Comedian Jim Norton: I’m Disgusted By Suggestions Lindy West Should Be Raped

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I am very careful about telling people what they should write or how they should express themselves, but I truly hate a lot of the things that have been directed at Lindy.

When my publicist first asked if I wanted to go on W. Kamau Bell’s show to debate a feminist blogger about rape jokes, my answer was “absolutely not.” Feminists and comedians often have a mongoose/snake relationship that seems unlikely to ever change. The last thing I wanted was to get into a screaming match on national television in front of a studio audience that I assumed would be against me from the start. I then took the time to actually read Lindy West’s piece. And I didn’t agree with it. I did, however, like how she wrote it. I liked how she presented her points and defended them intelligently.

We wound up having a great discussion about the effects of language, rape culture and the repercussions of certain types of humor. We didn’t talk over each other or yell at each other like a couple of irritating news pundit hacks. And when we were finished, Lindy understood my points and I understood hers. And we both walked away holding our same opinions, as I assumed we would.  So many of you think that either she or I “still don’t get it,” but we do. We really do. We just don’t agree.

The reason I’m writing this is not to rehash what we said, but to say how disgusted I am by the way many people have chosen to respond. I am very careful about telling people what they should write or how they should express themselves, but I truly hate a lot of the things that have been directed at Lindy. The anger she’s facing is wrong and misguided. If you have a problem with her opinion that’s one thing, but to tweet that you hope she gets raped, or that you’d want her to be raped is fucking ignorant. And that’s coming from a person who’s said a lot of ignorant things. She did absolutely nothing to deserve the vitriolic response she’s gotten. She simply gave a well thought out opinion.

Twitter is a great tool, but one of the problems is that many people have no idea how to get their point across in 140 characters intelligently, so they immediately revert to “FUCK YOU ASSHOLE!” (I know this because I’ve reverted to it often). People are afraid someone will respond with something smarter, so they just say something horrible in an effort to be heard. And that desire to be heard, to weigh in, is powerful. So, when people feel like no one is listening, they say something barbaric and vicious which is impossible to ignore.

My suggestion to these people is to think about what you really want to say and make an effort to say it. Your true opinion is not that you want her to be raped and you know that.

Most of you have real opinions on humor and its repercussions or lack thereof, so give your real opinions.

To anyone whose goal is to defend what you interpret as attacks on comedic free speech, don’t immediately let the term “rape culture” cause you to dismiss someone’s argument entirely or make you think that life as you know it is about to end. It’s not. Stop being so fucking mentally lazy. Do you really want your only contribution to the discussion to be, “I hope you get raped”?

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I don’t like telling people how they should express themselves because I don’t feel qualified to do so. I am only qualified to speak and think for myself. I am also self-aware enough to realize that I myself have taken that easy, lazy road (“FUCK YOU!”) too many times to sit here and moralize.

But I am honestly requesting that people stop attacking her. It’s ugly and it’s unfair and does nothing to forward the point you think you’re trying to make.

By 

Originally appeared on xoJane

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Jim Norton grew up in suburban New Jersey and has known he wanted to be a comic since he was 12, when he idolized Richard Pryor. He is a daily fixture on the Opie and Anthony Show on SiriusXM Satellite Radio, and credits a good deal of his success to the radio hosts. He published his first book, “Happy Ending: The Tales of a Meaty-Breasted Zilch”, in 2007, and it rose to #4 on the New York Times Non-Fiction Bestseller List. His second book, “I Hate Your Guts”, rose to #11 on the list.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. So much hate online and it’s sickening. Disagree with someone, call em an ass or whatever but don’t say you want violence against them.

  2. Mostly_123 says:

    Thank you Jim- You’re not the only one who is digested by the malice leveled at Lindy West. I just wanted to say I saw the discussion piece from ‘Totally Biased’ (YouTube) last week and I really enjoyed it: I thought you made a great case all the way through, and I’m glad you did. I agreed with your arguments very strongly, and I disagreed with Lindy’s arguments very strongly- and yeah, gender politics and ideological interpretations often engender strong feelings and passionate disagreements. Which makes it disappointing & disheartening to have it sullied by an aftermath of some people’s grotesque personal attacks in order to revolt and revile.   

    Those malicious posts against Lindy are all the more discouraging, not just because (to say the least) they’re cruel, crude, and willfully malicious; but also because they demean the whole process of discourse- Like you said, it’s not just being mean; it’s being lazy and resenting the person who took time & effort to articulate WHY they believe what they do- even if that ‘something’ is something another person totally disagrees with. The people who would hurl obscenities or wish violence upon another, rather than legitimately challenging a perspective (ESPECIALLY one that deserves to be legitimately challenged) can’t really demean Lindy (or, for that matter, you, me, or anyone else engaged in the discourse) with hateful epithets; though obviously not for lack of trying. But they do, in fact, demean themselves.

