nine year old girl a cunt (like the joke of calling Joe Biden a skateboard riding bon vivant is that Joe Biden is sometimes gaffe-prone but generally a fairly serious political personality).

 

But everyone's entitled to an opinion. I just wish corporations weren't so happy to kiss the ring whenever the most sanctimonious members of the public come a'callin' (and maybe this is my white-maleness speaking but 1850's street racism is fucking hilarious).

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If it's overwhelmingly white males turning the conversation to bullshit then why are you the only one here caricaturing the other side as an AM radio pastiche? Don't get your Dashiki in a twist, bro. We're just having an internet conversation like two maladjusted adults.

 

I'll untwist my dashiki as soon as you put out the cross you and your buddies lit on my front lawn.

 

People wont to get angry about that kind of thing got angry. Most people either didn't hear about it or didn't care. And yeah it's difficult for me get into a mindset where I would get angry at anything the Onion says because the semantic crux of most of its comedy is outrageous headline belied by inverse subtext, i.e., the actual joke of calling a nine year old girl a cunt is that no reasonable person would call a nine year old girl a cunt (like the joke of calling Joe Biden a skateboard riding bon vivant is that Joe Biden is sometimes gaffe-prone but generally a fairly serious political personality).

 

So because the majority of white people didn't hear or didn't care about something then its socially acceptable to do? Gotcha! And this is what I don't understand, if there are so many "reasonable" people in the world, then how the hell is sexism or racism still around? Doesn't make sense, huh? It's like you and the Onion writers are living in some alternate white boy reality that is divorced from what is actually happening in the world. To make an analogous joke about Biden, they would have had to make the punchline about him being stupid white male. That is what the Onion did to Quvenzhane Wallis; the joke only "works" because she is a black female. Oh, and also, there would have to have a systematic disenfranchisement of white males in the country as a backdrop to make the Onion's type of "satire" (bullshit quotes, again) work.

 

I don't think I have to explain the difference between ball-breaking and opprobrium. In fact if you just admit that the Onion guy is a talentless shithead and not guilty of some unspeakable act of verbal defilement I don't think we have any real dispute.

 

I don't think I have to explain to you that negative feedback is negative feedback. And if other comics chastise other comics about the jokes that they it can lead to a chilling effect where they do safer jokes because they don't want to upset the other comics in the room. But if you meant that negative feedback coming from minorities (the butts of the joke, most of the time) is what is really damaging comedy, then just say so.

 

But everyone's entitled to an opinion. I just wish corporations weren't so happy to kiss the ring whenever the most sanctimonious members of the public come a'callin' (and maybe this is my white-maleness speaking but 1850's street racism is fucking hilarious).

 

Like Andrew says, white people are the worst.

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And this is what I don't understand, if there are so many "reasonable" people in the world, then how the hell is sexism or racism still around? Doesn't make sense, huh?

 

How does the existence of one thing negate the existence of something else? Can't there simultaneously be racist white people and non-racist white people?

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Racist.

 

HOW DARE YOU, SIR! I am a budding comedian and you saying that will stop me from telling more jokes, there will be a chilling effect. Why can't you take a joke? This is how comedy works. Blah, Blah, Blah!

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