During “the final” last night, I stumbled upon a tweet from Julia Hartley-Brewer. If you haven’t heard of her, and it’s understandable that you wouldn’t have, she’s one of these “journalists” who presents a talk radio show and pops up on current affairs programmes like Question Time and The Andrew Marr Show. Here’s the tweet:
What's really amazing about this Portuguese team is that they are the only young people with jobs in the whole of Portugal. #justsaying
— Julia Hartley-Brewer (@JuliaHB1) July 10, 2016
I don’t follow her, but someone I do follow had quoted the tweet with a mocking, ironic comment that he hoped she never lost her job. The tweet stuck in my craw. It brought to mind the seriously awful situation faced by people in Southern European countries, along with articles I had read in the last year or so about how unemployment rates had been shown to coincide with mental health problems and suicide rates. Is that something worth making jokes about? What kind of weirdo thinks that’s funny?
As often happens in such situations, I found myself drawn into looking at reactions to the tweet. Plenty of people were pointing out the strange, offensiveness of it. What was the point of it? No-one really seemed to know. A clutch of cretins had jumped to her defence to lambaste her critics for not being able to take a joke:
Look up the word 'joke" or 'satire' in the dictionary. Pretend the word 'offence' doesn't exist; you'll enjoy life
— You promised… (@11thEarl) July 10, 2016
So here we go, the Oxford Dictionary’s primary definition of a joke:
- A thing that someone says to cause amusement or laughter, especially a story with a funny punchline.
Now, I know it’s subjective, but I can’t work out what’s amusing about that tweet, and I certainly don’t detect a punchline. Did it make anyone laugh? If so, why? Obviously, the tweet isn’t actually true. Lots of young people in “the whole of Portugal” do have jobs, but a lot of them don’t, and they’re probably pretty depressed about that. Hahahaha–oh.
I think what annoys me about this type of “joke”, is that it isn’t clever, or witty. It is the sort of joke that a bully makes about someone they deem to be beneath them: let’s all gather round the weaker person and laugh at their weaknesses. Unemployment isn’t so bad in the UK, so let’s laugh at countries with high unemployment. Hilarious.
Maybe I just don’t have a sense of humour, as no doubt Julia’s fans would say. While they froth at the mouth.
Anyway, here’s Stewart Lee calling out this sort of behaviour in a much better way than me: