April 27, 2012 § Leave a comment


I think Courtney Stodden is in danger you guys. What if she falls and scuffs her knee? What if she’s unable to escape the dragon that appears to be chasing her? What if she’s being cyberbullied by a 14 year old on Twitter AS WE SPEAK? At 17 years old, Stodden is in constant hypothetical danger. Good news though, a beefed-up CISPA just passed in the House, including revised language subsuming “the children” under “cybersecurity.”  You can breathe a sigh of relief, CourtCourt, now anybody who so much as thinks a nasty thing about you could be subject to limitless government search. Per Techdirt:

Previously, CISPA allowed the government to use information for “cybersecurity” or “national security” purposes. Those purposes have not been limited or removed. Instead, three more valid uses have been added: investigation and prosecution of cybersecurity crime, protection of individuals, and protection of children. Cybersecurity crime is defined as any crime involving network disruption or hacking, plus any violation of the CFAA.

Basically this means CISPA can no longer be called a cybersecurity bill at all. The government would be able to search information it collects under CISPA for the purposes of investigating American citizens with complete immunity from all privacy protections as long as they can claim someone committed a “cybersecurity crime”. Basically it says the 4th Amendment does not apply online, at all. Moreover, the government could do whatever it wants with the data as long as it can claim that someone was in danger of bodily harm, or that children were somehow threatened—again, notwithstanding absolutely any other law that would normally limit the government’s power.

This is excellent news. Nothing is more precious to us than OUR CHILDREN, particularly of the teenage child bride variety. But Courtney Stodden won’t be the only beneficiary of Congress’ largesse. We ALL stand to win,  particularly given the difficulty of knowing exactly how old people are online. You hear that, anyone who’s ever said anything rude to anyone on the internet? THEY MIGHT BE 17. In conclusion, CISPA is an excellent piece of legislation designed to provide legal avenues of pushback against political dissent protect our children and make the internet as locked down safe a place as possible. You guys are the worst best!

God Help Me

February 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

I have a new favorite show, about puppies and kitties and shit. I’m never leaving my living room again.

Speaking of that, it’s Caturday TO THE MAAAXXXXX!!!!!!!

via Modern Primate 


January 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Looks like there’s a new SOPA in town, and this time it’s global. FIRE UP YOUR FUN GUNS, INTERNET.

Ideological State Apparatuses

December 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

Normally I’d just roll my eyes about this, maybe make a snide comments about how cybercriminals are threatening our great nation with bootlegged copies of the 1996-97 season of Mad About You, OFF TO GITMO WITH EVERYONE. But not today, today I’m just irritated. Because this isn’t just old people being dumb about the internet, and this isn’t just about paying homage to the ghost of Jack Valenti. This is an ideological salvo, and a dangerous one at that.

By equating “intellectual property” (in this True Crime Comedy the focus is counterfeit goods, though the press conference extended the IP umbrella over file-sharing) with “drugs and crime,” not to mention TRRKING ERR JERBS and everything that’s plaguing America, Holder and Co. are greasing, or at the very least are running the risk of greasing, the wheels of bullshit SOPA and Protect IP. In short, by framing the discourse in black and white (not to mention horribly misleading) moral terms, the White House is preempting rational debate. Thus the conversation becomes CRIME AND DANGER vs INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM AND FREE SPEECH AND A THRIVING ECONOMY, which for the record is about as false as dichotomies come. Still, for the average American, which of those two categories will sound more desirable? Which of these two categories are people more likely to align themselves with, on (misguided) principle?

More extensive analyses here and here.

Pretty Much.

November 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

fun fun fun fun


All of the Above

September 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

y u mad at my racism bro

But seriously folks. This is one of those moments of double-triple-facepalm wherein internet humor simply doesn’t translate, and results in reports like the above which only serve a) as trollbait and b) to downplay actual discrimination because HAW HAW look how sensitive (black) people are being, don’t they know we (white people) (bravely) solved racism like years ago? So I’m torn, the internet researcher part of my brain is all like ooh MEDIA CONVERGENCE, and the internet person part of my brain is all like lol LEARN HOW TO INTERNET, and the symbolic power side of my brain is all like wow THIS IS JUST AN EXCUSE TO DOWNPLAY BLACK PEOPLE’S CONCERNS ABOUT RACISM.

Video unrelated, it’s a cat being useless.

