Saturday, November 18, 2017

Wit Privilege and America's War on the Witless

Note: This article first appeared on June 4, 2015, in American Thinker. I wrote it as a satirical piece. With the recent revelations about Al Franken, Louis C.K., and, less recently, Bill Cosby, perhaps the time has come to address the realities of Wit Privilege.  
“Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.” Mark Twain
Mark Twain
Wit is not always a laughing matter.  For example, the Sons of Liberty used their wits to pull off one of the most memorable practical jokes in history at the Boston Tea Party. Also, Ben Franklin disseminated and popularized his philosophy through his bestseller, Poor Richard’s Almanac. His witty one-liners are quoted to this day by people who’ve never even heard of the book.

Wit privilege refers to societal privileges that benefit witty people in ways that are unavailable to the witless.  It continues to be a potent force in the United States.  The witty elite use jokes and anecdotes to win elections, spread ideologies, and market their services and wares.  All too often, the witless are the butts of the jokes. They are at a severe disadvantage in virtually every area of their sad lives.

Witty people are more likeable, more popular, and have greater social status.  They tend to be cheerful, and they receive more respect and better service across the board. From bankers to beauticians, from the police to pediatricians, from clerks to computer techs, people who provide services of any kind prefer to do business with funny people rather than the grumpy.

The witty are also considered more attractive than the witless.  That’s why comedians never have problems finding spouses, or second, or third, or fourth spouses.  A review of personal ads will inevitably show that the most desired trait for a potential date is a good sense of humor.  Nobody writes personal ads like this: “Seeking somber person to engage in serious conversation. Must not giggle.”

Funny folks have greater freedom of expression.  In America, when you’re funny people listen.  The ability to tell a joke can make the difference between being heard and being ignored. Funny videos are shared far more often than serious ones. In the entertainment business, people who can make others laugh get more opportunities and are treated better than the humor-impaired.

The disparities between the witty and the witless are evident in the business world as well.  A properly delivered punchline can help a person land a job or seal a deal.  Jokes are also frequently used by the powerful to silence the witless.  The laughter emanating from corner offices may sound jovial, but it also reminds the peons in the cubicles of who is in charge.

Disparities due to wit privilege are rampant in healthcare. People who know how to tell jokes and enjoy a good laugh live happier and healthier lives.  The witty are able to handle stress and anxiety better than the witless.  Laughter is widely regarded as the best medicine, and the witty get it for free. The primary reason comedy isn’t part of healthcare is that they want to keep it to themselves.  Meanwhile, people who suffer from humor deficiency pay exorbitant amounts for the prescription and non-prescription drugs they need just to get through the day.

Witty people take their unearned benefits for granted.  When confronted about wit privilege, they deny that it exists or say that it’s not their fault they were born funny.  Furthermore, they have no comprehension of how different their lives would be if they ever lost their sense of humor and had to experience horrors like these:
  • The realization, after they’ve delivered a punchline, that they’ve omitted a critical part of the setup.
  • The inability to produce suitable and timely responses to offensive remarks or insults.
  • Dreaded sympathy laughter due to poor comedic timing.

The roots of wit privilege go all the way back to William Shakespeare.  In Othello, the bard wrote, “They laugh that win.”

Little has changed.  Renowned neurohumorist Karyn Buxman proclaims, “Humor is power.”

Wit privilege has had a profound and disturbing influence in the United States throughout the country’s history.   It is deplorable that humorous people have advantages over people who are not funny and who may never become funny.  People born witless are human beings entitled to the same freedoms and opportunities as the witty.

The longstanding and systemic abuses of power enabled through wit privilege are a form of discrimination which must be addressed.  In the interest of fairness and decency, if an equitable solution cannot be found, the laughter must stop.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Confessions of a Grown-up Paperboy

Found that classic paperbag on EBay. It was dirty and
it had a hole in it. Looks just like my old one.
Back in the 70s, newspapers were not always delivered by adults in cars. Newspapers were frequently delivered by “paperboys.” They would put their bundles of newspapers in canvas bags and either walk from house to house or ride their bikes. 

