Another Perspective On Delineating Funny/Not-Funny

The Philadelphia Inquirer has an interesting article today about the "issue of cultural the world of comedy". Comedy: When The Laughing Stops looks at how comedians struggle with knowing where to draw the line - and when to go ahead and cross that line.

Some people fear that when comics don't delineate boundaries, it gives the public the impression that it, too, can freely utter offensive comments. [Chris] Rock addressed the subject during his sold-out New Year's Eve show at Madison Square Garden. Fat girls make fun of skinny ones, he said, but skinny ones can't do the same to fat ones; the poor can excoriate the rich, but the rich are not allowed to ridicule the poor.

What's the common theme there? Subjugated groups can poke fun at their subjugators, and it's comedy.** When subjugators make humor out of the condition of the subjugated - not so much. To revel in the status of subjugator and mock the ways in which the subjugated group experiences your boot on its neck is to promote continuing subjugation. It will be funny to those who are comfortable with the subjugation. But it will be seen as an act of violence by members of the targeted group - at least, those who aren't complicit in their own subjugation.

Wanda Sykes making a joke about wishing she could leave her pussy at home, so she could then tell potential rapists "Sorry, I forgot to bring it with me today" is funny. She's speaking with and for women, and challenging through humor the fear all women have about being raped. Men making jokes about wanting to rape women promotes the notion that all women should be sexually available to any male who wants them at any time. I guess that's funny if you think men have a right to rape women, or that rape isn't such a bad thing, or some kinds of rape are acceptable.

**In the case of fat women/skinny women, it's not so much that skinny women personally participate in oppressing fat women, but that our culture values thinness and looks down upon the non-thin. A fat woman can mock the cultural oppression; a skinny woman making fun of fat women reinforces the equation fat = bad and disgusting.

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"Irreverence is the only sacred cow."
--Paul Krassner (who ought to know)

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 30 Jan 2008 #permalink

On Morning Joe this morning on MS-NBC, host Joe Scarborough responded to sidekick Mika Brzezinski laughing at him by saying, "Mika, dont make me backhand you". Well, this is pretty naked misogynist aggression only feebly cloaked as a "joke".…

Rape jokes convey the exact same message. It is the message intended by the teller of a rape joke, and it is the message received and further reinforced by the hearer who laughs.

It is the message intended by the teller of a rape joke

Even when the teller of the joke is female?

By Caledonian (not verified) on 30 Jan 2008 #permalink

My rule of thumb is that if you can imagine it coming from the mouth of (or worn by, displayed on the car of, etc.) a genuine rapist or bigot, it's crossing a line, no matter who tells the joke.

Even when the teller of the joke is female?

Dude, this is not Feminism 101. If you are looking for answers to these kinds of basic questions you are in the wrong place. All those questions do in this context is distract from a discussion that is going on above your head.

Well, as you point out, the two groups are not subjugators vs. subjugated -- as the skinny / fat example shows. That clearly generalizes to all beautiful / non-beautiful cases. The general case is fortunate vs. unfortunate. (We also think it's not OK for the living to make fun of the dead.)

It's OK for the unfortunate to mock the fortunate, in order to save some face, but bragging about being fortunate is in poor taste. This has nothing to do with subjugation, power, bla bla bla, so all the "acts of violence" and "boot on the neck" nonsense evaporates.

I can go through bouts of misanthropy, but I don't think I'd ever reach the depths of using the phrase "complicit in their own subjugation," referring to those who putatively accept acts of violence against them. Feminists don't exactly employ the most promising recruiting tactics.

I don't know where that came from, agnostic, or what supports it, but I have to disagree with you. It *is* about which group traditionally has power over the other. Blacks can get away with mocking whites, or other blacks; whites can't really (these days) get away with mocking blacks without a backlash, because there is too much history of which group actually had the power to make the other group suffer. Jews can mock other Jews, or gentiles; gentiles can't really mock Jews without raising the spectre of anti-Semitism. Gender relations have a bit of that flavor as well. Consider that blacks got the vote before women did.

