When is a joke not a joke?

I’m back on the Daily Mail today. I know I’ve been on at them a fair bit over the last couple of days, and I acknowledge that taking on the Daily Mail and its commenters is sometimes the intellectual equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel, but I’ve been tired lately so kindly indulge me. Actually, it is important to tackle these issues if, like me, you agree with Angry Mob’s concept of tabloid stories’ influence being analogous to passive smoking. The old idea that if a lie is repeated often enough it become accepted as truth is basically applicable here. This is why I felt the need to take the Mail to task over its portrayal of China and Chinese culture in an earlier article.

Anyway, today I’m not so interested in what the Mail is saying as much as what its readers are. There are a fair few images in this post so bear with me, but I think its necessary to illustrate what I believe is a tellingly hypocritical mindset amongst many Mail readers. So here’s the article that originally caught my attention today:

Basically, the article fairly objectively outlines the recent tweets of Sri Lankan-born council worker Rehana Mohamed, in which she joked in poor taste about the abuse of foreign domestic workers, saying such things as ‘Damn right they should get up and make what you want. That’s their job.’ and  ‘We never let out female servants for their own safety.’ Controversial for sure, although most will struggle to understand how the sarcastic comments of a complete nobody have wound up being discussed in the national press. Mail readers are clear though that this is no laughing matter. Here are the top-rated comments from the article:

And woe-betide those who think this is ‘just a joke’. Here are some of the worst-rated:

Clearly here is a woman to whom no mercy must be shown, despite the fact she has apologised for the way in which her comments have been construed. Mail readers have made it clear that remarks like hers are unacceptable in this day and age, and it is not good enough to attempt to excuse them by suggesting that she may have meant them in jest. This may well be a perfectly principled viewpoint. Except that Ms Mohamed is not the first ‘public figure’ to have made controversial comments in poor taste.  Consider the Mail’s previous coverage of the racist comments of Carol Thatcher, who referred to a black tennis player as a ‘golliwog’, and Anton Du Beke, who described a Strictly Come Dancing contestant as having the appearance of a ‘Paki’. Once again, commenters tried to defend both by claiming that their remarks were made in jest, but this time the ratings were awarded rather differently. Here are the best-rated comments from the Thatcher golliwog story:

And the worst-rated:

Here we see readers sympathetically insisting that people sometimes make silly jokes at inappropriate times, but that they should have the freedom to offend without it costing them their job.

Same with Anton’s ‘Paki’ remark. Once again, comments attempting to justify it are given the thumbs up, whilst those pointing out its inappropriateness get the thumbs down:

So why the double standards here? Why are the likes of Thatcher and Du Beke, whose comments of a racist nature are arguably much worse that Mohamed’s (especially considering the respective influence that these two have as ‘celebrities’), in need of some understanding whereas Ms Mohamed is to be executed at dawn? Those familiar with the traditional narratives fed to Mail readers will be able to hazard a guess or two. Could be because Ms Mohamed is foreign-born. Could be because she works in the much-maligned public sector. Or could be because her name sounds a little bit ‘Muslim‘. You can click on the three previous links to see how all of these traits are shown in a negative light time and again by the Mail and the tabloid press in general. With this in mind, should we really be surprised when Mail readers leap to the defence of two white British racists whilst a Sri Lankan-born council worker’s tasteless humour has them reaching for the pitchforks and torches? No. Should we be angry about the sheer bigoted hypocrisy and the media publications which fuel it? You bet we should.

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1 Response to When is a joke not a joke?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention When is a joke not a joke? | Kick A Hole In The Sky -- Topsy.com

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