I honestly feel like the relationship between humor and violence (in relation to the mosque shooting) is almost as backwards as the relationship between video games and violence (for example, the aftermath Columbine and other shootings). Perhaps it’s a matter of people watching what they say, but what progress does that allow us?
Blaming humor for violent acts made by others is liking pointing a finger. The people mentioned in the shooter’s manifesto are now being attacked and blamed for the act. It’s a witch hunt. I am sure there are people mentioned in the manifesto and/or live stream who believe the act in New Zealand was a terrible thing (PewDiePie), and some who intentionally incited violence (Dylan Roof). When we read the list of names mentioned in the manifesto, we are only fueling the fire. When we call these people out and push people to dislike them just because a lunatic (who actually KILLED people) mentioned their name, progress has ceased. Are we so animalistic that we pounce on something just because it makes a weird noise?
It seems impossible to attack an opponent who uses humor, but what can we do aside from bring attention to it or ignore it? If we use digital writing to address this type of humor, we will only appeal to the people who generally agree with us. The trolls will keep trolling.
There can be a gray area between laughing with others and laughing at others, so it’s important to be able to spot the difference. Negative humor is insensitive, can break down confidence, is offensive, puts people against one another, reinforces stereotypes and is just plain ol’ rude. Positive humor, though, still exists, as there is humor that is based on empathy, building confidence, is inclusive, brings people closer and is actually funny.
A popular TV entity, which I believe is a conduit for both positive and negative humor, is the infamous Saturday Night Live.
A couple of weeks after 9/11, SNL invited the mayor of NYC, firefighters and police officers to join the stage for the opening monologue. After a time of American grief, “comedians were at a loss.” The mayor maintained that it was important for institutions like SNL to continue on. Lorne Michaels asked, “Can we be funny?” The mayor responded, “Why start now?”
Through this statement, the Mayor Giuliani supported laughter as a remedy to the tragedy and heartbreak that surrounds us.
SNL, though, is also known for their not-so-funny skits. For example, their ISIS skit with Dakota Johnson, which the internet did not find funny…at all. People were quick to point out that making a joke out of a group that actually slaughters people was in poor taste and inconsiderate to the families of the victims. And, of course, SNL did not respond to the backlash.
Jeet Heer does not do much when bringing thoughtful ideas to the table that can actually be used to combat the type of “jokiness” he describes. With a pack mentality, it can be hard to knock the jokesters off their pedestal by ignoring them, when several other people will be laughing along with them.
This may or may not sound like a bad idea, but I think one of the best ways to make a joke die down quickly is by asking the jokester to explain the joke. The person making the joke might make a jab at you and say that you’re stupid for asking, but then that just makes them look like an asshole and someone who doesn’t understand the meaning behind their own words. If they do end up explaining the “joke,” it turns up dead due to over-analyzation. Then, it’s just not funny anymore. It also makes the person making the joke to realize what they are saying.
I suggest we try addressing the jokes as tasteless, but we shouldn’t get caught up in fighting fire with fire.