That a large number of people internalise a worldview where violence against them is acceptable is an unfortunate fact of life; furthermore, cultures only change when enough people refuse to internalise or accept that dynamic. Therefore, there is an argument to say that women can be "complicit in their own subjugation," even if you don't consider that diplomatic. Women can internalise rape myths, just as easily as women in China internalised the desireability of and perpetuated foot-binding and women in many Muslim countries internalised the desireability of and perpetuate female genital mutilation.

All of this is extensively documented in social sciences literature. If you think it doesn't extend to humor, you need to do a better job of explaining why.

By Luna_the_cat (not verified) on 31 Jan 2008 #permalink

My only job is to point out the obvious, and Zuska beat me to it this time: skinny people do not dominate, hold power over, subjugate, etc., fat people. This generalizes to all cases related to physical attractiveness: the sunkissed do not subjugate the pale, those with toned muscles do not oppress the scrawny (not in a civilized society), men with all their hair do not oppress the bald, and those with more symmetrical faces do not grind their boot into the neck of those with less symmetrical faces.

In trying to capture a phenomenon, we try to be as general as we can, and the power view fails to account for a single of the above cases, while viewing it as the unfortunate vs. the fortunate does. The exact wording doesn't matter, you know what I mean: favored vs. disfavored would work too.

Agnostic, the power view does account for it, you simply have to take it a step further (which you may or may not find valid), and not quite use Zuska's phrasing. Semantics ahoy, as it were. I'm going to put it in the very overused context of privilege.

In society, physical attractiveness (or being effectively normal) does provide a power. It's the power of privilege. You can try to frame it as 'well, it's everyone else who's disadvantaged', and that's also true, but it's not just one or the other. People who are fit inside of the positive norms of a society (white, male, Christian, skinny, etc. in 'Western' society) get to wade through it without having to worry about many things. So their jokes, their statements, are sometimes made from a position of not _really_ getting it. They tend to be less afflicted with depression and other negative health disorders (yes, there are studies on this, compare to women, queers of various sorts, etc.) Note how the article mentions that some people feel awkward at Silverman, but 'she seems to not think one group of people is better than another.' That 'awareness' is the kind of thing one has to cultivate.

There is a power differential there, but it is a socially determined power difference, if you will. 'Pretty' people get the good life (generally), 'ugly' people get the woe (generally.) It's not necessarily explicit subjugation, but it is implicit subjugation. And every thin white straight-haired girl that cuts down that fat nerd, or that nappy-haired black girl, gets to wield that power, however briefly, for their own benefit, their own callous amusement, and their own little bit of subjugating.

It seems to me you're hanging your argument a bit too strongly on the concept of explicit subjugation, not the implicit biases and norms that our society actually tends to deal in. When you approach it from that perspective, Zuska's ideas/phrasing make a lot more sense.


As always, Mecha says it better than I do.

By Luna_the_cat (not verified) on 31 Jan 2008 #permalink

"...and challenging through humor the fear all women have about being raped."

I think "women" should be changed to "people" because I don't know about anyone else, but even as a man I fear being raped. And yes, it is a legitimate concern.

Hi Zuska,

I'd love to hear what you have to say about why it's (apparently) okay to make "make me a sandwich" jokes directed at Hilary, but I haven't seen much in the way of racist jokes directed at Obama. Not that I'm wishing to hear any racist jokes, but why is blatant sexism still culturally acceptable while blatant racism is not.


Chad: There was a time a number of years ago that I once tried to make a similar argument and got my ass handed to me. It took me a long time to try and understand why. Hopefully this slightly OT response helps (and will keep this from flaring into a big pile of ugh.)

I personally feel that fears of rape by men are valid, but there is a difference, and it is in the area of degree and socialization. And because of that difference bringing up the concept that 'but men can fear rape too' is generally not helpful in the vast majority of cases. (The case you bring it up, where Sykes's routine that was being talked about is very specifically targeted towards woman makes your specific complaint moot, but I thought you might like the general concepting.)

Women tend to fear rape because it happens to them a lot, they are told it happens to a lot, they experience it to fairly strong degrees. They are warned to protect themselves early and often, they see rape of women in any context (not just the oh-so-frakking-stupid prison joke crap) treated in a cavalier manner. From my personal observation a large number of women have their fear of rape brought to the forefront of their very lives more often than most men even have the fear of a mugging brought to the forefront of their concerns. Let alone rape.

I personally think that it's something that it is very hard for anyone but an abuse victim or other minority to even get close to understanding, and even then I'm not sure they could do it. But there's a gulf of degree there. Were you taught by your father after he learned you were interested in sex, that other people might rape you? Are you put through classes which warn you about being raped? Are there stories of people looking just like you being shown on TV about them being raped? For the vast, vast, vast, VAST majority of men, the answers are a very funny look as if you were crazy. Because men don't get that socialization. They may get a fear of going to prison, or some gay guy 'making them gay' (oy) or half a dozen other minor cases, but almost never to that degree.

And then you start tying social expectations of being a woman (feminine) into it (eg: be a virgin, but be sexually available when you have to be) and how the social expectations of being a man (masculine) figure into it (eg: be a posessive conquerer of women), and it just builds into a massive situation where when a woman says 'I fear rape' and a man says 'I fear rape', it's like they're saying two entirely different things.

Ultimately, the slight increase in accuracy you get by saying, 'but some men fear rape too' is vastly outweighed by the effects of trying to make something that is overwhelmingly about women and sexism about men, and the something isn't even in the same ballpark for each group. The two things are two truly different un-unified things. And so while I think that discussing rape among men is valuable... in the vast majority of discussions starting off discussing female rape, it's not truly helpful or productive to bring it up.

Hopefully that's illuminating. I don't know. I've not had this discussion recently, and I lack a real blog to go into this in real depth on. Maybe someday.


I think "women" should be changed to "people" because I don't know about anyone else, but even as a man I fear being raped. And yes, it is a legitimate concern.

Whether male rape is a legitimate concern is unrelated to whether it is acceptable for some particular discussion about rape to be focused solely on female rape. You only "think 'women' should be changed to 'people'" in this context because of your unjustified (and probably unexamined) assumption that men have to be explicitly included in any discussion of anything under the sun that potentially affects them.

Your fear of rape as a man, founded or not, is simply not what this discussion is about. And it is not up to you to decide what it should be about.

PhysioProf, I think you're missing the point. Your statement about the motivations of people who tell rape jokes contradicts Zuska herself, who offers an example of 'acceptable' rape-joke-telling in the person of Wanda Sykes. I don't think Sykes' motivations have anything to do with intimidating women by reinforcing their awareness that they could be raped. Quite the opposite, her telling jokes about rape seems intended to be social commentary and to establish a non-hostile environment in which to present feminist concerns.

Would you like to retract your statement?

By Caledonian (not verified) on 31 Jan 2008 #permalink

Dude, there are people here having a detailed substantive discussion. The people having this discussion share at least some common terminology and understanding of a particular conceptual framework that has been established over the last 40 years or so through extensive research and criticism. It is this common understanding that allows the conversation to occur at a high level of abstraction, with a lot of information packed into a small number of words.

You share none of this understanding, and your comments and queries, reflecting this, would do nothing to contribute to the discussion if addressed. It is not at all difficult to learn enough to be able to contribute sensibly to discussions like this one.

With a good faith effort it would not take more than a couple hours of self-study on your part. But the purpose of this discussion is not to tutor people who refuse to make any good faith effort on their own time to try to understand what is being talked about.

"Not that I'm wishing to hear any racist jokes, but why is blatant sexism still culturally acceptable while blatant racism is not."

A fantastic question given the 50.7% / 13.4% US demographic ratios. Not to mention a lot more sexists live with (and bunk with!) woman than racists do black people.

I put in the good faith effort on my own time, PP, and I still don't get this...

Possibly the fact that so many women do live with men could have something to do with the longer-lasting public acceptance of blatant sexism. We luv our oppressors - they're our brothers, fathers, husbands, friends. We tolerate their "lovable highjinks" because boys will be boys, you know. Sexism is built into courting and's the fabric of our lives.

