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Here’s what NOT to do while in law school

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I have always found this adage instructive: all jokes are half true.

 

The point being that when we joke around, it's often a way of telling people what we really think - with plausible deniability. If you think jokes invoking stereotypes are hilarious, it's frequently because you think the stereotype exists for a reason and you believe the joke expresses a truth you could not otherwise acknowledge without social consequence. We all know that we tell certain jokes around certain groups of people and we keep our mouths shut when other groups of people are within earshot.

 

This is human nature. it is not one of the better sides of human nature. (*This is also not All Jokes. Please for God's sake read this post and understand I am not saying All Jokes. The jokes to which I refer meet the pornography test: you know them when you hear them.)

 

I've come to believe that a lot of "joking around" is really passive aggressive behaviour designed to put certain people in their place. "It was just a joke!" is so often the bully's defence. So when I hear some one retreating behind that phrase, I don't give it a lot of weight. Yeah, maybe you were "joking" - but the point is, you believed it was funny for a reason. And I think when you are arrogant or careless enough to tell a "joke" like this to the world at large there's really no excuse for pretending to be surprised when a large number of people call you on your shit.

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I've come to believe that a lot of "joking around" is really passive aggressive behaviour designed to put certain people in their place. "It was just a joke!" is so often the bully's defence. So when I hear some one retreating behind that phrase, I don't give it a lot of weight. Yeah, maybe you were "joking" - but the point is, you believed it was funny for a reason. And I think when you are arrogant or careless enough to tell a "joke" like this to the world at large there's really no excuse for pretending to be surprised when a large number of people call you on your shit.

Ah, but who gets to define what that reason is?  Is the literal interpretation of the words all that matters?  Is it the most commonly understood perception of the joke?  What if the teller of the joke meant something very different from how the joke is perceived?

 

The case of Mike Ward is instructive. 

 

A literal interpretation of Mike Ward's jokes would make one think that he is making fun of Jeremy Gabriel, and saying that Mr. Gabriel is unworthy of charity.

 

The subtle, (and in my view, more correct) interpretation of Mike Ward's jokes, is that he is simply exploring a question about human psychology:  What makes anyone decide to donate to charity/What makes a charitable cause worthy?  And, using Jeremy Gabriel is a real life example, explores the question of whether an illness must be terminal in order to be deserving of charity. 

 

While, literally, the jokes made fun of Jeremy Gabriel, and indeed, it appears Mr. Gabriel took offence to the joke, in my view, it would be unreasonable to conclude that Mike Ward thinks that Jeremy Gabriel is unworthy of charity on the basis of his set. 

 

In fact, I would conclude the opposite.  The target of Mike Ward's set is anyone who believes that an illness must be terminal to be worthy of charity, and he expresses this view through the approach of reductio ad absurdum. 

Edited by utmguy
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Sigh.

 

(*This is also not All Jokes. Please for God's sake read this post and understand I am not saying All Jokes. The jokes to which I refer meet the pornography test: you know them when you hear them.)

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Sigh.

 

Says the person who's prior post started with "All Jokes".

 

Furthermore, the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal obviously thought Mike Ward's set was offensive, in fining him tens of thousands of dollars.  But yes, I should just trust the unprincipled approach that we'll "know it when we see it."

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Says the person who's prior post started with "All Jokes".

 

Furthermore, the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal obviously thought Mike Ward's set was offensive, in fining him tens of thousands of dollars. But yes, I should just trust the unprincipled approach that we'll "know it when we see it."

I am not sure how this got confused, since I thought it was abundantly clear (underlined disclaimer and all!) but I was expressing a personal opinion and my individual approach to certain "jokes".

 

I am not the human rights tribunal and I was making no comment on their criteria or methods. Nor was I suggesting they should adopt mine.

 

There are social consequences that stand apart from legal ones. If it wasn't clear before, maybe it will be now.

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I have always found this adage instructive: all jokes are half true.

 

Yeah, but which half?

 

I've come to believe that a lot of "joking around" is really passive aggressive behaviour designed to put certain people in their place. "It was just a joke!" is so often the bully's defence. So when I hear some one retreating behind that phrase, I don't give it a lot of weight. Yeah, maybe you were "joking" - but the point is, you believed it was funny for a reason. And I think when you are arrogant or careless enough to tell a "joke" like this to the world at large there's really no excuse for pretending to be surprised when a large number of people call you on your shit.

Sometimes, that's true, sometime's it isn't.  Thing is, the jokes that are really passive aggressive behavior - you tend to know it when you see it.  

Edited by maximumbob
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Yeah, but which half?

