The Purpose of Humor

Why do humans laugh?  It’s quite an odd behavior, isn’t it?  We respond to certain situations, concepts or stimuli with an outburst of short shouts while flexing muscles and keeling over.

What would aliens think if they were watching us from outer space?  Would they ever be able to make sense of this bizarre act?  Can we make sense of it?  We don’t see it in any other living creatures.  Along with so many other things, all of which seem to be facets of high intelligence, laughter is a uniquely human phenomenon.

We are all learning, as we live through this period of decline of Western Civilization, what laughter is really about.  It’s been staring us in the face this whole time.

George Orwell said, “every joke is a tiny revolution”.  In V for Vendetta, one of the boldest acts of defiance against the totalitarian regime is a comedy sketch mocking the Chancellor.

The opposite of humor is political correctness (or, using its contemporary name, “social justice”).  One cancels the other out.  They are necessarily antagonistic to each other, in the same way that an acid and a base neutralize each other.  Well, what is political correctness?  It is, ultimately, dishonesty.  It is a set of rules and customs set up for the purpose of obscuring the truth.  When unqualifiable words are qualified, the qualification serves only to invert the meaning of the word.  “Social justice” is the opposite of justice, and “political correctness” is the opposite of correctness.  The terms themselves are consistent with their own premises: calling something that is not correct a “kind” of correct is, well… not correct.  To do so obscures the truth.  It makes it more difficult to see and acknowledge that the reason why something is not just “correct”, the reason why it is a different “kind” of correct, is simply because it is not correct.  Calling guilty until proven innocent, accusation = proof “trial by public mob” (and its lesser variants such as “checking privilege”) a “kind” of justice only magnifies the injustice of being subjected to mob outrage by portraying it as righteous endeavor (thereby emphasizing the assumed guilt of the victim, and thus the victim’s inverted status as a perpetrator).

These are all the mechanisms by which obviously bad ideas proliferate in human societies.  As part of our much higher intellect, and primarily intellectual lives compared to all other living things, we are driven by ideas.  Everything we do ultimately derives from the ideas we hold, even more so than the possession of weapons or other means of force (it is ideas that dictate at whom those weapons will be pointed).  We are of course imperfect and, throughout history, have adopted incorrect ideas due to a lack of sufficient evidence, or lack of sufficient logical analysis.  But this is more minor to history than one might think.  A much more significant driver of human progress, and regress, is the emergence, or rather re-emergence, of ideas known full well to be wrong, but that never came about because of their truthfulness.  They came about as lies (to be clear, a lie is by definition not an accident.  A liar is not the same as an ignoramus), knowingly proliferated to benefit solely the liar at the expense of those lied to.  Even worse, the victims of the lie, who never once saw any personal benefit to it and rather were victims of the lie, believing it to be true, repeat the lie (this is not itself lying, because they believe it) and it spreads.  Like a disease, those infected by it become the vector of its transmission.

Lies are inherently fragile.  As known falsehoods (known at least to be false by the liar), it is obviously possible to discover they are false by close enough inspection.  So the liar always runs the risk of being “caught” by those effective at truth seeking.  To protect lies against this fragility, a culture must be created where truth seeking is punished.  This is what we are seeing now.  What is often misunderstood as merely a “1st amendment” problem (which is then swept under the rug with the “private company” defense) is not really a war on speech.

It is a war on truth.

Speech is merely collateral damage because it is the means by which the truth is discovered.  In such a culture, lying goes from being a “rogue” practice to an institutionalized one.  The liars cease to be underground street criminals always vulnerable to “exposure” by the greater culture of truthfulness, and become the greater culture itself.  The truth tellers become the criminals; the underground.  The mainstream culture adopts a suppression of truth, and truth seeking, head on.

But there is an inherent cognitive dissonance to this.  The liar, who knows he is lying, wants to propagate the lie.  But the victim does not.  There has to be a way to make the victims accept the contradiction of believing that it is correct to not be correct.

Enter “political correctness”.  The concept is nothing new.  It is a culture of stifled speech.  We all must watch what we say.  We are eternally worried about offending someone, especially those in power.  It really doesn’t matter if something is “true” or not.  What matters is if it is “appropriate” to say, or as it is called: “inoffensive”.  Large areas of inquiry are roped off as no-go zones.  Such a practice is clearly never in the pursuit of truth.  Even ideas that are universally regarded as false are grounds for inquiry precisely because their falseness can be readily demonstrated.  Forbidding certain discussions is only ever for the purpose of obscuring, but this itself is obscured by making it appear to be a form of “politeness”.

The more wrong a person is, the more he will wish to protect himself through the outlawing of criticism.  One avoids criticism only to avoid self-growth, and to maintain power.  It is for no other purpose.  Around such people, an atmosphere of fear develops.  For those under that power, saying anything offensive is downright dangerous.

Enter humor.

Laughter and a sense of humor seems innately built into humans.  A lack of humor makes a situation even more intolerable than it otherwise would be.  And it is clear that as a situation of stifled speech, of avoiding being “offensive”, and of being constantly afraid of saying the wrong thing, humor is the primary thing that disappears.  From this consideration, we can see what humor ultimately is:

Humor is a mechanism of open criticism.  It is a way for people to be confrontational, to criticize, and to say uncomfortable things, and to enjoy it.  It may make the person being criticized take it more easily, but it especially makes those doing the criticizing do so more readily.  And that’s what’s really important.  The person will be criticized no matter how uncomfortable it makes him, but others will not do the criticizing if doing so makes them too uncomfortable.

