When a joke just isn’t funny
Controversial humour. We’ve all heard the ‘jokes’ that fit this category before. They range from somewhat acceptable digs at ‘yo mama’ to serious jibes about culture, race, religion and sexual preferences.
It was also the disclaimer of sorts that Facebook inserted into the Aboriginal Memes URL before the page was eventually taken down yesterday—as if to say it was more acceptable when operating under the guise of humour.
Copycat pages have since surfaced in a more horrible (hard to fathom), albeit a somewhat less targeted format just hours after the Aboriginal Memes page was no longer accessible: “Things that will offend people,” and “Being offensive for the hell of it”, are just some of the latest distasteful outlets which have emerged solely for the purpose of offending people.
It makes you wonder: what kind of person actually seeks out to offend others anyway? What do your friends, colleagues, and neighbours think of issues like this?
Yesterday, it was revealed that all kinds of everyday Australians had ‘liked’ the hate-filled page. People proudly ‘liked’ the appalling comments and pictures, despite many of them absent-mindedly listing their workplaces on their profiles. They were people who claimed to be from facets of our own Government: from the Australian Navy, Consumer Affairs Victoria, and Centrelink.
Sure, you’re entitled to have an opinion. But perhaps you might want to clear your personal viewpoints with your employer first to check that you’re representing their thoughts accurately too? Unless, of course, your resume declared that you were a fan of dark humour with racist overtones.
But you also have to ask if this just a case of people being too easily offended these days. Are we all just too damn sensitive?
For one thing, Tony Abbott says it’s a key word he plans to ditch from the Racial Discrimination Act if elected to office, declaring that the freedom to ‘offend’ should be a fundamental component of free speech.
The section he refers to—18C—currently deems it unlawful to do or say something that ‘‘is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people’’ on racial or ethnic grounds.
So, where is the line? Well there’s some shit that just isn’t funny. Laughing at the disadvantage that is faced by some is one such instance. But enter the clever placement of the words like ‘controversial’ or ‘humour’, and it seems you’ve got yourself some kind of justification for it.
Other pages that Facebook deems ‘controversial humour’? Well there are ‘dead baby jokes’, ‘racist jokes’, and a myriad of others that endeavour to make light of everything from disabilities to sexual preferences. On the whole, it’s shocking stuff.
But it seems that’s what it’s all about. Indeed, the creator of the page devoted to ‘dead baby jokes’ concedes it is all about the shock factor: “...it was obvious to me that these types of jokes were purely figurative, simple dramatic irony with a play on shock humor. I find it hard to see how a conscious intellectual could view these jokes as literal, but unfortunately this world is not filled with conscious individuals. Dead baby jokes are funny because they incite controversy and are unexpected.”
But perhaps a reasonable person would say they are unexpected because of how far we have truly come as a society. This kind of behaviour simply shouldn’t exist in this day and age. It many ways, it reeks of an era that our country has tried so hard to leave behind and evolve beyond.
But even before Facebook’s ‘memes’ became commonplace, this kind of scenario was already doing the rounds at pubs, dinner tables, and on television screens near you. Controversial humour, that is. It just wasn’t so readily accessible. It didn’t have the exposure that it does on social media.
Are you appalled? Disgusted? Well, you wouldn’t believe it, but the creator of ‘dead baby jokes’ has some (mostly) sensible advice for you: “...if you really are as *outrageously* offended by these jokes as you say you are, due to personal experiences, delusional moral standards, or whatever I recommend you not post on my wall, you’re not going to find sympathy or relief from your grief, you’re also not changing anything or making the world a better place, you’re giving internet trolls something to do…”
The message is this: while we can’t escape the fact that some people will offend just for the sake of it, we can do something to minimise our exposure to it—at least to some extent.
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