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Thursday, December 09, 2010

What's funny, what's not.

The news of late has had a lot of stories about Wikileaks and it's founder, Assange.  I won't wade into my thoughts on the whole thing right now, as others have said what I think far better than I would have. 

What I'm going to touch on today is humour - or lack of it, as the case may be.  A while back, sumdood named Flanagan, identified as senior advisor to PM Harper, made a comment during an interview suggesting that Assange should be assassinated.  I found out about this when the anti-right folks I know and follow practically shat their drawers over it, with a flurry of link sharing on their facebook pages, outraged blog posts, editorials and more.  When it was pointed out that a) Flanagan is a *former* advisor to the PM, and now is basically just another nobody like the rest of us, and b) the remark was flippant and off the cuff humour, the outrage and disgust merely morphed from "it's disgusting for him to call for an assassination" to "it's disgusting for him to even joke about assassination."  It was truly fascinating to watch the anti-right (and for the people I know personally, they are usually intelligent, rational and smart - it's only when politics or religion are brought up that their brains explode into emotional irrationality, fear and hatred) freaking out over a stupid joke.  Especially considering how many on the anti-right have called for the arrest, death and occasional dismemberment of prominent people on the right, such as GWB, Palin or PM Harper.  The difference being that they quite obviously were serious about their comments and upset that no one was following through with their wishes. 

Perhaps most disturbing is that now, Flanagan is actually being investigated for his remark.  If every person who made remarks like this, flippant or otherwise, were investigated, charged and jailed, we'd probably end up losing half our population, if not more - and from my personal observations, most of them would be people on the political left, who also seem to eager to censor or call for the arrest of those who disagree with them.

Most of this I generally tried to ignore, but I saw a new one today that had me thinking about that whole humour thing I mentioned earlier.  One of my anti-right friends - a talented and otherwise intelligent woman, shared a link with this comment.

"Wassamatta?  Cantcha take a joke?  What a creep."

Curious, I followed her link to the Globe and Mail (aka the Mop and Pail).  The story is of a woman (who voted Liberal in the last election, the article made sure to mention) who was "justifiably outraged" by Flanagan's joke, sent him an email.  She wrote:

The e-mail that Ms. Reymond sent to Mr. Flanagan was blunt: “So you are in favour of assassinating people that you disagree with. Does the Reform Party have no ethical basis? Agree with us or get assassinated?”
 To which he replied with just one line.

“Better be careful, we know where you live.”
I admit, I just about laughed out loud when I read that.  Flanagan clearly has a very twisted sense of humour.  It was a stupid joke to make - obviously someone who wrote the email she did wouldn't get it.

Not only didn't she get the joke, but she even "immediately called the police," was unable to sleep because she felt threatened by it, then went to the media over it, leading to the G&M headline, Tom Flanagan threatened me over wikileaks comment

She said she is not asking that criminal charges be laid against Mr. Flanagan.
“I just want an apology from him and assurance that he won't harm me.”
Good Lord.  She actually believes Flanagan would hunt her down and harm her?  All this tells me is that she's a rather special little snowflake who needs to go back to that special little bubble so many anti-rightists seem to live in.  On the other hand, maybe she needs to stay away from them.  After all, she had to get the idea that he might actually mean to harm her from somewhere and, as I mentioned before, when the anti-rightists make these sorts of comments, they clearly aren't joking.  Likewise, observing them at various protests and demonstrations, I would have to say that comments like this from one of them would actually warrant concern.

Then I thought of the comment my anti-right friend made when she shared this article.   Let's look at this again, now that we've read the story.

"Wassamatta?  Cantcha take a joke?  What a creep."

Ignoring the rather condescending "accent" she chose to write in - an attempt at being flippant herself, perhaps - let's look at the content.  After reading the article, clearly it was Flanagan making the joke and this Ms. Raymond didn't get it.  However, the writer of this comment was among those outraged by Flanagan's comments originally.  So she's actually saying that Flanagan is the person who can't take a joke and is a creep.  What joke does she mean?  I know it can't be Flanagan's "we know where you live" line.  Does that mean she thinks Raymond's email was a joke?  Let's look again at the portion of her email that's quoted.

“So you are in favour of assassinating people that you disagree with. Does the Reform Party have no ethical basis? Agree with us or get assassinated?”
Does that look like any kind of joke?  Maybe I don't get leftist humour, but I'm not seeing it. 

Now, having been at the receiving end of some rather nasty comments from both the left and the right, I'm no stranger to attempts at intimidation, threats, insults and so on.  There is a distinct difference between those from the right and the left.  Folks on the right will simply tell me I'm insane or whatever for holding a position they disagree with.  Those on the left try to intimidate me (drives them bonkers when it doesn't work) and hold moral sway over me (which also doesn't work).  When it comes to threats, there's another significant difference.  A person on the right might threaten to punch me or something, we post back and forth for a while, then in the end we either part ways on the subject or I get invited over for a beer; even if we never come to agree.  Those on the left, however, become increasingly vicious in their personal insults, increasingly outraged and emotional, then simply break contact; they have no interest in seeing/reading a differing point of view, and certainly not from someone who can challenge their own views on a point by point basis, with references. *L* 

Which is a long way to say I've been at the receiving end of some pretty nasty stuff that clearly was no intended as a joke.  Most of the time I read them out to the rest of the family and we all get a good laugh out of the people who think so highly of themselves that they feel I should be intimidated by them.

In the case of the email exchange as quoted in the article, as well as other related stories I've read, I'm increasingly finding Flanagan hilarious.  My anti-right friend clearly does not.

I still don't get her comment, though.

update: Dec. 14

After I wrote this, I was able to get Eldest to go over it with an editorial eye.  As we talked about it later, she suggested a possible explanation for my anti-conservative friend's comment.  Eldest suggested that she actually *did* get that Flanagan's one line response to the email was intended to be a joke.  Her comment, then, was in the first part (the "wassamatta" part) supposed to be in Flanagan's voice, and the second part (calling him a creep) was her feelings about it.  I think my daughter might be right, however if she is, this is how I would now interpret the comment.  First, based on the "accent" the comment was written in, this person was projecting onto Flanagan a sort of ignorance or mentally inept thought process.  Considering I don't think anyone has ever heard Flanagan speak like that, it would be pure projection on her part (and, one could argue, a projection of racial/cultural stereotypes based on the "accent" which, in turn, shows a level of prejudice I would not have expected of her).  Then, in the second part, she finds him a creep... based on her interpretation and projections of his thoughts that are impossible for her to know, but which she seems to be quite comfortable assuming.

Which makes me wonder more about the person who wrote this comment, than the article she was responding to.

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