 

Sometimes, that's true, sometime's it isn't.  Thing is, the jokes that are really passive aggressive behavior - you tend to know it when you see it.  

 

 

Isn't that exactly what I said?

 

I had come across this a while ago and only skimmed it, but the authors seem to get the difference between e.g. the late John Callahan's humour and South Park having Cartman use certain words, versus what is cruel (to most people, humour's subjective). Often the humour is pointing out a stereotype which is subtly different from being objectionably stereotypical.

 

http://webhost1.cortland.edu/sasc/wp-content/uploads/sites/12/2012/12/Disability-Humor-Final.pdf

 

An example of a positive/normalizing Callahan cartoon they mention in that piece, along with a few others, are shown in his NY Times obituary:

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/28/arts/design/28callahan.html

 

I quite enjoyed this In Living Color skit when I first saw it, as have others (including disabled people) I've referred to it, I would categorize it in the "normalizing" category of the above paper:

 

 

In a different vein, I like lawyer jokes, and even if mean-spirited, lawyers (or at least employed lawyers...) tend to have more prestige and income than the average person, so if a lawyer doesn't like it, tough. Same for jokes about the rich or powerful, no matter how much they may tweet their dislike, and even if it plays into stereotypes, so what? Especially since it doesn't relate to immutable characteristics (unlike permanent disabilities) and the person is free to stop being a lawyer, or rich, or powerful, if they want - by contrast I'm sure there are funny jokes about unemployed people who are losing their homes, but probably not many that aren't cruel, as they are unable to change their circumstances easily (again, unlike the disabled, but it's still possible to have non-offensive jokes).

 

Also, notwithstanding the original piece's disclaimer (I'm referring to the law student piece that started this thread) that it wasn't based on anyone, what if it was? If it were based on a particular person, or composite, who drank to excess, one of whom walked into a pillar, etc., doesn't that change things? Several people apparently thought it referred to them - if so, is it no longer portraying a stereotype, but rather portraying an actual type, vis-a-vis law students or lawyers who do stupid things and are then lampooned e.g. ATL's fun years ago with the so-called aquagirl:

 

"Yesterday we told you the tale of Aquagirl — the Clearly Goatlips Cleary Gottlieb summer associate who stripped down to her underwear and dove into the Hudson River. At a summer associate event. At night. At Chelsea Piers. Seriously.

In the comments, some of you updated us on Aquagirl’s fate. Now we’re happy to bring you this very detailed report:..."

 

That is, even if you don't find it funny, or find it offensive, if it's based on events that actually happened at that law school (up to the leaving law school to do yoga at least...), at least in terms of being a composite of behaviour, is it still so objectionable, and if so is it because it highlights the behaviour of women? Should there be an inclusive picaresque or bildungsroman instead that has as its composite character someone of indeterminate, or multiple, genders?

 

http://abovethelaw.com/2006/11/an-update-on-aquagirl-things-are-going-swimmingly/

 

http://webhost1.cortland.edu/sasc/wp-content/uploads/sites/12/2012/12/Disability-Humor-Final.pdf

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It's is me or are some of those examples of "disability humour" rather humour impaired?   No wonder people prefer the cruel humour.  

 

Speaking of which, what do you call a guy with no arms and no legs swimming in the ocean?  A war hero.  (Bet you all thought I was going to say "Bob")

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I have always found this adage instructive: all jokes are half true.

 

The point being that when we joke around, it's often a way of telling people what we really think - with plausible deniability. If you think jokes invoking stereotypes are hilarious, it's frequently because you think the stereotype exists for a reason and you believe the joke expresses a truth you could not otherwise acknowledge without social consequence. We all know that we tell certain jokes around certain groups of people and we keep our mouths shut when other groups of people are within earshot.

 

This is human nature. it is not one of the better sides of human nature. (*This is also not All Jokes. Please for God's sake read this post and understand I am not saying All Jokes. The jokes to which I refer meet the pornography test: you know them when you hear them.)

 

I've come to believe that a lot of "joking around" is really passive aggressive behaviour designed to put certain people in their place. "It was just a joke!" is so often the bully's defence. So when I hear some one retreating behind that phrase, I don't give it a lot of weight. Yeah, maybe you were "joking" - but the point is, you believed it was funny for a reason. And I think when you are arrogant or careless enough to tell a "joke" like this to the world at large there's really no excuse for pretending to be surprised when a large number of people call you on your shit.