My first job was delivering newspapers and I did my route on a bike. Every morning, I would ride to the top of my street, Thomas Rd. in South Weymouth, Massachusetts, where a large bundle of newspapers would be waiting for me. I had eighty or so customers. About 60 were Boston Globe subscribers and fifteen or so were Boston Herald Traveler subscribers. There was also a handful of very discerning readers who got the Record American.

The suburb of Boston where I grew up was in an area referred to as The South Shore. It includes the suburbs between Boston and Cape Cod. The South Shore had its own newspaper which is still being published. It’s called The Patriot Ledger. Another boy in my neighborhood delivered that in the afternoon.

My father worked for the newspapers as a member of the Mailers’ Union. The Mail Room was where the papers were bundled and placed on pallets which were then loaded onto trucks. When I was in high school, right across Morrissey Blvd. from the Boston Globe, my father got me a few shifts on Saturday nights putting the Sunday papers together at The Globe. That was back when the Sunday newspapers were gigantic. It was a job an idiot could do, and I was fairly good at it.

The Mail Room was easily one of the noisiest places I’ve ever worked in. It's not as noisy as The Blue Angels at an airshow, but it's close. Some of the ink from the printing process actually ended up in the air and you breathed it. After a shift I always blew my nose and the mucous came out black.

I did well at writing in high school and I took several writing classes in college. One of those courses was Magazine Feature Writing at the University of North Florida. That class was taught by the unforgettable William Roach. Students in that class had to write four good articles and submit them to magazines. Most of us got published somewhere. It was a tremendous thrill to get a contract and see my byline in a real magazine for the first time. I went on to write book reviews for the Florida Times-Union and dozens of published articles for a variety of fine magazines.

In the 90s a friend of mine who was in radio ran for Congress and I got involved with his campaign. During that time I read dozens of books about the media. I was trying to learn enough to become a press secretary if my friend won. Unfortunately, he didn’t win. However, I had accumulated so much information that I felt like I had to do something with it.
By that time, many Americans loathed the media. Trivial Pursuit was hot. 

I created a trivia game called Media Mayhem, the game that empowered people to trash the media, piece by illicit piece. I intended for it to be a fun way for people to learn about the media. Although the game didn’t sell as well as I would have liked, I did manage to get on over fifty talk radio shows throughout the country as a guest.


Just before the turn of the century, I got a communications job with a non-profit. Among other duties, I coordinated most of their interactions with the media. I pitched stories to radio, TV, and newspapers. I got media coverage for events and I got members of their staff interviewed when they had something to talk about. I also ghost-wrote letters to the editor from the non-profit's executives, some of whom were not capable of writing one coherent paragraph. There was lots of interaction with reporters, columnists, producers, and editors.

Journalism has changed a lot over the past two decades. The newspaper business especially has changed. I've observed, from afar, reductions in staff over and over at the Florida Times-Union. Very capable journalists to whom I previously pitched stories were just gone. Columnists and editors were gone. Life for those who survived didn't look easy either. Where some journalists previously had the ability to concentrate on a single beat (business, crime, entertainment), most now have to cover two, three, or more areas.  

For a few years, I took pictures of car wrecks and fires as a freelancer. It saddens me to say that while I was earning pocket change, I undoubtedly helped to wipe out a staff photographer position. The Times-Union used to have lots of excellent photographers. Now, they have a handful. They're truly excellent, but if you read the paper and pay attention, it's not hard to see that they are working their butts off.

I never stopped being a news junkie and I still love newspapers. I’ve been reading at least one daily newspaper almost every day since I was in my 20s. Even now, after the vast majority of readers have discontinued their subscriptions, I still get two newspapers – the Wall Street Journal and the Florida Times-Union – delivered to the end of my driveway every morning. To me, there just aren’t many things better than sipping a cup of coffee while reading a newspaper in the morning. 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Fake Statistics and Defamation: Are half the players in the NFL really convicted felons?

