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Taking offense goes for gold

OPINION

  • Daniel Tosh
Daniel Tosh
August 05, 2012|By Stephen Markley, For RedEye

The Olympics has its dull moments, but nothing could top the dullness of the summer events currently upstaging the Olympics at every turn. I refer, of course, to the Umbrage Games.

People love taking offense, and this summer we've had two telling examples of Umbrage Gone Wild. Recently, Chick-fil-APresident Dan Cathy said something moronic, and we all had to get incensed about his homophobia. Then Mayor Emanuel hinted he wants to ban Chick-fil-A from Chicago, and we had to get upset about freedom of expression. Earlier, Daniel Tosh made a rape joke, and we had to get offended. Then as a guy who makes jokes in print and believes nothing is off-limits in comedy, I had to get offended at the offense.

I find all of this totally exhausting, and I've decided to solve it all in this column.

Dan Cathy: You are an idiot. Boycotting your chicken will be the easiest boycott I've ever participated in. It's like boycotting a company that manufacturers spiked urethra-rods: "Oh, good, I was already doing that."

Mayors who support gay rights: Dan Cathy is an idiot, but you can't start banning companies and institutions run by people who say stupid stuff. Otherwise, we could never have churches, synagogues or mosques in city limits because those people are telling everyone there's a magic man in the sky making bizarre homophobic rules and looking inside their brains 24 hours a day. (Yeah, I went there! Umbrage!)

Not-comedians: Yes, rape can be funny. It can be really funny. Lindy West of Jezebel thankfully made this point by explaining why Tosh's joke bombed, then pointed out her four favorite rape jokes (which incidentally included Chicago comedian and casual friend of mine Ever Mainard; check out her eight-minute rape-and-race joke and try not to laugh).

Comedians: Just because you have a microphone on a stage doesn't make you impervious to sucking. You can't just push the envelope; you have to actually stamp it and mail it somewhere clever. Tosh's only offense is that he's not funny, that his shtick as a smirking, entitled white heterosexual male who's utterly clueless to his societal privilege is as stale as it is ancient. (I might be the only one who thinks this extends to his show, which is like watching Andrew Dice Clay host "America's Funniest Home Videos" updated for the YouTube age.)

Yet this back-and-forth of taking offense, all this endless outrage at what essentially amounts to people popping off at the mouth, not counting to 10 before they speak, is so totally useless. If you're a person who makes a living in the public sphere during the Twitter age, chances are you will either unintentionally say something dumb or voice an opinion not in accord with the majority cultural ethos. Freaking out about every instance of this represents a massive waste of our time.

Kind of like going to church, "Tosh.0" or making jokes about the Polish—those lousy, hairy Pollock freaks.

RedEye special contributor Stephen Markley is the author of "Publish This Book." redeyechicago.com/markley | @stephenmarkley

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