Zuska, brava. Still a bit intellectually cautious for my taste, but I'm tickled that you delved into it further. I suppose cautious doesn't always equal wrong.

Physioprof, stop living in an echo chamber. It turns you stupid.

Zuska, brava. Still a bit intellectually cautious for my taste, but I'm tickled that you delved into it further. I suppose cautious doesn't always equal wrong.

Physioprof, stop living in an echo chamber. It turns you stupid.

Am I crazy, or does this sound like it was generated by some sort of Eliza-esque Troll-O-Matic comment bot?

Not quite sure why anyone would accuse you of living in an echo chamber, PhysioProf. :-/

By Luna_the_cat (not verified) on 02 Feb 2008 #permalink

Why, because agreeing with Zuska at times means I have to agree with you at those same times and I didn't do that? Or because anyone who disagrees with you is automatically an automaton? Or because someone who disagrees with Caledonian is supposed to agree with you?

Grow up, sir. Generally speaking, I actually do agree with you. But your extremism is also excruciatingly tiresome and leads you to make obvious mistakes in your logic that cheapen your message. Spending two hours reading some books on feminism doesn't mean you've educated yourself if all you do is spout back what they say to like-minded individuals without grappling with those ideas now and then. This is why I suggest you live in an echo chamber. Stop trying to silence dumbasses just because they're dumbasses, and stop repeating the safe party line. Take a risk, man!

Alexis, I am not sure why you are dissing Physioprof. Why should he try to stop silencing dumbasses? I appreciate it when he does it. I don't find Physioprof extreme, I find him refreshing. And I suspect he's spent a lot more than "two hours reading some books on feminism" to arrive at his perspective. He's a supporter of women students in his lab and a male voice speaking up for gender equity in science. I don't know what you mean about him "repeating the safe party line" because I don't think there's anything "safe" about being an outspoken advocate for gender equity, male or female.

If you think he is making mistakes in his logic then please describe and discuss what those mistakes are. I am at a loss as to what, exactly, he's said that is so irritating.

Well, calling me a fucking bot for no reason is definitely fucking irritating. Go fucking figure.

Frankly, he started the comment thread out in a hostile manner. Funny, yes. But still hostile - "OMG, the fucktards are coming!!!11!!one!" Intentionally funny because it was true. Unintentionally funny given the topic of the original post. But it also immediately creates an insular atmosphere. I get it - it's your blog, with your friends, and most of the time you all sit around patting each other on the back and agreeing with each other, so I suppose in that atmosphere it's totally cool to shit on posters before they even post.

This very atmosphere itself is the logical flaw to which I am referring. One of your most recent posts on the importance of diversity in academia illustrates this pretty well. Overall, it was a good post, although it simply stated that diversity in academia is important and delineated the difficulties faced in achieving that. But it failed to delve into why it is important, presumably because everyone on the blog is likeminded and is already aware that the answer is because 1) it makes you a crappy human being not to treat people as equals and that includes people outside of the dominate power structure and 2) because diversity strengthens the intellectual/social/political/______ atmosphere at an institution.

Now, I would like to delve into #2 a bit further, because, quite frankly, that is where PhysioProf is failing in my eyes. Diversity in academia is crucial for the same reasons it is crucial in programming, biology, or pretty much any other system at all - it keeps the system from getting stagnant by injecting fresh ideas, it allows the system to self correct by keeping it from moving too far in a single direction, and in an ideal atmosphere it increases tolerance and understanding and makes the entire system run more smoothly because of it. This comes up in programming all the time, and I'm surprised I haven't seen it mentioned on here more because I suspect it would be similar to engineering. People get stuck. Having a new person with a different mindset come in to look at a problem can be an absolute godsend, correcting bugs that have been plaguing a team for months or rectifying deeply entrenched erroneous beliefs, sometimes within seconds of walking in a room. People outside our normal group structures offer that gift.

