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the Gauntlet

Letter: offence taken to offence being taken

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This is in response to a previous letter "Gauntlet comic extremely offensive to Sikhs" [Nov. 24, 2011] -- which was itself in response to an "offensive" meme-image displayed in the Gaunlet comic strip Network Admin [Nov. 17, 2011].

First, I'd like to thank the author of the letter for explaining the joke, as I now find it much funnier.

More importantly, however, I remind the author of what country we are presently in, and the one often unappreciated piece of paper that our fine country is built upon that all Canadians of all nationalities can hold paramount: the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Charter is more than just a guideline for how we wish to be governed, but a rubric for how we wish to live our lives. Relevant to this situation regarding the 'offensive' comic, there is one clause that stands 'right' out of the page: the right to free speech.

Somewhere along the way people got the idea that a contradictory clause exists that guarantees the right not to be offended. Having personally read the Charter I can assure you that no such clause exists. Being offended is a choice, which happens to conflict with the actual guaranteed right to free speech, analogous to how murder is a choice, as it happens to interfere with another person's right to life. The Charter not only tells us what rights we are guaranteed, but with which rights of others we are not permitted to interfere.

By drawing a line in what is okay to laugh at or talk about, a person only demonstrates their own insecurities, and by trying to force those beliefs on others, attempting to limit their own light-hearted outlook. The alternative is to accept that cartoons are merely expressions of an artist's belief that dark situations can be much less devastating when inspecting them in a light-hearted nature, knowing that an assortment of colours and lines does nothing to further or condone devious acts themselves. Family Guy and South Park are prime example of offending every type of individual they can think of for the sheer purpose of demonstrating that nothing should be off limits in a freedom-oriented society.

The funniest cartoon I've ever seen was from Network Admin that depicted a snarling wolf with the caption: "Parents catch you masturbating? Look them in the eyes and finish like a boss." This could have offended both hairy and angry masturbators and anyone caught masturbating, but instead it delivered nothing shy of grade-A comedy enjoyed by those with all types of senses of humour.

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Comments

I was about to agree with the letter writer, until I went back and re-read the original letter being referenced. Having now a better understanding of what was being talked about, I would like to raise these points:

The Charter was never invoked in the original letter. Neither legal action was threatened nor was there any clear apology being demanded. From what I could discern, the letter contains a simple caution: That the comic is offensive to one group.

Ultimately, the choice is completely up to The Gauntlet on what later action to take, whether to better research the basis of their humour or to continue stealing images found online.

Apropos to Kempton\'s citation on the Charter: The Canadian Charter actually does not contain outright free speech, at least not to the degree with which Americans have continually invoke their own Constitution. What ours says in gist is that your right to free speech ends where you start becoming damaging. This is a fairly common mistake which Canadians make, and frankly, it would be amusing if it weren\'t so annoying. Especially considering that the Charter is being invoked, one would think Kempton would have better informed himself.

Which then brings me to my last point: Kempton reeks of the reactionary politics now rife in this conservative province. The not so subtle reminder to the person who had voiced the concern on the comic that this here place is Canada is hard to ignore since it is suggestive of and akin to the monoculturalists who incessantly raise the false concern that our rights and freedoms are being threatened by multiculuralism. Where every small misstep and any small instance is overblown and misread to support the biased notion that somehow, anyone who does not fit into the majority mold is a danger to this society\'s values.

I admit that this is a suspicion that could be misinterpreted as an accusation - one that I would be willing to retract given further clarity from Kemp\'s camp.

In the end, this is about a comic and the humour it wanted to achieve. To close this response, I would like to suggest that perhaps what separates good ethnic humour and one in poor taste is tact and knowledge combined with earned permission. Frankly, I find it weird how very few aspiring comedians get this! When one of their cultural jokes is spurned, they turn and immediately accuse the histrionics of a vocal minority and blame each and every person of colour as being unable to take a joke. \"Cursed be that damn political correctness for disallowing my biting observation!\" goes the usual lament.

For this I would like to draw a parallel with sexual innuendoes, terms of endearment, and other expressions of targeted erotic desire: You could get easily slapped with harassment if your timing is off, your approach unsolicited, and your presentation undesirable.

And yet dejected ethnic humourists regularly complain of their audience instead of looking at their own approach. Maybe you\'re just unfunny? Not everyone can be Russel Peters.

R.B.G.

Corrections:
Substitute \"Alarmist\" for \'reactionary\'.

Also, my apologies to Kempton for saying \"Kemp\" in the latter section.

It seems I had written far to quickly for my own good.. didn\'t have chance to truly proofread.

To \'R.B.G.\'
First off, I didn\'t realize we were on a last name basis, seeing as how you just left an acronym. My name is Jason.
I find it interesting that you make accusations of being uninformed while at the same time demonstrate tendencies towards misquoting and inappropriate inferences.
I never said free speech is unlimited, it is limited by speech deemed to be a defamation of character, damaging people\'s images and potentially profits, not by damaging their self esteem or preference of good natured humor.
I also never said anything about the original letter making the reference to the charter, that was MY observation. One that I felt relevant since in the same issue there was a multi-page article about the decline of free speech. What the original letter does make reference to is a hypothetical image of Jesus being slaughtered and how unacceptable that would be in this society, inferring that the cartoon should not have been allowed no matter which religious leader was depicted.
My original letter had a story relevant to this, talking about an incredibly offensive cartoon widely spread across the web that depicts a Jesus fornicating with a second Jesus, over a caption reading Jesus effing Christ. The point made was that this extrememly offensive cartoon brought zero controversy. This is indicative of our society\'s active belief that mean spirited humour is simply that, and anyone is free to engage in such regardless of conflicting morals others feel are violated.
This anecdote was ironically not published (different level of offensiveness) and a secondary story about the wolf cartoon I included was published as I expected. You may note the jebus hat in the cartoon as a likely inside joke.
\'RBG\' makes inferences about the gauntlet not understanding the joke in the first place which is just as ridiculous as the inference that I\'m a narrow minded racist that hates multiculturalism and votes conservative.
Come on.
I didn\'t say \"this here is WHITE Canada\" or make any reference to color at any point.
I made the statement as a praise to our country, one that is uniquely awesome in many facets, one being of course multiculturalism. Though similar to the melting pot of the US, we encourage any and all cultures to share and celebrate their beliefs and customs, without having to conform to any monotonous culture, and ask only that our country\'s laws are followed. Like Free Speech. We are not in a country where it is okay to send a bomb in protest of a Danish cartoon, or any other course of action after having been offended besides exercising your own free speech. Though I disagree with the letter about the cartoon, I defend to the death that writer`s right to say so.
I do not believe that her letter should not have been published contrasting how she believed the cartoon should not have been.
As an aside, my parents aren\'t from Canada, I\'ve dated girls from across the globe, Bill Maher is my hero and I am a bleeding heart liberal.
I also notice that this fairly anonymous commentator takes note of comedians having \'permission\' to make ethnic jokes so as to not appear racist. It is clear you missed the point of my letter entirely.
Russell Peters has lots of racist jokes poking fun at anyone, not just people from India. He didn\'t get permission to make fun of any and all ethnicities beyond his own, but he gets away with it because it is clear there is no malicious intent behind it.
That is how humour should be interpreted in a free society. Trey Parker goes out of his way to note that once you say something is not okay to laugh at or poke fun of, you do a disservice to those people offended and only further the position that they are different. Being offended by a dark humored cartoon only speaks to your own insecurities about the subject matter, not the artist. Anyone has a right to make fun of anything, laughter is not an attack on another persons beliefs and does not condone any type of racism, the actions people take afterwards are their own responsibility.

