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I don’t get it…

Posted by tinako on March 18, 2010

I think I’m a funny person.  My friends seem to think I’m a funny person – it seems to be the trait they mention when they are called on to sum me up.  That’s fine with me!

I can laugh at tofu and bean sprouts.  Let’s face it, they’re funny.  I can chuckle along when vegan food is categorized as twigs and leaves.  Some of the things I eat, like “dried black fungus,” are hilarious to me!

Some vegans also have alternative lifestyles that include incense, flip-flops, and beads, so I am not offended by references like that.

But if a joke is trying to say something, there has to be some truth in it.  I think the best humor stands up to and is improved by scrutiny.  I just don’t understand why something based on flip ignorant stereotypes is considered to be funny.  Did you hear the one about the woman driver…?

Take this for example: LOL This is Funny.

LOL, indeed.  So the entire pretense for these two jokes is that vegans cheat any time they can get away with it.  I suspect very few vegans cheat.  Actually, if they deliberately and repeatedly cheat, in what way are they vegan?

So why is it funny?  Tell me, please.

Why do I care?  Because jokes like this do harm.  They perpetuate the myth that veganism is hard and vegans are shallow and hypocritical.  Not only does this make it harder for me to be a vegan, in the same way that negative stereotypes harm any member of the target group, but it makes it less likely that someone will consider choosing this compassionate path.  That’s a loss for the whole planet.

Moe Operates

Here is an example of satire which is funny because it’s based on truth: Homer Simpson is having an operation to lower his IQ.  The surgeon knows the operation is complete when Homer shouts, “Extended warranty!  How can I lose?”  See, extended warranties are mathematically known to be rip-offs, so… all right, you get it.  You can be funny and further truth and justice in the world at the same time.

This Image Sponsored by the Worldwide Carnivore Support Group

Here is an image that was going around the web a while back that shows two posters, one for a vegan support group and the other for a carnivore support group.  The carnivore support group was canceled because carnivores don’t need wimpy support groups, and the conclusion is that carnivores must be awesome.  ROTFLMAO.

Let’s take 30 seconds to think this over.  This joke plays to a stereotype, a factual error, and a logical error.  First, the stereotype: vegans are Wimps and eating animal products is Manly.  I’m not going to spend much time trying to discredit this; I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to consider whether paying someone to abuse and kill animals is macho and standing up to friends and family in defense of the helpless is wimpy.  Next, the factual error: people are not carnivores, they are omnivores, but that probably doesn’t sound tough enough.  Thirdly, powerful majorities don’t need special support groups because most of the world is their support group; they go around posting images like this for each other!  So the joke circularly belittles minorities for needing support groups that they need because they are minorities and ignoring the support that majorities find almost everywhere.  A similarly hilarious joke could be that the WASP meeting was canceled but the NAACP has to keep going, or why do those wimps need an Anti-Defamation League, anyway?  Perhaps in the vegan/carnivore joke, the point is that there are so few vegans because their position is wrong.  This is the Appeal to Common Practice fallacy.  Oh, it’s all just so stupid.

There are times when a joke is supposed to be illogical.  For example, “How do you get an elephant out of a bowl of Jello?  Follow the directions on the back of the box.”  It’s not based on truth, and that’s the whole point – it’s just silly.  But the carnivore support group gag isn’t going for that.  It’s straightforward telling you that support groups are for wimps.

I commented at the time on a few sites that posted that image, ingenuously asking why it was funny that a minority group would need support.  I also have commented briefly and politely on other postings with idiotic jokes about pretend versions of vegans.  I know, I know, but I decided that there were worse things to do with my 40 seconds than to gently get someone to think about what they post, maybe help them to realize that their cheap shots aren’t free.  Plus I really wanted to know what they were thinking.  It turns out they weren’t.    The reply is always the same, to the effect of, “I didn’t really give it any thought; I just saw it online and thought it was funny.  Lighten up.”  Oh, well then, that’s a great use of our voices, isn’t it?  It’s a free country, and we certainly can spend our time repeating things we have given no thought to.

Humor is a great way to highlight the truth, and satire allows us to see things about ourselves that we would be uncomfortable with in another format.  What a waste, to be blind men carrying lanterns.

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