I find it troubling that the blog rarely delves into that angle. I guess it's just accepted that that's why diversity is good so it can just go unsaid? I think that's a dangerous attitude. It's important to remember the roots of our arguments, lest we forget them or make other comments that conflict with them. Being hostile to commenters who don't agree is one of these dangerous cases - we need that diversity to keep us from getting lazy in our own beliefs and to help us understand the nuance in the counterarguments. We also occasionally need them to correct us when we're wrong, and also to make us question and strengthen our own beliefs in meaningful ways.

We need to put our money where our mouths are, in other words. If diversity is just about the most fundamental cornerstone there is to feminism (which, IMHO, it is), then the people on this blog claiming to be feminists ought to fucking act like it and treat diversity with the respect it deserves. That means occasionally listening respectfully to people who aren't just repeating our own arguments back to us like damn parrots.

As for the "two hours" of self study? That was PhysioProf's statement, not mine. I was responding to it. Here is his original statement in its entirety:

With a good faith effort it would not take more than a couple hours of self-study on your part.

In this scenario, he got himself all riled up because he didn't like what Caledonian had to say and he made a stupid statement. Two hours? Although I think the dude is generally hilarious and I often find myself marveling at the precision and clarity in some of his posts, he also needs to calm the fuck down sometimes.



First, when or where did PhysioProf call you a "bot"? It wasn't in this thread. What were the circumstances?

Second, Zuska frequently writes on why diversity of view and experience is useful. Not in this thread, given that it is about the delineation of funny. But did you bother to read the post "A Gender-and-Science Paradox", which is about precisely that??

And third, Caledonian demonstrates a remarkable and durable ignorance of the work and literature which is out there about gender relations, gender disparities and humor, and a tremendous resistance to ever admitting that he might be wrong or ignorant, or doing anything useful about it. Calling him on this is doing him a favor. It may eventually sink in that the feeling that he knows more than everyone else is an illusion. Get your head around this, if you can.

You seem to live in your imagination to a frightening extent, given your response above. Are you reading here, or just skimming this blog for a few key words and using it as a way to work yourself up into a big, fun righteous fury?

By Luna_the_cat (not verified) on 03 Feb 2008 #permalink

Physioprof, that is one of your most endearing qualities!

Alexis: This post is not about why diversity is good. This post is about why resistance to diversity is so strong and durable and predictable, and what we might do about it. The post you want to read would be interesting and worthwhile, but it would be a different post.

I don't moderate comments, I don't censor people, I have deleted maybe three comments in my entire blogging life because they were so sick and offensive I didn't want to be associated with them. Anybody can come here and disagree about anything they want to - including you, which you frequently do, and you are not precluded from doing so in any way. In the past you've been challenging and interesting and added a lot to the discussion; I do not always agree completely with you but your comments are usually stimulating of conversation. This latest: not so much. I cannot figure out what is bothering you. If this blog doesn't meet your needs you are always free to stop reading it. I am not here to be all things to all people. I'm here to say what I think and know.

Re my imagination:
I've read every post on here quite carefully. Including comment #21 on this thread, and the entire span of comments left by PhysioProf and others on the first part of this topic (Post 1 on the topic of jokes). I'm pretty sure PhysioProf being unhelpful during the latter parts of this conversation is not my imagination. I'm primarily attributing this to frustration on his part, because his earlier comments were paragons of clarity and there were a bevy of idiotic remarks made by other posters. Once he hit #55, it went downhill.

Re comment #21 on this thread:
If you are unaware of what ELIZA is, I recommend you go look it up using the search terms eliza +"turing test".

Re PP's later comments on the previous post:
If you are unsure of how fucked up perpetuating bullshit like "grad students are retarded monkeys and I won't speak to them" is (insofar as it creates a climate of fear in academia of embarrassing oneself which chills academic freedom and narrows the diversity of opinions the academy is willing to express), I'm afraid to admit I'm at a loss to explain it any further. I'll think about it and maybe eventually come up with a better way to put it. But suffice it to say I believe that the way people engage one another in a conversation, including the little one-offs, brush offs, and asides, has a much larger effect than the current conversation is recognizing. If it is wrong to dismiss a person out of hand because they don't fit the dominate demographic, I believe it is also wrong to dismiss them because they don't fit your demographic.

