Let’s Play – Is It Offensive or Is It Just Being A Butthole?

There is an entire ocean of nuance between offending social norms and just being a mean-spirited predator who replaces meaningful rebellion with shocking cliches.

After having written about my issues with comedians Louis Ck and Katt Williams I received nearly the same response over and over. That response, paraphrased, goes something like this:

We need to protect offensiveness from censorship because only by offending normative sensibilities can we make ideological progress.

The thing is that I agree with that statement. Where I part ways is the standard definition for what qualifies as offensive.

When Katt Williams made a misogynistic remark, that was not offensive. Misogyny is itself a normative sensibility. It is a part of the status quo. To make misogynistic remarks is not to offend the normative sensibilities of the status quo, it actually does the opposite and upholds them.

Offensiveness should be a measure of the relationship to power. Offending people who are subject to those powers is not really offense at all. It is a lateral or downward strike, where any meaningful offense would be aimed upwards.

If offensiveness becomes standardized as a comedic norm, empty of any real threat to social norms, then it is eroded of all value. The virtue of offensiveness is its ability to challenge power and norms. Robbed of those directives, it just becomes a laugh track. A little behavior modifier that signals to you when to find things funny, at which point there is no longer anything actually funny about them.

If anything my criticisms seek to protect offensiveness by keeping it on a valid path. There are plenty of dogmas in our culture that need serious offending. Authority. Misogyny. Naive realism. Scientific materialism. The myth of objectivity which sanctifies those other items. These are things that need some serious offending.

But if you are just using shocking humor that is not offensive to our current sacred cows then you are not culturally relevant as a comedic force against norms, you are just a butthole. That should not be a badge of honor.

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