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Nov 07 2010

Can’t take a joke? Confirmation bias too strong?

I read a blog post today. It was one of several that I took time to look at. This post in particular was made by someone who was angry about something they saw on the Internet.

What was it they saw? They read an article from The Onion. For those of you not familiar with The Onion (though I don’t know how you might have missed it), it is a news satire organization. It is an entertainment newspaper (and a website) which features satirical articles on all types of fictitious news. Articles from the newspaper and web have been reprinted in numerous volumes available at your local book store. I frequently find their articles and videos extremely funny.

One article in particular at The Onion made someone quite angry. I’m not going to identify them, or the article they were upset about. I respect them, and they don’t need any extra grief.

I commented on their blog post, but my own comment still awaits moderation, while a few others have gotten through—all supporting the author’s point. [I dont want to claim confirmation bias, but it does kinda look that way.] I commented anonymously, hoping to prevent any ruffled feathers, but I guess that when it comes down to it, I really have no shame. They’ll know who I am now, regardless.

In my comment I asked whether The Onion had, as they had suggested, crossed the line.

I then provided a list of the headlines from several articles from The Onion. That list was similar to this:

  • It’s Hard When A Close Relative Of Somebody You Pretend To Like Dies
  • Another Bunch Of Southerners Dead
  • Terri Schiavo Dies Of Embarrassment
  • Fake-A-Wish Foundation Introduces Dying Child To Brett Favre Lookalike
  • Thousands Dead In Indonesia Again
  • African Child Dies Despite Merlin Olsen Endorsement
  • Scientists Teach Gorilla It Will Die Someday
  • Long-Awaited Baby Boomer Die-Off To Begin Soon, Experts Say
  • Local Woman Dies Of Lost Cell Phone
  • 6-Year-Old Cries When Told MTM Productions Kitten Dead By Now
  • Family Now Openly Wondering When Grandma Will Die
  • I Lost 32 Pounds In 15 Days And Died!

Did The Onion cross some line? Why even bother to ask? The Onion, in producing their satirical pieces, steps on the toes and sensibilities of people from every walk of life. Nothing is sacred. People are frequently upset by what they read in The Onion. A brief search in Google confirmed for me that many blog posts have been written by people who complain that The Onion has “crossed the line.”

Each of those bloggers, it seems, has their own particular line to be crossed. It’s okay for The Onion to make fun of subject ‘A’, but never okay for anyone to deal in a non-serious manner with subject ‘B’. Each of those people appears to have their own particular verboten subject, about which joking is not to be tolerated.

Stand aside... Serious Business!

What is it that makes people think that their particular cause, idea, doctrine, perception, or whatever, is so important that it deserves protection even from satire? How can people honestly think that they deserve this special treatment? Do they believe that the world owes their particular agenda a degree of respect over everything else?

I am forced to ask, “Has your sense of humor honestly been ruined to that degree by the events in your life?” How many people are unable to laugh at themselves and their situation, even if it’s a horrible situation? Rodney Dangerfield made a career out of self-deprecating humor. Are there people who never laughed at any of his jokes?

I have cancer; Hodgkin lymphoma, to be more precise. They used to just call it Hodgkins disease. What do you call a person who gets lymphoma over and over again? A lymphomaniac. *chuckle* Not funny enough? How about this: Cancer Humor on Twitter

I’m not a totally callous, heartless bastard, though. There are certain situations in which I would not joke about certain subjects with certain people. I wouldn’t make a joke about 9/11 to someone who had lost a loved one in the events of that day. I wouldn’t joke about drinking and driving with someone who is on their way to court to be sentenced on a DUI conviction. I wouldn’t joke about head cancer with someone who was diagnosed with a brain tumor the previous day. Does that mean that 9/11 jokes, drunk driving jokes, or cancer jokes are never funny? No. Does that mean those kind of jokes are forever off limits? No.

We’re all going to die. Some of us are going to do it sooner or later than others, but there’s no way to escape the inevitable conclusion of life. Why not enjoy it while we can and have a laugh once in a while, even if it is at our own expense, or the expense of someone close to us who also has their own sense of humor.

1 comment

  1. khan

    Like yours, my sense of humor is an acquired taste.
    Also like Bill Hicks, George Carlin…

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