If you think about it – my advice is don’t – the lion’s share of our lives are lived not in the world but in our heads. By this I don’t mean the now banal observation that our experiences of the world are mediated by the structure of the mind. Rather I’m talking about stuff that’s already in there.

And some of what’s in there is what we mean by our fantasies. What makes something a fantasy, as distinct from, say, a speculation, is that we know it’s something that won’t come true. I won’t be given an experimental airplane that will cross the Pond in three hours. I won’t be able to cause my enemies a writhing death by simply wishing it upon them. And so on.

Most of our fantasies we keep to ourselves. And for good reason. But albeit privately, fantasies tell us things about ourselves. Perhaps the most important things. They tell us about our values. And, in case they’re not always the same thing, about what we value. And these may be, in fact they’re likely to be, very much at odds with what we publicly claim to value.

So I wonder. I wonder how many people are publicly woke but privately fantasising about what it would be like if we could once again tell a joke. “No,” you say, “by your own definition that’s not a fantasy, it’s a speculation.” To which I reply, “In saying this, are you speculating or fantasising?”

Categories: Everything You Wanted to Know About What's Going On in the World But Were Afraid to Ask, Social and Political Philosophy, Why My Colleagues Are Idiots

2 replies

  1. Viminitz says: “I wonder how many people are publicly woke but privately fantasising about what it would be like if we could once again tell a joke.”

    Here’s a possible analogous case:

    Westwood, Rosemary. “Why Some Women Can’t Get Behind #METOO — But Wouldn’t Dare Admit It,” Chatelaine, January 16, 2018,, accessed April 6, 2023.

    -“A recent New York Times op-ed even suggested women who were publically unfailing in their #MeToo commitment carried private “misgivings.”

    Merkin, Daphne. “Publicly we say #Me Too. Privately, We Have Misgivings,” Op-Ed, New York Times, Jan. 5, 2018, , accessed April 6, 2023.


    Humour is a target of ‘woke’ and its EDI bedfellow. In universities, you’ll find humour policed under the categories of harassment/discrimination/bias/hate/microaggressions. And it’s not only humour that misfires between people, or humour directed at people , but it’s also the effect of humour on 3rd party witnesses that these didactic micromanagers have set their sights on.

    Power, Privilege & Bystander Intervention from the Equity & Inclusion Office at UBC ( recommends a publication-cum-morality-play how-to “Tool Kit for Interrupting Oppression, .

    • On page 10, one of the interrupting actions recommended to correct an offender is to say, ““I know you think it’s a harmless joke but others overhearing could be hurt.”

    • Also on page 10, the interrupter apparently gets to use humour to wield her stick to beat back oppression, “I can use humor or sarcasm, being thoughtful of when it could be useful, safe, misunderstood, or make things worse – “You know ALL Black people and every one of them acts that way, hm?”

    Some will feel the need to remind me that humour can be cruel and over-the-line. Just in case in my nearly 57 years on the planet, I hadn’t thought of that. If I sound cranky, I am.

    Few things kill humour with the speed and precision of moral Finger-Wags and Snitches. These self-righteous kill-joys believe they are doing so to keep others safe from harm. But some of the most wicked humour, dark humour, is born from trauma and is used to cope with trauma. Humour, laughing at ourselves and each other, is a bonding mechanism — even if it misfires from time to time. Going back to Aristotle, belonging includes being able to make and take a joke. So getting militant about humour can undermine the inclusion objectives of EDI. And humour is a very important mechanism for social and political criticism. When humour police are mobilized – even, and maybe especially, if those police have the faces of cherubs —people should see the big red flag waving overhead.

    Am I being hyperbolic? I invite you to be curious about that question. What follows is a but a drop in the bucket toward sating that curiousity, not a knock down argument.

    Anecdotal evidence: Uleth and some other smaller institutions lag a bit on getting woke to woke.
    I know people back east, such as students at Waterloo, who report looking over their shoulders when making comments or jokes others might take offense to. Why worry that the walls have ears?

    Empirical evidence:

    1) INSIGHT Form. “Harassment, Discrimination, and Bias/Hate Incident Anonymous Submission Form,” Human Rights Advisory Services, Queen’s University,, accessed April 6, 2023.

    Reportable behaviours include: “Microaggressions”; “Offensive jokes and/or teasing based on protected group status (e.g., gender, race, sex, etc.)” ; “Systemic”; and “Other Behaviour”.

