Letter to the Editor
Published: Thursday, November 8, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 8, 2012 08:11
Last Friday, the Daily published an op−ed titled “Bias incidents trivialized too often at Tufts.” The piece makes reference to a Stand−up Comedy Collective poster that included the terms “hate speech” and “bias incident.” As the president of the Stand−up Comedy Collective, I would like to respond to several points that I found troubling in the article.
Let me begin by pointing out that there is a critical distinction between using bias−laden language and mocking the idea of bias itself. We are a stand−up comedy group. If we didn’t make fun of widely held perceptions regarding bias, “political−correctness” and what it means to be offensive, we wouldn’t be doing our job. That being said, our intention never has been and never will be to make targeted attacks on specific groups of people on this campus, or anywhere else for that matter. The authors of this article refer to the “effect of denigrating bias incidents.” It is both illogical and misrepresentative to imply that mentioning the term bias incident in anything other than a completely serious context has a denigrating impact. Bringing a provocative issue to the forefront, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, provides an opportunity to both illuminate and deflate prejudice and hate in all forms.
The fact that the article includes several anticipatory responses strikes me as quite presumptuous. We do not, as a group, condone cruelty, and we certainly do not strive to offend and then cover it up with First Amendment rights. We discuss in our group meetings whether or not a joke is gratuitously offensive or if it has artistic and comedic merit. We do not take that task lightly. Comedians have always traded in taboos, and we have always been attacked for it as a result. The Lenny Bruce obscenity trials of the 1960s are a prime example. Uttering racist and sexist remarks at Smith volleyball players is without a doubt hate speech; telling jokes with a clear conscience regarding how the jokes are intended is not. I understand that the authors were only writing about the poster, and they admitted that they did not attend our show; however, by writing about the poster, they wrote about our group. I find it to be unfair to paint us as hate−mongers without having seen us in action.
As to the second anticipatory response “to the inevitable counter−argument that we are naive, social justice−y, liberal arts students who don’t understand how the ‘real world’ works...” Whose response would this be? Who do you think the members of the Stand−up Comedy Collective are — worldly, traditional family values−oriented biomedical engineers? (Please note that the reference to biomedical engineers is not intended as and should not be taken as hate speech toward members of that fine, and possibly quite funny, group of Tufts students).
We do not endorse hate speech. To suggest that we do after seeing a couple of posters is ludicrous. The stigma attached to bias incidents has nothing to do with reporting them. I firmly believe that if you are targeted based on your appearance, sexuality, race, religion, ethnicity, creed or whatever else it may be, you have every right to, and in fact should, report the incident, and you should feel safe while doing so. There are gross injustices occurring every day on this campus, but you have chosen to go after a poster advertising comedy, an art form whose purpose and goals have been overlooked and ignored.
I invite any and all readers to attend our next stand−up comedy show. You may be surprised at the incredibly low level of hate speech involved. Come on, we’re stand−up comics — we only hate ourselves.
Class of 2013