Monday, April 28, 2008

'The Things We Laugh At . . .'

By Burkeman1 ∙ The Daily Burkeman ∙ April 28, 2008

The Daily BurkemanA contributor to, Joshua Katz, has a timely essay today. He makes the very cogent observation that a good indicator of the state of a society's soul is what it finds funny, at what makes it laugh.

Katz uses the examples of the upcoming movie "Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay" and the selling of "Don't Taze Me Bro" T-shirts to illustrate his point that something is wrong with a culture that laughs at such things- a movie that trivializes torture and 7 years worth of detention for men who have never been charged with anything and the beating, electrocuting, and arresting of a student for asking a question of a DC appartchik.

Those are good examples of the corruption and degradation that are "America" culture today. But it is worse than Katz thinks. Much worse. Those examples are tame.

A decade ago with the release of "Schindler's List" a local controversy erupted when a classroom full of "inner city" high school kids was taken to see the movie (yes- go to the movies for "diversity") whereupon they proceeded to laugh throughout the movie, breaking into uproarious guffaws at scenes of horrible executions of men, women, and children.

Now, these kids should have been the canary in the coal mine. But it merely became a topic for a few days on talk radio, if that, and then forgotten. Dismissed because of who the kids were and how little was expected of them- even basic human empathy.

It wasn't long after that incident that American media sank into the depravity that was the OJ trial and from which it never emerged. A horrific double murder trivialized and laughed at and the murderer a punch line.

Meanwhile Bill Clinton was busy murdering Iraqis on a daily basis with bombings and the most comprehensive trade sanctions the world had ever seen and movie after movie was produced with spoofs of Saddam Hussein as another dumb punch line.

Now both our corporate owned late night stand ups (Leno and Letterman) routinely crack wise about torture, and beatings, and treat a murderous evil war as also a punch line.

Rush Limbaugh produced and sold a line of products to specifically mock those who opposed torture.

Torture is funny to many Americans these days. It is almost as laughed at as prison rape, which is another atrocity Americans routinely joke about.

One of our Presidential candidates jokes about bombing Iran before a laughing dumb rube crowd of knuckle dragging cowards and no one takes notice.

The "heroes" in Afghanistan have a good sense of humor as well. The New York Times once reported of how it struck the funny bone of one American GI torturer at Bagram to train a mentally retarded Afghani "terrorist suspect" to scream "Timmy" every time he was hit by anybody passing by him in a hall where he was chained to a ceiling. "Timmy" being a handicapped character on the tasteless cartoon show "South Park" whose was able to only say one word, his name. That a mentally retarded character in a wheelchair is found to be funny by millions of people is bad enough in itself.

But perhaps the most chilling thing I saw and that sums up where we are was a couple years ago during one of Bush's State of the Union speeches. At one point he boasts with that stupid smirk of simply murdering "suspected terrorists" all over the world- saying "Well, they are not a problem any more" and he got a standing ovation. He actually used the word "suspects". And he laughed.

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