Did anybody else find the wording of this FPP highly offensive? August 16, 2002 7:39 AM   Subscribe

Did anybody else find the wording of this FPP highly offensive?
posted by salmacis to Etiquette/Policy at 7:39 AM (79 comments total)

i think the offensive wording was the point of the post. reading that FPP and thinking it was in the US or another highly industrialized nation would have shocked and appalled most of us. we're more conditioned to hearing about these types of horredous loss of lives in other less developed nations. sad as it is, it doesn't hit home in quite the same way.
posted by pointbeing at 7:47 AM on August 16, 2002


not highly, but just callow and perhaps a bit mean. like saying...genocide, ah, it's just Cambodians. Though an act of nature and not mass killing, it is none the less sad...insensitive yes. And being insensitive is something i know about. I see no reason for this flippant statement. But the poster could be being sarcastic, if so, not to funny.
posted by clavdivs at 7:52 AM on August 16, 2002


I took it as a comment on the relative media attention paid to floods in Europe and South Asia (i.e. "a lot" and "not much") compared to the relative loss of life.
posted by transient at 7:54 AM on August 16, 2002


I read it as sarcasm - making fun of the media's tendency to hype "American Tragedies™" over all others.

(on preview - what transient said)
posted by JoanArkham at 7:56 AM on August 16, 2002


I believe it was sarcastic, especially in light of all the press coverage of flooding in Europe, as luser, the person who posted the thing, said.

Time for our daily MetaFilter oversensitivity training. I thought he made a good point, and I believe the thread can still be salvaged into a discussion about the Euro-centricity of mainstream media.
posted by insomnyuk at 7:57 AM on August 16, 2002


I think there's a couple of vastly different interpretations of this post. Offensive no, but unclear perhaps. It seems to me that the posters intent was to point out that while the flooding in Europe is garnering huge media coverage (lots of pictures of grey haired widows being rescued from their homes), the flooding in India, which has killed and displaced a rather larger number of people is getting much less coverage. Whether that's a result of a vast right wing conspiracy or some other more pedestrian factor is a debate that belongs back in the original thread.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:57 AM on August 16, 2002


I sure hope it is just a poorly worded post. I will wait until Luser posts before commenting further.


posted by lampshade at 7:57 AM on August 16, 2002


Let's give Luser the benefit of the doubt here. The "just" wasn't meant to belittle the country or the people, it was used to indicate that that this sort of thing is a commonplace occurrence over there.

We really have to loosen up a bit here.
posted by Samsonov14 at 8:00 AM on August 16, 2002


I sure hope it is just a poorly worded post.

Yup, that pretty much sums up the difference between me and Jonathan Swift.

I was just startled by inequity of the news coverage. I've always assumed the ratio of the newsworthiness of an Indian or Chinese death to that of a European was about 1,000:1, I'd just never seen it demonstrated so clearly as I have this week.
posted by luser at 8:03 AM on August 16, 2002


OK luser, I accept the point you were trying to make. Too subtle for a Friday afternoon for me!
posted by salmacis at 8:09 AM on August 16, 2002


I was just startled by inequity of the news coverage.

Ahh...Gotcha. I see, I see said the blind man. etc

Thanks for clearing that up Luser.

Cheers


posted by lampshade at 8:15 AM on August 16, 2002


But the poster could be being sarcastic, if so, not to funny.

Sarcasm is not always intended to be funny. Often, it designed, as I believe in this case, to be evocative

I cant see how anyone would read his comment and take it literally
posted by buz46 at 8:17 AM on August 16, 2002


I cant see how anyone would read his comment and take it literally.

Same here. I guess Helen Keller jokes are out of the question.
posted by swift at 8:26 AM on August 16, 2002


Did anybody else find the wording of this FPP highly offensive?

In a word: No. Luser was making a point with the wording of the thread and seems not to have intended to degrade the lives of the people involved in the floods.
posted by Bag Man at 8:26 AM on August 16, 2002


Did anybody else find the wording of this FPP highly offensive?

