On Jokes and Insults: A Year Later

Do you remember this post from last year? It was about how jokes stop being funny if they cause people emotional pain. Someone commented on it yesterday, claiming prejudiced jokes reduce violence against the stereotyped group. They also said some awful things about Islam as a religion and the people who practice it.

I just had to respond. Because what. I failed to find evidence supporting their claim re:jokes and violence, but found a study that concluded prejudice jokes can encourage discriminatory behavior in people who already discriminate against the stereotyped group.

Then I got another response. It’s quite long and touches on several disparate points, so I decided to answer it here.

Check the link to read the original post + comments. My response to the latest (and the latest itself) is below. By all means, please feel free to comment with your own thoughts on the matters discussed, because they do not have single, defined answers, nor are they things I claim absolute authority over.

To people who do not have an intimate knowledge of Islam it only appears to be a religion – Islam has religious, legal, political, economic and military components. The religious component is a beard for all the other components. I suppose giving a link here would be futile.

I don’t have an intimate knowledge of Islam, or really any religion, but I have a cursory knowledge of quite a few. Have you ever read Deuteronomy? It’s rife with laws, rules, guidelines, etc for politics, war, and all other parts of life. Would you discredit Christianity and Judaism as religions for such things?

In addition, all Abrahamic religions (which includes Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) stem from the same source. Hence why they are all religions of Abraham.

As for jokes and violence, at the link you pointed me to, there was nothing that said jokes against a group makes one act in violence against that group; in fact: “when we consider groups that most people discriminate against, and feel they are justified in doing so, disparaging humor towards that group does not foster discriminatory acts against them.”

A) I never claimed, or even insinuated, the study said anything about violence. B) My original point was that jokes, though intended for humor, can in fact be hurtful, and people should both be aware that there is a line and react appropriately when they cross it. I said nothing about violence.

But he did write something interesting: “there are other social groups that it was once acceptable to discriminate against, but over time we have slowly shifted our views and consider prejudice against them as unjustified. Among these groups are women, racial and religious minorities, and gays and lesbians. These groups suffered historically from discrimination but today, more and more people agree that discriminating against them is immoral and wrong.”

It is a shame the author did not investigate why after more than a century of so-called hateful discriminatory jokes against these groups, that prejudice against them is now considered unjustified. I believe it was jokes that reduced that prejudice, and consequently violent acts against them.

And I’m sure women like Wendy Davis and Anita Sarkeesian have had anything to do with the (slowly) diminishing discrimination against women. Certainly the feminists movements of today and the past have done nothing to raise awareness of sexism and push the country toward greater equality between men and women.

I’m so happy you brought this to my attention. Now when I get cat-called, insulted, belittled, and mocked on a daily basis, for no other reason than me being female, I can rest assured that my pain and anguish serves the greater good. Because by allowing them to make these hurtful jokes, I’m doing my part to decrease discrimination against women!

Yeah. Right.

The purpose of jokes is to stimulate laughter, And laughter is what makes us friendlier to one another: “Primal laughter evolved as a signaling device to highlight readiness for friendly interaction..” [source]

Something I can agree with! Laughter is awesome, BUT! not when it comes at the expense of another. Causing hurt is kind of the opposite of what a joke is generally meant to do.

How about this: A study from psychologists at the universities of Kent and Liverpool has revealed that laughter increases altruism towards strangers

Well, that’s cool. Though altruism is kind of weird, that’s also an entirely different topic.

However, what jokes are all about is not a topic simple enough to cover in short commentary bursts. It is easy to note from FBI reports that there is an inverse relationship over the past decades between the number of guns and gun violence – that is: it appears the more guns results in less gun violence, although searching the phrase ‘guns reduce violence’ will not bring up any direct links, even though it is true.

Um… tell that to Newtown, CT. And Aurora, CO. And Gabrielle Giffords. Not saying you’re wrong, but without concrete, statistically-significant evidence from a controlled experiment, I really cannot believe more guns = less gun violence. Because you know, correlation does not imply causation, not everything you read on the Internet is true, 87% of statistics are made up, and so on.

The same inverse relationship can be seen in the proliferation of porn and the reduction in rapes and violence against women. However, in this case “porn reduces rape” does seem to bring up direct, cogent search results. In the case of gun violence there is so much emotional and political noise that getting to actual studies is difficult.

Uh, okay.

So when I wrote that jokes reduce violence, it is the result of 6 decades of reading about jokes – that jokes are a social lubricant, that ‘humor defuses anger’ (google that last phrase and you’ll get better results – sometimes it’s just the way one turns a phrase that helps get better search results).

I never disagreed that humor can certainly defuse anger, but that is a drastically different conclusion than saying jokes built off prejudices reduce violence against the stereotyped group. Regardless, much of the discrimination women, minorities, the LGBTQ community, and others face is not in the form of violence. It’s hateful remarks that hurt to the core. They make you feel like you’re less than a person, less deserving of respect and decency just because you’re female, or gay, or Latino, or an ESL learner, or whatever else.