Mark Reid, “African American Comedy Film”

August 26, 2011 § 1 Comment


One of the fastest and most reliable ways to put my ass to sleep (and/or to piss me off, depending on my mood) is to bring up Freud in the context of humor. As far as I’m concerned, Freud + comedy =  automatic tl;dr, really it’s just the WORST. I’m happy to concede that his whole shit about tendentious humor i.e. rape triangulation (you have a speaker, an object of derision, and an audience; the speaker and audience tag-team whatever object) is…………well it’s a shape, and sometimes jokes do follow that formula. But to say that ALL jokes follow the SAME formula, and are motivated by the same libidinal urges across the board regardless of race, gender, class, whatever, is either tautological and worthless or so laughably offensive to be comical in and of itself.

Re: the former, once you plug the respective variables into their respective positions, what else is there to say? Especially if the triangulation is always-already configured as rapish, the joke can only be reflective of racism, sexism, or homophobia in the speaker/listeners, which may gesture towards racism and sexism and homophobia in the Larger Culture but otherwise has limited theoretical applicability (although I’m sorry, but the racist, sexist, and deeply homophobic Freud doesn’t have a chin to lean on when it comes to the condemnation of offensive cultural output). Re: the latter, the whole setup is as politically problematic as it is simply unhelpful — the speaker and listener are gendered MALE, and the butt is gendered female, which means not necessarily biologically female but something weaker than the joke teller/listener (weaker either literally, as in, some defenseless creature, or ethically/morally less-than, allowing for subordinated groups to mock those in more exalted positions of power deemed morally depraved or otherwise inadequate). The act of telling a tendentious joke is thus framed as homosocial, at least — the teller and listener of the joke touch tips via the symbolic degradation of the butt, and that’s a problem because fags, gross.

Thus I knew it would be a rocky road when I encountered Reid’s first reference to Freud in the third goddamn paragraph. OH GOOD, I wrote in the margins. TENDENTIOUSNESS. Because. It’s just. WHY. (granted , this essay was written in 1993, which is a totally, or maybe not totally, unrelated issue — still, there’s just no excuse for Freud ever) Otherwise the article is straightforward enough, maybe a bit too straightforward (again though, 1993) — Reid chronicles the development and popularity of blackface minstrelsy (performed by whites), hybrid minstrelsy (performed by blacks, though mostly just a continuation of earlier and more explicitly racist tropes) and satiric hybrid minstrelsy (occupies a more negotiated relationship to blackface). Although all three forms are racist in origins, both white and black audiences have a number of –sometimes conflicting– reception strategies, blah blah blah Stuart Hall.

God, it’s been so long since filing a breadth exam thing I forgot my standard protocol. Ummm relationship to other selections. Probably something with Mary Douglas, the assimilating impulse of matter out of place. And Eve Sedgwick, but only if I get to play the I-hate-Freud card, which I highly doubt. Oh man I have so many rude things to say here, but I’ll just keep my mouth shut due to self-preservation and the desire for similar. Smile and nod, honeybadger. Smile and nod.

Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious

July 29, 2011 § 3 Comments

When I first started writing about trolls, a professor of mine directed me –of all cockamamie places– towards Freud. Get it because COCKS. I really wish I had one you guys! At the time I had no idea what shape my project would or should or could take, and anyway was fresh off the PhD-acceptance boat and/so was quite naive in terms of theoretical vetting. Consequently I said yes! Sure! Freud, what could possibly go wrong. As it turns out, pretty much everything; it took me all of two paragraphs to realize that Freud simply wasn’t the man for the job. Largely because his schema is excessively general and, simultaneously/paradoxically way too specific. As some guy said in this book one time, “Any model that claims universality will either be tautological or absurd,” and in this case I’d say he’s guilty of both. And yet here I am, 34 years later, not sure whether to laugh or cry at his inclusion on my Symbolic Power list. Oh well, quisiera presentarle a “Freud.”

First, and perhaps most importantly, jokes serve a critical social function. By releasing all our repressed (and apparently perfectly distributed) pent-up libidinal energy, jokes momentarily lift the restrictions that society (whatever that means) has imposed (101-102). Not only is this release inherently pleasurable, it helps maintain cultural order. Because in the end, we’re all just savages. And by “we” I mean men (and by “men” I mean “white”), though I suppose this is also true for those half-human half-devil menstruation goblins with the tragically inside-outed penises occasionally referred to in the literature as “we men.” As I was saying — without jokes, society would fall victim to its own repression and would subsequently disintegrate. Therefore it would be helpful to think of the joke, and the impulse to laugh at jokes, as a kind of cultural release valve. One that taps into what I call a “social unconscious,” that is, the stuff me and my psychoanalyst friends think about and which we subsequently universalize because why wouldn’t we, it’s what we experience and we’re all pretty cool guys!

