Quantcast

«

»

Oct 17 2012

Another girl that committed suicide is posthumously bullied for teh lulz

Another fifteen year old girl named Amanda — this time not Todd, but Cummings — killed herself after bullying, depression and a bad break-up. And people claiming to be from 4chan and 9gag (the most odious among 4chan’s numbers often use them as a scapegoat) are, again, swarming to make her family’s life post-suicide miserable, according to Jezebel.

According to the Staten Island Advance, Amanda was bullied in life as well as in death. Her parents say that her classmates and peers taunted her, and that she’d recently broken up with her boyfriend before she stepped in the path of a city bus. She spent 6 days after that in a hospital before succumbing to her injuries.

From every possible angle you look at it, that story is a rainbow of awful— for the girl who felt driven to suicide, for her family and loved ones, and for a community in general. Hell, I’m sure the driver of the bus feels like shit as well. For 4chan, though, this was the perfect opportunity to unite around the common cause of digitally harassing Amanda’s surviving family.

I don’t even understand how this is funny. Sure, maybe losing yourself into a mob mentality is fun — I don’t know, I’ve never tried it, though I’ve certainly seen a lot of self-righteousness amongst the folks who witch-hunt and swarm FtBloggers just for being FtBloggers, never mind for actually holding people to account for their actions. But how much reprogramming do you have to endure before you consider it fun, noble, laudable, and hilarious, to hurt someone’s family? How much reprogramming before empathy for grieving relatives is completely subsumed by the pursuit for your personal lulz? Why can’t you do something productive, like making fun of the real monsters who gain political power to ruin your lives, or people who bully children until they kill themselves?

I know some among you within the loose-knit group Anonymous have done exactly this, attacking oppressive political regimes, hunting down people who abuse small animals, even trying to find Amanda Todd’s bullies and “dox” them. So I know you’re not a uniform collective of shitheels. But it boggles me that there are so many shitheels among you. How — and WHY — did intentionally breaking your sense of empathy, the only thing that makes us truly human, become so commonplace? And why is it so uniformly young kids with every privilege for whom this intentional empathy-dectomy is such sport?

49 comments

1 ping

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    Greg Laden

    We got to witness a posthumous bullying of a bullied suicide victim up close and personal here (I won’t name names) several months ago.

    The other day, some of those very same bullies were caught harassing a girl with a medical condition on a school bus. We fixed that. Those bullies will no longer be riding that bus.

    I regard 4chan as similar to the Republican Party at this point: If you are a 4chaner or a Republican, you stink. I don’t care what you think of yourself. If you didn’t stink, you’d walk away and denounce it. But since you didn’t do that, you just plain stink.

  2. 2
    skeptifem

    I don’t even understand how this is funny. Sure, maybe losing yourself into a mob mentality is fun — I don’t know, I’ve never tried it, though I’ve certainly seen a lot of self-righteousness amongst the folks who witch-hunt and swarm FtBloggers just for being FtBloggers, never mind for actually holding people to account for their actions. But how much reprogramming do you have to endure before you consider it fun, noble, laudable, and hilarious, to hurt someone’s family?

    Empathy is something that may not have developed well in the first place. It tends to come with maturity, and it is something that gets better with practice. It probably isn’t something that they have turned off in order to laugh. SOme are probably genuinely sociopathic.

  3. 3
    Sassafras

    How — and WHY — did intentionally breaking your sense of empathy, the only thing that makes us truly human, become so commonplace? And why is it so uniformly young kids with every privilege for whom this intentional empathy-dectomy is such sport?

    Was there a time when it wasn’t commonplace? I remember this exact attitude all the way through grade school and high school. Kids who had every privilege knew they had the ability (and tacit approval of most adults) to punish and torment any kid with less money, less social status, less confidence, etc. They just didn’t have the reach the internet provides.

  4. 4
    Nepenthe

    Jesus Haploid Christ, haven’t these shits heard of, I dunno, stamp collecting? Or better yet, insect collecting. At least the creatures they’d be torturing aren’t humans.