Of course the two posts should be one and the same. How do you expect to do anything about the diversity problem (the topic of your post) if you fail to consider that a large part of the resistance to diversification is that people are having it foisted on them in a way that is perceived to be antagonistic? Failing to consider that there is a way the argument can be presented that will actually make opponents agree with diversity (the part of the post that you feel is an aside) is a gap. Period. Failing to sell this and instead force it ossifies the detractors' positions and makes the task at hand harder. I just don't see how the tips on making diversity training work can leave that out.

And it doesn't make sense to me that a person can say they're for feminism but act in a way that squelches diversity. It just doesn't make sense to me. I'm sorry. That's why I stay on here. I honestly like most of the people on here but the attitudes confuse the shit out of me sometimes and I'm just trying to get it. It takes me a long time sometimes.

Ah, whoops, that was AFTER you accused him of living in an echo chamber and sounding stupid. Silly me, I was looking BEFORE, to see what set you off. Right. So basically, he called you a troll-bot after you made a contextless and meaningless attack on him. Gotcha.

His point about certain people being arrogant about being always right until they've had their ass handed to them a few times by smarter people...that was bang-on. You're not quite tracking this I think. There were a number of good-faith attempts to discuss things with Caledonian, and is very typical of Caledonian, he was merely getting more and more dogmatic and troll-like. Since there is little point in trying to humor that, the brush-off was entirely deserved afterwards. Or, wait, are you saying that someone's history of behavior shouldn't count...?

As for the diversity issue, what the hell thread do you think you are on??? What post is at the top of this thread, for you? What does it say? Have you checked yourself at all? Or do you think that every post Zuska does about diversity (whether you are on that thread or not) should always include a piece on the benefits of diversity, and not about the immediate topic of the post? Wow, do you think maybe the person writing the blog has a right to divvy up topics in the way that they want, maybe?

Alexis, you really don't seem to be paying attention to what is going on around you. I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt by assuming that you are a sane and reasonable person, who just doesn't read very carefully. Suggest you take a bit more time.

By Luna_the_cat (not verified) on 03 Feb 2008 #permalink


You're right luna, you're right. I keep forgetting that nothing is connected, that each post, each theory, stands in its own vacuum. I keep forgetting that the topic of diversity is mutually exclusive from the topic feminism and the topic of human interaction. Thanks for setting me straight. I'll just go back to lurking under my self-appointed bridge now.

You...really, entirely missed the point there, Alexis. Like, completely. :-/

By Luna_the_cat (not verified) on 03 Feb 2008 #permalink

Alexis, I feel you are being somewhat unreasonable. I wrote a post about why resistance to diversity is so strong and durable, and why that resistance is predictable, and how we might approach understanding and analyzing that resistance, and a few ideas of what we might do to obviate some of that resistance. For me, this post was clearly directed at people who already have some understanding of the goods to be obtained from diversity, but who may be wondering why some people are so resistant and what they can do about it.

You want me to write a post about why diversity is good and how it is connected to feminism (I think). You want me to try to convince people who are not aware of diversity's goods, that they should take a second look. That is a completely different agenda from what I am attempting to do in this post, and it's just ridiculous to find me at fault because I didn't write the post you want to see, directed at the audience you think I should be talking to.

What you have mainly accomplished with your confusing critique is to completely derail the discussion of why there is so much resistance to diversity and what to do about it. Now we are having some discussion about what you want to see in a blog post on TSZ and how you want commenters to behave.

Sometimes people suggest potential topics to me, and sometimes I take them up on it. But always, in the end, I am the one who chooses what to write on. I can't address every single aspect of every single issue in one blog post. This one is fairly narrowly focused. If you want to read more about what I have to say about resistance to diversity, then check out the reference at the bottom of my post (co-authored with Cynthia Burack.) If you want to read about why diversity is good, you will need to read something else for the time being because that is not what I am writing about right now.

