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Monday, July 14, 2008

What’s More Offensive?: The Answer(s)

posted by on July 14 at 12:38 PM


Last week, readers of The Stranger and Slog were asked to compare the offensiveness of a Barack Obama lawn jockey with a John McCain POW pinata.

In the official poll, 31 percent of respondents said a Barack Obama lawn jockey is more offensive than a John McCain POW pinata, 8 percent said a John McCain POW pinata is more offensive than a Barack Obama lawn jockey, and a whopping 62 percent said Fuck you for asking.

In the comments to the poll, I did the math to prove that a John McCain POW pinata is more offensive than a Barack Obama lawn jockey:

For those of the “show your work” school of mathematics, here it is:

The Obama lawn jockey carries the weight of however many centuries of general American racism, but it’s applied, somewhat arbitrarily, to a man who is half-white. That’s 100 percent offensive racism applied to 50 percent of a man.

But the McCain pinata is 100 percent offensive and 100 percent personal (it was McCain and only McCain hung up in that POW camp).

Still, the correct answer to the quiz is Fuck you for asking.

Today brought an even more strenuous over-thinking of the joke, courtesy of Hot Tipper Noel, which you can read in its entirety after the jump.

I might not fall in with the majority opinion on this, but I do not believe in the offensiveness of a word just for the sake of being offended. Any phrase—especially the ones offered up in The Stranger’s ‘what’s more offensive’ column this week—should be evaluated on its intent and ability to cause perceptible harm to the well-being of those who will hear and understand it. You don’t have to use any of the late Mr. Carlin’s big-7 words to hurt someone and cause them unnecessary discomfort (emotional or otherwise) so in that sense your column could simply be called ‘which idea has the possibility for more malicious expression?’

That said, I am not at all offended and am not here to raise an outcry (or even whine a little.). I just wanted to posit the notion that both of the candidates—regardless of which way I might lean, politically or with regards to sheer human hopefulness—have endured the entirety of their respective lives dealing with what others perceive them to be.

There is no question that Mr. Obama has probably been living with the same prejudices he faces right now his entire life. Similarly, although Mr. McCain is perhaps not the prime generation for internet exposure, he has surely seen the casual disregard with which some will refer to his wartime experiences.

The fact is that both of these men have been exposed to—and have in some measure demonstrated their ability to endure or overcome—a fair amount of needless ill will and hardship. Are we to believe that reading statements like those you published, tongue-in-cheek and insincere as they may thankfully be, either of these men would be hurt or shamed? Of course, I don’t know them personally, but I do like to think that they wouldn’t be where they both are today without a self-esteem and sense of purpose capable of shrugging off such ideas.

The question then becomes something quite different: If the subject and true target of an inflammatory statement is not offended or harmed by it, why should other people be?

In answer to that, I guess I’d rather see a larger population of tolerant people that respect expression but recognize needless malice and avoid it. The whole freedom of speech spiel inserted here, of course. The fact remains that trying to offend and being needlessly offended are both societal tendencies that need to be dealt with, but that doesn’t mean that we are sick or tasteless when we push the limits; The Stranger is perfectly in its bounds to use words some people aren’t comfortable with and I like that it usually does.

RSS icon Comments


I can't believe you asserted Obama is "only 50% of a man"...

Posted by cemantics police | July 14, 2008 12:47 PM

@1 And I can't believe that you misspelled the word "semantics".

Posted by Hernandez | July 14, 2008 12:54 PM

Can you guys just quit making racist remarks about Barack Obama altogether?

Oh, and the McCain pinata was seriously troubling as well.

Comments of this type are only minimally less offensive if done in a "Wouldn't this be ridiculous if we were actually serious?" way.

Posted by Beej Shan | July 14, 2008 12:57 PM

Before I can make a fully informed decision, I'd have to know what the McCain pinata is full of.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | July 14, 2008 1:01 PM

@2 Ah... douché!

The irony is so thick around here you could cut it with a knife.

(and just to clarify, I spelled touché wrong on purpose)

Posted by "s"emantics police (not the spelling police) | July 14, 2008 1:14 PM

Well the McCain one is much funnier with his arms all bound up and his little knee broken. The Obama on is just sad, like those statutes of pudgy Italians carrying books or plates or whatever.

Posted by Giffy | July 14, 2008 1:14 PM

Somebody needs to tell ECB to get over the primary already ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 14, 2008 1:14 PM

@ 5 you misspelled idiocy ( you spelled it "irony").

Posted by snarky | July 14, 2008 1:25 PM

@4: I asked last time; Schmader says "shit," natch.

Posted by Darcy | July 14, 2008 1:36 PM

We won't support ball-less NO-Bama and will re-defeat him in November!!!

Posted by clintonsarmy | July 14, 2008 2:36 PM

We won't support ball-less NO-Bama and will re-defeat him in November!!!

Posted by clintonsarmy | July 14, 2008 2:38 PM

@11 ... you know, no matter how much you whine, McSame won't win.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 14, 2008 2:57 PM

Slog satirizing racism against Obama w lawn jokcey: smart, suave, hip.

New Yorker satirizing racism against Obama with cover: horrible, despicable, shameless.

Posted by PC | July 14, 2008 3:19 PM

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