October 25, 2016 – When it comes to words, we’ve been told that conservatives are the anything goes crowd and liberals are the politically correct. Right? Well although that might generally be true (putting aside that there’s nothing conservative about letting words run wild and there’s nothing liberal about policing language), a funny thing happens when those labels are applied to humor, and the most sensitive people aren’t necessarily who you’d expect.
Is It Funny or Offensive? is where the internet comes to draw the line between what’s ok and what’s not. Just as humor is ripped from the headlines, so too are the arguments about what’s acceptable playing out in real time – people discuss whether that line’s been fairly drawn or whether it needs to be drawn at all. And if you’re one of those thinking that there’s no line…
Any casual observer visiting our site or Facebook page will see various types of material – much of it political right now given the crescendo of this never-ending election season. When Bernie Sanders was a hot topic, there was a lot of content about Bernie, and in general, his supporters would take the jabs in stride, “He’s my guy, but you got him good with that meme!” Hillary’s supporters are a bit more vocal and combative in their replies. And perhaps the largest portion of our community is conservative, the anti-PC crowd because they love provocative content. That is, until it’s about them, or in many cases, their candidate.
Donald Trump by his very nature is a “bigly” source of content for us and on any given day we’ll have at least one post about him – and in return, we’re more likely to get a death threat in the comment section from one of his supporters than an LOL. Now of course, no one likes to be the butt of a joke, but these results greatly surprised us. After all, it seems you can’t get thirty seconds into a Republican speech this year without a reminder that “political correctness is destroying the country!” It seems odd that those so overtly opposed to political correctness might actually need some themselves. Shouldn’t there be an intrinsic understanding that humor goes both ways and people need to participate in that contract without going ballistic?
Of our half million followers, the majority is between the ages of 18 and 44 with an almost perfect split between male and female. Looking at a random sampling of posts presented to that community, we found that, not surprisingly, neither the likely supporters of Hillary Clinton nor those of Donald Trump reacted positively to humor at their own candidate’s expense – 32% and 27% respectively. A much more noticeable difference was identified, however, when it came to the type of response. In the Trump case, there was a significant chance (as high as 38%) that the comments of his likely supporters would include references to hate, abusive language, personal threats or even violence – something we encountered in less than 9% of the Hillary group. And perhaps not shockingly, both groups assumed in equal parts that the site itself held a bias against whomever was the target of the joke (not true).
These statistics underscore one of the complexities of political correctness – you can’t protest against it only to then turn around and declare yourown safe space; “Grab them by the pussy but don’t make fun of Trump!” As the above numbers indicate, if the response to a meme is outright hostility, something isn’t working. And isn’t that exactly the argument being made against liberals for “being too sensitive?” If that’s the case, how did Trump of all people become such a sacred and fragile cow? (You’d think that Trump himself might be bigger than that, but tweeting complaints at Saturday Night Live and responding to Hillary’s throwaway debate barb about his taxes with “such a nasty woman” would seem to suggest otherwise).
In reality, there’s no such thing as political correctness – it’s actually just…correctness. Or decency. Or humanity. Perhaps the way you yourself would like to be treated. It’s not something that belongs to the Left or the Right, it’s just common sense. It would seem that we either need to find the humor in everything starting with ourselves, or maybe, just maybe, be a little nicer to each other. But we can’t have it both ways.
If we’re going to rail against political correctness, we’d better be able to take a joke ourselves.