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That's pretty much what Freud said.

I don't agree with Koestler. A lot of more basic humour exploits taboos with no obvious collisions of anything - it's simply an indirect way to mention unmentionable acts, beliefs or desires.

I also think its power is limited unless there's already some element of near-equality.

No banker is ever going to be threatened by street theatre, unless the people doing the street theatre have a realistic prospect of putting the banker out of a job or in prison.

So like a lot of 'free speech' political humour creates a useful illusion of political leverage, but its practical effects are often close to zero.

Sarcasm from peers is far more damaging and painful.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jan 9th, 2013 at 09:12:52 AM EST
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Freud, eh? I suspect there is no new thoughts. only ones one does not know where they have been written before.

ThatBritGuy:

I don't agree with Koestler. A lot of more basic humour exploits taboos with no obvious collisions of anything - it's simply an indirect way to mention unmentionable acts, beliefs or desires.

I see that as a collision between the taboo and the non-verbal situation in which the joke takes place. Which could mean that you really had to been there to get the joke. Also suspect poo is not all that funny when discussed between doctors or plumbers.

ThatBritGuy:

No banker is ever going to be threatened by street theatre, unless the people doing the street theatre have a realistic prospect of putting the banker out of a job or in prison.

They need not be threatened, so far I agree. But sometimes powerful people are threatened because even in the mouths of powerless serfs, they did not expect that kind of ridicule. Rich and powerful people can have very thin skins. But in general, yes it is mostly venting.

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by A swedish kind of death on Wed Jan 9th, 2013 at 09:57:05 AM EST
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Those in power do feel threatened by unauthorised humour. It's a question of decorum, the dignity of the state which eventually was codified as the crime of lese-Majesty and transferred to the person of the monarch or tyrant. The concepts of sacrilege and blasphemy were institutionalized to discourage free speech and discussion of which humour is the fundamental expression.

Two examples come to mind: the murder of a young man by the Camorra a few years ago for having lacked respect for the son of a potent boss. The victim did not know that the butt of his boutade was a boss's son. In order to reaffirm his dominion the boss had to murder the person according to his "code of respect". In the 90's in the States, a person could be killed for "dising" someone without knowing that person followed a criminal code.

As for Berlusconi, he was obsessed, as he still is, by comedians. During his various regimes he managed to prevent many comedians from appearing in television despite their enormous popularity (Benigni, Grillo, Luttazzi). Berlusconi cannot stand being made fun of (much like Putin) and equates his person with the State. Neither his rule nor his person could be critized or made fun of on national television or his channels, unless they were his own clowns and his factory approved grovelling critics.

It's no wonder his most fierce critics were and are comedians. Comedians break down the complacent paranoia of the tyrant and the ruled. It's no small wonder Berlusconi was laughed out of power.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Wed Jan 9th, 2013 at 10:51:02 AM EST
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