May 7, 2014

Explaining the Joke: Patton Oswalt

Recently on Twitter, Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt), unleased a string of references to deleted tweets of his, apologizing for the tasteless humor contained therein.

Cue defensive hordes of offended, lambasting Mr. Oswalt that he could be so insensitive, crass, and cowardly.

The twist? He was a ghost the whole time.


Sorry, I mean: the tweets never existed.

Oswalt was literally apologizing for nothing, making references and allusions to things that never happened. Many people caught on to the joke almost immediately, others ... well, they became punchlines in their own regards, retweeted by Oswalt himself for posterity.

So what's the take away here?

On the surface level there is the extremely low bar of having duped people on the internet. Sort of a "Ha! Made you look!" level of humor. But it goes deeper than that.

Mr. Oswalt presented a kind of Rorschach test. He tweeted unconnected blurbs: an apology and some oblique references. His followers filled in the rest. As with the famous blot test, their responses were a reflection of what was on their mind, rather than Oswalt's.

The reveal would seem to be that people are very quick to criticize someone for wrongs they know nothing about. Indeed, Oswalt did no wrongs that could have been witnessed anyone, so what were their basis for ire? Literally no one was hurt by these non-existent tweets; there couldn't have been a single person expressing direct offense at something Oswalt said.

These people were responding only to the references to the deleted tweets, drawing conclusions based in their own biases (since they had nothing else to base any conclusion on) and, in doing so, made fools of themselves.

You might say they were baited into doing so, that it wouldn't have been unreasonable to assume Mr. Oswalt was being sincere in his apologies.

Except for the fact that he is famous for his satirical bits and sense of humor. Anyone that has had even the merest glimpse of his comedy would have known what he was doing. These people are obviously not fans of Patton Oswalt and have no real claim to understanding his style of comedy. So not only were they raging about something they had no knowledge of, but were doing so against a person they didn't understand.

All in defense of a group of offended people that didn't exist.

1 comment:

Staid Winnow said...

Now I am curious as to whether he really was upset at #cancelcolbert not becoming real enough for Salon: