John Walker's Electronic House

Rum Doings Episode 112: Horse Sense

by on Jul.19, 2012, under Rum Doings, The Rest

Goodness, it’s been a while. But finally, Rum Doings returns with episode 112, not asking what ambulances are going to do now there are Olympic lanes. It’s a Skype episode, but we seem to have the sound pretty well fixed now, so apart from even more talking over each other than usual it’s one heck of a step up from the terrible echoes of the last couple.

Although there wasn’t even a plan to record at all on this evening, as John was supposed to be having a romantic night away in a hotel. As you might expect, why he’s not there is the first matter discussed. How do you escape from a hotel? We then move on to plugging Nick’s brother’s book, The Fastest Loser, which you should buy.

There’s brief chat about the Google Nexus and Raspberry Pi, and Ouya, before we move onto more important matters – the details of the Farmborough W.I. July meeting. There’s more news from our new favourite paper, the Midsomer Norton, Radstock and District Journal, including a footpath we must save, and a lady who wants to set our heads on fire.

We look at the Onion’s extraordinary response to the Daniel Tosh rape joke furore. A quick glance at the banks leads on to Nick’s obsessive, dangerous stalking of Ben Goldacre.

We’d really love it if you left a review on iTunes. Yes, iTunes is hideous, but reviews on there are what get podcasts more attention. After 100 free episodes, we’d love you to return the favour by writing a quick review.

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13 Comments for this entry

  • Kolko

    Victoria’s game was Botanicula. Lovely little game.

  • Hidden_7

    The Daniel Tosh and Onion response is an interesting situation. Tosh’s initial joke was, while not particularly funny, also not the most egregious. The rape element was hardly the point really, and probably could have been replaced with another word like “attacked” or “killed” or something similar to avoid the baggage of using the term “rape,” and it would have worked (or not worked) just as well. The real issue was his poor handling of the heckler, where he descended into rank tastelessness pretty quickly.

    The interesting point about that, and this is where the Onion article comes in, is that what he actually said and was trying to get across (very VERY poorly) was that the concept of rape could be funny and acceptable fodder for a joke. He didn’t outright threaten the girl saying “you should be raped” but suggested that it would be funny in the abstract if she were.

    A rather trivial distinction, and I’m in no way defending him here, it was crass and in poor taste and he handled it badly. However, interestingly, in doing the attacking response that they did, the Onion actually made Tosh’s point for him. By conceiving of a situation where he was being brutally raped in the context of humour/making a joke, they are doing the exact same thing that they are crucifying Tosh for suggesting: that you can make a joke out of the concept of someone being raped.

    It’s a rather weird, hypocritical roast then. All the more so when I think of one of the (for me) most memorable Onion articles from my youth, in which the basic conceit was a man being raped by a bear, presented in a pun-filled, light hearted article. Clearly the Onion staff, both historically and now, thinks that rape jokes are an acceptable joke to make, so I’m not really sure what they are trying to accomplish with the Tosh response. It strikes me as either a very strange sort of satire where the joke is meant to be on the reader, or just exceedingly lacking in self-awareness.

  • Nick Mailer

    Hidden_7: I actually agree with you. I didn’t find it as funny as John does, but didn’t want to make a meal of it on the podcast. And you nail the problem with it, frankly: it’s hypocritical.

    You know that I have a problem with the Victorian way we fetishise rape as the “ultimate” crime, which I believe is not helpful in any way to those who are raped, and continues to portray women as existential victims whose primary value is their unsullied genitals.

  • Hidden_7

    Nick: I have a very similar attitude, but I at times shirk from espousing dogmatically simply because the actual effects of rape are a complex issue that occur within the social embedding of a fetisised rape. I.e. people ARE traumatized by it, quite possibly in part because they have been told to be, and that constitutes real harm I definitely don’t want to minimize.

    That is to say, this sort of controversy makes me so upset because we live in a world where a topic IS (perhaps justifiably) considered unfit for comedy because of how destructive we have perhaps made that topic. I share your frustrating with the concept of “trigger warnings,” but in part because we live in a world where we’ve allowed such things to be necessary. That we blithely accept that people are so victimized that the mere discussion of a topic can cause them serious psychological pain is, frankly, tragic and unacceptable.

    Broadly speaking then, on this Tosh controversy, I find myself in the sort of strange situation of agreeing with his point, with the rider that “not in this world.” Rape shouldn’t be so destructive, either in act or as a topic, and I feel that we’ve helped it be so, but that doesn’t change the fact that currently, it is.

  • John Walker

    I interpreted the Onion’s joke differently. I’ve not read any other jokes they’ve done involving rape, at any point, so didn’t come at this from the context of its being potentially hypocritical in that respect.

