Bad jokes

  • Thunderf00t. I don’t know anybody who sounds more stuck-up and annoying than him, jeering at everything.
  • The caricatures of politicians or stars, drawn in lewd ways, especially when there’s a sex scandal.
  • Misogynistic jokes (I hear them often enough).
  • Racist jokes (some aren’t meant to be funny).
  • Jokes against men (my chemistry teacher used to make them).

I avoid the things I dislike, the things that I consider to be in bad taste, I think it’s bad to sneer and jeer at every word a person says, or to draw a public figure in pornographic ways and post them over the internet. And as for jokes, I try to become friends with people who might make them, but who would know they’re horrible jokes to make.

However, it’s necessary for us to be able to make these jokes. Not that they are made, but that we are capable of making them. The alternative is prohibiting them – and this prohibition cannot be a subtle thing that only goes against “the bad stuff”, but it would start hurting everyone who makes “tasteless” jokes. What does it mean for something to be in bad taste, for something to be tasteless? Depending on the person, it’s always something slightly different.

In China they’ve implemented a few laws against offending public sensibilities. It went “brilliantly”: 20 young women were arrested for writing love stories about men. Do we want to be the same? Do we want to arrest introverted girls for having fantasies? Do we want to fine people for saying offensive things? No, at least I don’t want that. Let them say it, because otherwise the situation can be a lot more tragic.

We live in a fairly free world, which is a huge advantage, even if some people don’t really understand how things work. Sometimes freedom allows unpleasant things to happen because of a few people, but there we need to discuss, educate, debate, even scold. When you put a limit on freedom, you put a limit on everybody’s freedom. Yes, some people remain capable of doing what they want to do, if they stay within the decided norms, but they can never change their opinions, or make other decisions than the ones that are approved by others. It becomes absurd.

You don’t have to agree with what someone says to defend their right to say that thing. Sometimes you can fight along with the odious to make sure the world stays the way you want it to be. And there are moments when you let the debate on good taste and bad taste slide to be able to see the wider picture.

Because if you start taking a joke as a provocation against faiths and moral and spiritual values, and if you think that joke justifies a violent reaction against the person who said it, you’re wrong. You weigh things differently for two different groups of people, you adjust to what you oughtn’t adjust to, you justify the unjustifiable. You can’t say “The people they provoked were violent, they should have stayed put and not offended them”, without being aware that you’re placing power in the hands of the brutal group. You won’t allow the civilized and calm to have scathing remarks, but you do your best not to offend those who are violent.

You can reach an equilibrium here only if everyone becomes violent, so that none of us can be offended without everyone fearing that if they attack our “personal values”, things will end with shootings and wounded people.

If this is the case, stand-up comedians like Jimmy Carr should be eviscerated by the Catholic church, nearly any religious teacher “is provoking” students by telling them they’re committing a sin for acting like normal people (isn’t it offensive, to be told you’re sinful because of who you are?). Freemasons should probably kill everyone who’s a conspiracy theorist, because conspiracy theorists think freemasons are all the evil in the world, which is insulting. And none of us would ever be able to joke around with friends, just in case they decide to stick knives in our back for a bad joke.

Freedom is the same for all, or it isn’t freedom. And justifying one group, but not the other, means creating privileged groups and different rules for different groups, which will sooner or later end up badly.


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