What’s Wrong with the World

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A beer commercial wherein a hard-bitten leader in a tough spot rallies his troops with the following words:

"Whites: you gave us freedom and the rule of law!

"Blacks: you gave us our greatest sports heroes and pop music stars!

"Hispanics...Hispanics...you ummm...you ummm...you ummm..."

At which point the crowd break out in cries of "Sod off!" "Yeah!" "Sod off!"

And so the Hispanics creep away, in confusion and resentment, accompanied by the jeers of the mob.

Or, perhaps more to the point, how about this:

Our fearless leader intones:

"Christians: you gave us the way and the truth and the life!

"Muslims: you gave us modern mathematics and historiography!

"Jews...Jews...you ummm...you ummm...you ummm..."

"Sod off!" "Yeah!" "Sod off!"

And so the Jews creep away etc...

* * * * *

Hilarious, no?

So here's my question: is there some reason why somebody like me, who spent more than forty years of his life suffering through the godawful century of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro & Pol Pot, to find slurs based on class &/or occupation any more acceptable - let alone amusing! - than the kind based on race &/or religion?

Comments (32)

Nope, no reason. But it's okay—don't you know—to mock business as well as males and Christians in ways that would evoke wrath were it directed elsewhere.

I think it's seen as more acceptable because bankers are bankers because of what they do, which is perceived as evil, not because of who they are and have a right to be (hispanic, jewish, female, whatever). Bankers are not born, but made. Nevertheless, the commercial is certainly in bad taste and most viewers will not think through the nuances. It's also ridiculous considering that bankers undoubtedly financed it's production.


Your point is made -- well made -- and I fully concur.

That sets me against the Russia lovers here, I suppose. You know the Russia lovers -- those who defend Kremlin expansionism but can't stand American bankers.

I loved the commercial. Maybe it was intended as a "class conscious" slur, but I enjoyed it as a richly deserved mockery of that den of thieves and swindlers.

Everyone seems to forget that there is an implied other half to "If the shoe fits..." Really! If it doesn't fit, by all means don't wear it.

"So here's my question: is there some reason why somebody like me, who spent more than forty years of his life suffering through the godawful century of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro & Pol Pot,.."

Golly, drama much? I never knew that ducking under a desk at school could give one PTSD. Myself, I prefer to dwell on folks like FDR, Truman, Churchill, MLK, and Thurgood Marshall. Recall that they mostly won; the thousand year Reich lasted 12 years and the Soviet Union sputtered out 20 years ago, We were born into a country where Negros risked lynching if they stepped out of line and now we have an African American president. We might even get national health care a century after TR proposed it.

Of course, here in the US of A we are still burdened with a right wing that veers towards derangement from time to time but we endeavor to persevere.

I've already noticed the days getting longer. Soon the swallows will be nesting under the eves and the hill will be covered in berries. The only bear I have to worry about is the fellow who tries to raid my plum trees. And I survived the 20th century with my sense of humor intact.

"That sets me against the Russia lovers here," Really? See paragraph three.

The only common class-based slur that I can think of off hand that is at least somewhat socially acceptable is (white) "trailer trash."

al: I shocked, shocked I tell you, that:
1) you don't credit Reagan with hastening (a more gentle) failure of communism in the USSR.
2) you conveniently neglect to mention the fact that the 'advances' you happily predict for us are made by people with the same moral calculus(and similar agendas) as mao, castro, alinsky, che. Their path is destructive.
3) you nicely caricature the 'right' (anyone who disagrees with your plans for their society) as deranged.
So.... the question remains: How can I humorously, without setting up false parameters-and without denigrating them-!, say something that accurately describes the ()'progressives' for what they are: Advocates for a statism where human dignity, natural freedom, and hope are exchanged for coercion, slavery and fear. Most charitably, they are useful ...tools... ,who will be shocked that the 'perfect society' they forced into place would do such damage.

There are few things in this world as efficacious as a little touch of class-based humour in arousing the political correctness of the right, which otherwise regards such officiousness with horror, even to the point of defending ethnic and professional stereotypes as bases of humour, and as social heuristics. In such matters, it is tacitly understood that the application of such stereotypes is context-dependent (when a cunning and disreputable lawyer wins an acquittal of a defendant on some ridiculous technicality, and non-lawyers vent by saying, "First, we kill all the lawyers", no one takes it as a serious expression of political intentionality.) and subject to the implied qualification (when people retail tired jokes about inebriated Irishmen, they are saying nothing more than that the percentage of Irishmen who hit the bottle a bit too hard is higher than the average, not that all Irish are drunk.).

It's sort of a reverse synecdoche, where the whole, instead of being represented by a part, stands in for a part. "Drunken Irish" means that some Irish are drunks. "Parasitic bankers" means that some bankers contribute nothing of social value. In context, there is no intended universalization of the judgment, no categorical denunciation, inasmuch as humour is not a form of ideological discourse, as were the Nazi tropes about the Jews, or Stalinist tropes about independent peasants.

Well there are bankers, and then there are banksters.

Well there are bankers, and then there are banksters.

That's the point, which seems to be lost.

In context, there is no intended universalization of the judgment, no categorical denunciation, inasmuch as humour is not a form of ideological discourse, as were the Nazi tropes about the Jews, or Stalinist tropes about independent peasants.

Actually, humor can be a form of ideological discourse, but I don't want to side-track the discussion explaining how (I'd have to get into too much humor theory and sociology). Let me just say that during WWII, some Germans (if memory serves) as well as other Allies in Europe had something called, "Whisper Jokes," which excoriated the ideological underpinnings of Nazism.

