Profanity and punches

Updated 6/22/2020 10:04 AM

In "Your Views" recently, Joseph O'Leary asked if Mayor Lightfoot's apparently profanity-laced rants were not hypocritical in light of her punishing a police officer who made obscene gestures at protesters.

Let me make an observation and perhaps Mr. O'Leary will see it slightly differently.


Among comedians, there are important concepts of "punching up" and "punching down" that resonate with people. It happens in all walks of life, if you pay close attention.

Lenny Bruce and George Carlin are revered for poking fun at the powers that be -- showing where the powerful are craven, corrupt or make bad decisions. That's punching up.

Andrew Dice Clay (remember him?), after years of rehabilitating his image, is still given mixed reviews at best. Why? The targets of his humor were more often than not women and gays. At least in 1980s social strata, that was punching down.

This same thing happens in schools and workplaces. Bullies are not respected.

A mayor using a profanity toward a president might be bad form, but it is far different from a police officer signaling the same to protesters. The policeman is in a position of power and he's signaling something powerful, not just coarse.

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I hope this helps.

Patrick Dickson


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