  5. 5
    Dan J

    Please keep in mind that “4chan” refers only to the domain that hosts many different boards. The human filth that participate in the deplorable actions associated with this girl’s death are not representative of the majority of people who frequent the 4chan domain. I think of blaming “4chan” as making nearly as much sense as blaming “the Internet.”

  6. 6
    Rutee Katreya

    Do you have any idea what kind of a jerk you look like when you come to a thread about a dead girl’s family being bullied, concerned for the reputation of 4chan?

  7. 7
    Brad

    A pedantic one? Even Mos Eisley wasn’t wretched down to a being. 4chan has its Han and Chewies. Fuck the rest of them though.

  8. 8
    sheila

    I think this horrible behaviour gives them a power kick. Plus, if you’re not one of the mob, then the mob might turn on you. (I suspect they’ve convinced themselves that this sort of mob behaviour is normal.)

    I’m not a psychologist or anything. This is just based on watching behaviour in school playgrounds.

  9. 9
    Serena

    This reminds me of the point that was made at the end of Derren Brown’s The Experiments: The Gameshow (can be found on youtube). Mob mentality and anonymity can drive people to do sick things; it’s unsurprising – though surely shameful – that such a useful tool as the internet also becomes a venue for this sort of behavior. :<

  10. 10
    bcmystery

    It does seem to me the key distinction between today and the past is the way the internet internationalizes the mob.

    When I was in junior high, a girl who’d been fat-shamed for years tried to hang herself. She failed because the rope broke, and when the news got out in the school, a certain contingent was brutal in their harassment and abuse. A few months later, when she succeeded, they didn’t doubled down.

    The horrible behavior was contained to our community, but if we’d had the internet, it’s not unreasonable to surmise the abuse wouldn’t stay local for long. Heartbreaking.

    As a parent, one of my biggest concerns is instilling in my son a sense of empathy. I’ve seen him with his friends making fun of others. It never anything as severe as this, but it’s easy to see how today it’s little things, tomorrow a little bigger, and if we’re not careful, before too long they’re the Amazing Atheist. Shudder.

    I know there’s an in-group social dynamic at work there that’s not easy to overcome, but the work must be done. Even a single heartbreaking story like this one is one too many.

  11. 11
    bcmystery

    Sigh. Errant “didn’t” before the “doubled down” above. Oy!

  12. 12
    John Horstman

    How — and WHY — did intentionally breaking your sense of empathy, the only thing that makes us truly human, become so commonplace?

    It may be less this and more that they’re actual sociopaths, as skeptifem suggests. I’m not sure what the incidence of sociopathy is in the general population (largely because people don’t really self-identify as sociopaths and take steps to disguise their lack of empathy or rationalize it in individual cases, so we really only have the incidence of identified criminal sociopathy), but the various slime pits of the internet provide virtual spaces where sociopaths the world over can congregate, and I’m willing to bet that there are well more on the planet than there are regular 4chan members.

    Also, if there is a genetic component, it’s entirely possible that our cultural norms, particularly with the rise of corporate capitalism, have been creating a selective pressure for them. “Success” is frequently defined in terms that encourage behaviors that disregard the well-being of others, and it wouldn’t shock me to discover that “success” is correlated to a greater number of offspring who survive to produce offspring (or at least offspring with internet access). It might also be sadism – not a lack of empathy, but a twist such that the suffering of others is actively enjoyable, not simply a non-consideration (this requires empathy to recognize the suffering in the first place).

  13. 13
    Leo Buzalsky

    @2 skeptifem

    It tends to come with maturity.

    Um…I don’t think that is true. I cannot recall the studies off the top of my head (and therefore won’t be able to link any), but I’m fairly certain there are some that show that we have empathy at a young age. If you have studies that back up your point, I’d love to see them.

  14. 14
    Christoph Burschka

    These cases have in common that the victims were tormented, severely, by bullies they knew in real life as well as internet trolls. In particular, it seems that they have little or no support in their immediate environment. For that reason, I’m not convinced even successfully ending this form of online trolling (if that were feasible) will be a big help.