How do you expect to do anything about the diversity problem (the topic of your post) if you fail to consider that a large part of the resistance to diversification is that people are having it foisted on them in a way that is perceived to be antagonistic?

I don't know what "diversity problem" you think is the topic of my post. It is about how group dynamic theory can help us understand one important contributing factor to resistance to diversity. WHY do people perceive advocates for diversity as antagonistic? That is what I am exploring in this post. I don't want to just describe what is (people think diversity advocates make their case antagonistically); I want to explore why they have that reaction.

Failing to consider that there is a way the argument can be presented that will actually make opponents agree with diversity (the part of the post that you feel is an aside) is a gap.

I am not sure what post you have been reading. I gave explicit suggestions for how to advocate for diversity in ways that can lessen resistance and make implicit and explicit messages coherent. How in the world you think that I see this as an "aside" is a mystery to me.

In the end, if you see "gaps" in what I write, I don't care. I wrote a particular thing for a particular reason, to a particular audience. It is not meant to be every last word on diversity. If you think I have utterly failed and you know the best way to write about diversity, I suggest you do it on your own blog and then provide a link here for us to see the acceptable way to write about these issues.

Can we rewind to the part of the conversation where everyone agreed that blatant sexism is okay but blatant racism is no longer culturally acceptable? 'Cause that's a) sadly untrue, and b) a rotten way to pit people against each other.

Am I the only person who saw that horrible "Yo Mama bin Barack" article that made the Internet rounds a little while ago?

Hmmm...well....I read your entries and I have to admit that (1) I have no frickin' idea what you are talking about and (2) that's a pretty aggressive type of "apology", whoever you're talking to.

It is something of an apology to you and any number of other people in other places, in its own "it's me not you" sort of way.

Here's part of the apology:

I feel dirty when I lie and pretend that I am one of you. I am tired of that feeling. I would like to feel alive and true again. I would like to live well on ideas, not eke out a meager existence on your safe platitudes.

That's some funny shit. "It's me" that is a misunderstood genius, "not you", who are conventional bores.

Ha! Sorry, I like to experiment with different ways of putting things and...well, my experiments don't always work out quite right. Besides, there's probably a lot of internet/information theory packed in there that doesn't translate so well.


I find myself finally having to admit that I'm not a Democrat any more...
Yeah, sadly, kind of true, for reasons addressed in rest of post.

Will I still have friends after this admission? I'm still the same person...
A little gay humor.

I'm sorry if I lashed out at you because of my own identity crisis
Actually true. It sucks to realize that I am drifting away from all of the people I have self-associated with up to now and it is frustrating and kind of a little scary, too. I have probably been a total asshole. I can't expect everyone else to feel the same way I do about an intellectual discussion and how it should be had properly. That said, I am still pissed about the situation so, yeah, I am probably a little hateful in this one.

I wish I could just be happy with having what everyone else has...
More gay humor.

and with being content with comfortable, safe conversations, ..."Yes, you're right, you're brilliant, you're so smart, everyone agrees with you."
Based on group-dynamics theory that people adjust their conversation within a group so that they do not stand out or disagree with the rest of the group too strongly. No one wants to embarrass themselves, no one wants to lose favor, everyone wants to look cool. Thus, people that congregate in a group tend to self-homogenize their opinions, which leads to the discussion becoming static and repetitive as well as leading certain underlying assumptions to go unsaid. In far-gone cases, this latter tendency becomes so extreme that members of the group actually lose sight of the most fundamental underlying tenets and become unable to articulate them when questioned, and/or they make conflicting decisions that would be more obvious were the underlying tenets kept in the fore of the conversation. This one theory carries a lot of weight in many different fields and has been applied to all sorts of quite varied problems, include Kuhn's theory of scientific paradigms, game theory, political science, law, social networking and Internet interactions, and others.

But that conversation disgusts me...
Yes, it does. In addition to leaving me cold intellectually due to the lack of challenge, there is also the danger that as the discussion becomes more insular it loses touch with reality and veers further into extremism. This is caused by both conversational feedback loops as well as a set of shared assumptions held by members of the group. The combination of drift + assumptions causes it to become less comprehensible to those outside the inner sanctum and makes the overall group message more inscrutable. Ultimately, it leads to an inability to "get the message out."