The Chicken

Maximos -- I think a reverse synecdoche is just another instance of a synecdoche, right? It can go either way.

That MC has an academic understanding of humor explains a lot. :)

That Steve is so incredibly PC when it comes to banksters is...confusing.


I don't get it.

Lawyers do indeed seem to rival--if not surpass--bankers in the amount of abuse they receive.

I don't think anyone's actually stated it directly, but I am GUESSING from this item, and the comments below it, that someone recently made a beer commercial along these lines, but using class and occupation instead of race or religion?

Is that right?

If so, can someone provide a link to the offending commercial, on YouTube or whatever?

Perhaps it's a really famous commercial? If so, I should explain: I'm one of the early-adopter folks who has already chucked both "land lines" and normal television "channels" in my house in favor of Internet alternatives. We rely on Netflix and Roku for television-based entertainment. And prior to that we were skipping commercials using Tivo, starting in 1999.

As a result, I've seen very few television commercials in the last ten years (maybe 5-10 a year, at friends' houses?). It's a great time-saver, and produces a very healthy kind of obliviousness...but leaves me nonplussed in conversations like these!

So...link, anyone?

Check out "Socially Useless" a couple of topics down. it's really very good and no bankers were actually harmed in the making of the commercial.

Don't feel bad, R.C. If I hadn't seen the post I wouldn't know either. My family has no TV, no land line, no Netflix, and I don't know what "Roku" is.

"Lawyers do indeed seem to rival--if not surpass--bankers in the amount of abuse they receive."

So...anybody here stepping up to defend the honor of lawyers?

Maximos, if that point has been lost, it's because it was not made by either the post heading (which I think is what really bothers the people who are really bothered by it), or by the video. The video quite forthrightly does NOT make the claim that there are both good and bad banking practices--it makes the claim that there are no good bankers, period. That is its rather obvious "point." Maybe that's not what you believe, but don't blame somebody else for "losing" a point you never made until it was dragged out of you.

Until you know what my comment about Russia lovers means and to whom it refers, perhaps you shouldn't comment on it. It just makes your accusation of "deranged" seem self-referential.

Maximos, if that point has been lost, it's because it was not made by either the post heading (which I think is what really bothers the people who are really bothered by it), or by the video.

Neither is that discrimination made when people retail old jokes, or lines, about lawyers, or drunken Irishmen. The discrimination must be made, contextually, by the hearer, because the humour is itself a social phenomenon, and not a self-circumscribed text.

Mr. Bauman -- would you kindly desist from the "Russia-lover" baiting tactics? Thank you.

Professor Bauman,

Whatever your opinion of current Russian foreign policy, when it comes to modern literature, I would hope that you would join me (along with many others at this blog) in proudly proclaiming "Russia-love". Any country that can produce a Count Tolstoy (not to mention Dostoyevsky) is worthy of much love from defenders of Western civilization.

Actually the first joke was pretty funny. You could've ended it with "great spicy cuisine". The second could be improved if you inserted Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Pentecostals in that order (changing their purported contributions of course).

Does Steve Burton have an actual point to make? Would a slur upon prostitutes fall equally under his condemnation? After all, prostitutes are people too--a class of people worthy of respect. Oh, wait...

What fraction of members of any group must misbehave in stereotypical ways before it is okay crack a joke about them?

You know it's actually less than 95% of lawyers that give all the rest of them a bad name.

I think it's at least mildly interesting that there are other "profession" jokes that are a lot funnier than the rather stupid hard cider commercial.

I haven't been able to find it using Google, but IIRC, something like the following is attributed to Kierkegaard: "I would _never_ fire a gun at random into a crowd unless I could be _sure_ that there was not a single person in the crowd who was not a journalist."

Badum ching. It has a real humor feel--the unexpected conclusion to a logical progression. One expects something more serious at the end than "journalists," hence, the humor. The commercial is far more just plain old hatred directed at the bankers. It isn't clever. I don't think I'd particularly find it funny even if the group driven out were journalists, for whom I have a lot less sympathy than I have for bankers.

The funniest joke involving a group type...according to a study done in England (which I do not believe), although it is attributed to many different locations other than England, is the following:

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them clutches his heart and falls to the ground; he doesn’t seem to be breathing. The other guy gets out his cell phone, calls 911, and says “You gotta help me. My friend is lying on the ground. I think he’s dead.”

The operator says, “Sir, I can help you. Just be calm. The first thing I want you to do is go over and make sure that he’s really dead.”

There’s a silence on the line, then she hears “BAM!”

The guy gets back on the line and says, “Okay, now what?”

The Chicken

Wow, folks. This is a pretty sad display. I didn't realize that WWWW had become infected by the political correctness of the easily offended.

I think the banking industry and bankers deserve a bit of fun at their expense. I guess it depends on what you think of the character of recent banking activity.

I'll let William S. defend the lawyers - after all, that's what his misused line was about. I don't think it mere coincidence that the putatively most free nation in the world also has the highest population of lawyers.

Posted by Michael Sullivan | January 10, 2010 12:46 AM

Oooh! Ooh! I know who Roku is! He's the Avatar before Aang!

I don't have normal TV in my house, either-- just hulu, netflix and youtube-- but I have noticed when I'm at my folks' place that there aren't very many good commercials anymore. Nothing on the level of the Budweiser Frogs. (My mom is in the habit of asking us to explain them....)

What's the difference between a lawyer and a businessman?
The lawyer lies for you.

Let's have no more generalizations in humor. Make everything personal.

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