Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Some Just Can't Take a Joke

The front-page story (available online here) of today's Press was rather depressing. Apparently some public servants circulated an email (while at work) which contained "racially offensive" jokes. So now there's gonna be a big inquiry, and those found responsible will face "disciplinary action".
Titled "Maori television line-up for June", the email listed a parody schedule of television programmes, including The Young and the Jobless, Unmarried with Children, Little State House on the Prairie, Black Eye for the White Guy and H*A*S*H.

Some of them are actually pretty funny - especially "Black Eye for the White Guy"! If anyone is offended by such harmless jokes (there was obviously no malice or ill-intent involved), then that's their problem. It's absurd that people are going to get punished because of this.

This is symptomatic of a broader trend within society, whereby anyone feeling "offended" is considered to have been 'wronged' by whoever caused the offence (who should in turn be punished accordingly). This is just stupid. There needs to be some actual basis to the feelings of 'offence' (such as malicious intent), mere subjective unhappiness is not enough.

One of the funniest things about the article was the response of this bureaucrat:
Maori Television spokeswoman Sonya Haggie said she had seen the email and was not impressed.

"I don't think it deserves comment. Whoever's written it clearly hasn't been watching our programmes and witnessed the quality of our programming."

Clearly! Because the email was so clearly intended to be a literal description of the Maori TV channel's content (*rolls eyes*).

At least John Tamihere is showing some sense:
Associate Maori Affairs Minister John Tamihere said some of the spoof titles in the email were very "witty" and he did not find them offensive.

"Hell, let's wake up and grow up. I find a number of those comments to be awfully witty, clever and humorous.

"Personally I think it's OK to be witty and have a go at one another. I don't have a problem with it," Tamihere said.

His only concern was that the email was sent by a "well-paid" public servant during work hours when they "didn't have anything better to spend their time on".


  1. Im Maori, and I found the joke hilarious- but I know how to laugh at myself, BUT its when people start laughing AT you that it becomes more than a joke.

    Something else to consider- There is an unwritten norm where its okay for black people to call each other "nigger" but for a white person to say it in the same way, well it just aint kosher.

  2. Yeah, there is something to that. Mind you, black professor Lawrence Thomas has argued that blacks should get their white friends to start using the N-word in that same joking fashion, in order to reclaim the word and take the sting out of it.

    Again, if their intentions are clear, and there is obviously no malice involved, then I'm not sure it need be a problem. But I guess racially sensitive jokes and language are open to misinterpretation, especially when adopted by people whose intentions are not so clear.


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