One of the universal traits of humans is laughter. Someone once said “Man is the only animal that laughs. In Stranger in a Strange Land the character Michael Valentine Smith finally “groks” humans when he understands laughter.
“No, that’s the point. I grok people. I am people … so now I can say it in people talk. I’ve found out why people laugh. They laugh because it hurts so much … because it’s the only thing that’ll make it stop hurting.”
For years Reader’s Digest had a monthly section of jokes titled “Laughter is the Best Medicine.” But there is another kind of laughter that is poisonous. It comes not from humor but from hate. Nothing good comes from hate. Hate humor is fake humor.
If you had gone to visit Germany at the height of Nazi power in 1936-1938, I don’t doubt that there were people telling “jokes” about Jews that were hate humor. Hate humor is something the powerful use against the weak.
Hate humor causes hate laughter. If you want to hear hate laughter just listen to the audience’s reaction to the SNL clip at the top. It’s a typical SNL skit. You see the same thing in the late-night talk shows and in stand up comedy. The “humor” therein is not about shared humanity, it is a denial of humanity. That is unsurprising because hate humor is divisive. It singles out disfavored individuals and groups for derision.
Hate humor is not the cause of our national polarization, it is just a symptom of an underlying illness in the body politic.