 

Meh,

 

 

What you're saying exists to an extent, no doubt about it, but I wouldn't go as far as saying "a lot" of joking around is passive aggressive. There are many reasons for why people joke around, I'm sure we can all identify most of them quite easily. However, when you speak of intentions, you better be a telepath, because jokes are inherently intended to mislead. 

 

Sure, some people hide their beliefs about stereotypes with jokes, but who's to say they aren't pointing out how stupid those stereotypes are in the first place? Knowing what people really think tends to help identify what their intentions are. If you don't know them, I'd say you're projecting more than you're interpreting. 

 

Yeah, some people will hide behind jokes and that's scummy behavior, but are you really going to try and ascribe motives behind jokes to people whom you don't know with any degree of certitude? Especially in writing? Having to explain you weren't being serious sucks, but maybe it's a sign that jokes aren't your forte. Most of the time, someone who doesn't catch on that their sense of humour consistently leads to misinterpretation will be naturally held accountable via social sanctions of sorts. 

 

 

 

I get that if the guys are joking around the office and say some crude joke about Karen being a babe or whatever, yeah, that's probably a reflection of multiple social problems. But the problem there is the underlying attitude, not the joke itself. #jokelivesmatter #notalljokes.

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People are so sensitive these days. In my time at Ottawa there was an outcry because a female student wrote an article in our paper about how to look stylish without having to spend too much time or money on getting ready in the morning. Apparently that was also sexist and reinforced to women that they are required to look a certain way. Of course, the Ottawa Citizen and CBC didn't pick up on that one.... I can't believe what makes the papers these days.

 

My favourite is when the HuffPo/CBC/etc. writes a story titled "Issue X causes outrage!" and then embeds 4-5 tweets of random people raging on twitter. 

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My favourite is when the HuffPo/CBC/etc. writes a story titled "Issue X causes outrage!" and then embeds 4-5 tweets of random people raging on twitter. 

 

Oh, but some of the tweets have been retweeted like seven times!

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The argument that the original blog post attacking the article had a point is a reasonable position. I had less sympathy for those students who tearfully (and I mean tearfully) claimed that the published article was proof that U of A law was no longer a safe space for women, was a manifestation of rape culture, etc.

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It is surprising that someone would publish something like this under his own name, if at all. Whether one thinks that is because of political correctness or because the story is actually offensive seems irrelevant. 

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It is surprising that someone would publish something like this under his own name, if at all. Whether one thinks that is because of political correctness or because the story is actually offensive seems irrelevant. 

 

 

Could be indicative that it was an honest mistake and they felt it really was satire. 

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It is incidents like this one that lead to a chilling effect on free speech at college campuses. St. Francis Xavier University invited Marie Henein as a guest lecturer and someone wrote an article in the campus newspaper saying Henein should be barred from speaking at the college, as she perpetuates rape culture. It is insane that a small group of students with a myopic outlook are allowed to dominate and control the discourse on public issues on college campuses. Some people are looking for opportunities to be offended but we shouldn't allow them to censure free speech. Satire is frequently politically incorrect & many comedians have made politically incorrectness their stock & trade, but when we start dictating what people can & cannot say, we threaten democracy. 

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It is incidents like this one that lead to a chilling effect on free speech at college campuses. St. Francis Xavier University invited Marie Henein as a guest lecturer and someone wrote an article in the campus newspaper saying Henein should be barred from speaking at the college, as she perpetuates rape culture. It is insane that a small group of students with a myopic outlook are allowed to dominate and control the discourse on public issues on college campuses. Some people are looking for opportunities to be offended but we shouldn't allow them to censure free speech. Satire is frequently politically incorrect & many comedians have made politically incorrectness their stock & trade, but when we start dictating what people can & cannot say, we threaten democracy. 

 

How is writing articles about an incident - which is literally just more speech - threatening free speech? This guy wrote stupid stuff. People used their free speech rights to criticize him for it. Isn't that the point of free speech? Or does free speech now mean the right to be rude and offensive and not have people say you're being rude and offensive...?

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The counterpoint: Should authors be protected from the reactions their works provoke? Should we all bite our tongues and refrain from expressing the opinion that some one's work is idiotic, wrong, or offensive, lest the author feel "silenced"?

 

Because as far as I can see from the three articles in the OP, no one is suggesting the author should be formally punished or jailed or expelled from school or anything else approaching a level of censorship denying him his "freedom of speech". (And if anyone is seriously suggesting that, they're being ridiculous.)

 

Again, the blog post explaining why the work was offensive was a very reasonable response to the situation. It's exactly how university level discourse should work - more talk about the issues, not less. You can disagree with it, but arguing that this view should not even be expressed is a little hypocritical.

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