Yes, if you don't read the thread, and have a knee-jerk reaction to the working of the FPP.
posted by Ufez Jones at 8:28 AM on August 16, 2002


Did anybody else find the wording of this FPP highly offensive?

Is anyone else amazed by the willingness of some MeFi users to find offense?
posted by subgenius at 8:30 AM on August 16, 2002


Yup, that pretty much sums up the difference between me and Jonathan Swift.

I wouldn't be so hard on yourself, luser. If Swift posted his Modest Proposal on MetaFilter, he'd get two dozen people attacking him for proposing cannibalism instead of social welfare and two or three others offering their barbecues to roast the urchins.
posted by timeistight at 8:33 AM on August 16, 2002


urchins = yum.
posted by tolkhan at 8:36 AM on August 16, 2002


We really have to loosen up a bit here.

Damn straight. Anyone who fails to see the sarcasm here, and the intent of the sarcasm, really needs to read into it a bit more. Or not as much, whatever the case may be.
posted by adampsyche at 8:36 AM on August 16, 2002


So Jesus and Charles Darwin were burning a bowl and who walks up but Buddha. Jesus says "dude, your feet are bleeding, get some shoes for God's sake". The Buddha explains the wrongness of using the skins of sentinent beasts, Darwin mutters something about 'genetic drift' and Mohammed drives up in a camel caravan with 400 wives and 2000 soldiers. Mohammed announces that everyone can join his bookclub or get their heads lopped off. Darwin goes on a rant, explaining that this is political evolution while the Buddah starts chanting something under his breath about 'Krishna'. Very calmly, Jesus explains to Mohammed that his people, the Israelies have nuclear weapons and are ready to use them unless Mohammed turns around and heads home. The phone rings, I wake up, make coffee and head to MetaFilter.
posted by Mack Twain at 8:41 AM on August 16, 2002


ok, now my laptop is wet...
posted by jbelshaw at 8:49 AM on August 16, 2002


And here I was waiting for a punchline... I guess we could just make one up, eh?

um.
posted by ODiV at 8:49 AM on August 16, 2002


Proposed new MetaFilter taglines:

"It's sarcasm! No, it's not!"
"It's funny! No, it's not!"

ad infinitum...

posted by MrBaliHai at 8:49 AM on August 16, 2002


You got cool dreams, Mack Twain.

I guess in a forum such as MetaFilter there is bound to be an instance such as this, where some excellent sarcasm (IMHO) is lost on some of our fellow citizens. Not a bad thing...just a reflection of the variety of perspectives that are brought to this place. You gotta love it. (another tagline possibility?)
posted by jaronson at 8:52 AM on August 16, 2002


There was a Modest Proposal posted to MetaFilter, way back when. Few people got the joke.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:54 AM on August 16, 2002


Metafilter: I know something offends me, I just need to find it...
posted by owillis at 9:13 AM on August 16, 2002


Thanks, timeistight, you gave me the best laugh I've had all day.

Oh, and some people need to improve their reading skills.
posted by languagehat at 9:14 AM on August 16, 2002


Add me to the liked-the-post's-wording-and-understood-its-point column. Keep on keeping on, luser. Sometimes we need a good jolt to knock us out of our comfort zone. A tragedy like this can swing right by and never hit home (all right, I need to stop with the metaphorical speech; I'm driving myself crazy).
posted by grrarrgh00 at 9:20 AM on August 16, 2002


Did anybody else find the wording of this FPP highly offensive?


Someone who is directly affected didn't - so why should you?

Luser, don't be downhearted, some of us get it.
posted by Markb at 9:34 AM on August 16, 2002


looks like this has pretty much been settled but i wanted to point out that there have been numerous discussions and remarks regarding the tendancy of american mefites to be u.s.-centric in thier thinking and posting and i took the language of the post as a reference to that history. i was not offended in the slightest, luser.
posted by quonsar at 9:37 AM on August 16, 2002


It was satire and I thought it was fine, provocative, and necessary. It really does annoy me that Europe's floods are front-page and India's and Asia's are back-page, and the post did a good job of capturing that.
posted by cell divide at 9:47 AM on August 16, 2002


Isn't there a formula for occasions like this one? In the vein of comedy = tragedy + time? I swear I've seen it somewhere.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 9:48 AM on August 16, 2002


What cell divide and buz46 said. It was not a poorly worded post, it was a brilliantly worded post, whipsawing the reader twice, maybe three times, in the course of a very few words. Well done.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 10:11 AM on August 16, 2002


It was Sarcasm people...

