Humor Attempt Turns Racist

Patrick HowleyHumor is great. I agree with Elizabeth Bennet when she said, “I dearly love a laugh.” But humor is dangerous as a writer. You can inadvertently says something that you don’t mean. Even worse: you can say something that you do mean.

Patrick Howley is a writer for The Daily Caller, the supposedly libertarian website that is in fact just a conservative also ran that only stands out when it gets a story hopelessly wrong. But last Monday, Howley tried to have a little fun with the Obamas buying a new dog. Look: I get it. I didn’t even mention it because I absolutely don’t care. And clearly Howley was annoyed by the “press release for children” that the White House put out. “So now, in addition to helping with those official duties, Bo takes on the important role of big brother!” Stuff like that is enough to send me to the sink for a bout of retching.

So I’m totally with Howley on this stuff and his article gently mocks the whole thing throughout. I’m not with him when he tries to be serious for a moment by throwing in a line about the unemployment rate. That’s just childish. And it isn’t funny or clever at this point, because every time the president plays a game of golf, the right have a simultaneous orgasm over the fact that he isn’t fixing every problem in the nation. How dare he not be working! But mostly, the tone was about right. I mean “correct.”

Then he got to the end. And he took a very bad turn. Again, he was trying to be funny when he wrote this:

With the addition of Sunny, the Obamas now have two black Portuguese water dogs.

The Obamas do not have any white dogs.

Get it?! It’s because Obama hates whites; even white dogs! Am I right? (Note: the new dog has quite a lot of white fur, but I guess it’s like the old racist laws: if you have any black hair, you’re black!)

The problem here is that The Daily Caller is a racist website. Most of it isn’t overt; it is more along the lines of what I talked about last week: The Racism of Reverse Racism. But it is clearly racist and so when people read such a thing as “The Obamas do not have any white dogs” they understandably go ballistic. Little Green Footballs, for example, calls it “flat-out racist.” Even the non-political site Terribly Terrier called it “dog whistle politics.” But mostly, everyone responded as Media Matter: without comment, since none is really necessary.

Like I said, I think it is all a joke gone bad. I don’t necessarily think that Howley is a racist. But the Aspen Daily News got to the heart of the problem:

Whatever the writer’s intent, it’s clear that he dislikes Obama, and the fact that they have no white dogs is supposed to mean something. Just like it’s clear the rodeo clown who wore the Obama mask to work dislikes Obama. And both were aiming to get a bunch of other people to dislike Obama, too.

I say it’s OK to dislike the president. I had a very strong dislike for W when he was in office. But if you’re going to dislike the president, you need to at least pretend to do so for a valid reason.

Otherwise, you just look stupid.

But that’s the thing on the right. It is very much like a group of high school jocks who make each other laugh by cracking jokes about what losers the nerds are. That’s to be expected from young people. But The Daily Caller is supposedly a legitimate news organization. If they want to make fun of Obama, they ought to hire P.J. O’Rourke. Otherwise, as stated: you just look stupid—and at least marginally racist.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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