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I was chastised today because I told a joke about Kerry. I won't repeat it here, because the reason I told it there and not here in the first place was that many people would take it the wrong way, either getting mad at me for perpetuating something of questionable truth, or use it as a vehicle to launch attacks against Kerry, and I don't want any of that. It's not worth the trouble.

So I was accused of being susceptible to propaganda just because I told a joke that may or may not have been based on truth. Truth doesn't matter, though: it's just a joke! It is funny because it is based on our perceptions, not on truth.

The Daily Show does this all the time. Last night it showed four men who spoke at the RNC on Wednesday night, including white congressmen and senators Rick Santorum, Rob Portman, Bill Frist, and Mitch McConnell. Jon Stewart introduced the segment by saying, "the GOP stepped back from their celebration of diversity to offer their more traditional pageant of 'whiteosity.'" Ha, funny, because it plays on our perception of the Republicans as a bunch of white people. But what he didn't mention or show was that following McConnell was Elaine Chao. She is McConnell's wife, she's Asian, she's the U.S. Secretary of Labor, and she spoke for longer than Santorum, Portman, or McConnell. Nor did they mention that the evening's presiding Deputy Permanent Chair of the Convention was Michael Steele, a black man, and Lt. Gov. of Maryland.

What TDS did last night, and on many other nights, was no closer to the truth than what I said about Kerry, so why take issue, or look to deeper meaning? Granted, I am not a professional comedian. On the other hand, neither is Samantha Bee (oh, she is? huh, color me fooled!). Regardless, it was still obvious I was joking.

I am not saying The Daily Show sucks. Sometimes I think they go too far against the right wing, but whatever: they are jokes. Some work, some don't, but they should not be confused for the truth.

There are two related problems here, both centering around the problem of people taking jokes seriously. The first is that people get mad at you for telling a joke that isn't accurate, if they are somehow the butt of it. The second is that if the joke is in line with your existing biases, then you believe it's true, even if it is not.

I'm not picking on my friend who chastised me. I only spent time writing about it because I see a pattern out there. I'm sure a lot of viewers of TDS will walk away thinking, hey, everyone speaking at the convention on Wednesday night was white! That's because people are stupid. We all need to stop taking jokes so damned seriously, and stop taking seriously people who do take jokes seriously. Or something.

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