Here’s some noteworthy reading while I’m floating around in a few math problems.
A recent New York Times video compiled over a year of reporting at Trump rallies revealed the degree to which many of Trump’s supporters unapologetically express violence and hatred—for women, immigrants, and people of color. And Trump eschews any responsibility for what has transpired, repeatedly claiming he does not condone violence—his own rhetoric, that of his associates, and other evidence notwithstanding.
Still, to focus only on Trump is to ignore a broader and deeper acceptance, even encouragement of, incitement to violence by the GOP that began long before the 2016 campaign.
In 2008, in what may appear to be a now forgotten but eerily prescient peek at the 2016 RNC, then-GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), and his running mate, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, used race-baiting and hints at violence to gin up their crowds.
What we choose to laugh about together says something about who we are, either because we’re laughing at a particular group of people in a way that excludes them from our in-group, or because we’re laughing about a particular idea or value that is part of how we define ourselves, or something along those lines. Which is why I think, ethically, we should be mindful about what we choose to accept as funny and what we choose to join in on. […]
You’re trying to float the idea in a more safe way, using humor where maybe — you have an out. And that’s what I mean by assimilation and alienation. If they don’t join in and accept it, you can try to say, “I was just joking.” And that’s your defense. “I didn’t really mean it.”
But that’s my point about just joking: There is something that you’re sort of floating. And if they welcome it, if they embrace it, you’re not going to defend yourself by saying you were just joking. You’re opening the door to assimilate that idea and take it further than how you floated it.
There’s science to back this up, too, under the banner of “disparagement humour.”
Humor theorists have argued that disparagement humor has negative consequences at both the individual or psychological level and at the macrosociological level. At the individual level, disparagement humor is thought to create and reinforce negative stereotypes and prejudice toward the targeted group (e.g., Berger, 1993; Freud, 1905/1960; La Fave & Mannell, 1976; Meyer, 2001; Ruscher, 2001; Stephenson, 1951; Zenner, 1970). Martineau (1972), for instance, suggested that the initiation of disparagement humor serves a divisive function: It creates and reinforces hostility toward the targeted group.
By reinforcing negative stereotypes and prejudice at the individual level, disparagement humor is thought to maintain cultural or societal prejudice at the macrosociological level. Husband (1977), for instance, proposed that racist humor depicted on television reinforces stereotypes and prejudice among racist people and thus functions to perpetuate a racist society. Similarly, Sev’er and Ungar (1997) suggested that disparagement humor functions as a means of social control, allowing members of the dominant group in society to maintain their privileged position.
Ferguson, Mark A., and Thomas E. Ford. “Disparagement humor: A theoretical and empirical review of psychoanalytic, superiority, and social identity theories.” Humor-International Journal of Humor Research 21.3 (2008): 283-312.
And if you’re familiar with the anti-choice movement, you already know how this will circle back.
That’s what women’s health and reproductive rights advocates are repeating in the wake of Friday’s shooting at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs that killed three people and left nine others injured.
“How we talk about abortion matters,” wrote columnist Jessica Valenti at the Guardian on Sunday. “We know it, and anti-choice extremists and politicians know it… Do we really think that there are no consequences to claiming that abortion is murder, or that Planned Parenthood is an organization of money-hungry monsters selling baby parts?”
Those consequences, said Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains president and CEO Vicki Cowart immediately after the attack, include the creation of “a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country.”