Stereotype jokes can be funny. They can also be offensive, and sometimes that’s part of what makes them funny. But they can also be hurtful. That’s when they cross the line. They lose the humor, and no longer defuse anger. Instead, they generate it. They generate anger and pain in those they mock.

And that is not funny. At all.

Not finding something on the Internet is not probative evidence of anything.

what do we have here

Oh. Thank you for that. I really had no idea.


About Squishy

Writer, dancer, gamer, and admirer of all that is beautiful.

Posted on July 3, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I’ll keep it simple – one point at a time.

    Deuteronomy does not control the life of a modern Jew or Christian as the Quran does of Muslims. No Jew has ever killed another Jew for over 2000 years because that Jew failed to observe the Sabbath or committed adultery or blasphemed or disobeyed his parents because those savage passages were abrogated by the rabbis more than two millennia ago, Islam still follows those savage laws in their Shariah.

    I won’t give a link but those of your readers who want to know more can google “The Difference Between the Quran and the Torah by bernie” my article will be the top result in the major search engines where I explain that the Old Testament is a history book which recounts the relationship between God and the Jews, and the Quran is a military handbook which urges Muslims to struggle (Jihad) against unbelievers and to establish a World Caliphate.

    • It’s cute you think I have readers. You realize you somehow managed to stumble onto a rarely-used personal blog, yes? All to… start a debate? Or be a troll? Or something? Really, I’d completely forgotten this thing existed until you showed up.

      That aside, you’re completely entitled to your own beliefs, but since you’re on my personal blog… Well.

      tl;dr — The OT and Quran are both religious texts a great many people follow. Though there are extreme fundamentalists on both sides who do awful and terrible things, that shouldn’t overshadow the vast majority of followers who want nothing but peace and happiness.

      To say the Old Testament is a history book insinuates it should be taught in history classes. To my knowledge, that’s not even the case in religious schools. Now, if we assume for a minute that Moses existed and wrote the Torah around 1400 BCE, that text would have been translated, copied, and rewritten innumerable times since then to create the Torah we know now. I’m sure I don’t need to explain how easily it is for meaning to be lost, changed, confused, turned around, and overall misunderstood in all that. It’s basically the world’s largest game of Telephone, in literary and multilingual form. If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about, then you probably have never used a translator, nor tried to translate something yourself. To think the OT is an accurate depiction of historical fact is quite naive.

      That’s not to say the OT is without meaning or purpose, but it is not a history book. It is a religious text, much like–dun dun DUN!– the QURAN! Both are religious texts used by Abrahamic religions and detail many of the same events. Both have a large portion of believers, many of whom have vastly different interpretations of said religious texts and different methods of worship. Take Jihad for example. Certain Sunni and Shiite fundamentalists, and particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, have replaced the Greater Jihad, the internal struggle against humanly desires, with the Lesser Jihad, the holy-war-like struggle against those who do not follow Allah. Or if you prefer, they’ve ignored the Jihad of the Heart and replaced it entirely with Jihad of the Sword. Sufic, Quranist, Ahmadiyya, as well as some Sunni and numerous Islamic scholars, jurists, etc. (basically the majority of the Islamic population) focus on the Greater Jihad. It’s a struggle within oneself, to fight against desire and greed, to speak truth and only act in accordance with greater justice. To do no evil. The sword is to be used in defensive measures only.

      I bet if you stopped mocking those who are Muslim or thinking about converting, and instead asked them what draws them to the religion, you’d know some of that. Or turned on the news! Do you even know what’s going on in Egypt? How the whole country is telling the Muslim Brotherhood to gtfo?

  2. Again, one point at a time: the FBI reports that there has been an explosion in gun ownership in the past few decades while during that same period gun violence has dramatically been reduced – these are facts not my opinion; my opinion is that they are related. Newtown experienced gun violence precisely because it was in a gun-free zone. Not to belittle the tragedy or to put blame on the school but there would have been less deaths if there were more guns among the teachers.

    As proof, consider that Israeli children live in one of the most dangerous, murderous areas of the world where terrorists believe it is well and proper to go into schools and kill children. Before 1970 that’s what they did. However, since the 1970s, after Israel instituted the program of armed citizen guards in the schools, not a single child has been murdered in an Israeli school. Not. one. single. child.

    Yes, it is true – correlation does not imply causation, but I like those Israeli school statistics: mucho guns = nada gun violence.

    • Gun violence is a incredibly complex issue. Making schools more secure is definitely part of a good solution. But making it harder for criminals or mentally unstable people to acquire firearms is another part. Making mental help more accessible is another part. Education is another part. Complex issues, particularly ones involving society as a whole, rarely have simple answers. I don’t think giving guns to everyone and their dog is the best answer here.

      But this is way off-topic, considering guns and violence factored in nowhere in my original argument. ヽ(‘ー`)ノ

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