    What might help is a strong support network. I wonder if the internet could be a tool for good instead of evil in cases like this.

  15. 15
    Dan J

    Rutee said:

    Do you have any idea what kind of a jerk you look like when you come to a thread about a dead girl’s family being bullied, concerned for the reputation of 4chan?

    Do you have any idea what kind of a jerk you look like when you tar everyone who frequents a particular domain name with the same broad brush? *I* browse some of the boards on 4chan. Fuck you.

  16. 16
    Eric Saveau

    @Dan J-

    Do you have any idea what kind of a jerk you look like when you tar everyone who frequents a particular domain name with the same broad brush?

    She didn’t tar you with any brush at all, broad or otherwise. She noted that you rushed to the defense of 4chan, which you did, in a discussion about how much this girl had suffered and her family are still suffering. Elevating the reputation of 4can above what has happened to Amanda and her family may well not have been your intention, but the way you phrased that comment gave that impression, and there’s a quite understandable hair-trigger over that sort of thing around here.

    This is directly related to all the fucking misogyny problems in the atheist community that so many have been fighting against for a while now. When hate-filled shit reared its ugly head in atheism there were basically two kinds of responses – one was to basically say “Hey, now, not everyone engages in ugly hate-filled shit, so let’s be really careful about what we say about it so that we don’t tar people with broad brushes.” The other was to basically say “Hey, now, that’s some ugly hate-filled shit, so we’d better deal with it.”

    (There was also a third response, which was basically “There is no such thing as ugly hate-filled shit, but if there were the lying bitches would like it that way, so shut up,” but that doesn’t appear to have been what you were going for in your comment).

    It’s very easy to warn about broad brushes. It is unfortunately much harder, in terms of consequences, to call out ugly hate-filled shit for what it is, and harder still to try to clean it up. But it has the advantage of providing for a cleaner community, at least a little, rather than merely a clean brush.

  17. 17
    Dan J

    Eric: Bullshit. I’m not defending 4chan: I’m defending my own reputation.

    The vile scumbags who did these things have no defense, and deserve none, but they aren’t simply “4chan.” In the same way, the misogynist scumbags who are also atheists are not simply “atheists.” I refuse to be painted with that brush as well, and will not stand by and have my character called into question because of something someone else does.

  18. 18
    Eric Saveau

    @Dan J-

    The vile scumbags who did these things have no defense, and deserve none, but they aren’t simply “4chan.” In the same way, the misogynist scumbags who are also atheists are not simply “atheists.”

    Not that simple. The misogynist scumbags are atheists. That sucks. That’s an uncomfortable thing to realize. But we haven’t shrugged them off with “Well, they’re bad, but, you know, they’re not simply atheists,” because even though that is true, it is a trivial truth. A group of atheists has decided that misogyny within atheism is unacceptable within atheism and is fighting the misogyny, but we aren’t attempting to disown the atheist misogynists’ status as atheists. They are atheists. They are part of who we are as a group. That uncomfortable truth needs to confronted, not elided or evaded. And that’s exactly what’s been happening lately.

    The first sentence in the blockquote above needed to stop before the word “but”. As to the rest of your comment, your character can only be called into question if you approve or condone what the 4channers did. Since you explicitly have not, and have in fact condemn them, you are obviously in the clear and have nothing to call “bullshit” on.

  19. 19
    Jason Thibeault

    I can actually see both sides of this argument. But let’s reframe it to not be about things people personally identify with.

    On the one hand, Reddit is full of subreddits that are completely shitty, like r/jailbait or r/creepshots (both of which were deleted, but the users didn’t evaporate — they’ve moved on to still-existing pastures). On the other hand, it also has r/ShitRedditSays and r/atheismplus, themselves heavily-moderated against trolls and fighting the “shitlords” on other boards.

    4chan is like that.