    So as an isolated response, I think to call it hypocritical is unfair. I think, read alone, it is in fact extremely pure satire. It makes the descriptions of the rape of Tosh very brutal, and distinctly unfunny, while having Tosh remain light-hearted about the matter throughout. This is not the Onion making a rape joke and getting away with it. It’s the Onion placing Tosh’s dismissive behaviour into the context of that which he was dismissing, and in doing so highlighting just how inappropriate he had been. The disingenuous reaction from Tosh is the source of the piece’s humour.

    The reason I was impressed by the piece was because it was, for once, actually satirical, rather than merely topical or ironic.

  • Nick Mailer

    It’s easy to be satirical when you’re satirising that you don’t think much of trivialising rape! What next? Hard-hitting satire that kicking kittens isn’t brave? Genuinely Juvenalian, burning, uncomfortable satire would have been in satirising our ambivalent societal addiction to rape as the pinnacle of experiential melodrama.

  • Hidden_7 Shows a host of articles where the punchline is basically just “rape.” Many of them are no less, and indeed more tasteless, than Tosh’s initial joke.

    True, the furor is in large part over his very poor escalation with the heckler, but that escalation is almost note for note the joke the Onion made about him; it was simply the observing that there was comedy to be mined from the concept of someone’s rape.

    That the “joke” in the Onion piece is not the rape, but Tosh’s blase attitude doesn’t really matter much in my eyes, since that joke doesn’t exist outside the context of him being raped. The rape is necessary for the joke.

    Since the criticism of Tosh is phrased as “rape jokes aren’t funny / appropriate” and his retort was a poorly worded “come on that’s not true,” even without the further context of the Onion using rape as a go-to joke well, I still feel that the article does nothing more than make Tosh’s exact point.

    He is being criticized for suggesting (albeit in a crass, strident and insensitive way) that you can make a joke using rape as an element. To chastise him for this attitude, they made a joke using rape as an element.

    Again, if it’s satire, it seems like one where the joke is actually on the reader. As in “oh what, you thought this was funny? What’s wrong with you, it’s the exact same thing you’re angry at Tosh for.” That is, for it to work as satire, the intention needs to be for it to not be humorous. Somehow, I don’t think that’s the case; it seems unlikely to me that a humour website put up an article thinking it’s not funny with the intention that it shouldn’t get laughs.

  • Steve W

    It was a jolt to hear John talk about The Onion’s 9/11 coverage in relation to Daniel Tosh, as it was that which came to mind when I read the piece. So I was surprised when he backtracked to say that he was mistaken and that The Onion failed miserably with 9/11; two weeks after the attacks, it published one of its most famous issues:

    How funny it was I’m not bothered to argue, but the site couldn’t be accused of failure of nerve or similar, especially as this was its first issue to be published in New York. So I’m genuinely curious as to John’s problem with the coverage, unless it was from a comedy standpoint.

    IIRC, the only story that many felt didn’t strike the right tone was the one the Tosh piece reminded me of: “Hijackers Surprised To Find Selves In Hell”.

  • Arthur

    I’m surprised you said that Steam being developed for Linux is proof that open systems can support games. Steam a DRM wrapper around games. And the history of gaming and software in recent years has been a movement towards closed systems not open ones.

  • Nick Mailer

    Arthur: the argument that was being made was that an open *platform* is inherently unable to support a games ecosystem, whatever the constituents of that ecosystem. The argument was not about specific games and their “copy protection” mechanisms (which are as old as the ZX Spectrum!) but about things like have USB ports and such.

  • Toby Collins

    I have to say skype wasn’t actually that bad this time round. Initially when you started to use skype all i could see happening was a slow death of rum doings as you each lose the will to visit each other and record gradually devoting less and less time and eventually letting the podcast just fizzle out.

    Neither of you have any obligation to do this every couple of weeks of course but having listened to every episode right from the beginning i believe it would be a betrayal of my human rights if you were to stop. Also as far as i can tell you two are the only people actually making a good regular podcast anymore.

    Radiolab has become a constant advert ( i might be exaggerating a bit ), Freakonomics is a shadow of its former self and many others seem to be falling apart without being replaced.

    So i guess the whole point of this random splurge of words is to say keep up the good work. This podcast is a happy constant in my life.

    P.S. any word on that live show you talked about once a long time ago.

  • John Walker

    @Steve W

    My issue was with the Holy Fucking Shit edition, and indeed anything that followed, that failed to do anything approaching satire. I understand they were terrified, being directly affected by the attack in NY, but their response was weak and uncontroversial. Whereas Private Eye did the most extraordinary coverage, which is what I was confusing it with, including a cut-out-and-keep 3 minutes of silence.

  • Mister k

    Did anyone else find nick’s rant against the silly writer rather surprisingly intense? He sounded a bit like richard dawkins does at such moments actually.