Twisting the Devil's Tail

"Barely literate." "Lesbianic man-hating harpies." "Professor Stuff-Your-Face-With-Froot-Loops." "Hamplanets." "Kid fuckers." "Beta orbiting cucks" (said of male feminists). "Black dude" (said of a woman). "Man in a dress" (said of a transwoman before surgery). "Spineless cunts" (said of older conservatives). "Illiterate fucks" (said of his own staff). "Race-mixing kike faggot" (said of himself).

My colleagues at the University of Chicago want you to know that these words are dangerous, particularly when spoken by my Vile Boyfriend, Mr. Milo Yiannopoulos. So dangerous, in fact, that simply writing about how I think his Dangerous Faggot tour of American college campuses has exposed significant tensions in our university culture is--they would insist--cause for serious concern, whether I mention the jokes that he makes or not.

Particularly, it would seem, when I do not.

"It is a statement of fact," my colleague in English Languages and Literatures Julie Orlemanski has asserted,
that Mr. Yiannopoulos expresses xenophobic, racist, and transphobic ideas and carries out discursive violence by doxing (intimidating individuals by dumping personal information into the public domain [which Milo never does, but my colleagues wouldn't know this because they assume they know him without doing the proper research--FB]) his critics as well as persons he identifies as undocumented immigrants [this is slander--FB] or trans [ditto--the one trans student he has talked about was already on public record for filing a complaint against the university where Milo was speaking--FB]. The Anti-Defamation League refers to him as "a misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, transphobic troll."
Just yesterday, twenty-seven of my colleagues in the Divinity School followed suit:
In accordance with the University's commitment to promote free expression, we do not dispute Professor Brown's right to voice her opinions... * However, we want to be clear that the publication of her column in Sightings does not imply that we condone these opinions, especially as her column supports an individual whose views are widely regarded as promoting racism, sexism, transphobia, and Islamophobia.
Which is pretty good going for an article that was about how we in the academy need to talk more about religion, precisely in order to prevent the kinds of "hate crimes" that my colleagues insist are on the rise thanks to the jokes Milo tells. (Milo keeps a list of these kinds of crimes, the vast majority of which appear to have been hoaxes.)

They sound a little like Jorge of Burgos, don't you think? "The spirit is serene only when it contemplates the truth and takes delight in good achieved, and truth and good are not to be laughed at. This is why Christ did not laugh. Laughter foments doubt."

