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article imageOp-Ed: When tasteless humor goes awry — 'The Assam Rape Festival'

By Scott Tuttle     Nov 20, 2013 in Odd News
I must confess that I have been a big fan of dark, distasteful humor all my life. It is something of a guilty pleasure for me, as it is for many people.
I've always believed, as comedian George Carlin argued years ago, that anything could potentially be made into a joke. Watching Carlin's classic comedy sketches could make anyone believe that, as he was able to bring humor to the foulest, most objectionable topics.
But the key word in point is "potentially." Not just any old person can pull off shock humor, as I recently saw for myself. It's all a matter of how you deliver the joke and to whom the joke is ultimately directed.
In a failed attempt at humor, a fake news story by a comedic website calling itself the "National Report," written by an anonymous (and best forgotten) journalist, addressed the grotesquely high prevalence of rape in the northeastern region of India. The article was apparently trying to follow in the footsteps of the Onion except with one major difference; it wasn't funny.
The article spoke of a phony annual rape festival in which the men in Assam, India competed over who could rape the most women, and the women jested of getting raped in previous years and competitions as if it were something as trivial as losing in a water balloon fight.
12-year-old Jaitashri Majumdar told reporters she almost made it through last year’s festival without getting raped. “I came so close to not getting raped. I almost got to the ‘rape-free-zone’ at the edge of town, but at the last minute 9 men jumped on me and raped me.
So why is this not funny? First of all, it's mocking the victims of a real life situation. India has one of the highest rates of reported rape in the world, and the state of Assam was ranked 2nd in the country for highest rate of crimes against women according to The Times of India. This is likely only the tip of the iceberg, as cases of rape often go unreported.
Shock humor is only funny when the people it's directed at are people who need to be brought down a peg, at least in the audience's eyes. This is why jokes about politicians are so popular. But who believes rape victims need to be brought down a peg? Nobody, and that's why nobody could possibly find something like this funny. That's why it wasn't funny.
It also wasn't funny because it was an obvious publicity stunt, much in the way of Miley Cyrus lighting a joint while accepting her MTV Europe Music Award or Chris Crocker with his ridiculous "leave Britney alone" harangue. It was clearly just a ploy to get attention and bring more traffic to its website, of which it deserves none.
The article ironically ends with a small section dedicated to helping women in India and a link to a real charity website in which the reader can donate money. This suggests that the main purpose of this article was not to simply mock rape victims, but to first inspire sympathy then provide an outlet in which the reader can donate money while still fuming about the injustice in India. If this is true, it was a noble intention, but still a poorly-executed one.
Many readers went away from the article believing that the Assam Rape Festival is real and didn't catch that the article was a joke. This has stirred mass protests against Assam.
Other readers who became too disgusted to read past the middle of the article never even made it to the charity's link and believed the article just to be a tasteless mockery of real rape victims. The point is that if you want to use journalism as a means of raising money for a charity, there are better ways to do it. These ways don't involve mocking, trivializing, or showing insensitivity to the victims, which is what this article did whether it intended to or not.
The charity linked to the article was giveindia.org. I'm providing the link here so readers who want to donate to this charity can do so without having to go to the National Report and read this horrendous article.
"The Assam Rape Festival" wasn't the only bad article on this website. In fact, all articles I happened to glance upon seemed to read like something written by a 12-year old trying really hard to be accepted by his older brother's friends who are far cooler than he is. The author(s) of this smut are clearly trying too hard to be shocking and trying too hard to be funny. As it turned out, they are neither, and their website is likely doing more harm than good.
The people responsible for "the Assam Rape Festival" and all the other garbage on the National Report have not only made a mockery of themselves, but have given the arts of journalism and comedy a bad name. They've managed to get some traffic on their website, but until they learn to be funny and engaging, which will doubtfully ever happen, they will never sustain this influx. If they were going to write something distasteful in order to bring attention to their website, they should have at least made sure that the rest of the content on their website was good first.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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