Very well put.
posted by madmanz123 at 10:22 AM on August 16, 2002


I was just about to comment in the post that it was the most brilliantly done FPP I've seen lately, when I scrolled down to find the mediocre minds at work. C'mon, folks, get some depth.
posted by hob at 10:24 AM on August 16, 2002


Isn't there a formula for occasions like this one? In the vein of comedy = tragedy + time? I swear I've seen it somewhere.

Tragedy: I slip on a banana peel and fall down.

Comedy: You slip on a banana peel and fall down.
posted by timeistight at 10:35 AM on August 16, 2002


Treason: Asscroft slips on a banana and someone laughs.
posted by quonsar at 10:38 AM on August 16, 2002


that wasn't sarcasm! that was calvinism!
posted by jcterminal at 10:43 AM on August 16, 2002


timeistight: Sure, but I was thinking of a formula where "tragedy", "your home" and "distance" are the parts. I'm sure a professor of mine once wrote something like that down on a blackboard. And laughing we all were.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 10:46 AM on August 16, 2002


he thought it was funny, in a sad way

I did not find it funny or especially well worded or anything, it just made me sad.

I'm not offended, but I think, most folks are aware of the press coverage discrepancy between the third and first world's. If one isn't, then they are either very young or aren't well read. What I mean is, what was the point of the post? To point out that discrepancy. If so, it was badly worded and is insensitive, but I do not think that was Luser's intent.

Disclaimer: Guess which country I'm from.


posted by bittennails at 10:55 AM on August 16, 2002


Great front page post luser. The irony was so good it could have generated it's own metatalk child thread without any human intervention. That was before salmacis beat the magic to the punch.
posted by crasspastor at 10:56 AM on August 16, 2002


Not offensive. But I have to admit, as soon as I read the FPP I headed right in here, since I could practically smell the cringing and whining coming out of my ports. I am pleasantly surprised by the general support for the post. Good on all of ya.

owillis: you hit the nail on the head, if I may say that without being accused of displaying violent tendencies and unconscionable and insensitive bias against our less-fortunate, three-penny, metallic brethren. And sistren. Or would that be cistern? Hmmm...
posted by umberto at 11:43 AM on August 16, 2002


FWIW, my parents are Indian, I have family in the affected areas, and I got the joke right away and found it darkly funny. Don't cater to the stupids.
posted by anildash at 11:53 AM on August 16, 2002


Amuse me a bit here anil, what is it that you found funny? The sarcasm?

I was just startled by inequity of the news coverage. Luser said that this was the point of his post.

I just for the life of me can find no humor in this. You have family in the affected area and find a flippant remark about the lack of news coverage in the west of that fact, darkly funny?
posted by bittennails at 12:15 PM on August 16, 2002


Tragedy: I slip on a banana peel and fall down.
Comedy: You slip on a banana peel and fall down.


Mel Brooks said tragedy is when I slip on a banana peel and fall down, and comedy is when you fall down a manhole and die.
posted by turaho at 12:34 PM on August 16, 2002


I got the point of luser's sarcasm right away. I didn't think it was offensive towards Indians at all (as long as you got the real meaning rather than the literal meaning.) On the other hand, it felt somewhat ... if not offensive, than at least annoying in the implication that the readers (mostly from U.S. with some Europeans, Aussies & New Zealanders) would be dismissive towards a tragedy because it involved India rather than some other country. I don't think that's what luser really meant to imply, but that was my immediate gut reaction on reading the post. Perhaps it could have been worded in such a way as to make it clear the satire was being aimed at a perceived bias of the media rather than of the MeFi readers.

