Poll Results: Can Comedy Fight Terror?

Comedian Aaron Barschak dressed as Osama Bin Laden crashed Prince William's 21st birthday party, getting past security at Windsor Castle in 2003
Comedian Aaron Barschak dressed as Osama Bin Laden crashed Prince William’s 21st birthday party, getting past security at Windsor Castle in 2003. (Photo: Bruno Vincent/Getty Images)

After late-night TV hosts and other comedians took on the New York Port Authority bomber earlier in December, we asked you if being able to make fun of terrorists gives power back to the victims and creates an infectious resilience in the population – or does it trivialize the real issues and create a false sense of security.

The attack provided fodder for The Late Show host Stephen Colbert and Comedy Central’s Jordan Klepper, both of whom used the occasion to praise the resilience of New Yorkers and poke fun at the everyday hazards of commuting through the Port Authority and the plans of the terrorist himself.

While we can assume that if there had been any serious injuries or deaths, the tone would have been more subdued (as in a spot by Late Night host Seth Meyers following the truck ramming in lower Manhattan the day of Halloween that killed eight and injured at least 11), the shows raised a question about the place of comedy in fighting terror.

Here are the results of out poll:

  • 50.2 percent agreed that comedy is a legitimate tool to fight terror
  • 49.8 percent disagreed saying comedy is not a legitimate  tool to fight terror

Here are some of the comments we received:

Yes, it helps people see the ridiculous side of radical views so they remember and reject. The promoters hate it.

Definitely raises the morale and encourages resilience.

This is sad, it normalizes terrorism, makes people numb.

Salaf/Takfiri jihadis are uber purity and reputation driven. This is one of their recruiting points. Public ridicule and humiliation for incompetence etc. can have a salutary effect, [however] it is insufficient on its own … The flip side is that the people already in, the hard core, are likely to see this as a provocation. Then again, they are likely to see any number of things as ‘legitimate’ provocations. One step back from this are the recruits who came in and are experiencing what they now realize is a ‘bait and switch’. The ridicule and humiliation may assist in a tipping point and withdrawal.

You can’t take these clowns to be serious, can you?

Comedy might make their VERY FEW fans laugh, but then it [will be] used by other terrorists to motivate each other.

It’s a legitimate. But it’s all fund and games until the big one detonates on the subway during rush hour. Should that occur, you can be sure that Colbert will drop the mask of jocularity post haste.

Colbert and Meyers are fools. Perhaps they should do skits on how the bombers family is hating the NYPD and our laws for investigating them the same way they investigate those who break the law.

Fighting fear with comedy brings out hope of conquering the fear.

Comedy will only anger the terrorists. They don’t get humor. Sure, it makes us laugh and feel not so afraid of real danger. [But] terrorists and terrorism is real. Isn’t going anywhere …. However, we cannot live in gloom and doom.

How about rape? Torture? Child molestation? Show some common sense! NO!

Anything that delegitimizes this ideology should be used.

It is not funny, it is tragedy. If any members of the comedian’s family will become the victims of a terror attack, then I wish to hear them laughing. Stupid!

Some people may like to be feared, but nobody enjoys being mocked.

Although it can be funny, I believe it numbs us against the reality of the dangers we are faicing on an almost daily basis.

There is no humor in these attacks, ever.

Comedy challenges their respect for martyrdom by seeing the public viewing them as stupid and trivial. Above all they want respect.

Laughing at the enemy’s expense is both good for the people of the country and bad for the terrorists–it takes away from their credibility, infuriates them, and makes them anxious and eventually sloppy in the execution of their next attack. All the better for us!

Trivializing murder or its attempt is tragic and scary. [Terrorism] requires a serious response not triviality.

I felt both presentations were done with appropriate sensitivity to the situations. So long as that is the case, I think humor can effectively project the seriousness of terrorist attacks.

It seems fake. Confidence is not something that helps when in the face of criminal actions like terror.

Ridicule, clear disrespect and disgust are far better than cowering and silence.

Minimizing terror will not help defeat it

 

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