As the culture of stifled speech becomes more draconian, it naturally becomes more humorous to defy that culture.  So humor serves directly to break these schemes, becoming a point of tension that grows stronger in parallel with the growing suppression of truth.

If I was sitting around with my buddies, letting out a loud, wet raucous fart might be a little funny.  But if I burst into a roomful of old, uptight women discussing how to stop kids from listening to rap music and did it, it would be hilarious.  If South Park made an episode about a random B-list celebrity no one knows of being a gay fish, it wouldn’t really be funny.  But when they make Kanye West a gay fish, it’s a shot to his massive ego (a large plot point being that West is furious about it and even kills people who make fun of him), and therefore hilarious.

The more insane social justice warriors get, and the more “offended” they get at everything, the funnier it becomes to piss them off.  Saying to a radical feminist, “who let you out of the kitchen?” is funny because it pisses them off so much.  The fact we are at a point where hardly anyone would even dare to make that joke without at least following it up with explaining that it is a joke and ensuring that it doesn’t indicate a sincere belief just shows how deep into this we’ve gotten.

This is all what drove the 2016 election.  The funniest moment of the whole thing was when Hillary Clinton had a deadly serious article warning us of the dangers of a Nazi-sympathizing cartoon frog.  The most memorable moments of Trump’s performances were his mockeries of political correctness, which predictably led to the politically correct crowd reducing this to “fun and games”, repeatedly pleading with Trump supporters to “take this seriously”.  Yes, it is fun to make jokes and laugh, but through doing so they were being serious.  We as a country really don’t have any more fucking time to waste asking presidential candidates why they were mean to someone on Twitter, and we need to start talking openly and truthfully about immigrants exploiting the legal system by breaking into the U.S. and having a child.

We have seen the monumental rise of “trolling”, perhaps best exemplified by 4chan.  Among some of the most hilarious (and thereby most poignantly truth-revealing) trolls by 4chan have been tricking women into wearing period-stained pants in public as a show of “female power”, and convincing the entire mainstream media that the “okay” hand symbol is a secret symbol of an underground anti-Semitic white supremacist network.  Both are so funny because of the truth they reveal.  Feminists already made absurd arguments like that it is empowering to not shave your armpits.  Period-soaked pants is a hyperbolic and ridiculous application of the same underlying logic (as a matter of fact, feminists themselves concocted the same idea about a decade earlier).  The “okay” symbol troll revealed how easily people can be tricked into believing that an entirely innocuous behavior is really proof of a vast racist conspiracy, and especially how easily the media and public can be whipped up into a torch-wielding mob to chase down completely innocent people.

With the Trump presidency, we have seen a peculiar twist to this.  Normally an open, democratic society is maintained in large due to the retained right of the people, especially popular media and entertainment figures, to make fun of political leaders; that is, to openly criticize them.  But over time, the mainstream media has become the Establishment, and Trump is a president the Establishment didn’t want elected.  So now, the “truth to power” humor has inverted to a standing president relentlessly mocking the mainstream media, including constantly calling CNN “fake news” to its anchors’ faces, mocking reporters, and so on.  This in turn revealed the Establishment role of mainstream media because they have no sense of humor!  They are furious whenever Trump makes fun of them.  They turn every joke he makes into an imminent crackdown on free press, one step away from dropping reporters out of helicopters.  And as it always does, the fact the mainstream is so utterly humorless about themselves, that they take themselves and the farce they’ve turned their profession into so seriously, makes it that much funnier.

The late night talk show hosts have long since played the role of court jesters, giving out a safe form of humor directed exclusively at whoever threatens the Establishment.  Their job is mainly to mock “extremists”, meaning anyone who doesn’t fit into the constantly narrowing Overton Window, to ensure that the public doesn’t take them seriously.  Here we see an attempt to weaponize humor and make it work in the service of political correctness.  We see the same thing in today’s stand-up comedians.  Hari Kondabolu, the guy responsible for getting Apu removed from the Simpsons, has cringeworthy stand-up that is barely disguised humorless lecturing.  Here is another example of pompous browbeating passed off as “comedy”.  Meanwhile, comedy legends lament the death of comedy at the hands of political correctness and their reluctance to perform anymore.

This is an understandable move by those wishing to stifle speech, but it is doomed to fail.  You simply can’t have good comedy that is politically correct, because comedy literally is political incorrectness.  Even as SJWs try to defend their idea of “PC” comedy, they can’t help but revert back to humorless lecturing about fake social issues and admit they define themselves by what they don’t think is funny.  The best they can do when denying that they are out to kill comedy is to insist they aren’t powerful enough to be able to just yet.

As with the examples above, things become funny because they are off-limits.  Wherever there is tension, there will be relief.  More tension, more relief.  Humor is the ultimate self-correcting tool to these movements because as they gain more traction, the humor in knocking them down steadily grows.  With that, a new era of comedy will break through, with the increasingly humorless fake outrage and “snowflake” gaslighting becoming its direct target.

The attempt to co-opt and neuter comedy won’t work.  The only option is to ban it.  We are entering a culture of bans.  If something is troublesome, ban it.  Comedy will become more and more crucial and revolutionary as we continue down the road toward a society, like Europe, where jokes are illegal, and humor becomes literally an act of civil disobedience.

I hope to God it doesn’t get that bad.  If it doesn’t, it will be because of laughter.  We lose our humanity if we stop laughing.  So don’t ever think that this is all “just fun and games”.  It is fun and games, but it is much more than that too.

Every joke is indeed a tiny revolution.

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