Internet and/or comedy vent incoming! People with normal priorities, lives and jobs feel free to click away. I hear there is free pornography out there to be had, if you believe the prophecies.
This isn’t in response to anything in particular, but here’s something I generally see a lot:
“What do you mean, you don’t appreciate me being a fuckin’ dickhead to everybody?! You’re supposed to be a comedian, lighten UP.”
At least once a week, I get a shitty PM, email, or Facebook message insulting me, my work, my coworkers, or my friends. Often these come couched as compliments: “I love your work, dude! Not like that PIECE OF SHIT [OTHER COLUMNIST] FUCK THAT GUY/GIRL.” It takes a little something away from the compliment when, in the same sentence, you hate-spooge all over people I respect and admire. Does anybody seriously not understand how I might not appreciate that? I try to correct this behavior as politely as I can, and I invariably get something like that first quote in response, regarding the ‘lightening up’ I need to do. It’s emblematic of an attitude you can see on display everywhere, and I just don’t understand it. People think that, once comedy is involved in a scenario, literally everything is appropriate in that scenario forever onward. “LOL this guy spent a lot of time carefully constructing a humorous observation, therefore I can spit in his face and he’ll think it’s funny!”
It doesn’t matter that the people messaging me are very earnestly insulting and disrespecting my friends without a trace of humor – I made a joke once, so clearly I should take everything anybody does for the rest of my life to be a joke.
Listen: You can’t walk into a comedy club and start shooting people in the face just because chuckles are in the air. The “what’s the problem, I thought this was a COMEDY club” defense is not going to save you from the death penalty.
I think this attitude, or at least its prevalence online, started with internet trolls. And that’s a shame, because trolling used to be pretty funny and almost entirely harmless. Trolling, despite the modern usage, does not mean “the act of pissing somebody off and laughing about their anger.” It is “the act of pissing somebody off BASED ON SOMETHING COMPLETELY MEANINGLESS and laughing about their MISPLACED anger.” It isn’t considered trolling to leave a comment full of racial epithets and laugh when people “don’t get it.” It is trolling if you leave a comment insisting on the wrong information about something irrelevant – how many runes are on a Stargate, for example (everybody knows its 12) – and wait for the ONE guy that just can’t let the transgression pass. If you start a fake fight with Prof. Stargate, dragging him deeper and deeper until hopefully, finally, even he has to stop and think “wait a minute, this is ridiculous,” that is trolling. That’s the difference: No actual harm is caused, and even the victim can eventually get in on the joke. “Trolling” isn’t referring to hiding behind a fortification and trying to hurt people like the mythical creature. It’s referring to the style of fishing – you drag bait across the bottom hoping to get a rare bite. It’s not ‘bait’ if you’re earnestly spouting your misogynistic beliefs and somebody gets upset. There’s nothing funny about entirely justified anger.
This ‘ha ha, you got mad, so you lose’ attitude is the exact same reason we all collectively decided not to like hipsters very much: It’s because they were hiding behind a rigged game. Everything was ironic. You can say they look good, and they take the compliment. But you can’t say they look like shit, because they’re TRYING to look like shit. You can say you love their band, and you get a “thanks bro!” But you can’t say their band sucks, because it’s SUPPOSED to suck. They were so afraid of judgment that they only did things under the protective cloak of irony, so that if you didn’t like it, you could be accused of not getting it. There was no losing condition. Same with people saying shitty things to each other on the internet under the guise of “humor.”
If this kind of thing was still confined to YouTube comments – then fuck it, who cares? But it’s not. It spills out. It’s everywhere now, even seeping into reality: There are people walking the Earth today who genuinely think, in all aspects of their lives, that somebody getting pissed off at them for valid reasons means they win something. If some asshole says something in assholish to you, and you respond to him as you would an asshole, he wins, because you’re mad. If you don’t respond, then clearly he’s just saying what we’re all thinking, so he wins again. There’s no losing condition to this ‘game,’ and that makes it not a game. Being a dick isn’t funny, because you’re not making jokes. It isn’t clever, because you’re not outsmarting anybody. It isn’t winning; it’s cowardice. You have no excuse not to treat people with a basic level of respect, whether they make jokes or coffee for a living, whether they’re online or in line in front of you at the movie theater.
In short: If you wouldn’t say it to The Rock in a dark alley, don’t say it to another human being on the internet.