Posted by: bkivey | 12 November 2011

No Sense of Humor

One of the ways I judge intelligence is by whether a person, or group, has a sense of humor. My thinking is that a well-developed sense of humor implies a certain amount of creativity: the ability to make  uncommon connections from abstract concepts. A sense of humor is also indicative of  a certain maturity level. I’ve known many people who were ‘book smart’, but had little or no sense of humor. They may have been ‘smart’, and many were passionate,  but I didn’t consider them overly intelligent. It’s a fact of life, though, that the most earnest also consider themselves the most intelligent. This combination usually works to make a person an insufferable boor.

On an individual basis this is trial enough, but when the attitude extends to groupthink, the result is tragic for society as a whole and the individual in particular. Political Correctness, that abomination of classical liberal thought, is but the most modern example. Nothing is more dangerous than a smart, passionate, earnest person with a Cause. Such people tend to support Causes that oppress others to one degree or another.

The post today was inspired by controversy over a viral ad, but a little related background first. In 2000, Nike aired an ad parodying slasher movies. A guy with a chainsaw attacks a woman, who runs away at such a pace that the attacker is left in her dust, gasping for breath. I only saw the ad once before it was pulled, and I thought it was funny and made the point in a memorable way. It was an effective ad in that you remembered the sponsor. However, a vocal minority threw a temper tantrum and claimed that the ad promoted violence against women. Say what? In case the detractors hadn’t noticed, the woman gets away, and does so in a way that makes her look strong, the attacker weak. The whiners were so wrapped up in themselves and their Cause that they couldn’t see the humor or the point of the ad. No humor, and unintelligent.

The viral ad that sparked this post was made in  2004 by an independent team as a sort of portfolio piece. In the ad, a man sporting the latest in Middle Eastern terrorist dress, complete with kaffiyeh and suicide vest, steps into a VW Polo, drives to a crowded restaurant, and detonates himself. Rather than death and mayhem, the car contains the explosion. The tagline: Polo. Small But Tough. Despite the use of their product and logo, Volkswagen didn’t commission the ad.

I didn’t see the ad until last year, but I thought is was pretty funny, and, like the Nike ad, it presented the product in a positive  light. Like many others, I thought it a real commercial, probably for distribution outside the US. I didn’t learn differently until this week, when I came across the Snopes.com page on the ad.

It seems a lot of people lack a sense of humor,  perspective, and discrimination. The whole tone of the Snopes page is the cluck-clucking of a scolding parent. Phrases like “. . . seemingly calculated to offend as many humans as possible.”, and “. . . offensive spot.” permeate the article. There’s a quote from a VW spokesman who intimates that the spot condones suicide bombing. Really? Let’s review. A VW product is shown preventing an act of terrorism. Given the percentage of terrorist acts perpetrated by Middle Eastern Muslims in the last four decades, and the deafening silence from allegedly ‘moderate’ Muslims on those same acts, I really don’t give a damn if they’re offended. Black humor? Sure. Offensive? I guess one could make a case for painting a group with too broad a brush, but most intelligent people can discriminate between a terrorist and the owner of the local 7-11.

In a clear case of CYA, the editor of the ad claims he ” . . . was horrified by the reaction to the ad . . . “. Yeah, right. I understand that he was trying to avoid legal action at the hands of VW for unauthorized use of their product and logo, but in a sane world, he’d be able to take public pride in what is a nice piece of advertising.

The fact is that the professionally and semi-professionally offended make up a very small fraction of the population. Their mindset is a holdover from a world that was but hasn’t been for a long time. As a society we need to pay a whole lot less attention to them. It’s been noted that life can be seen as a tragedy or a farce, and it’s a lot easier to deal with if one’s outlook tends to the latter.

A Ticking Clock

After putting up with mob rule for weeks, the mayor of the local metropolis has given the OWS crowd until midnight Saturday, 12 November, to vacate the two city parks where they’ve set up their Obamavilles. The police have gone on record that they’re prepared to make mass arrests, and have indicated that they’ll make the necessary room in the local jail. A number of ‘protestors’ have reportedly vacated the premises. This leads me to the conclusion that a lot of the participants are bored/fed-up with the whole thing, and were looking for the first legitimate excuse to leave. I expect that whatever the outcome, there will be significant damage to public property that the taxpayer will have to make good. Yep, OWS is just like the Tea Party.

Of course, there’s a die-hard/ignorant group that has vowed to stay, so downtown on Saturday night might be the place to be to watch what happens. Portland is as progressive a city as there is in this country, and if the leadership is tired of the OWS movement, you know the party’s over.

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