Verily there are two basic categories of jokes; “innocent” and “tendentious.” Innocent jokes are ends in themselves, bringing pleasure to all who are lucky enough to experience my such delightful displays of wit and linguistic dexterity! Here, let me run through 40 pages of puns I find amusing. The second category is the tendentious joke, which harnesses the pleasure of transgression and can be divided into three further subgroups, namely smut, hostile jokes and cynical jokes. In the case of smut, it’s basically always about rape! Men are, after all, men! Every last one of them! All the same! So, when a man tells a smutty joke, what he’s really doing is transferring his sexual rape-energy to some female, either present or implied! It’s unclear how this isn’t completely gay, seeing as such jokes often occur in groups of three or more persons, most of whom are men! But I’m Freud, and I say the linguistic gang-bang is heterosexual! It’s also about the symbolic exposure of latent genitals. Which also isn’t gay, even though jokes consequently allow –if not actively encourage!– groups of men to engage in figurative “sword fights,” if you will! (99-102; connect to Sedgwick)! Hostile jokes, on the other hand, are not explicitly about penises. I mean they’re about penises, because ultimately what isn’t about penises, but it’s less in terms of sexual assault as it is socially-sanctioned expressions of frustration. In short, hostile jokes are a way to minimize that which threatens to consume us. They allow one to release the kraken –as well as recruit sympathizers– without actually having to murder one’s enemies, which is most convenient (102-110)! Likewise, cynical jokes allow one, lol jk you know I mean white men, to mock institutions (including, if not especially, those institutions of which we find ourselves a part) with relative impunity. Without such an outlet, we’d probably shoot up every high school within 300 miles! Because we really are just monsters (110-116).

Actually on second thought, all but basic jests are non-tendentious; the vast majority of jokes, even ostensibly “innocent” jokes, seek to accomplish a separate aim, namely recruitment of some form (132-134) and/or to lift a particular prohibition or inhibition. Furthermore the setup is always a triad, consisting of a joke-teller, an audience, and a butt (143; 155). Jokes are always about violence and/or victimization, as the tendentious joke unites joke-teller and joke-hearer against the butt. Oh and jokes are a lot like dreams, what with their tendency to represent, condense and displace actual experience (164). Also a joke is not the same as the comic. One is made and the other is found, who cares, something about mimetics (181). And humor is something else entirely! Did I mention I’m Freud, and can throw in whatever coke-fueled tangent I feel like, just cuz?

And, scene. I simply cannot tell you how much I dislike Freud. And yet I’m not even that interested in fighting with the guy, which along with “I don’t like you as a person” is one of the most cutting things anyone could ever say. It goes without saying that his work is grossly outdated and deeply offensive to women. But it’s also offensive to men, positing one universally acceptable mode of being for everyone. And let’s not forget, this is a guy who manages to pathologize heterosexuality while maintaining steadfast homophobia. You can only lose, which is boring. In terms of the joke work, my reaction is really just … meh. I mean yeah yeah, tendentiousness. Obviously there’s some of that. But his approach doesn’t allow for any movement, any play, any context other than the one which inheres within his particular worldview. In the end, then, and to return to my quotable quote at the beginning of this entry, it’s not that I think Freud is wrong as much as I don’t think he’s particularly interesting. Because even if you do accept his schema, the resulting analysis is reduced to the simple fact that jokes can be aggressive. Which is sort of like — well no shit, making it more a weak assumption than useful conclusion.

Reports from the Archives: Sexual Games of the American Male Child

July 5, 2011 § 3 Comments

Problem officer?

A brief scheduling note: I have a bit of new information about my exam questions, and will be adjusting my studies accordingly. From here on out, I’ll just be focusing on the stand-alone potential for each entry. I am confident that no one cares, whee!

And now on to Tok Thompson’s article about sex-sex-sex. He opens by waxing poetic about the kinds of external and self-imposed censorship that emerges before and while and after working on subjects deemed taboo, especially those within one’s native culture. After all, banging heads with dominant ideologies can be tricky, and is not always appreciated by those whose ideologies they are (11). In this case, Thompson is referring to GAMES II C69 M3, a folder containing all kinds of naughty archived content. Intent on presenting his findings in memorium of the recently deceased and super-duper sex pervert Gershon Legman, Thompson reluctantly accepted the consequences of his research. And boy am I glad he did. But oh my god what a cocktease! Because WHO CARES about any of this prefatory business about cultural taboos, all anyone wants to know is what gross shit he’s talking about. Namely, SEX GAMES, which he finally gets to on the 3rd page of his 8-page article.

