If you’re thinking of cracking a joke sometime soon, you may want to consider the consequences first. If it’s a large -scale gag- you may be threatened with “merciless” retaliation by the North Korean government if you go through with the punch line, or at least have unsavory emails between yourself and Angelina Jolie leaked. If your joke is between friends, or say in the opinion section of a small campus newspaper, you may be forced to impart a formal and public apology to all those you have made feel “uncomfortable” by your viewpoint.
Know that you are at risk of being vandalized, threatened, name-called. And in an incredible display of food waste, you may have to navigate hot dog landmines and raw eggs deposited at your front door. This is what happened to Michigan Review staff writer Omar Mahmood after publishing a satirical essay.
You have been (trigger) warned not to ever utter a joke or wisecrack again–because satire is dead. The executioners? Korea, in cahoots with the Michigan Daily, in the South Pacific Islanders only Community Center, with the candlestick. All hail “The Guardians of Peace”.
Now at first glance, the editorial board of the Michigan Daily would not seem to have much in common with the Kim Dynasty of North Korea. But upon further examination, it is revealed that both have a fondness for threats and censorship, as well as iffy bylaws followed only selectively.
Section 1 subsection 6 of the Bylaws of The Michigan Daily read that journalists should “Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant”.
But despite their open-minded credo, the editorial board of the paper has acted only to the contrary.
According to an editor’s note filed on December 17th intended to clear up misconceptions about Omar’s termination, “The way in which the author satirically mocked the experiences of fellow Daily contributors and minority communities on campus in his Review column violated our values and integrity as a publication.” But have no fear; the column later assures us that “The writer was terminated because he violated a number of our bylaws, not because of his political beliefs.” Chief among those bylaws is the sweeping one which prohibits staffers from associating with or participating in activities “that may compromise integrity or damage credibility”.
So which is it? Overstepping the boundaries of a few ancient and ill-defined bylaws or is it the perpetration of an opinion, a caricature of far left tendencies, that Daily editors seem to find “repugnant”? Moreover, the Daily’s official statement fails to mention that they were forcing Mahmood to write an apology at large to the staff at the Daily for creating a “hostile environment”, which is nowhere justified in the bylaws.
A similar timbre of self-service masked with high- minded principles can be found in the North Korean constitution. Articles involving the freedom of speech, press, assembly, demonstration and association take a back seat to those imposing, “a new socialist way of life in every sphere”. In North Korea, if you are found guilty of challenging the government by, say, visiting a website other than the 30 provided by the state, you are sent to “re-education” camp or worse without any due process. At the University of Michigan, journalists are forced to write letters of apology to anonymous victims of their so-called “micro-aggressions”, or as some of us still see it, their opinions.
So at risk of being entangled in a web of regulations imposed by the Democratic People’s Republic of The Daily, maybe it’s better just to keep your mouth shut. Because for all the dizzying language used by both and the rules enforced on total whim- there is one overarching factor that The Daily and Kim Jung Un have in common. Neither can take a joke.