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While browsing through the new diary list this morning, I came across a wonderful diary by KAMuston about the "politics of personal destruction" in the Presidential campaign of 1884. This excellent diary, "Mud in Your Eye", is well worth a read and I highly recommend it.

It was not, however, the mud-slinging between the Cleveland and Blaine campaigns that prompted this diary. It was not even the Mugwumps and the "Drys". Well, actually, the Drys a little--more specifically what KAMuston had to say about the drys, formally known as the Prohibition Party. KAMuston suggested that, like some modern liberals, the Drys were "humorless". That's what caught my attention, and is the subject of this diary. Follow me over the break for a dry and humorless look at the modern, dour liberal. (Diarist's fingers are crossed behind his back....)

Note to the spelling and grammar police, that great enemy of humor and snark everywhere: the title is a play on an old (and very bad) baseball joke. Besides which, -LY is on vacation in Barbados.

This is what got me thinking this morning, from KAMuston's diary:

Prohibitionists were always a priggish bunch of humorless unforgiving bores, sort of like modern liberals

It is so true, I thought to myself, many of us can be humorless. And I'm not talking about the normal righteous indignation with which most of us would greet run-of-the-mill punchbowl turds such as a racist joke or a gay joke or a joke at the expense of, say, a prominent woman such as Dorothy Day or Rosa Luxemburg or--dog forfend--Betty Friedan. Or for that matter any joke alluding to the feminine mystique at all, most especially the peculiar mystique of blondes. No, indeed, humor in general which is not specifically aimed with sharp-shooter-like accuracy at the Right tends to be viewed as suspect, subversive even.

In my opinion, this is mostly because we are too busy rooting out that unspeakable evil, that most marginalizing act of oppression of the "other": making a joke at someone else's expense or worse, making a joke at our own expense--which would undermine the fervor with which we take our crusade for social justice. That a liberal or progressive should laugh at all, in fact, makes her suspect in the eyes of her political bedfellows. "What kind of secret bias is she harboring that she laughed out loud? Is she secretly racist? Classist? Hates Italian-Americans?" Indeed, humor is subversive to the liberal cause, as subversive as sex and taxes is to the Republican. (Though to be fair to Republicans, they certainly don't mind paying sales tax on food and liquor purchased at the myriad strip clubs which line the interstate highways of the South. Sometimes one can be found on each corner of an intersection, like whitewashed churches in a New England village.)

Now I will be the first to admit to making tasteless jokes about and taking merciless jabs at right wing politicians. I do this every week in my Awards Plus Edition diary. I even go so far as to call some of these folks "douchenozzles", due to their uncanny ability to cause a political clyster-f*&k. Now, as good liberals, can we pass up an opportunity to see a word like "douchenozzle" and immediately jump to the conclusion that this is somehow sexist? Of course we can't, though in my case, I am referring to the kind of douche used by some ueber-fastidious gay men as an anti-santorum precaution. (A precaution, by the way, which I personally eschew before sexual intimacy: not only is its frequent use unhealthy but as my mother always told me, "shit happens"). But to admit into the conversation that I might be referring to this takes away all the fun if you are a liberal. Let's face it: sexism isn't funny, and therefore it's more fun for the liberal to engage in some righteous indignation than it is to consider that perhaps a person is referring to a different sort of douche--one that is, in a rather puerile and scatological fashion, actually funny. Which, if you're a liberal, simply wouldn't do.

In fact, if one is a liberal as I am, any joke which could even be remotely suggestive of being made at the expense of any group or sub-group of a sub-group is strictly off-limits. Which leaves us with what? Jokes about Republicans which betray a transference of ridicule away from ethnicity, race, gender or national origin and on to our narrow minded tea-drinking troll friends on the right. And, frankly, not much else.

So, in order to square our language with our politics, we have necessarily eliminated all humor which could be construed as offensive to anyone. Which, quite frankly, severely limits our ability to laugh at ourselves or each other. It's really quite simple. The Drys, I'm fairly certain, would definitely approve.

Now, in all seriousness, I am not suggesting that we should revel in tasteless and hurtful jokes at the expense of others. The inimitable Bill Bryson, in his 1998 book Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States, addresses politically correct speech towards the end of that volume in a way which is erudite and, of course, humorous. He rightly takes some shots at some of the cruder (and more ignorant) attempts to correct gender bias in language ("herstory", one of the more ridiculous examples for its total lack of understanding about the etymology of the word "history" which has nothing whatsoever to do with "his", comes to mind) then goes on to make the case for intelligent correction where it makes linguistic sense. I am personally acquainted with a number of liberals who are so committed to erasing any kind of bias or inequality of any kind in speech that the exercise has, indeed, rendered them incapable of saying anything intelligible whatsoever. Let alone tell a joke.

Yes: we liberals tend towards the humorless. We have a penchant to be the party of "no" when it comes to speech. In that way, we have a lot more in common with the Prohibition Party than one might glean at first glance. In order to liberate myself from this downward spiral of humor repression, I am going to close with a limerick. A self deprecating one:

A humorless liberal from Maine
made a joke he thought was quite tame.
But his friends failed to laugh
at his horrible gaffe
not the least his one friend who was lame.

UPDATE: as I predicted, already some folks have responded to this diary in a sour, humorless fashion. I love it when, in a snark diary, people take it seriously in the comment thread. What I love even more, is when it's a snark diary about liberals having no sense of humor and people respond in such a fashion that my thesis is instantly proven correct. ;)

Originally posted to commonmass on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 08:00 AM PST.


Politically Correct Speech

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (11+ / 0-)

    Join CM,Wxdude and Co. for AWARDS PLUS EDITION diary each Wed. at 8pm ET.

    by commonmass on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 08:00:51 AM PST

  •  It's ironic that we're so humorless. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    penguins4peace, commonmass, BusyinCA

    Liberalism, like humor, is about transgression.  

    "George Washington said I was beautiful"--Sarah Palin on Barbara Bush, as imagined by Mark Sumner

    by Rich in PA on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 08:20:09 AM PST

  •  If liberals are so humorless (5+ / 0-)

    and politically correct, why are comments on this site so often funny?  Secret invasion of Rush Limbociles onto DailyKos?  Or is the idea that only moderates are fully gleeful and not angry prudes?

  •  "Politically Correct™"? (6+ / 0-)

    Is that anything like Pro-Life™?  Or Family Friendly™?  Descriptives created to cast a negative slant on things that actually make life better.

    politically correct = phrases we've socialized ourselves to be sensitive about using because they cause harm

    pro-life = religious right wing political position that often includes murdering physicians.

    family-friendly =  gay haters

    I'm never going to let those self indulgent pigs make me feel squeamish about doing the right thing.  Fuck them.  And fuck anyone who aids and abets them.

    •  The same people who yammer about (6+ / 0-)

      "political correctness" get awfully touchy if you criticize their religious beliefs even in the most gentle of fashions. Hell, even wishing someone "happy holidays" is too much for these enemies of political correctness to bear.

      The term political correctness is just another instance of the right projecting their sins onto others. F*ck them, and don't accept their terminology for anything.

      Stupidity has a knack of getting its way-Albert Camus

      by beltane on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 08:31:21 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Actually, I do believe the term (5+ / 0-)

        "politically correct" was actually coined by the left.

        Join CM,Wxdude and Co. for AWARDS PLUS EDITION diary each Wed. at 8pm ET.

        by commonmass on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 08:32:05 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Wikipedia article (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        shaharazade, BusyinCA

        here suggests that the term was first used in a modern sense by the New Left in the early 70's.

        Join CM,Wxdude and Co. for AWARDS PLUS EDITION diary each Wed. at 8pm ET.

        by commonmass on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 08:34:19 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  "PC" now used as anti-left pejorative (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          esquimaux, commonmass

          Regardless of the original source of the term.

          Indeed, it's because of the original meaning and source that the right so loves to attack it.

          Certain behaviors, like racism, sexism, eco-rape, murderous monopoly corporate fascist rip off, and warmongering profiteering imperialism, are "incorrect", and so are language, actions and political positions that defend or advance those crimes against humanity.

          Naturally, the right hates any such perspective...

          You say you just want to point out that maybe PC can be carried too far, but you offer no poignant examples of that whatsoever, and instead engage only in promulgating a broad, general, absolutist right wing meme.


          "...a printing press is worth 10,000 rifles..." Ho Chi Minh

          by Radical def on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 08:57:07 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Please note snark tag. n/t (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Radical def, BusyinCA

            Join CM,Wxdude and Co. for AWARDS PLUS EDITION diary each Wed. at 8pm ET.

            by commonmass on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 09:09:41 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I don't usually read tags... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              But even as snark, I think this diary fails.

              Look, not trying to give you a hard time, heh.  Just saying you don't make a very good case for your point, except in the negative, I think.

              I think it's a conceivably valid point, that sometimes people do wax over-sensitive...although I think that that might prove to be a fine line, between being over-sensitive, and being insensitive...are you sure you really want to take the heat?

              It might make an interesting discussion, for which you could have brought some explicit examples, to kick it off...

              I'd rather see people be more sensitive, for a change, and on the alert for grossly incorrect perspectives, and to challenge them, and to not "tolerate" them.

              I think it's better to err in this "intorerant" regard, than to err in the opposite direction of letting too much bullshit slide.  

