“COLLEGE STUDENTS DON’T WANT TO HIRE RACIST OR HOMOPHOBIC COMEDIANS. WHY IS THAT A PROBLEM, EXACTLY?”

“What all these complaints have in common is the belief that as college students seek to create a campus environment that’s safe for people of all ethnicities, backgrounds, and gender and sexual identities, they are repressing creativity and free expression. Is it true, though? That answer depends on whom you think is being repressed…

Were I to summarize it in one phrase, the students’ guidelines for comedians would probably be, “Don’t punch down.” That seems like a great idea in all settings and situations. Screening out comedians who make rape jokes and gay jokes seems like a good thing to me — and likely to millions of college students. Like all writers who make this case, Flanagan seems unwilling to accept that the goals students seek might be worth the boundaries they set. Personally, I find it easy to believe that a comedy act free of sexism, racism, and anti-queer jokes would be an improvement over the status quo…

A show where an angry white guy says everything that crosses his mind — and makes other white guys laugh while everyone else pretends not to be offended — was the law of the land for a long time. Now that those comedians are being told their services aren’t wanted, we’re hearing from them in an uproar…

What the Atlantic article fails to note in all its handwringing is that this shifting culture has led to a renaissance of comics who earn laughs while punching up.”

As she points out at the end, this is about people being able to set boundaries for themselves, the way you might set boundaries with an intrusive friend. Or, even simpler, the way you are allowed to lock your dog out of your bedroom so that you can sleep, even if the dog really wants to sleep in your bed.

It sometimes feels like these comedians and various creators-of-media are saying “I want to follow you around all day and say whatever I want to you and it’s a violation of my basic human rights that you won’t let me”. It feels like there is a group of people who think they are entitled to my attention, and who think they are allowed to decide when their words are going to hurt me and when their words are going to make me happy. There is this assumption that they know me better than I know myself. It gets insidious and gross feeling pretty fast.

Related: Free speech isn’t free; “Why I Stand Up to Politically Incorrect Jokes

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