Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Silent Jokes Don't Offend

Gene, at Harry's Place is not happy about Berlusconi's joke about Jews during the Holocaust. In particular he's not happy about what the Italian PM had to say afterwards:
In a statement, Berlusconi said his jokes had been made in private and were “neither an offense nor a sin, but merely a laugh.” He added: “The bad taste and the responsibility are on the part of whoever publicizes them.”
Gene asks (rhetorically I guess):
"So offensive jokes only become offensive when they cease to be private and become public?"
Am I alone in thinking "duh Gene!". The capacity of a joke to cause offence is not contained purely in the words itself. A joke told to an empty room does not have the capacity to offend anyone.

So in that regard Berlusconi is correct. His telling a joke privately did not offend anyone. People publicising the joke offended people, so it is those people that caused the offence.

Compare it, if you like, to someone firing arrows into an empty field. He has done nothing wrong. If someone else pushes someone in the way after the arrow is shot then it is this second person who bears all the responsibility.

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