Ironic Humor is Ironic (Ironically)

July 9, 2012 § 2 Comments

I had a conversation with a very good friend of mine over the weekend and, after catching up on her latest adventures and attempts at basil lemonade-making, we spent a long time talking about the legitimacy of our reactions to questionable jokes/attitudes/comments.

I’ve been thinking about humor a lot lately, particularly the kind of humor that involves politically incorrect ideas related to sexism, racism, etc. How can you tell when something is genuinely funny because it plays with controversial topics and when it is just lazy, thinly-veiled “ironic” stereotyping?

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The more things change…

July 5, 2012 § 1 Comment

the more things do not stay the same. At least that’s how it should work with cultural shifts. Maybe the original truism is relevant for personal reflections on relationships or life courses, but not so much with social movements. I hope.

So how can mainstream norms regarding gender, sexuality, inequality, race, class, and so on shift? Or be completely reworked? Or just thrown out altogether? How does change happen?

Attitudes change in response to things like persuasive communication, cognitive dissonance, or social influence. Classical or operant conditioning are more structured ways of actively trying to change behavior. (If you aren’t way too wrapped up in The Office and haven’t had a change to watch Jim classically condition Dwight, it’s a pretty entertaining demonstration of psychology.)

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Politics, Communication, and Therapy

June 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

Communication is clearly an issue in American politics. Politicians must work constantly to make sure they are projecting the message they intend to, and government officials attempting to shape public policy must convince those around them that their position is valid.

Recently, language in politics has been at the forefront of public consciousness. Evidence of the power of language in the political sphere has ranged from the backlash surrounding ignorant and inappropriate name calling earlier this year to the controversy surrounding state congressional (over)reactions to comments that include medical terms two weeks ago.

If the goal of politicians is to guide decisions that affect groups at all levels of society though, a failure to communicate is a fundamental problem that can cripple their ability to do their job. It is disheartening to watch politics play out as just a back and forth between Democrats and Republicans, towing party lines that in many ways are polar opposites by definition, each capitalizing on opportunities to act when they have decision-making power to do so and biding their time for the next power shift when they do not.

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