    It does, however, take a special chutzpah to defend 4chan itself against attacks rather than trying to point out that there’s an actual divide between the shitheels at 4chan and the “good folks”. The problem is, the good folks aren’t doing enough to improve 4chan’s reputation while the assholes stage raids and plant the 4chan flag. And the admins at 4chan appear to think the solution to a festering shitpile is to segregate it into the corner rather than improving moderation across the whole site.

    Reddit did the same thing. Remember when Rebecca said “Reddit makes me hate atheists”? Same deal. One chunk of Reddit represented shitty atheists, and both reputations were tarnished as a result.

    The problem here is too much identity wrapped up in being a user of a site’s domain. It’s also what bothers me about people attacking FtBloggers just for being on this domain.

  20. 20
    Dan J

    Yes, Eric, I understand what you’re saying, but I still feel the need to point out the generalization that seems to go along with 4chan all the time.

    You host your blog at livejournal. I’m sure you monitor the comments on your blog as I do on mine and don’t allow certain things to be published there. There are other blogs on livejournal which aren’t so nice, which are, to some degree, filled with hatred. I don’t generalize all livejournal blogs based on what a few hate-filled screeds contain. I don’t generalize 4chan boards based on what 16-year-old sociopaths post on /b/, either.

    There are many boards on 4chan which do a very good job of self-policing and moderation. Garbage like that perpetrated on Amanda’s family isn’t allowed in the 4chan boards I frequent. The problem is recognized, and is kept in check as best in can be in those boards.

    …End, part 4chan…

    The individuals referenced in the articles seem (just in my opinion) most often to be in high school. I remember cruel people like this while I was in school, but I don’t have any clear recollection of whether or not there was more of that type of behavior when we were 16 than there is now that we’re adults. Do many of these kids change, or do they just learn different ways of acting on their impulses?

  21. 21
    Eric Saveau

    Dan J, if this paragraph had been your opening comment in this thread –

    There are many boards on 4chan which do a very good job of self-policing and moderation. Garbage like that perpetrated on Amanda’s family isn’t allowed in the 4chan boards I frequent. The problem is recognized, and is kept in check as best in can be in those boards.

    – you would not have been responded to as you were. This stakes out a position as a responsible good guy in that community. What you did instead made you appear otherwise, and since that was all that Rutee had to go on, that was what she responded to. (You might give her a little shout-out here; she, too, is doing the best she can).

    I don’t generalize all livejournal blogs based on what a few hate-filled screeds contain.

    Well, no, but then LiveJournal doesn’t have the same reputation as 4chan. It may have some of the same kinds of content, but it hasn’t built and promoted the kind of cultures around such content that has given 4chan its rep. So that’s why it doesn’t really work to make such a generalization.

    The individuals referenced in the articles seem (just in my opinion) most often to be in high school.

    But they aren’t. They’re adults, or the majority are. It’s very tempting to write off such individuals as, oh well, they just aren’t really grown-ups regardless of their calendar age. But the fact that such attitudes are so widespread among adults marks them as something other than an indicator of maturity.

    I remember cruel people like this while I was in school, but I don’t have any clear recollection of whether or not there was more of that type of behavior when we were 16 than there is now that we’re adults. Do many of these kids change, or do they just learn different ways of acting on their impulses?

    What happened is that people like you and I and Rutee and Jason and so many others here made a conscious decision to not associate with such people once we could get the fuck away from them. But they went on to find places in which they could thrive. In general, the most successful went into places where they could wield real-world authority, and the rest found niches elsewhere. All of them found some degree of presence on the Internet once it became widespread, and none of them can be regarded as people who simply “failed to grow out of it”, because they were never going to.

    And the rest of us need to make sure we have each other’s backs.

  22. 22
    Dan J

    Eric said:

    And the rest of us need to make sure we have each other’s backs.

    Hear, hear! We’re all striving in our own ways to make the world a better place, and I’ll be there to back you up (and Rutee, and Jason) when we’re fighting against the dregs that are out there.