    2) Anonymous humour is being used to push back against the EDI humour police, and is being used as a mode of criticism. Try the following Vaudevillian Ditty:

    Anonymous Babbler, “The Academic Equity Song,” The Babbling Martlet, Nov 27, 2022,, accessed January 20, 2023.

    Check out the following McGill publication:

    The Babbling Martlet: Fake News and Opinion, McGill University, November 19-27, 2022,, accessed January 20, 2023.

    The Babbling Martlet was Born in the USA, at MIT:

    The Babbling Beaver: Fake News You Can Trust From Transgressive Nerds at MIT. “About Us,”, accessed January 20, 2023.

    UMass Boston and Cornell are also Babbling hosts.

    Aha! See, we can count on the performing arts to keep us in check! No?

    3) “We are committed as a Department to actively eliminate forms of marginalization, cultural insensitivity, and oppression, especially those which we perpetuate into our theatre practices.”

    Anti-oppression statement, Department of Theatre, Concordia University,


    It’s a funny thing, but extreme movements tend to generate extreme pushback. Hence their damage — to scholarship and civil society — becomes the gift that just keeps giving.

    Speaking of the US, how’s humour doing on their campuses?

    Some comedians will not play college/university campuses.

    1) Kabbany, Jennifer. “Comedian reported to campus bias response team for joke about person’s identity,” The College Fix, February 13, 2023,, accessed April 6, 2023.

    2) Staff, College Fix. “3 in 4 Democratic students believe ‘offensive jokes can constitute hate speech, study finds,” The College Fix, March 20, 2020, ‘ accessed April 6, 2023.

    – This article refers to a survey of 2,000 undergraduates.

    3) Svrluga, Susan. “John Cleese will avoid colleges: he says they’re too politically correct for comedy,” The Washington Post, February 2, 2016,, accessed April 6, 2023.

    “[Cleese] mentioned working with a well-known psychiatrist in London, Robin Skynner, with whom he he [sic] wrote two books, and something Skynner had told him. “He said, ‘If people can’t control their own emotions, then they have to start trying to control other people’s behavior.’ And when you’re around super-sensitive people, you cannot relax and be spontaneous because you have no idea what’s going to upset them next.

    ‘And that’s why I’ve been warned recently don’t go to most university campuses because the political correctness has been taken from being a good idea, which is let’s not be mean in particular to people who are not able to look after themselves very well — that’s a good idea — to the point where any kind of criticism of any individual or group could be labeled cruel.’

    ‘And the whole point about humor, the whole point about comedy, and believe you me I thought about this, is that all comedy is critical. … All humor is critical. If you start to say, ‘We mustn’t; we mustn’t criticize or offend them,’ then humor is gone. With humor goes a sense of proportion. And then as far as I’m concerned, you’re living in ‘1984.’”

    4) Zinoman, Jason. “Akaash Singh and His Case for Bringing Back Apu,” The New York Times, March 4, 2022,, accessed April 7, 2023.


  2. 1) Apropos my reference to anonymous reporting in the previous comment:

    Marinovic, Iván and John Ellis. “DEI Meets East Germany: U.S. Universities Urge Students to Report One Another for Bias,” Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Opinion, April 6, 2023,, accessed April 7, 2023.

    2) Some humour is construed a “microaggression.” More about microaggressions:

    “Micropedia,” EDI & & Microaggressions: Keeping an Eye on EDI Blog Post,

    Jussim, Lee. “The Dubious Science of Microaggressions,” Unsafe Science, Substack, June 12, 2022,, accessed April 6, 2023.

    Cantu, Edward and Jussim, Lee, Microaggressions, Questionable Science, and Free Speech (February 1, 2021). Texas Review of Law & Politics, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:, February 1, 2021, accessed April 6, 2023.

    Abstract: The topic of microaggressions is hot currently. Diversity administrators regularly propagate lists of alleged microaggressions and express confidence that listed items reflect what some psychologists claim they do: racism that is, at the very least, unconscious in the mind of the speaker. Legal academics are increasingly leveraging microaggression research in theorizing law and proposing legal change. But how scientifically legitimate are claims by some psychologists about what acts constitute microaggressions? The authors—one a law professor, the other a psychologist—argue that the answer is “not much.” In this article, the authors dissect the studies, and critique the claims, of microaggression researchers. They then explore the ideological glue that seems to hold the current microaggression construct together, and that best explains its propagative success. They close by warning of the socially caustic and legally pernicious effects the current microaggression construct can cause if academics, administrators, and the broader culture continue to subscribe to it without healthy skepticism.


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