In early October, a meme was circulated which asserted that over half of the players currently in the NFL are convicted felons. The meme appeared to be a response to the protests that have been going on. There was no indication where the statistics in the meme came from.
One of the Facebook pages where the meme was shared was Liberal Logic 101. The Liberal Logic slogan is, “Helping those of us with brains understand how Liberal Logic works.” The meme about felons in the NFL doesn’t seem to be by Liberal Logic. When Liberal Logic posted the meme about the NFL, most of the Facebook comments indicated that people found it preposterous. 


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Fake Photos and the Folks Who Share Them

This is not the U.S. Army football team
kneeling during the National Anthem.
A picture is worth a thousand words, and a picture that gets shared can get exposure at exponential levels. Unfortunately, pictures can be altered in ways that do not depict reality. Sometimes a picture doesn’t even need any alteration. Sometimes, all a skilled photo distributor needs to do is to attach a provocative story related to trending news.
For example, one very hot topic has been protests by NFL players who take a knee during the National Anthem. The photo at the top of this post shows the U.S. Navy football team kneeling in unison for prayer before a game against the University of Tulsa. However, those players certainly didn’t take a knee during the playing of the National Anthem.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

President Trump Signs Executive Order To Reduce Verbal Violence By Late-nite Comedians

Note: This post is an example of satirical fake news. 

In a speech at the White House Rose Garden, President Trump announced an executive order which will limit the number of punchlines per minute by late-nite comedians. Holding up a pen, he said, “Barak Obama once said he could get things done with a pen and a phone. Well, he left a few of his pens behind, and let me tell you, they work very well.”
President Trump explained his rationale for his new executive order. “The late-nite comedians are a disgrace. They’ve weaponized sarcasm, irony, and mockery, and other tricks of their disgusting trade. Night after night, they destroy the lives of Americans. The carnage has increased over the past few decades, and especially since the beginning of my term in office. These people are indiscriminate. They target innocent men, women, and children with no regard for common decency whatsoever.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Clickbait for fake news on Jacksonville.com? Sad but true.

I don’t routinely browse  Jacksonville.com because I get the print version of the Times-Union every morning at the end of my driveway. On Saturday, September 2nd, I took a look at the online version because I wanted to share Richard Cuff’s intelligent letter about the controversy pertaining to Confederate monuments.

When I got to Richard's letter at Jacksonville.com, I saw an ad at the top of the right column which was clickbait for a fake news story about HGTV star Joanna Gaines leaving Fixer Upper and going into the cosmetics business. Having written a blog post about this fake news story, I was familiar with it.


Upon reloading Richard Cuff’s letter to the editor, a banner ad for the fake news story appeared at the top of the page. As a legitimate news organization, it seems like the Times-Union should be able to keep clickbait for fake news from appearing on its website. People and organizations that help to spread fake news are part of the problem. I’ve sent a letter to the editor about this, but have yet to hear anything back about it.

Do you think news organizations like the Florida Times-Union should keep ads for fake news stories off their websites?

Are you comfortable sharing articles from organizations that sometimes help to spread fake news?

#FakeNews #JoannaGaines #FixerUpper

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Devious Question and Fake News in the Garden of Eden

When I was employed as a salesman at a car dealership, I learned that you can get someone to believe a lie without ever telling him or her a lie. It’s possible to get someone to believe a lie simply by asking the right question. For example, after I closed one profitable deal on a pickup truck, the customer said, “Dan, as much as I paid for that truck, you ought to throw in a set of mats.”
I acted as if I was taken aback. “Mr. Jones, we haggled quite a bit over this deal. Do you seriously think I have enough profit left to just throw in a set of mats?” I didn’t tell him a lie. I asked him a question. If I had just buckled and given him the mats, he would have wondered if he had gotten a decent deal or not.