  23. 23
    ESC_key

    Brad’s comment at 7 made me want to de-lurk and say something I’ve been chewing on for a while (I promise its not off-topic!): I loved Star Wars as a boy, and like a lot of other kids wanted to be a hero like Luke skywalker or Han Solo and save the galaxy by kicking evil’s butt. I definitely pretended to do just that on the playground at recess every day. Now at 23 I’m the first to admit the hero complex never really left my psyche, just morphed (I don’t think matured is quite right:p) into a bigger awareness of what little I can do to help out in the world. So when I read about the Anonymous actions in Tunisia or doxxing Todd’s predator, I get the sense that I’m definitely not the only one who wants to be a hero: and some people are really good at it! It’s just like using the force! But the other side of this internet power is just like the dark side: the bullies, the racists, misogynists, predators, who prey on the weak and publish pictures with no inkling of respect for privacy and the dignity of others, who bully the families of dead children and spit on their memories and claim to be doing it in the name of “free speech” or “men’s rights” or “this is just how the internet works.” Guys, you’re no Han or Chewie, you’re no skywalker. You go on and on about the “awesome power” of your hacking skills and bot programming abilities and the ability to use the internet as a “hate machine” to fuel that power? You’re emperor Palpatine. You’re Darth Vader. You’re no hero and you’re not even trying to be one. Nobody’s perfect, we’re all human and we all have to deal with what being human brings to the table. But one basic thi ng that separates the heroes from the villains is compassion. Wouldn’t everybody benefit from just trying to show a little more? (I typed this from a phone btw, so sorry if its hard to read/rambling!!)

  24. 24
    ESC_key

    Ack! My first comment here and I blew it. Is there a way for me to delete my incomplete comment @ 22?

  25. 25
    Jason Thibeault

    ESC_key: Ask and ye shall receive. And all that.

  26. 26
    chaos-engineer

    I refuse to be painted with that brush as well, and will not stand by and have my character called into question because of something someone else does.

    OK, but you’re doing a poor job of showing good character.

    4chan has a bad reputation. This is entirely due to incredibly bad behavior by a significant number of the members. They’re possibly a vocal minority, but the majority tolerates their presence.

    If you want to improve 4chan’s reputation, you’re not going to do it by going attacking people who criticize 4chan. Instead, you need to go to 4chan’s top level of management and ask, “Why are we providing a safe space for scum like that? I’ve been a respected contributing member of this community for years (references attached), and I don’t want to provide even implicit support for this poison! Either they go, or I do!”

    There are lots of other Internet communities you can join, or you can even find some like-minded people and start your own community. Doing that would demonstrate character. (You don’t need to point it out, though. If you have good character, then decent people will notice without being told.)

  27. 27
    Joe

    “I don’t even understand how this is funny.”

    It is called gallows humour.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallows_humor

    Humor is complicated, often it’s used as a defense mechanism against emotional turmoil. The turmoil itself may not be directly related to the subject of the joke.

    For many people its about steeling yourself against emotional distress. Notice how soon the jokes appear after a major tragedy. It is not just about being cruel, but about protecting oneself, by distancing oneself, from the subject matter: making it unimportant.

    Unfortunately, some people take it a step further and turn it into a kind of contest… about who can make the ‘worst’ joke.

    Those who participate the most in these sorts of things tend to have serious emotional/social deficiencies, so it’s really no surprise that the internet breeds the worst of the worst.

    I think it is important to speak out about this, but to also realize where it is coming from. It is not just about good vs evil.

  28. 28
    skeptifem

    Um…I don’t think that is true. I cannot recall the studies off the top of my head (and therefore won’t be able to link any), but I’m fairly certain there are some that show that we have empathy at a young age. If you have studies that back up your point, I’d love to see them.

    I did not say that the emergence of empathy has to be imposed by the process of maturing. In fact, I indicated that a total lack fo empathy was pathological and named the problem (sociopathy), indicating that it is not normal to totally lack empathy. Empathy is a skill that has to be developed over time. Like every other skill humans possess it starts with some sort of innate ability or understanding which is then enhanced by experience. Feel free to think that is controversial if you want. What I was saying was more related to theories about learning and personality than any specific cognitive skill or study related to it.