I asked my friends in my Facebook salon yesterday what they think about Milo's jokes.
Milo tackles topics that are too un-PC for mainstream comedians to touch, and it's hilarious.
I personally love Milo's jokes. It's very much like an amusement park ride--you never know what he might say but they are crazy funny. I don't get offended at all because I know he is just joking. I know he is NOT a hateful person by observing how he interacts with his opponents--he always tells his fans to be polite to his challengers no matter how silly or rude the questions can be. He always tried to answer them in a very respectful way with some street "French" at times. He has said on many occasions that "if we don't hold ourselves [to] the same standards as we do...our opponents, we are no better than them."
Nothing he says makes me uncomfortable, but that's because I'm not an oversensitive snowflake, whose labia get chafed over mean words. Plus, he's certainly more amusing than these swine "comedians," whose idea of funny and original is copious use of the F-bomb and making stupid faces (see the graphic comparison of Amy Schumer to a potato).
I see it as no worse than listening to the 80's "alternative comedians" who appeared to make a living via the words "fu*k Thatcher." Yes, some of the things he says are a little near the knuckle for my personal taste, but if Milo wasn't outrageous, I doubt he would have the platform he has. Some of the things he says are genuinely extremely funny, and yes, some might be hurtful. But he is not commanding that people listen to him, I see no reason why someone should be lynched for irreverent humour.
Milo's humor serves two purposes, it is both an irritant and a catharsis. He irritates by tearing down conventions, and like a grain of sand in an oyster it promotes the response--a pearl of wisdom if you will. [See, I told you Milo wears pearls on purpose!--FB] It is also a catharsis, wherein he irreverently exposes and critiques the inequalities and inconsistencies that bother the rational mind.
Milo is incredibly crude with his jokes, but if a Leftist were making the very same jokes no one would even raise an eyebrow or clutch a single pearl. [More pearls!--FB] That's how I know his sense of humor is a non-issue.
IMHO, humor is funny because it brings us face to face with an incongruity that we otherwise wouldn't be very (or at all) aware of.... [Humor] is always at least a little uncomfortable... Now in my fifty-almost-two years on the planet, I've figured out that life is messy. If you're searching for perfect ideological consistency you're going to be disappointed. We're all hypocrites to one degree or another.... I think it's extremely valuable for one to keep an eye on where one's own inconsistencies lie. Doing that usually requires that someone else point them out. Someone like Milo.
I enjoy [Milo] because the left owns entertainment right now--from sitcoms to SNL. We have nothing. And it doesn't make you a bad person to laugh at the stereotypical jokes [Milo] makes. Jokes like that have a degree of truth to them, that's where the stereotype comes from.
He's hilarious as are his followers. I just was reading the comments on a post he put up today featuring a pic of a young Steve Bannon and I laughed so hard I nearly peed myself (OK I did, but it was only a little... Incontinence comes with old age). It's a rarity to laugh like that. Akin to something like joy.
I think Milo's a brilliant young man, and I enjoy the bulk of his speeches. I do think a lot of his jokes are unnecessarily cruel, and pretty much irrelevant to the points he's trying to make. And I honestly don't appreciate most of his humor. That being said, I understand Milo literally grew up in a different world than I did (different generation, different country, different social circle, different culture), so I try to keep that in mind, and make allowances. I also realize I'm not his target audience. It's obvious from his following that his humor IS hitting the mark with his generation and his demographic, so I wouldn't want him to change in any way except as he sees fit to further his own career and purposes. That's the beauty of an open, free-speech society. I can list to Milo...and appreciate what he has to say without approving of his humor.
His jokes are funny. Sounds simple, but it's actually profound. Humor cuts down to the truth in a way nothing else can. His jokes make us uncomfortable on purpose, to try and push us outside our little personal idea bubbles.
I find him hilarious, and I know he intends his words to provoke and tease and I hear it as such. He is like a matador that dances around the enraged bull. But rather than stabbing and blooding with spears, the mighty Milo Matador tickles it with feathers, pulls its tail, and fixes giant pompoms onto the tips of its horns. 
I love his jokes. Either everything is OK to joke about or nothing is.
Milo's jokes are as layered and nuanced as everything else about him. Milo says that no one can resist the truth wrapped in a good joke, and he described his Dangerous Faggot Tour to Tucker Carlson as half lecture, half standup. As such, his jokes become the mechanism of delivery for his more salient points.... [His] jokes also serve to remind everyone to not take themselves too seriously, and to bring fun back into a notoriously boring realm. One of the things I love about Milo is that he can laugh at himself. When the other panelists on Bill Maher's show roasted him, he was the one who laughed the hardest, and then turned it into an even bigger joke.
Most of his jokes make me howl with laughter like a hyena, especially the jokes about gay sex. I'm generally not offended by anything he says; I got the satire in things like the modest proposal that women be kicked off the internet. There's only one thing he does that I have a big issue with: advocating fat shaming. I think I get what's going on: Milo is always looking for ways to put his awesome trolling powers to use for good and not for evil, and he thinks this is one such area because it will improve public health. Also the fat acceptance movement is imprudently pushing the other way. But I believe Milo doesn't yet see the whole picture about fat shaming.
I think what he is doing is so important. He is showing people that there is no definition of what it means to be a Christian conservative. He is freeing us from the stereotype. And by joking about these ideals that the progressives have held onto for so long as Bible he is allowing us, as conservatives, to finally expose how absolutely unsubstantiated some of these claims (so-called facts) really are.
