On the internet, for a while now, there has been this new form of comedic memes called “third world success stories”, “second world success stories” and “first world success stories”. These memes are simple. Its just a photo of accompanied by classicist and often stereotypical problem that people of each class, gender and geographical location face. Now, i personally have found them extremely funny and humorous but my friends have all told me that i have a really quirky and sometimes boarder line offensive and inappropriate sense of humour (having been schooled in an all boys school from 7th grade until university, many of the jokes i enjoyed listening to and telling have been rather sexist and in many cases simply inappropriate). These meme’s were just my style of humour.
Hence, i spread around to my friends a couple of these memes that i found to be extremely funny, and elicited from me a genuine “laugh out loud” moment. To my surprise, the responses were mixed. Some found them to be as funny as i thought, whilst others were actually offended by these memes and were even horrified at me for thinking that these were at the slightlest funny. At first, i thought they were being overly sensitive, but soon, i realized that as i have become so accustomed to such vulgar sense of humour, i forgot that in the outside world, these jokes could seriously be hurtful and offensive.
This made me think. These memes, although often doesn’t have an underlying meaning, plays upon stereotypes and real problems people around the world face. Problems such as extreme poverty, lack of clean water and racial and sexual discrimination. Some may look at these memes and think that people are simply trivializing such serious issues, and are literally making a joke out of legitimate problems that people around the world face. At the same time, one may argue that the use of such humour is another method to revitalize a sense of awareness regarding issues of poverty and discrimination that has largely been ignored and even forgotten. Either way, it seems like these memes, and humour in general can be effectively used as a political commentary and a method of voicing one’s concerns. Having said this, will these “offensive” memes be protected under the idea of freedom of speech?
Now, in class we discussed that Mill argued that everyone should have freedom of speech as long as the speech is not directly aimed at offending or hurting another person. When it comes to comedy regarding sensitive issues as race, sexuality, and socio-economic factors, even though the true intent is to draw a laugh, it can often lead to many people being offended. As i said earlier, these memes have been considered to be offensive and racist by some of my friends. So, do you guys believe that Mill will support the proliferation of these memes? or find them so offensive and simply idiotic that if they are banned, it is justified?