Of course, I've been too busy to follow the mainstream news media this week, so I had missed the stories on the flooding in Europe. Maybe that would have affected how I read the post.
posted by tdismukes at 12:35 PM on August 16, 2002


I don't think it takes a particularly evolved sense of humor to "get" this kind of thing, whatever it is. It does take a willingness to see humor as a rhetorical tool in service of more serious ends. Some people think laughter and tears can't exist together. Those people obviously were not kneeling at my grandmother's casket in Jersey as "That's Why The Lady Is A Tramp" issued softly from the muzak overhead.
posted by luser at 12:39 PM on August 16, 2002


And tdismukes, I do have to say that you can't indict the media without indicting the culture and everyone who participates in it. It's not like CNN has its own agenda and doesn't care about ratings.
posted by luser at 12:42 PM on August 16, 2002


that wasn't sarcasm! that was calvinism!

Now that's funny!
posted by insomnyuk at 12:49 PM on August 16, 2002


Amuse me a bit here anil, what is it that you found funny? The sarcasm?

He did say "darkly funny". Not as in hilarious laff riot antics, but as in "Isn't it funny how a huge deal is made of floods in Europe while the press is ignoring huge floods in India that are killing orders of magnitude more people and doing as much more damage to their livelihoods?"

I didn't think it was offensive at all. It was provocative, but not offensive.
posted by daveadams at 12:53 PM on August 16, 2002


Bittennails, Shusil didn't find the post funny in an hilarious way, more in the spirit (I think) it was intended - as a sly dig at the US way of reporting tragedy. Flooding in Europe is reported extensively, whereas the Indian floods merit much fewer column inches - Nepali mudslides fewer still.
Shusil works as a hotelier in Pokhara, on the first night he stayed with us, he told us the differences between the nationalities staying with him - Many Americans, he says, treat Nepal as a curiosity, they know little if anything about the country and it's people, and leave knowing little more. By no means all Americans do this, some of the best foreign friends he has made are American - but most of the 'window tourists' (the Nepali name for those tourists who see Nepal from a plane window, the window of the coach and the window of the luxury air conditioned complex they spend a large proportion of their time in) seem to be the type of American which does nothing to endear the nation to the rest of the world. His amusement was at the description he found so familiar, not the situation (I hope in my post on the front page I made it clear that he has nothing at all to find funny in the situation in itself).
posted by Markb at 1:26 PM on August 16, 2002


Christ. Could those who've seen Dr Strangelove and found it funny stand in one corner, and all the others stand in another?
posted by riviera at 2:03 PM on August 16, 2002


I haven't seen it at all, so I'll serve the refreshments.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:23 PM on August 16, 2002


I'm offended that Luser messed up the timing. It would have been more effective if he'd posted the FPP as "900 now dead in flooding, and 25 million are trapped or homeless!" and then immediately thereafter posted a comment inside saying, "Ha! Gotcha! It's just India."

Comic timing is a dying art. The satire would have been more effective had Luser posted correctly. Me and the ghost of Steve Allen are supremely offended.

Ah may faint!
posted by ZachsMind at 3:25 PM on August 16, 2002


Metafilter: I know something offends me, I just need to find it...

Where is that friggin search button?



posted by lampshade at 3:27 PM on August 16, 2002


No mark, I get what he meant, that he found the comment/post funny, in a sad way, what I wanted to point out was that I did not find it funny, because to me to use this suffering to crack a joke about the lack of international reportage is not tasteful, it is insensitive and was badly worded and has very little purpose as a front page post, other than to satiate a need to point out the obvious. Kind off like posting snippets of '80 seconds around the World on Fox', every day...international reportage at it's finest by the way. That's why it doesn't offend me, just saddened me to hear of it, a simple emotion. I am sure shusil finds nothing funny about the floods at all.

dave, I understand that what luser meant was in the vein of "Isn't it funny...how the media ignores etc. etc. my point in asking that of anil was because I don't find a joke (as he put it) in the post. It's a sarcastic comment pointing out a well known fact, that makes no point other than that, as luser has said. Where's the joke, that the american media don't cover international stories/disaster/whatever equally. Maybe I missed something here, what was the point again.
posted by bittennails at 3:27 PM on August 16, 2002


OK... This little pony is dead, let's stop beating it...