At a time when classrooms have turned into prison cells (in the manner of disciplining thoughts) and the same goes for the family...and the MSM, Milo has been doing a service to us all. By provoking jokes, he is cajoling us to think differently about things that we had taken for granted. 
For the most part I love his sense of humor. I never find any of his jokes about women, for example, to be offensive, mostly because I think he delivers the best one-liners with such warmth and joviality that you can't be offended unless you are trying. Through sheer volume, however, he occasionally misses the mark. He's not on every single time, and I notice that he generally slips where his patience is at its lowest. He bears the scrutiny and brow-beating remarkably well, but it's enough to get to anyone eventually. Where he wavers, whether from speaking exhaustion or irritation, his humor slips into a kind of "mean girls" bitchy high school bully vibe. Never violent, but kind of cringe and cliquey. I am thinking in particular when he singled out the hijabi women in the crowd at one of his talks [who had been heckling him--FB], joked at their personal expense instead of at their ideas or the culture generally, and then dismissively mocked them as they left. He's at his best when he's like "come to Jesus; we love you even though you have cancer" [i.e. feminism--FB].
So when I hear his jokes I think of the satirist who holds up a mirror to show us our real selves, our real behavior, our real hypocrisy even. It's very helpful for society to have that. When he "jokes" about feminism and feminists or Muslims and Islam, I hear the truth. The only jokes I don't like are the ones he makes about himself--or even when he "acts" excessively gay because I know how deep his pain is and how he wishes he wasn't gay or hurting... I wish he wasn't an icon.
One important thing to note is that about half his jokes are aimed at himself. He doesn't consider himself beyond reproach. He's self-deprecating. This lends credibility to his humorous critiques. 
Some of his jokes have made me uncomfortable. And some may just save my life. I have his "Fat Shaming Works" talk cued up on my iPad at all times. Because sometimes I need to hear it again when I want to give in.... No ridiculous "body positivity" crap will be able to get me where I need to be. Only the hard work I was too lazy to do when I was younger is going to help. So thank you, Milo, for this horribly uncomfortable joke/message. Wish I had heard it sooner.
Milo turns a mirror toward us. Just because we do not like what we see does not make it false. Now, the mirror may at times have blemishes and cracks which may obscure, but when we look into even such a mirror we know enough to fill in the cracks. Most often I find Milo to be a riot. When times are most dark, we need humor. We need to laugh, even at ourselves (especially at ourselves). I vape. Milo makes fun of vapers all the time. I find it funny. Milo may go beyond the pale at times, but it is necessary.
His jokes are always about a concept...if someone aggressively and publicly represents that concept, then he uses their words/actions as an example, e.g. 3rd wave sjw feminism--Lena Dunham. He never picks on the private or the respectful persons...only the garishly totalitarian public abusers of intellectual and cultural concepts and freedoms.
Milo's sense of humor is actually pretty common in the United Kingdom and Ireland... Factories, offices, pubs, clubs: most places where people gather, there'll be somebody on the receiving end of some cutting humour. Some of the chants and songs you hear at British football grounds all around the country are far worse than anything you'll hear from Milo. There's no doubt that people who profess to be offended by jokes and opinions are themselves guilty of telling "offensive" jokes and expressing "offensive" opinions. And if Milo was on the Liberal Left, he'd have a regular column in the Guardian, be invited onto a wide variety of BBC shows and would still be on Twitter.
Being from Australia, I have a somewhat biased view. We were brought up on British humour. John Cleese says that the point of humour is that it's going to offend someone, but often in humour, we can see who we are and what we really think. It holds a mirror up to our eyes and we see our foibles but instead of condemning them, we can smile. People who are offended by dark humour may find that they have few opportunities to love and accept the darkness within. Yet that is what brings healing to the soul!
I am fine with Milo's jokes although I cringe about the "fat lesbian" jokes regarding feminism. I have some very level-headed lesbian friends who need to hear what he is saying; however, they might not be able to "hear" past these kinds of jokes. In the gay male community, there has been a long-standing anti-woman vibe with many jokes pointed in lesbians' directions. I don't feel like Milo needs to continue this "tradition." Where are the conservative "fat lesbians" supposed to go, after all? They have no one to champion their cause.
Black political scientist Shelby Steele suggests that Americans have replaced their sexual Puritanism of the 1950s with racial and gender Puritanism. They react to edgy political jokes with the same fury that their parents and grandparents would have focused on sexual jokes by, e.g., Lenny Bruce or George Carlin. Come to think of it, one of Carlin's great bits was "the seven words you can't say on television." We probably still have seven words you can't say, but they're different words.
Humor, or rather (incredibly) the absence of an emphasis on Milo's commentary as humor, has been the "elephant in the room" throughout the Milo controversies. I've been amazed that however off-the-cuff or with whatever comic intent his words may have been (ill) chosen, his remarks have been treated as though they came from Joseph Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith or perhaps by the Surgeon General of the United States. Milo's lack of self-seriousness as he talks about what could be serious issues has been the hallmark of his comedy and provided a great deal of necessary oxygen in these otherwise suffocating stifling Maoist tribunals about what constitutes acceptable public speech.
Pardon me if this has already been mentioned, but Milo's jokes aren't any worse than any of Joan Rivers's ever were, and she is worshipped as a comedic icon.
Milo uses humor to force us to examine our deeply held beliefs--often erroneous beliefs. If you actually listen to him, that is. Those who don't listen cannot possibly understand either what he's saying or what he's doing. Yes, he's a troll, but he's a self-aware troll. And he's funny. It's unfortunate that progressives have no sense of humor, no sense of fun, no notion of the absurd. They miss so much--in life and art.
I have the best friends. All my friends are the best.

