Dear Dr. Boli: I don’t quite know how to tell you this, but I have discovered racism on the Internet! Forums and blogs and YouTube comments—they are full of the vilest ignorance and the most strident racial invective. Until today I spent all my on-line time at your site and Adorablefluffykittenswithcorrectlyspelledcaptions.com, so my exposure to this revoltingly seamy side of the Internet has shaken me considerably. How do you maintain your well-known equanimity in the face of monstrous evil? —Sincerely, An Internet Visitor Who’s Not Going Back There Again.
Dear Sir or Madam: The ugliness of racism can be mitigated by remembering one simple principle: Racism is inherently funny.
The reason is that the racist’s besetting sin is pride, and pride is the root of all comedy. The moment we see someone who believes himself naturally superior to the common rabble, we know that a great big custard pie with mounds of whipped cream is headed in his direction. Pride goeth before a fall into a wedding cake.
And the comedy of racism is genius comedy, Marx-Brothers-written-by-George-S.-Kaufman-level comedy, because the fall comes at once as a consequence of the pride. The racist proclaims himself superior to every member of some other race, and by that declaration proves himself a mentally inferior person, ignorant of science, deaf to morality, and monstrously ill-bred.
This is not to say that racists are not evil, or that the consequences of racism are not horrible. African slavery, the Holocaust, the various genocides in whatever corners of the world you like to mention—these are the nightmares of history. They are the work of Satan. And the proper response to Satan is laughter, because the devil’s sin is pride, which cannot abide laughter at all. That is why we celebrate Halloween: to laugh at the devil, and thus break his power over us. The same medicine that makes Satan choke is just as effective on his minions.
There are those who say there can be no funny Nazis, but they have the thing exactly backwards. There is no such thing as a Nazi who is not funny. There were, of course, many who wore the insignia of the Nazi Party who were mere time-servers, and they were as dull as time-servers everywhere; but the convinced Nazi is a buffoon exactly in proportion to his conviction.
So the proper response to racism on the Internet is for all people of good will to laugh at it, with loud and sustained laughter. It will not make the racists go away, but it will do something even better: it will make them examples for the Internet at large. It will tell the world that we have nothing to fear from monsters unless we take them seriously.