As far as we at DMR towers are concerned no subject is too taboo to make jokes about, but context is everything. We have no problem with rape jokes, with jokes about murder, or incest, or child abuse – but there’s got to be a reason for them. We’ve done dozens of Reeva Steenkamp jokes over the past fortnight but absolutely none of them were at the expense of the victim. With satire especially, you have to always be on the side of humanity.
The Onion’s ‘Quvenzhané Wallis seems kind of a cunt’ tweet is a great example. Conceptually I think it absolutely stands up as a valid joke – it’s clearly ironic, and clearly poking fun at a desensitised social media universe where there will always be someone who legitimately thinks that. It simply taking the extreme opposite standpoint of a general consensus.
What it is lacking, though, is an awareness of the wider world. Primarily, that you’re talking about a 9 year old girl – and to do that you really really have to be making a bigger point. Social media is a very reactionary format and they should have been savvy enough to know the life-beyond-the-instant that sort of statement would have.
That girl will now forever be associated with ‘cunt’. Many many years down the line, when she has lead a full life, filled with achievements and success, that word will still be there. It will feature in an obituary one day, and that’s the real criticism here. It’s not an issue of humour, but an issue of editing. It’s not that it shouldn’t have been written, it’s that it shouldn’t have been sent.
To give The Onion their credit, though, I thought their apology was very well considered.
Last week, when the Daily Mail was gleefully reporting on the issue of ‘white flight’ from London I wrote a tweet which is still sat in my drafts folder, It said:
CENSUS: Pakis, immigrants and muzzies drive white population from London. And if you complain they’ll call you racist!”
It’s meant to be repugnant. It’s meant to be horrible to read. We’ve written before about how satire should come from a place of anger, and that tweet absolutely was. The article, and the comments below it, carried the same levels of racism, hate, fear and lies as contained in those offensive terms, and I was just cutting through the bullshit.
The Daily Mail feeds on that kind of attitude. It is a fundamentally racist publication; purposely creating division among races (and, to give them their credit, economic class, gender, sexuality and any other classification of person you wish to name). The overriding theme is of an (indigenous) white population under siege from an invading army of foreigners typified, at least by their pictures editor, by women in burkas flicking the V.
The comments sections is overflowing with carefully moderated insinuation. There’s no space for considered thought, or debate, or rationality. It’s a free-for-all gripefest about how, well, the pakis, immigrants and muzzies are ruining everything. For example, a recent article about a primary school where all the children speak English as a second language improving it’s OFSTED report was met with the following top rated responses:
The important thing here isn’t that the comments were made, it’s that they were approved by the paper and approved of by its readers. These are opinions constructed from a promoted worldview of suspicion and propaganda because, above all else, it brings in the bucks.
I didn’t publish that census tweet in the end, not because it wasn’t valid but because I just didn’t really want our followers to have those words appear in their timelines. People wouldn’t have retweeted it, and if in some bizarre way the tweet had become widely popular it would almost certainly have lost it’s ironic context pretty quickly.
There’s another joke that I’ve sat on for over a year now about the Taxpayers Alliance. I’m fairly sure it’s ok, it’s just really… vulgar… and while there is a larger point behind it, I’m not sure that’ll come through enough and all it’ll be noted for is the vulgarity.
I will say this, though: Daily Mail readers seem kind of like cunts.