"I see what your saying... but I'm saying, etc, etc, etc..."

Some people appreciate sardonic humor and others, unfortunately, do not.

I once broke up with a girl who did not get movies like Dr. Strangelove, Spinal Tap, Being John Malkovich, Holy grail, etc... She liked that hit you over the head with a rubber chicken, Jim Carey/Adam Sandler crap. I couldn't take it.
posted by buz46 at 3:53 PM on August 16, 2002


No dates then buz, I'm shattered.
posted by bittennails at 4:05 PM on August 16, 2002


Thank you for your concern Bittennails.
Fortunately I was able to (several Times over) find someone more compatible. We watch "Six Feet Under" every sunday and so on and so forth....


posted by buz46 at 4:15 PM on August 16, 2002


Rubber chickens are funny.
posted by swift at 4:21 PM on August 16, 2002


Ah see, what I meant was "a date with me." Doesn't work so well when you have to explain the joke, does it?
posted by bittennails at 4:22 PM on August 16, 2002


You don't get Dr, Strangelove, et. all, Bittennails?
Or you don't like " " " " " ?
posted by buz46 at 4:59 PM on August 16, 2002


It may not be the best way to deliver the point, but Westerns and western papers aren't heavy on Africa and Asia. Thousands dying in the Sudan. So?

Its almost the nature of news, people don't seem to mind hearing about some car accident in their city on the evening news with perhaps one fatality.
posted by skallas at 7:24 PM on August 16, 2002


My biggest problem is some sort of unwritten rule of television journalism is it is OK to show dead bodies of brown people, but not white people. Check it out next time you're watching the news. Guy gets gunned down in Mexico, Malaysia or the West Bank and you might see the dead corpse. Guy gets gunned down in the US and there's a sheet over the corpse.
posted by birdherder at 7:44 PM on August 16, 2002


Taking a leaf from quonsar's new tone of sweet reason, I will resist the urge to use this as an opportunity to Bash America.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:52 PM on August 16, 2002


God Stavros, I really started spewing when I read your post as "I will resist the urge to use this as an opportunity to Bush America." Then I realized it said 'Bash', then I thought: "what exactly would it have meant to Bush America anyway?" And recalling Riviera's word on Dr. Strangelove, Dick Cheney sprung to mind.
posted by Mack Twain at 9:34 PM on August 16, 2002


I read it as sarcasm - making fun of the media's tendency to hype "American Tragedies" over all others.

Hang on. But isn't this right? Take two stories:

400 Indians/Pakistanis/Uzbekistanis die in monsoon season.. vs..

32 Americans die in I-95 smash

The second story is clearly more important than the first one. Forget idealism, and the fact that, yes, 1000 deaths is worse than 400 deaths. The importance of a news story is how it relates to the audience, not solely in what happened.

Europeans and Americans share a lot of similarities, live in each others' pockets, and are pretty much of the same 'stock'. We're economically bound to each other, watch each others' TV shows, drive the same cars, eat (mostly) the same food, and so on.

What does the average American or European have in common with the average Asian? We're richer, financially, we eat totally different foods, have different religions, look different, and what not.

1,000 Indians dying affects those of us in Europe and Asia FAR less than a stock market dive or a few hundred Westerners dying in a plane crash.

The idealistic side of people says.. 'but 1,000 Indians! they were all people!'.. and that's a good thing to remember, but at the end of the day, numbers do not make their deaths more important than things that really affect us and our culture/country/race.
posted by wackybrit at 6:23 AM on August 17, 2002


Which presupposes a monolithic European and North American Caucasian 'we' and leaves out all those people who are citizens of the countries in those areas but are also of Asian descent.