A: Ejaculatory (16 examples, framed either as game or prank)

B. Urination contests (3 examples)

C. Expository contest (1 example, at first was unclear if meant writing or poop — (un?)fortunately tis the former)

D. Actual circle sexual behavior (3 examples)

HAR HAR this whole article is about “swordfights,” Thompson’s main area of interest. No really, he’s most interested in talking about fighting games between human penors, which Thompson argues subverts societal expectations regarding cleanliness.  And oh man! There are SO many ways to play circle-jerk. Like, sometimes you just want to see who’s fastest, and other times you’re trying to trick your friend into thinking that everyone’s doing it, while really he’s the only one so when you flip on the lights and his dick is hanging out, everyone can lol together, at his shame! Sounds fun (13).

The question –per the article– is, is this GAY? According to Thompson, maybe. Or not, since it’s also about asserting dominance — so, if the behaviors don’t outright queer the participants (represent release of homosocial/sexual desire) they point to a social hierarchy intent on degrading (i.e. feminizing) the “losers” (14).  Which is way more sexist (in this case synonymous with homophobic) than Thompson acknowledges — he claims that these are liminal behaviors which teach boys how to be boys, and in this sense serve an important socializing function (15). Because apparently an essential part of being a boy is degrading anyone deemed less manly? Oh and DOUBLE-AWESOME, he justifies this by presenting a cross-cultural example, which totally makes it ok! Phew, I was worried there for a second. Keep on gay (“women”)-bashing, virile youth of America! Let’s prove Dan Savage wrong, once and for all! In conclusion, facepalm.

Connection to exam question: Oh jesus, maybe something about how play –often minimized as “just” play– has the potential to re-inscribe dominant social paradigms. This could be a really good counter-example, actually, about how anything could/should be explained away as “just” anything, and whether or not this kind of behavior is better or worse (more or less damaging) than explicit joking…



Engaging Humor: “The Context of Internet Humor” and “The Humor of Hate”

June 21, 2011 § 3 Comments

“The Context of Internet Humor”

The fun with Elliot Oring continues! In this article, which was published in 2003 but appears to draw from research conducted in the late 90s (in itself a dangerous proposition), Oring considers the relationship between humor and cyberspace. Cyberhumor! Specifically, he examines twenty websites either fully or partially devoted to post-Monica Bill/Hillary/Chelsea Clinton humor. Data which apparently he was saving for a rainy day? But I digress. Pulling from his cyberfindings, Oring arrives at three basic conclusions, two of which I agree with and appreciate and one of which gives me a major case of the facepalms but which means well, and therefore should be treated charitably.

Oring’s first point is that, contrary to popular opinion, the internet is not (solely) a cold and anonymous place; the “Web Masters” whose sites Oring examines often include a great deal of personal information, making it possible to make loose associations between the admin of whatever site and the jokes he/she publishes. Secondly, because these websites are destination vacations (i.e. people either deliberately seek them out or find them via hyperlink), it is also possible to glean some information about the individual users of whatever site. Thus by studying the humor of a particular online community, it may be possible to learn something about the people who seem to enjoy, or at least respond to, the posted content. Using this approach, Oring presents six metacategories –indexical, distracting, tendentious, offensive, harmless, perilous–which help explain the variety of users’ attitudes towards the jokes they make and read. Maybe not the most earth-shattering insights, but he’s taking online communities seriously before many folklorists were willing to admit that “community” was even possible online. So — you know, yay.

The third point is where Oring loses me completely. Although he concedes that the internet is a hotbed for interesting material (+1), and that this material is well worth studying (+2), and that it’s important to think about the people behind the individual users (+3), he asserts that the tubes are little more than an archive for content, as opposed to a living, evolving repertoire (->9000). His reasoning is simple: the repertoire is oral, the archive is written. The internet is little more than words on a screen, an infinite bulletain-board if you will, and therefore is and can only be archival. This is just…well, wrong, but as I said, I can’t really blame the guy. For one thing, his dataset was, as of publication, nearly 5 years old. And since his book was published (2003), much has happened in the world of cybershit. For example Web 2.0 har har oh that little thing. Not that Web 2.0 marked some fundamental departure from how previous generations of users utilized their respective networks. Online repertoires have always existed, you just needed to know how to find them. And given that Oring found his sample using “a popular search engine” (AOL Keyword: LOL), it’s not at all surprising that what he found was a static collection of static joke collections. In other words, Oring is wrong, but only because he wasn’t looking in the right places.

