The article also blames Seattle for being a city full of clueless hippies who don't quite get when someone is just not worth the acceptance and benefit of the doubt. While this may be partially true - this is the area where whooping cough made a comeback due to the stupid fucking hippies and their anti-vax crusade - I doubt that this guy would have been beaten up in Brooklyn as the article suggests.
It's because we are so accustomed to ironic racism and anti-Semitism that it's not always easy to tell when someone is really being a fucking racist. I have some sympathy for the SOP that only the people who are directly affected can determine if something is offensive or not, but I tend to throw it out as well since getting hung up on names and who can be offended and who isn't offended is just a waste of time. There are some words that are objectively offensive but others that are just situational. Call me a Jew and that could be a compliment or a slur depending on the attitude that you put behind it.
But anyhow - I have a great faith in the power of humor and the ability to use humor to get over the shitty and horrible histories that have bound the human race and torn them apart. I dig irony and faux horribleness. Springtime for Hitler, Iggy Pop's wedding where Ron Asheton was the best man and dressed like an SS officer, the entire Gilbert Gottfried canon, Louis CK's "C---s and N-----" where he brings up the point already made by Lenny Bruce and George Carlin which is that the words aren't the problem - the racist asshole using the words is the problem.
And there's even a certain amount of latitude that you give to people when they are trying to use humor even in an offensive way. I find much of Encyclopedia Dramatica to be hilarious. I love some of the stunts pulled by 4chan - even the Hitler ones. But then we have the case of the "We're a culture, not a costume" posters.
Obviously, those things were ripe for parody. Yes, you probably shouldn't wear a tacky racist costume, but an Asian girl holding a picture of someone in a geisha costume looking all pissed off because they have appropriated her culture (assuming that she's Japanese) just invites the question of "is THAT really the worst example of racism you can fight against? Are you that blessed that some idiot in a tacky approximation of something that one of your ancestors might have thought common is the pinnacle of awfulness for you?" It's like that one Academy Award bit with the Seth McFarlane Teddy Bear being very obsequious to the Jews who run Hollywood - yeah, it's a negative stereotype. Yes, it's an old joke. But does it warrant even a fraction of the anger directed at it? I hope not. Seriously, as long as Noam Chomsky is sucking in air, there is no comparison between a string of "Jews run Hollywood" jokes and the kind of evil conspiracy theory horribleness that comes out on a daily basis.
So whether or not the racially motivated costumes are funny or stupid or just really offensive, making a campaign against them is just dumb. And then 4chan made the parody signs - my favorite being
And they were funny, but then an even longer Google search yields a third category - the one where the people don't even know that they are being racist. The Obama holding up a picture of Hitler one for example. Or the ones with a Jewish guy holding up a shitty antiSemitic cartoon from Nazi Germany. Variations on "it's a joke, lighten up" proliferate.
Of course, if you have to tell someone to light up because "it's a joke" maybe you should retire that joke.
And jokes are dangerous which is why comedians have to be the most fucked up people in the world to walk on that tightrope knowing that at any moment they could come off like Louis CK encapsulating white privilege in a 3 minute routine that involves time travel or Michael Richards just yelling at the audience. The joy of comedy is that it can break rules and get away with things that aren't going to be discussed in academic settings. The problem with comedy is that it's not always wise.
Actually two personal anecdotes and then I go to sleep. About a year ago, a friend of a friend friended me on FB. Because he's fairly young (college freshman) I gave him a lot of leeway because even though a lot of what he said was in poor taste and betrayed a rather misogynist streak (there were a lot of macros about crazy girlfriends) I figured that he would get over it. Then he liked an Amanda Todd macro - one that compared Amanda Todd to some other woman on FB who wasn't young, pretty and white and made a point in the most dickish way possible. About a week later, he actually posted an Amanda Todd macro - that basically mocked the girl for committing suicide - and also for being a total slut. She was 14. I first wrote "dude, what the fuck" because that was the initial reaction. I was being distracted by Dashiell's rampant Islamophobia - which he felt the need to post on my wall after I stopped arguing with him on his FB wall. I woke up that morning and realized that I didn't want to put up with Dashiell's bullshit (so I accused him of masturbating to Hamas propaganda videos) and Jacob's bullshit. I was much more polite with Jacob. I just told him that when he was no longer the person who would find a 14 year old girl killing herself funny, I would accept a friend request. But until then, I can't deal with that shit.
I guess I have a line. I don't usually think that I do. But there you go. There is a place where the nastiness is just too much.
The second anecdote comes from Minnesota - particularly a woman named Eva Marie (she actually changed her name so that she wouldn't have a married name after leaving her husband) whom I met through the Pagan Support Group (years later and we all still find that name hilarious) and later saw again when I was converting to Judaism. Now I wasn't Jewish at the time. And hell, I wasn't even close to converting. I went to a hippie seder that year with vegetarian kishka and most of the conversation was about how religion may or may not have value. I was still considering whether to convert Conservative or Reform (but not too much, I got sick of Reform real fast) and Eva kept going "Oh you're being such a Jew" and usually it was something money-related. I remember when she gave me her complete collection of Nexus and Ms. Tree comics. I read them. Later on I casually mentioned that I might sell them. The FIRST thing she said was "don't be such a Jew" and I remember that incident more than most because that was the one time when I realized that she wasn't telling Jew jokes because she was curious or being ironic. She was telling them because she was outright anti-Semitic.
I had been accustomed to the back-and-forth with my friend Jojo who made every Jewish American Princess joke he could think of, loved Madonna, was obsessed with gay culture (but I still don't know if he was gay) and once admitted to eating dog - a thing that I liked returning to. We volunteered at Asia Media Access - usually the Hong Kong movies - which meant that we went and said "hey need volunteers?" and most of the time they didn't, but we were always happy to volunteer when they did. But the movies were free. He was the one that pointed out that when I was first dating Nanda that was I actually sweet around her which was a bit of a shock since I am normally a bit of an asshole. But Jojo would make fun of me for wanting to be Jewish and I'd make fun of him for being Filipino (and eating dog) and neither one of us was racist or anti-Semitic - we were just friends giving each other shit.
But Eva Marie - yeah, that bitch was anti-Semitic as all get-out. The other shit that followed - the "Israelis are fascists" conversation and the point where I got so sick of her smugness that I actually started asking what she believed if she kept insulting me for having beliefs and I wouldn't take "well I just do this and that" for an answer - it all came from the realization that her faux anti-Semitism was actually anti-Semitism. It was actually that last conversation where I said that neo-Pagans were just white people who saw Dances with Wolves one too many times. It was one of those things that I knew would draw blood.
I stopped talking to Eva Marie after that. I saw her a couple of times but whenever I said hi all she would say was whether I could return some graphic novels that she loaned me. I suppose I should have, but that might have involved actually talking to the woman.