Proposal Title

Laughter is the Best Poison: Antagonistic Humor as the Handmaiden of Hate Speech

Start Date

June 2022

End Date

June 2022

Abstract

Studies of mediated political humor have been largely concerned either with its role in the framing of left-wing resistance or with the possibilities of liberal-leaning satire. Due to the malleable and highly contextual nature of humor, it often slips under the radar as a tool for spreading incendiary ideas. This paper concentrates on the strategic mobilization of humor by dominant groups as a means of normalizing supremacist ideologies, framing it as a form of antagonistic humor that punches down. Focusing on Hindutva & White supremacy, both of which are understood as ethnonationalist ideologies undergirded by masculinist ideas of nation and sovereignty, this paper seeks to direct critical attention towards the infrastructures of hate that masquerade as harmless harbingers of humor.

Applying critical race theory and postcolonial feminist frameworks to media studies, this study finds that everyday practices of sharing and circulating ephemera contribute to the quotidian maintenance of supremacy. Enacting supremacist ideas through humor embeds it in the daily time of politics. This paper uses the case study method to argue that 1) Islamophobic and anti-feminist humor function as a right-wing recruiting tool 2) the sharing of humorous texts contributes to the reshaping of collective memory around media events 3) the valorizing of an individualistic understanding of free speech as a universal public good perpetuates a neocolonial approach towards social media communication which incentivizes institutional stakeholders to ignore media artifacts (such as humorous memes) that do not fall into simplistic categorizations of hate speech.

Bio

Pratiksha Menon is a doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor with research interests in feminist media studies and digital humanities.

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Jun 23rd, 3:00 PM Jun 23rd, 4:30 PM

Laughter is the Best Poison: Antagonistic Humor as the Handmaiden of Hate Speech

Studies of mediated political humor have been largely concerned either with its role in the framing of left-wing resistance or with the possibilities of liberal-leaning satire. Due to the malleable and highly contextual nature of humor, it often slips under the radar as a tool for spreading incendiary ideas. This paper concentrates on the strategic mobilization of humor by dominant groups as a means of normalizing supremacist ideologies, framing it as a form of antagonistic humor that punches down. Focusing on Hindutva & White supremacy, both of which are understood as ethnonationalist ideologies undergirded by masculinist ideas of nation and sovereignty, this paper seeks to direct critical attention towards the infrastructures of hate that masquerade as harmless harbingers of humor.

Applying critical race theory and postcolonial feminist frameworks to media studies, this study finds that everyday practices of sharing and circulating ephemera contribute to the quotidian maintenance of supremacy. Enacting supremacist ideas through humor embeds it in the daily time of politics. This paper uses the case study method to argue that 1) Islamophobic and anti-feminist humor function as a right-wing recruiting tool 2) the sharing of humorous texts contributes to the reshaping of collective memory around media events 3) the valorizing of an individualistic understanding of free speech as a universal public good perpetuates a neocolonial approach towards social media communication which incentivizes institutional stakeholders to ignore media artifacts (such as humorous memes) that do not fall into simplistic categorizations of hate speech.