Now, that's pretty ugly. Is that what you really wanted to say?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:05 AM on August 17, 2002


? ? ?
posted by quonsar at 8:20 AM on August 17, 2002


crap. back to bed.
posted by quonsar at 8:20 AM on August 17, 2002


Which presupposes a monolithic European and North American Caucasian 'we' and leaves out all those people who are citizens of the countries in those areas but are also of Asian descent.

Now, that's pretty ugly. Is that what you really wanted to say?


Idealistically, the whole world would be united and as one and we'd all love each other and respect each other, etc.. but that's not how it is right now.

It is somewhat natural to be interested in one's own group of people above others. For example.. if your mother died, it would be far more tragic to you than if my mother died, and vice versa. Likewise, if 100 Americans die, it should be more tragic to Americans than 100 Indians dying. That's not wrong or messed up at all.

Likewise, if a child was molested in your town, that would be more important to your area and the people within it, than, say.. a family living in Tokyo. That's not wrong either.

BTW, you confuse descent with citizenship or permanent residents. If 24 Americans died, who all happened to be of Chinese or Indian descent, then they were still 24 Americans, but even if they were actually Chinese or Indian.. if it happens on European or American soil, it's important, because it's in our backyard.
posted by wackybrit at 9:05 AM on August 17, 2002


No, I don't confuse them, and that's precisely my point. I was trying to indicate that it's you who are clearly confused about the relationships between ethnicity and nationality, and attempted to give you an opportunity to clarify rather than reiterate.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:22 PM on August 17, 2002


Historical perspective (1968, I think):

Abbie Hoffman in Revolution For the Hell of It noted the New York Post carried a huge headline: BRUNETTE STABBED TO DEATH. A much smaller headline below said 6000 Perish In Iranian Earthquake.
Hoffman: "I wonder what color hair they had?"
posted by StOne at 9:10 PM on August 17, 2002


I paid.. Can I use irony?
posted by hama7 at 12:58 AM on August 18, 2002


People die all over the world all the time. That isn't news in itself.

Doesn't mean it isn't important. Just isn't news. The number of people dead isn't a factor unless it is an uncommon number.

ALL OF EUROPE UNDER WATER! ALL SAVED! is IMHO bigger news than ALL OF EUROPE UNDER WATER! DEATHTOLL STAGGERING! Less tragic, but bigger news.
posted by cx at 6:26 PM on August 18, 2002


There's an old rule in journalism about a dog fight on Main Street being of more interest to local readers than a war overseas, or something like that...
posted by StOne at 9:31 PM on August 18, 2002


Europeans and Americans share a lot of similarities, live in each others' pockets, and are pretty much of the same 'stock'. We're economically bound to each other, watch each others' TV shows, drive the same cars, eat (mostly) the same food, and so on.

What does the average American or European have in common with the average Asian? We're richer, financially, we eat totally different foods, have different religions, look different, and what not.

1,000 Indians dying affects those of us in Europe and Asia FAR less than a stock market dive or a few hundred Westerners dying in a plane crash.


Wow, you're demonstrably wrong about every single one of those points. Does that mean I have to give up my American citizenship now? Or revoke my birth certificate, since I was born here? Change what I eat?

Or maybe you should check your preconceptions, educate yourself, learn a little about the world and about the people of America. I'm not surprised people of Indian and Pakistani background have the troubles they do in the U.K.
posted by anildash at 1:23 AM on August 19, 2002


you're demonstrably wrong about every single one of those points

Please elaborate.
posted by cx at 1:44 AM on August 19, 2002


I'm an American. I have no European "stock". I have no economic ties to an European countries, and I don't watch TV or drive a car. My diet's pretty much an even mix of foods from all over the world.

My family in Asia is wealthier than I am, and I share a lot of my religious background with my family's Hindu history. I look pretty much like the rest of my family.

1,000 Indians dying affects me a lot more than a stock market dive; I don't own any stock. The few hundred westerners? Depends who they are.

Is that elaborate enough? Or do I have to prove my American-ness now? Should I be content to be ignored, because I'm a statistical anomaly?
posted by anildash at 2:51 PM on August 19, 2002


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