Thank you Jason Steed @5thCircAppeals. America thanks you for your persuasive argument about why Donald Trump wasn’t “just joking” when he called for Hillary Clinton’s assassination.
You don’t know me. But in a crucial way, you do know me. I have been in the past, and will inevitably be again and again, the kid in the hallway referenced in your dissertation. I’m only human. In fact, all of us have been that kid in the hallway, waiting nervously for acceptance and fearing rejection under the scrutiny of peers.
Your dissection of humor as a social tool to alienate or accept ideas and people is insightful and incisive. It’s popular to hide hate behind the mask of politically incorrect humor. I’m speaking not only of Trump and the rabid supporters who cheer his most outrageous declarations including his call for assassinating his opponent, but of the professional comics such as Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock.
I’m talking about the comics who complain that college audiences are too politically correct to find humor in their jokes. I’m talking about the people who defend cultural-misappropriation-themed fraternity parties such as “Colonial Bros & Nava-ho’s” and “Crip-mas.” I’m talking about the advocates at organizations such as Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, who document how white students are being oppressed by people who object to such parties. They believe something must be wrong with college students if they can’t accept a joke. That’s their explanation. And that’s their cover for antipathy and hate.
Your dissertation uncovered a different explanation, one that has been recognized by the wittiest men throughout history. People like Aristotle and Hobbes. The superiority theory, the relief theory and the incongruity theory together offer the best explanation for how humor functions in our society. All jokes are designed to do one of two things. Either make people laugh at themselves, to feel relief. Or laugh at others, to feel superior. There is no in-between.
It’s time for the anti-PC crowd to stop insisting that a joke is a joke, that there is no difference between feeling relief and feeling superior. You are asking us to accept your worldview by laughing with you. Those who have the courage to resist laughing along and object to your worldview are mocked. Instead, let me ask those who feel superior to stand by your conviction with pride. I ask you to take off the mask of “it’s just a joke.” Haters, own your hate.
A link to Mr. Steed’s dissertation is posted on his twitter feed. Follow @5thCircAppeals on Twitter.