e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu


community standards

The WPA listerv (for anybody out there who doesn't know--an email discussion list for people who direct college writing programs and, more broadly, for anybody who teaches writing at the college level) is busy with messages in which people share their "Palin" names. Apparently, there's a website where you type in your name and the site spits a "Palin" name at you. "Boulder Hockeypuck." "Igloo Moosehunt." And so on. Wacky web fun, I guess. So far only one person has complained that the political discussion veers too far from the focus of the list; I suspect more complaints will follow.

I don't find the "Palin Name Generator" offensive per se. Sure, the site jabs at the names of the candidate's children. And yes, it's another example of the non-sequitor, cultural dismissal of Palin's leisure/lifestyle/personal affinities/geographical affiliation. But offensive? Probably not. Off topic? Who cares?

Still, the whole discussion seems like an interesting articulation of community standards. The "Palin Name Generator" strikes me as a safe, middle-of-the-road kind of humor. Not too edgy. Not too biting. And if there's an implicit politics behind the site and the listserv discussion, it's a moderate-to-liberal politics. Safe.

But for the sake of argument, here's a hypothetical. What if the site poked fun at the Afrocentric names of the children of an African-American public figure? Would the site still be funny? Would the sharing of those "funny" names still meet the community standards of a moderate-to-liberal discussion site?


Anonymous said...

I put in a bit of a protest even before you did, Bill. For some reason, though, nobody wanted to play with the Barack Obama platitude generator I offered up.

Not much of a shock, and I'm still fond of "Comma Liberty," in any case.

bonnie lenore kyburz said...

those are good questions, Bill. but i want to offer that the Palin Name Generator pokes fun not only at Palin's hobbies and whatnot but also and maybe especially at her politics and the policy moves she's both made in the past and promised for the future. for my $, policy is not at all off limits. still, in a political climate in which even Republicans (sorry, but . . .) (!) are expressing outrage over what they are fashioning as "sexism," one can't be too careful :)

bdegenaro said...

Bonnie: Very good points. I agree that policy is definitely not off limits. Neither are satirical looks at Palin's life for that matter. I definitely am not saying I think we need to "be more careful." I'm interested (and, I suppose, worried) though in how very moderate versions of irreverence distract from bigger concerns. During the '00 election, Saturday Night Live did a lot to construct our collective impression of W: language bumbler, slacker, frat boy, etc. When we make those associations, we avoid other associations. W as a passive goofus instead of W as an exec who has quite affirmatively/actively pushed doctrine reversing literally centuries of norms of just war theory, for instance (jeesh, can you tell I went to a Jesuit school?!). Similarly, Palin as NRA member and outdoorsy type instead of Palin as a significant threat to civil liberties and diplomatic approaches to foriegn policy.

bdegenaro said...

Anonymous: I guess I'd say I'm not really protesting, just saying that the "for some reason" in your response is telling. WHY did nobody bite on the Obama platitude generator? WHY did dozens of folks bite on the Palin name generator? Such things say something about group norms. Thanks for commenting!