    It’s disrespectful to one’s self to be such a poor advocate for something they obviously feel so passionately about: If it’s important enough to enrage you to the point of taking the time to hurl obscenities at a stranger, shouldn’t it be at least important enough to make the case for WHY you should feel so enraged? Shouldn’t one at least try to justify and validate their own outrage by making their own case, and making it well? Seriously, it’s much easier to take a position that one feels passionate about, than it is on something where you’re ambivalent.   
     
    Malice & blind rage can feel good for a moment; but it’s also a blunt demonstration of one’s own impotence and powerlessness: Really- no one has ever responded to a comment like “Shut up, Fuck-face!” with (a sincere): “Ah, I see your point now. Thank-you for pointing out that significant flaw in my argument, and genuinely guiding me along the path of your logic.” In the end, “Fuck you!” just means “I won’t try to persuade you, but I can’t dismiss you either” – in a (key)stroke, creates one’s own adversary, and then it validates their argument to boot- a lose/lose proposition.

    People say things and hold ideological positions that make us mad (legitimately or illegitimately). But don’t just get mad, get introspective. And that’s not just an altruistic point of view either- Pragmatically; when  a person starts looking at WHY somebody else’s position is making them outraged, then they’re starting to take it apart. When a person does this, they have a better understanding of the mechanics of both the argument they disagree with, as well as their own logic, and how & why they oppose it. So, in the end they’re going to be better able to argue their own case that much more effectively, articulately & confidently (and really stick it to that jerk who has the ‘wrong’ opinion). Or you might discover a flaw in your own logic, or even some points of agreement with the position you’re arguing against: That’s knowledge, and knowledge is power- and who doesn’t want at least a little more of that? 

    I myself (obviously) have trouble articulating my positions in less that 140 characters, or 10 second sound-bites, so I don’t put a lot of stock into what’s said there- yes, there are tons of malice and hate out there beneath the blue sky, at least superficially. But breadth does not necessarily equal depth. I myself have little expectation that we, in a free society, can ever truly insulate ourselves from other people’s bigotry. This is because it takes so little effort to sling an epithet, and so the slingers look bigger and more numerous than they are. But in the end, those slingers are the most apathetic ones of all- and apathy never gets anything done.

    Sorry to ramble on. But thanks again Jim & Lindy for taking the time to make an articulate argument on a topic that you feel passionately about, (whether I agree or disagree with your position) and sticking by it with conviction (whether I think it’s a sound conviction or not).

  3. To suggest violence is wrong. It is better to refrain from such angry comments and to ignore such feminist writers if you disagree with them.

    It should be however noticed that men active for men’s rights are being the target of severe abusive comments coming from feminists all the time – and nobody says anything about it.

  4. But I am honestly requesting that people stop attacking her. It’s ugly and it’s unfair and does nothing to forward the point you think you’re trying to make.
    By Jim Norton
    —–

    You are right and I agree with you. However this is a magazine for men – not a feminist publication.
    What about hateful comments when writing anything about men’s rights. Maybe you should mention this too?

    • There’s a context here. The author had a dialogue with Lindy West, and afterwards she was attacked, so he has a personal stake in this.

      The comments made to her and about her are the height of Neamderthal reasoning. Well, maybe I should be kinder to Neanderrthals, since evidence seems to suggest that they were pretty much human by any reasonable measure.

      And Jim, are you a little uncomfortable with who some of your audience seems to be?

  5. Agree in full with your rambling comment Mostly_123

    I did watch the full unedited version of the program and putting the arguments aside, though I am squarely in the comedy needs to remain free-range camp, I could not help notice the disdain Lindy West portrayed when summing the position of her opponents – the lowering of her voice and speaking out of the side of her mouth – Neanderthal style – was, to say the least, less than one would expect from a good faith attempt at listening. This type of juvenile sarcasm seems par for the course.

    Jim – you are being far too generous with both her argument and how she expressed it to you. This deferment – treading lightly – should not go unnoticed. Not pointing fingers at you, but it does provide context of the state of affairs, no?

    • Mostly_123 says:

      Just wanted to add in passing-
      Because Jim’s article here was specifically about some people’s (negative & inappropriate) reactions to Lindy West’s argument, and not the discussion itself, I thought it best (and I guess Jim did too) not to go too much into specifics & rhetorical differences there. Like I said, I myself strongly disagreed with her argument, though I think she has the right to say it without being subjected to vile verbal attacks. That said, I did (and still do) think that people should evaluate and challenge her rhetorical argument itself; not attack her character, or advocate hate, malice or violence. Before this backlash against Lindy West began, I’d posted my analysis (which is critical of her position) on another blog. If you were interested, my comment (under ‘Most’) should be at this link:

      http://stonerwithaboner.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/why-ya-laughing-mr-the-joke-is-in-your-hand/#comments

  6. Lindy falls apart, completely, around the 11 minute mark.

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