If feeder question: I mean the stuff about challenging traditional accounts of anonymity is relevant. Certainly conceptions of the repertoire. Sort of obvious.

If stand-alone question: I’d emphasize context stuff, specifically in relation to self-selected filter bubbles — people hang out on sites that reflect their values/sense of humor, meaning that certain assumptions about propriety or aesthetics or whatever often go unexamined. Problems arise when a member of one group attempts to cross-pollinate before knowing the “rules” of the new community. Could be connected to Oring’s previous thing about how jokes aren’t always the same joke, and that something which undermines a dominant ideal in one context could reaffirm the ideal in another. JOKE AS MEDIUM NOT MESSAGE.

“The Humor of Hate”

See now this makes me smile. Although I have a few minor lil’ bones to pick with Oring’s last selection, I am delighted by this next one. Which is basically like Freud! You’re dumb. Or not that exactly, it’s just that Oring takes great care to undermine the assumption that humor is inherently aggressive, and that jokes are always disguised fighting words — i.e. people tell jokes because they hate you, or hate themselves, or hate something, resulting in precisely the dragon-guts shitpile Legman describes in his angerbear intro to No Laughing Matter. Oring –who is reasonable! and smart! and an all-around nice man to read– decides to test this theory by examining WAR, a news(“news”)paper published by the White Aryan Resistance. If humor is all about repression, Oring postulates, then an organization which prides itself on its lack of repression wouldn’t have anything to joke about. Right?

The answer is, of course, no — the fine folks at WAR frequently deploy humor, and not of the random dumbass knock-knock joke variety but deliberate racially (well racist-ly) charged humor, most frequently in the form of satirical cartoons. Oring is quick to concede that the humor present in WAR‘s pages is hardly cerebral, and is…you know…not funny. It does however utilize the “appropriate incongruities” characteristic of comedic technique — specifically “punning, exaggeration, irony, indirect representation, extended analogy, [and] allusion” (44). As one might expect (if one were of the Freudian persuasion), WAR also uses humor to depict acts of violence against minority groups, an urge even the staunchest racist knows he must suppress. At least while Big Brother is watching. Despite this apparent Freudian victory, Oring is quick to point out that the humorous accounts of violence are no more sadistic than their non-humorous counterparts, suggesting that humor might be a, but is certainly not the, vessel for aggression.

Because yeah, humor can communicate “some hidden or unrecognized hostility” (57), but jokes in themselves aren’t necessarily or inherently hostile. Meaning –whether hateful or complimentary– inheres primarily within the message, not the specific linguistic medium (i.e. people respond to what the joke says/means, not the fact that it is a joke). That said, the joke does do something not found in “normal” discourse — it implies (and occasionally directly constitutes) a community. As Oring explains, humor “calls upon individuals to invoke an extant body of tacit, everyday knowledge in order to recognize and make sense of an incongruity” (56) — a schema which helps explain why a certain joke may soar in one setting and bomb in another. It depends on who tells and who hears and what everyone present brings to the table, echoing Oring’s implicit claim in “Jokes and the Discourse on Disaster” that one joke can be many jokes, depending on the circumstance of their telling.

If feeder question: Connection to trolls, same idea…on account of trolls are many things, but they’re sure as hell not passive in their aggression. Whether they mean what they say is a different issue (and ties into the question of replicating systems) — but trolling humor is predicated on explicitly aggressive humor explicitly directed in the most explicit terms possible. Will have to think more about how I might integrate Oring’s insights into a discussion of trolling…

If stand-alone question: Focus on the inclusion of the racist cartoons and statements. I’ll admit to chuckling at some of them, not at the subjects themselves but at their utter absurdity. They were “funny,” but not in the ways they were intended to be. This actually is exactly the issue I’m circling. Does my laughter actually replicate the systems of oppression I’m ostensibly mocking? What if I show one of the cartoons to a friend, does that replicate racist ideology? It might be a cop-out, but as of press time I suppose my answer is……well…..that’s a really weird question, let’s start there.

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