In the past couple of months there's been a significant number of straight, white comedians, here and in the US, coming under fire online for expressing views (or at times making jokes) that the left and left leaning found anywhere from uncomfortable to reprehensible.
Bill Maher, Jimmy Carr, Andrew Lawrence, Artie Lange, Anthony Cumia etc... More than enough has been written on each. Some of the responses, valid and from the people directly involved and/or affected - most of them hyperbolic and opportunistic. My two cents at this point would be grossly over-priced.
My reaction to online outrage is almost always initially contrary. Gut checking someone on twitter or facebook has started to have an air of tattle tailing. And to mock said righteous indignation has become widely misconstrued as supporting the tattled.
But offended people repeating the very sentences that have offended them will always be intrinsically funny to me. It is a fart in church and I am 12. Frankie Boyle has never made me laugh harder than when his act is regurgitated by an outraged lawyer. I take a great deal of glee in the very specific type of self-unawareness involved in claiming moral indignation by words while reciting them verbatim. As if to declare, "It's OK when I say it. I'm just saying what they said. I am the offended, the king of context and these are my words to subvert". Surely such hypocritical dobbing doltishness is to be openly derided by anyone with even half a funny bone.
But then on my podcast this week my guest, Asian Australian comedian Nick Sun, got me thinking. He warned me that Australia under an uber-conservative liberal government has become more openly racist. (Yes - in Australia, the conservatives are called the liberals: a sneaky white trick if there ever was one) Staggeringly, white Australian males yell, "go home" at him in the street in a way that never happened years ago.
As I write this en-route to Malaysia I wonder if perhaps the unchecked white guy needs an eye kept on him.
As a straight white male, in the western world, we're still pretty much top of the heap. And being middle aged is even sweeter. Cops call me sir and these days it would actually take a little bit of effort on my part to get punched in the head by a stranger, let alone raped in an alleyway. There's not a whole lot holding us back beyond the consciences of each other. Overall, we have our run of things and in the wild? Man, we run hog wild.
The only time the unchecked white guy ever really has to contend with overt suspicion is when he heads anywhere predominantly habited by children on his own. So stick him in Bangkok for a week - without the ever-tutting eye of white, liberal douchbaggery - I give him 48 hours before he loses his mind, descends into a Kurtz-like figure and the strip bars become suspiciously younger.
I'm joking of course. But to put this in perspective, the last time I gigged in Cambodia no middle aged white guy travelling on his own would look my wife in the eye. It's hardly a thriving economy. They can't all have been there on business. And the MC, normally one of the mildest mannered men on the circuit, took all of 24 hours to catch dysentery and punch out a heckler.
The Internet is the proverbial aforementioned holiday in Cambodia - home of the anonymous and unchecked. Scroll down the comments page on any youtube clip and you'll see there are a WHOLE lot o' "N' bombs and rape fantasies actively not being held in. I almost want to reply, "Guys this is a video of Christopher Walken telling us how to cook a chicken. Why are you calling each other nigger-loving faggots?"
I will, forever, defend poor taste jokes. That is how I make my living after all. But I concede that perhaps my own self-awareness will never be auto-didactic. That maybe, I, the unchecked white guy, need a bit of online dobbing in here and there? To be honest, I'm not entirely sure. And I'm really suspicious of anyone who is, albeit, the dobber or the dobbee.
I have the freedom to be a dick of course. But maybe if I'm a dick, other people have the freedom to call me a dick. Even if they are being a bit of a dick about it. It might be what's stopping me from keeping human heads in my freezer.
Listen to the companion podcast with Nick and Brendon