To \'R.B.G.\'
First off, I didn\'t realize we were on a last name basis, seeing as how you just left an acronym. My name is Jason.
I find it interesting that you make accusations of being uninformed while at the same time demonstrate tendencies towards misquoting and inappropriate inferences.
I never said free speech is unlimited, it is limited by speech deemed to be a defamation of character, damaging people\'s images and potentially profits, not by damaging their self esteem or preference of good natured humor.
I also never said anything about the original letter making the reference to the charter, that was MY observation. One that I felt relevant since in the same issue there was a multi-page article about the decline of free speech. What the original letter does make reference to is a hypothetical image of Jesus being slaughtered and how unacceptable that would be in this society, inferring that the cartoon should not have been allowed no matter which religious leader was depicted.
My original letter had a story relevant to this, talking about an incredibly offensive cartoon widely spread across the web that depicts a Jesus fornicating with a second Jesus, over a caption reading Jesus effing Christ. The point made was that this extrememly offensive cartoon brought zero controversy. This is indicative of our society\'s active belief that mean spirited humour is simply that, and anyone is free to engage in such regardless of conflicting morals others feel are violated.
This anecdote was ironically not published (different level of offensiveness) and a secondary story about the wolf cartoon I included was published as I expected. You may note the jebus hat in the cartoon as a likely inside joke.
\'RBG\' makes inferences about the gauntlet not understanding the joke in the first place which is just as ridiculous as the inference that I\'m a narrow minded racist that hates multiculturalism and votes conservative.
Come on.
I didn\'t say \"this here is WHITE Canada\" or make any reference to color at any point.
I made the statement as a praise to our country, one that is uniquely awesome in many facets, one being of course multiculturalism. Though similar to the melting pot of the US, we encourage any and all cultures to share and celebrate their beliefs and customs, without having to conform to any monotonous culture, and ask only that our country\'s laws are followed. Like Free Speech. We are not in a country where it is okay to send a bomb in protest of a Danish cartoon, or any other course of action after having been offended besides exercising your own free speech. Though I disagree with the letter about the cartoon, I defend to the death that writer`s right to say so.
I do not believe that her letter should not have been published contrasting how she believed the cartoon should not have been.
As an aside, my parents aren\'t from Canada, I\'ve dated girls from across the globe, Bill Maher is my hero and I am a bleeding heart liberal.
I also notice that this fairly anonymous commentator takes note of comedians having \'permission\' to make ethnic jokes so as to not appear racist. It is clear you missed the point of my letter entirely.
Russell Peters has lots of racist jokes poking fun at anyone, not just people from India. He didn\'t get permission to make fun of any and all ethnicities beyond his own, but he gets away with it because it is clear there is no malicious intent behind it.
That is how humour should be interpreted in a free society. Trey Parker goes out of his way to note that once you say something is not okay to laugh at or poke fun of, you do a disservice to those people offended and only further the position that they are different. Being offended by a dark humored cartoon only speaks to your own insecurities about the subject matter, not the artist. Anyone has a right to make fun of anything, laughter is not an attack on another persons beliefs and does not condone any type of racism, the actions people take afterwards are their own responsibility.
-Jason Kempton

I wrote the letter to The Gauntlet for the \"Network Admin\" comic about the fifth Sikh Guru in the November 17th edition of the Gauntlet and I have received a response from Jason K. who wrote a letter stating that he is offended that I am offended by the comic. In his letter he states that Free speech is in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and citizens of Canada should be able to say what is on their mind, I totally agree with him on that aspect that anyone can say what is on their mind, but the problem I have with his article is that in Canada and in our University it is a place to respect everyone regardless of faith, culture, or beliefs. The whole reason why I wrote the letter to The Gauntlet was to inform them of what they had printed and that it disrespects the Sikh community. I\'m sure that Jason has no idea of what the Sikhs have gone through and that is why he finds the comic funny but I did not and nor did the Sikh community at the University of Calgary. My point is that I am not trying to stop free speech, I am trying to educate people (who have no idea about Sikhism) that the comic was very disrespectful to the Sikh community. In our society there are unwritten rules and to make fun of or disrespect someone\'s faith, culture, or beliefs is something that you do not do.