  29. 29
    skeptifem

    @jose

    “I don’t even understand how this is funny.”

    It is called gallows humour.

    These aren’t people making dark jokes to deal with the emotional reality of a situation, these are people who are stalking others for the specific purpose of tormenting them. It isn’t humor, its abuse.

  30. 30
    skeptifem

    But they aren’t. They’re adults, or the majority are. It’s very tempting to write off such individuals as, oh well, they just aren’t really grown-ups regardless of their calendar age. But the fact that such attitudes are so widespread among adults marks them as something other than an indicator of maturity.

    I have never considered age to be the sole indicator of emotional maturity.

    Even if it were, it is conceivable that certain aspects of maturity could be discouraged by social or psychological means (such as growing up in a culture where dominance over others is prized and cooperating is discouraged).

  31. 31
    Maureen Brian

    Dan J,

    Your reputation wasn’t on the line until you yourself put it on the line.

    How? By disrupting a conversation which was not about you with an irrelevant and gratuitous piece of self-justification.

  32. 32
    Eric Saveau

    @skeptifem -

    it is conceivable that certain aspects of maturity could be discouraged by social or psychological means (such as growing up in a culture where dominance over others is prized and cooperating is discouraged).

    Exactly. We probably can’t stop people from being bigots or outright sociopaths, but we can build a society where they have significantly reduced power to harm others, or to profit (whether financially or in some more intangible way) from harm to others. Not easily, and not quickly, but it can be done.

    I also phrased that incompletely; instead of “indicator of maturity” I should have said “indicator of a lack of maturity”. Because what the attitudes mentioned above actually indicate is a pathological lack of empathy, and I’ve seen buckets of empathy in even three-year old children. So I don’t let people off the hook, even if only rhetorically, as being merely immature when what they truly are is simply bad.

    Some are bad by experience and training, I realize, and some of those can be brought around. But many others appear to just have no innate capacity for empathy at all, and they can only be guarded against.

  33. 33
    Eric Saveau

    Dan J, you’re seeing some people piling on you in subsequent comments. It probably feels a bit like an attack, and it kind of is, but don’t take it personally. Take it as instructive. You truly, honestly did not put your best foot forward in your first entry in the thread, and it was due to an impulse that we all have to some degree – to take a group identity as identical to a personal one. It’s not even wrong have such an association in your mind, just remember that there’s a place where the groups end and you begin.

    After we talked a bit you did separate those things and made it clear that you are someone who is personally involved in policing the shit that is the topic here. That’s an awesome thing to bring to the table, and is itself worth discussing. The thread is still active, so you’ve still got something to contribute. Don’t get defensive about yourself or 4chan, just acknowledge that you had an unfortunate and wrong knee-jerk reaction, and then offer the substantive experience that you have in policing such boards. That’s something that matters. Bring it.

  34. 34
    ilex

    I remember cruel people like this while I was in school, but I don’t have any clear recollection of whether or not there was more of that type of behavior when we were 16 than there is now that we’re adults.

    Yeah, I definitely recall bullying being really common in high school. I still see it as an adult, but now I’m not trapped in a building with the bullies for 8 hours per day. If anyone tries that at work, I have a lot more resources than I did in high school, maybe because we now call it harassment, assault, or discrimination. In school, I felt particularly helpless to stop it, and I couldn’t get away. Of course, I’m the same age as the Columbine shooters, so maybe things have gotten better. From the spate of suicides, I doubt it.

  35. 35
    Nepenthe

    @Joe

    It’s only gallows humor if you’re the one standing on the gallows. If you’re holding the lever, gallows jokes are at best in poor taste and at worst despicable acts of cruelty.

  36. 36
    Dan J

    I just can’t come up with any more ways to say, “Fuck you” to some people.

    Bye, Jason. It used to be both enlightening and fun.