              If one interprets or extrapolates incorrectly, that can be resolved by further clarifying discussion.

              But the harm done by just letting racism, sexism, etc. slide, by "tolerating" advocacy or commission of crimes against humanity, is a far greater genuine threat than that of having to watch your mouth, and keep your hands to yourself.

              Nobody has a "right" to any "freedom" to be a nazi pig.

              They will scream bloody murder about "oppression", if you don't let them run amok, but, oh well.

              Death to Fascism!

              Re: Carol O'connor, or whatever his name was, that played Archie...

              Now, there's a good topic, heh.  What an artist!  What a profound social statement!  

              Especially in the fact that so many stupid rednecks loved the Archie character soo much, even as he deliberately, so poignantly, demonstrated to the entire world exactly why they are such absolute assholes, LOL!

              Except I always wished so much that his ol' lady would just slap him silly...

              "...a printing press is worth 10,000 rifles..." Ho Chi Minh

              by Radical def on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 09:47:37 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  Actually (0+ / 0-)

        I yammer about the political correctness of the left. It's annoyed the hell out of me for 40 years. I'm a follower of Lenny Bruce - nothing is off-limits. Sometimes humor is all that makes life worth living.

        The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. --Bertrand Russell

        by denise b on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 04:56:39 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Politically Correct™ (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Detroit Mark, BusyinCA

      is, in an of itself, politically correct. Please notice that there is a snark tag on this diary. I am NOT actually advocating making offensive jokes. And I agree with you, Mark, I'll continue to do the right thing, too.

      Join CM,Wxdude and Co. for AWARDS PLUS EDITION diary each Wed. at 8pm ET.

      by commonmass on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 08:31:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Consider teh source (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Take what they say and invert it. Compare to their actual behaviour. If a Republican says 'Family Values' that means they cheat on their spouse. Likewise, all of their talking points can be de-constructed. 'Fiscal Responsibility' means take the money and run. Sadly, a lot of Democratic politicians are using the same terminology.

  •  I reserve the right to be called a liberal (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SpamNunn, commonmass, BusyinCA

    that appreciates and seeks out a good laugh.
    Hopefully that joke or my laugh doesn't make anyone else feel like shit. I try hard.

    Education is too big to fail. Truth is too big to fail. Justice is too big to fail. Peace is too big to fail.

    by Burned on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 08:27:26 AM PST

  •  Bullshit rightwing memes politically incorrect nt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, BusyinCA

    "...a printing press is worth 10,000 rifles..." Ho Chi Minh

    by Radical def on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 08:42:28 AM PST

  •  Patty Murray walks into a bar. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, oopsaDaisy

    Bartender says: "Lady, why the long face?"


    If you lose your disc or fail to follow commands, you will be subject to immediate de-resolution. That will be all.

    by SpamNunn on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 09:09:15 AM PST

  •  I read conservatives invented "PC" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, BusyinCA

    as a way of attacking us for not throwing around slurs and "hate facts" and challenging their mythos of white supremacy and American exceptionalism.  Specifically, someone did a sophisticated computer search of the use in the media of "politically correct" and its variations, and found that the phrases were almost invariably used by conservatives in reference to non-conservatives and the various beliefs and statements ascribed to them.

    Iceland knew what to do with broke banks.

    by rf80412 on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 09:11:05 AM PST

    •  Not true (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      "Politically correct" was a term used with deadly seriousness by some extremely humorless leftists in the 1960s and 70s, with absolutely no irony. I remember it well. Whoever did the computer search was not going back far enough.

      The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. --Bertrand Russell

      by denise b on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 05:00:28 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Forgive me for injecting some serious (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    varro, denise b, Utahrd, commonmass, BusyinCA

    discussion into a snark diary, please. :)

    There really IS a humorless contingent to the liberal/progressive movement. I well remember my own period of humorlessness when I was working with the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Student Alliance at Penn State. I was a freshly minted gay radical. Most of us in the LGBSA were. We were so earnest that it hurts, looking back at it. Every possible iota of disrespect in conversation (even between ourselves) was jumped on with the vigor and fervor of the convert. I burned out on it about six months in. It really IS a very intense, very exhausting state to live in.

    The tie in to your inspiration for publishing this diary is that the Temperance Movement was actually a liberal movement, despite our modern perspective that Prohibition was a horrible and stupid limitation on freedom.

    The one saving grace of American politics is that the Libertarian Party invariably makes the Democratic Party look like a highly organized hive mind.

    by jayjaybear on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 09:15:35 AM PST

    •  The new show Portlandia... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jayjaybear, commonmass, BusyinCA

      ...on IFC is a deflation of the same sort of self-importance in a subculture - in the precious little world of Portland progressives.

      Thugs like Rush Limbaugh attack the weak, while liberal comedians (George Carlin, Kathy Griffin, Brownstein and Armisen of Portlandia) mock the strong or the dominant paradigm.  

      In a subculture like yours at the Penn State GLBTQ group, or in mine - Portland, Oregon, our own groups are the dominant paradigm, so much so that eating prole food like bacon or fast food is seen as transgressive.

      9-11 changed everything? Well, Katrina changed it back.

      by varro on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 10:16:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  "Prole food"? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jayjaybear, BusyinCA

        OK, now I am legitimately offended. Classist! I should HR you! (/snark).

        Join CM,Wxdude and Co. for AWARDS PLUS EDITION diary each Wed. at 8pm ET.

        by commonmass on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 10:28:53 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      • wasn't GLBTQ at the time. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        commonmass, BusyinCA

        This was the early 90s. We'd JUST added the "B". The "T" was at least five years away, yet. The Advocate still had the classifieds in the magazine itself. George H.W. Bush was president (who knew we'd look back on him as "the better Bush"?).

        It was a different world.

        The one saving grace of American politics is that the Libertarian Party invariably makes the Democratic Party look like a highly organized hive mind.

        by jayjaybear on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 11:37:39 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  JK Rowling spoofed this (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      in her subplot about S.P.E.W. (the Society for the Protection of Elvish Welfare). She claims to have been writing from experience there.

      To a fundamentalist, God is an abusive alcoholic father.

      by ebohlman on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 08:02:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  There is a difference between humor and sarcasm. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Especially when people choose sensitive topics like gay, gender or race issues to be sarcastic about. But I differentiate humor from sarcasm (did I already say that?) and I find that many liberals think they are being humorous when they are being sarcastic and then get quite shocked when other people don't find their humor funny.

    •  Sarcasm is a form of humor (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Well, that's the catch with humor, isn't it? What's in or out of bounds depends on how funny it is.

      The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. --Bertrand Russell

      by denise b on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 05:03:11 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I agree, to a point... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, BusyinCA

    For instance, there are some jokes that are perfectly fine in a group of like-minded folks or ones who share an ethnic background.  

    Many years ago my family would blithely joke about how our Lebanese brethren could easily out-bargain a Jew.  Mind you, they had great respect for Jewish people or they wouldn't have bothered with the comparison.  One of my dad's very close friends (really, truly!) was Jewish, and they constantly exchanged barbs.  Spoken words were the same as goods or currency, to be enhanced and exchanged like anything of material value.  When someone finally got the upper hand, they'd all let out a belly laugh and start thinking of the next challenge.  The only thing someone on the outside might have thought of as odd was that this was between people who they'd expect to have animosity toward each other.  

    Now, though, if someone outside the circle were to overhear such talk, they might readily jump to all kinds of goofy and false conclusions.  It really is hard to know where the line is especially when it can be so fuzzy.  Heck, I often call myself a bitch and am sometimes proud when someone else does, but there are other times it can be hurtful.  In the end, I'd rather have someone make an obvious insult than use all the codes and dogwhistles we have now.  

    My final thought is about the word "feel."  If I say the word feel, I follow it with a feeling word: sick, happy, tired, etc.  Using feel as a way to blunt what is a belief held by the speaker makes it very difficult for the listener to respond without it being a personal attack.  It's also really mushy speech.  If it's important enough to bring it up, own it by using "believe" or "think" instead of "feel."  (Climbing down from soapbox...)

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 10:36:22 AM PST

    •  I get you. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      luckylizard, BusyinCA

      I am a yankee. My friend Bill is also a yankee. There is a stereotype about yankees that they are cheap. Which also happens to be true, mostly. Bill and I are always competing about which one of us is "cheaper". If you were, as you say, outside the circle, some people could take offense at our conversations even though we are clearly--or at least to us it's clear--talking about each other.

      By the way, I won the last round. I told him how to dry out used coffee grounds so they can be used a second time. He drew the line at that. No doubt, though, he'll come up with something even cheaper than that!

      Thanks for your comment.

      Join CM,Wxdude and Co. for AWARDS PLUS EDITION diary each Wed. at 8pm ET.

      by commonmass on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 10:40:53 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's exactly it! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        commonmass, BusyinCA

        I'm glad you could relate.  I was a bit afraid after I pushed the "Post" button.  It's easy to be misunderstood here, without the normal physical cues that happen in real-life conversations.

        -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

        by luckylizard on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 11:08:15 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'm not going to comment, I'm not going (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    to comment I'm not going to comment...

    This has been a bad enough weekend for me to comment on your diary...

    Religion: Treat it like your penis. Don't show it off in public, and don't shove it down your children's throats. (-9.00,-8.41)

    by MinistryOfLove on Sun Jan 02, 2011 at 10:52:22 AM PST

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