German comedian Sophie Passmann has become probably the first person to have a tweet deleted for being funny under Germany’s new online hate speech law, which is one of the strictest ‘hate’ laws in Europe, although it does not prohibit Muslim Imans from calling on their followers to kill all infidels.
Fraulien Passman commented: “There shouldn’t be a law against bad jokes, because that would mean that half the comedians in Germany wouldn’t be allowed on stage.”
Some worry that such laws have an adverse effect on freedom of speech and thus curtail important civil rights. But others, mostly the snowflake generation, contend that the law, which came into force at the start of this year, is a step in the right direction. I wonder do these people understand how closely their behaviour resembles that of the 17th century Puritans, the people who banned Christmas, music, dancing, and thoroughly disapproved of laughter.
So what did Sophie Passmann do to trigger the snowflakes? Well it wasn’t very funny but it certainly wasn’t offensive. A bit of background is necessary first:
Passmann is a 24-year-old comedian who lives in Cologne, host to a large immigrant community and consequently the place where racial tensions run highest. Every New Year’s Eve Sophie becomes the butt of her friends’ jokes because of one of Germany’s most enduring year-end traditions: the airing of “Dinner for One” across German television. A British sketch originally, it’s about the 90th birthday party of an Englishwoman named Miss Sophie who has outlived all her friends. So her butler makes his way around the dinner table, impersonating each of the guests.
“New Year’s Eve is terrible for a person called Sophie,” says Ms. Passmann. “My friends think it’s funny to call me Miss Sophie all night.” So this year she shot back. On the day the NetzDG law went into effect, she posted a tweet at 9 a.m. that played on the idea that immigrants are destroying German culture: “As long as it’s a tradition in Germany to watch ‘Dinner for One,’ refugees can totally come to Germany and destroy our culture.”
It’s not her best joke, as she is the fist to admit, but it should have been obvious that it was humor. As far as the new puritans are concerned it is unacceptable to mention immigrants or Muslims in any humourous context. By the evening Passman had received multiple notifications from Twitter that users found it offensive, and by nightfall the company had removed it.
Some people may ask why should bad taste be acceptable in humour. My argument is that not only should be acceptable in humour, it is absolutely essential as a tool for puncturing the bubbles of pomposity and self righteousness with which those who would impose their moral prejudices on the whole world like to surround themselves.