  37. 37
    Eric Saveau

    Oh. Well, okay.

  38. 38
    Dan J

    Not you, Eric. You’ve been quite reasonable without “piling on”, as has Jason. Thank you.

  39. 39
    Eric Saveau

    Then I would like to repeat my comment 33. Unpleasant though your interlocutors may seem, it’s not personal – unless you choose to treat it that way. Keep in mind that a lot of folks here have spent a long time wading through a festering plain of shit that is fucking miles across, and that has taught them that though a lousy first impression isn’t always accurate, it’s still the safe way to bet. That isn’t your fault, but it’s not theirs either. It’s just the unfortunate reality that everyone has to deal with.

    First impressions are correctable. People got a bad one from you, but you can fix that. This blog network and its commentariat are worth that effort.

  40. 40
    Joe

    @Skeptifem

    “These aren’t people making dark jokes to deal with the emotional reality of a situation, these are people who are stalking others for the specific purpose of tormenting them. It isn’t humor, its abuse.”

    All humor is based on the premise of ‘making fun’ of a person, a thing, a concept…etc…

    All humor, from slapstick to wordplay is about divorcing oneself from ‘emotional reality’. That is the essential difference between tragedy and comedy.

    In tragedy, you identify with the person who is being harmed, in comedy you don’t. What is acceptable, really just comes down to ‘community standards’.

  41. 41
    SallyStrange

    In tragedy, you identify with the person who is being harmed, in comedy you don’t.

    I have to disagree. Plenty of awesome humor comes from making fun of assholes and involves identifying with those being harmed rather than those inflicting harm. Though I can’t find a link, I recall an Onion article that came out around the height of the Sandusky/Paterno scandal. It involved a press conference held by young boys, who urged anyone who saw young boys (or girls) being molested to not hesitate, but to call the police immediately. I am, of course, not doing it justice, but it was funny, and the humor required you to put yourself in the shoes of a child who was worried about being molested by a teacher or other authority figure. There are plenty more examples like that. Ever Mainard’s “Here’s your rape” standup routine is another example. This is just off the top of my head.

    So basically, you’re wrong.

  42. 42
    Joe

    “Plenty of awesome humor comes from making fun of assholes”

    You are conflating two different things:
    A person being a victim of x
    A person being a victim of a joke.

    When you talk about ‘making fun of assholes’, they are the ones being ‘harmed’ by the joke. Even calling them ‘assholes’ shows that you don’t identify ‘with them’. You are creating emotional distance between you and them, by reducing them to less than human… essentially an unflattering body part.

    The person being harmed ‘by the joke’ is the person being made fun of. Comedy often involves an inversion of power, so the victim of a joke is quite often a powerful person. But the person being harmed by the joke is the person being made fun of.

  43. 43
    Raging Bee

    I’m not defending 4chan: I’m defending my own reputation.

    Yes, you were defending 4chan. And I think the best way you could have defended your own reputation would have been not to say anything. You blew it by getting pissy and defensive, and that makes me wonder what you have to hide that’s made you react so rashly and stupidly.

  44. 44
    SallyStrange

    You are conflating two different things:
    A person being a victim of x
    A person being a victim of a joke.

    When you talk about ‘making fun of assholes’, they are the ones being ‘harmed’ by the joke. Even calling them ‘assholes’ shows that you don’t identify ‘with them’. You are creating emotional distance between you and them, by reducing them to less than human… essentially an unflattering body part.

    The person being harmed ‘by the joke’ is the person being made fun of. Comedy often involves an inversion of power, so the victim of a joke is quite often a powerful person. But the person being harmed by the joke is the person being made fun of.

    I see what you are saying.

    I was talking about real world harm. A symbolic inversion of power doesn’t actually harm anybody. It’s symbolic harm. So, the assholes, the people I’m dehumanizing to refer to them thusly, aren’t actually harmed by humor that mocks them. Jokes that combine symbolic harm with real world attitudes that cause people to lose out on educational opportunities, earnings, and even basic physical safety.

    Incidentally, did you watch the “Here’s your rape” routine? Would you say that Ever Mainard dehumanizes the man who gives her a fright on the subway platform?

  45. 45
    Joe

    “It’s symbolic harm”

    Yes, but that doesn’t mean that it has no negative effect. Mocking someone can affect their reputation, it can hurt their self-esteem…etc.. And actually, often that is the intent of the humor or insult. So the harm can be real, even if it is not physical.

    People often use jokes to deal with stress and insecurities. One of the nastier aspects of humor is that people who ‘fear being victims’ or being bullied, often mock actual victims in order to distance themselves psychologically from the whole idea of ‘victimhood’.

    You will see this with young(and not so young) boys online, quite a lot, in gaming. The whole culture of online gaming often revolves around ‘trashtalking’ which is used both to throw your opponent off their game, and ‘pump up’ you and your teammates. Because of the competitive aspect of the games, asserting dominance becomes part of the game. So dehumanizing your opponent is also part of the game. This often leads to sodomy and rape jokes.

    This doesn’t have to be ‘abusive’ in the harm sense, if everyone is on the same page about it just being ‘symbolic’. Of course, as soon as females and openly gay males enter the arena, the jokes can take a more sinister turn. Lines get crossed and jokes turn into threats. It is especially hard to read peoples reactions online, where body language and such is nonexistent.

    As to Ever Mainard, yes, I would say she does dehumanize the man in question. But she is doing this clearly in the context of self-deprecating (gallows)humor. She is talking about her fears, and making jokes about them, likely in order to create psychological distance between… herself and her fears. I think the racial aspect of her routine is more problematic, because that changes the focus from her to the man in a significant way.

    As a man, I am not bothered by her rape jokes, but as a white man, the racial stuff makes me uncomfortable. That doesn’t mean she did wrong, humor that pushes boundaries can be educational and informative, but that is definitely the edgier part of the routine, in my view.

  46. 46
    Dan J

    Raging Bee blathered:

    You blew it by getting pissy and defensive, and that makes me wonder what you have to hide that’s made you react so rashly and stupidly.

    Wow! Now I’ve got something to hide‽ This is worthy of its own blog post. It seems that generalizing about large groups of people you seem to know very little about is perfectly fine as long as you perceive them as “the bad guys.”

  47. 47
    Eric Saveau

    And sometimes first impressions are regrettably accurate after all…

  48. 48
    Dan J

    And sometimes first impressions are regrettably accurate after all…

    So it is okay to generalize about every person who uses the boards at 4chan? Wow. I thought you were smarter than that, or at least less judgmental about something you seem to have very little knowledge of.

  49. 49
    Eric Saveau

    So it is okay to generalize about every person who uses the boards at 4chan?

    What is “okay” is to notice that every time you had an opportunity to correct the bad impression people got from you, you doubled down on everything that gave them the bad impression in the first place. Whether that says anything about 4chan I couldn’t say, but it does say something about you.

    You did, in fact, get “pissy and defensive” as Raging Bee noted above. At the time she posted that comment we apparently getting past that, so a good counter would have been something like “You know, I did. I had a reflexive reaction to take it personally, but I get that it was misplaced and I think I’ve shown in subsequent comments that I’m able to separate myself from that. I also stand against the kind of bullshit talked about in the OP whenever I can. So, while I appreciate that first impressions were bad, I should hope we’re past that now. I’m not gonna ask you to be my buddy, but I think it’s fair that I be judged by what I say from here on.”

    Not necessarily phrased exactly like that; just offering an example of a sentiment that is more constructive… and that I would have thought more accurate until you responded to Raging Bee the way you did. Which is why I opined that first impressions may be accurate after all; it’s not a generalization about 4chan, it’s an observation of your conduct.

  1. 50
    The 2012 Lousy Year In Review » Lousy Canuck

    [...] there’s no “gently” on the internet. Meanwhile, a girl’s family is harassed for teh lulz after she committed suicide. Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard helped dictionaries [...]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>