Including Milo.

This is what he said as the introduction to his most "Islamophobic" talk, given in Orlando, Florida, in October 2016, four months after a Muslim gunman killed forty-nine people in a gay nightclub [ad lib from his talk as delivered in brackets]:
One of the first things to disappear in the wake of a terrorist attack is humour. That's one of the things they want. They want to make us afraid.
When we're afraid, we don't dare laugh in case it's the wrong thing to do.
But laughing is one of the ways we show we're okay, and that there can be a future beyond what has happened.
We aren't going to beat Islamic terror only with tanks and bombs. We're going to beat it with ideology. We're going to beat it with laughter--by showing the people who live in countries ruled by dictators and thugs that they will not make us afraid.
By showing them that the West is best.
That's how the Berlin Wall fell. People in East Germany knew that West Germany was better. [And one of the ways they knew was that they could hear the sound of laughter over the Wall.]
[Laughter is one of the first things to leave us when the authoritarians take hold. The thing that tyrants hate the most is the sound of laughter because it means somebody somewhere has gone off script. Someone has gone off message.] 
The freedoms enjoyed in this country, the best country [in the world], are, or should be the envy of the world. [They are best exemplified by the ability to laugh, to enjoy jokes with one another.]
It's often said that in order to find out who [has power, who has control in a society], you have to find out who you're not allowed to laugh about.
Today that's feminists, Black Lives Matter and Islam. Those are the groups that will get you into trouble if you crack jokes about [them]. You'll have your newspaper column taken away. You'll be banned from Twitter.
Of all these groups, Islam is the most inherently hilarious....
It's easy to bleat about Christianity. It's low-hanging fruit. It's more difficult, and it takes more bravery, to criticise Islam with sincerity and seriousness. And with jokes.
The past three weeks, ever since my Sightings article posted, I have been constantly reminding myself of what Milo said when I showed him what my colleagues were saying about me: "Remember to laugh."

Remember to laugh as you walk into the party where you are about to meet your potential new students and have to face the colleagues with whom you work in your field.

Remember to laugh as you walk into the department meeting room where you are about to meet the students who wrote about you in the campus newspaper and who have been talking about you for weeks.

Remember to laugh when you attend the seminar with the senior colleagues who have been your mentors and friends for over twenty years and who have been hearing what all your colleagues in the field are saying about you.

Remember to laugh--because it is only in laughter that we are able to be free of the fear.

The Devil hates laughter because laughter is to a certain extent involuntary. We laugh in spite of ourselves when we are forced to confront the absurdity of our existence, our hypocrisy, self-importance, anxieties, and fears.

As one of my Facebook friends put it:
At root, the human condition is absurd. Think about it, we've got this magnificent intellect, with all of its pretensions of dignity that sits atop a body that...well, provides fodder for fart jokes. Anyone who is still human who can't laugh at themselves is seriously deluded about his place in the universe. Alas, we are beset with deluded people.
Jorge was right. Laughter foments doubt. But it also frees in order to heal.

What I said in my Sightings piece was that Milo is important because he exposes the fear. He scares students and faculty because he makes clear how high the stakes in our current debate over freedom of speech really are, while at the same time drawing attention to the things that students and faculty insist they themselves are no longer allowed to talk about--or question.

I labelled these things "theological" because I believe that, at root, this is what they are: claims about what we hold sacred, our deepest convictions about the meaning and purpose of life. In joking about these things, Milo, in effect, is guilty of blasphemy: ridiculing the sacred, making that-which-should-not-be-named a figure of fun.

Except according to Christian teaching, God has already made himself ridiculous so as to save his ridiculous human creatures from their sins.
What's white, sticky and moves across the sky at a thousand miles per hour? The coming of the Lord
How does Jesus masturbate? Like this... (place your hand flat on your groin, palm side down and mimic jerking off using the hole in your hand). 
What's the difference between Jesus and a picture of Jesus? You only need one nail to hang up a picture of Jesus.
I dare you. Tell me again why I am not supposed to laugh.

The Crucifixion, with three nails
London, British Library, Additional MS 42130, fol. 94r
The Luttrell Psalter

*My colleagues also want you to know that my views on religion are outside the pale:
The "Packet for Rachel Fulton Brown," published in Sightings on March 2, makes clear that Professor Brown promulgates a view of religion and theology that is not widely represented among the Divinity School community's diverse views. 
I am, as it were, too diverse for the Divinity School. As Milo would say, "Stop it! Stop it!" Whimsical head tilt. "Behave!"

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