There. I admitted it. You've become boring....I'm not leaving you for another party. I'm leaving you for another game altogether
More gay humor. I come out. Probably stupid parallel between good conversation and a good lover.

All I want is to discuss possibilities...
Specific reasons why self-homogenized discussion is not my cup of tea. What I would prefer instead.

I'm tired of you telling me what to think...
Further group dynamic theory. There is a tipping point at which self-moderated conversation becomes actively moderated by other members of the group and outside opinion is actively squelched, ie "you aren't allowed to say x if you want to call yourself one of us." Basically, I've become tired by the fascism of self-labeled groups, whether groups I would normally affiliate with (Democrats) or not (fundamentalist religious groups).

I'm damn sure not going to call myself ....anything else you have a label for...gang banging me with their assumptions...refusing to actually chew the meaty heart of a matter
Culmination of group theory discussion, in which members of the group are automatically assumed to believe X as a requisite to being part of the group. On the tyranny of Kuhnian paradigms. Why I can't bring myself to do it any more.

On the tyranny of Kuhnian paradigms.

You know, it's funny you should mention that. I've frequently fantasized about imposing tyrannical Kuhnian paradigms on helpless homogenized grad students.

All joking aside, it sounds to me like you are getting yourself extremely overwrought about some exceedingly abstract shit. Are you sure you wanna judge your friends, acquaintances, and colleagues on this kind of basis?

I don't know that it's so abstract though, that's the troubling thing. If it were abstract I could blow it off. But I'm looking at in in how people interact with each other just in day to day exchanges - how they talk about politics with each other, or how they understand the news they watch on tv, or what they take away from an interaction with a person who they wouldn't normally talk with. How one person has to write a paper to make it into an academic journal means no one else will read that paper because it's in academic journal.

I don't see any of those as being abstract, I see them as being very immediate and concrete, or, at least, the repercussions are - if I say one thing one way I get response X, and if I say it another way I get response Y. And, no, I don't particularly want to judge people on that basis, but I haven't figured out how to make my discomfort mesh with that desire.

And, no, I don't particularly want to judge people on that basis, but I haven't figured out how to make my discomfort mesh with that desire.

You could try judging people instead on the basis of whether they are engaging you and the world in good faith.

That's what I normally try to do - I suppose the issue is that I'm having a hard time choosing whether self-isolation counts as "engaging the world in good faith" or not. That's....that's really the crux, isn't it?

My practice is to accord every individual a presumption of good faith, unless rebutted by clear affirmative evidence to the contrary.

Again, agreed; however, that still doesn't solve my dilemma.

Is excessive self-isolation engaging the world in good or bad faith? If I see clear affirmative evidence that someone is self-isolating, what is my proper response given that I am strongly leaning towards it actually being bad faith (really, my reluctance to just outright say it is bad faith is based on how wide-spread and natural it is, not that I have doubts about its appallingness)? Should I say, "well, if a person doesn't know better, they're acting in good faith, but if their other beliefs and statements suggest they should know better, then I will hold them accountable for bad behavior?" Should I hold a person to be acting in bad faith if they expect me to be open even as they remain closed?

I personally feel that minority groups get all the "balance" and "outside input" they need in their day-to-day lives. I certainly am in no danger of forgetting what misogyny looks like, or that people object to many of my ideas; I get that "alternative viewpoint" everyday from most of the people I interact with.

Trying to take a moment away from the unadulterated "men first" world and spend a little time being "women first" (so to speak) doesn't seem insular or tyrannical to me. It's only when the discussion is considered in a void that viewpoints other than those of this particular in-group appear underrepresented.

Because the default *is* the other viewpoint, having those opposing views intrude upon this bit of "me" time is annoying and (I think) unnecessary.

(I, of course, am using the "us = female" stuff figuratively. I assume the feminist guys won't be offended. ^^)