When Hitler Isn’t Funny
Although I am a mad intense rap artist, by others’ accounts, I have a pretty decent sense of humor. I am even known for it on a few platforms including social media and a field that I used to have a pretty sizable following in, battle rap. Yet in spite of all that, when I received these screenshotted tweets, they didn’t jibe with my usually robust funny bone. They just kind of shit on it.
If you can’t tell, the parody account in question is a humorous combination of the names of Eurgh, the organizer of the British battle rap league, Don’t Flop, and Adolf Hitler, the organizer of the German everything horrible about humanity league, the Nazis. Now, the underlying concept here, that Eurgh is some sort of fascist maniac, isn’t what bugs me (Eurgh isn’t actually like that, for the record). It’s kind of a lazy joke, but not the real problem. The issue is the little that he wrote in particular, making light of the Holocaust to someone with deep familial ties to it.
Now, you might be thinking, “Hey, you were in all those rap battles with guys who said all sorts of heinous things about you being Jewish and about Jews in general, including awful Holocaust jokes.” Not only do I acknowledge that, but I’ll go one step further and cite that I said bad stuff about other people’s background or appearance to them in those battle, too. However, I volunteered for that, as did my opponents. Furthermore, I loathe some of the things I have said in battles, not to mention the fact that I would have never said any of the terrible shit I used against opponents OUTSIDE of a battle, nor would they do that to me.
Beyond the ethics of volunteering for a contained creative performance space where the participants consent to say offensive things to each other, there is the issue of the audience. Just because you enjoy the comedy created by a performer directly or indirectly, doesn’t always mean you get to tell the joke yourself. For instance in Chris Rock’s most famous, n-word-laden routine about different contrasting attitudes and behaviors in the Black community, it’s one thing for him to address or debate those criticisms, because its HIS community’s context, HIS community’s consequences, and HIS community’s reality, not white people’s. Cultural privilege is a very powerful thing, and if you’re NOT affected by the joke, sure, you may have the freedom to weigh in on or echo the joke, but that doesn’t mean you’re not a festering piece of shit who needlessly hurts others.
So when someone, likely not Jewish, approaches me with an anti-Semitic joke or makes light of the Holocaust in a way with no redeeming creative value or purpose, it fucks me up. It fucks me up because it seems that battling, which I quit now over 3 years ago, makes fans think I signed a contract that says that anyone who ever watched me on Youtube can disrespect me for the rest of time. It fucks me up because this isn’t a joke about something that happened 100 years ago to people I never knew. It fucks me up because my grandmother, one of the most pivotal people in my life, spent her young adulthood in the Warsaw Ghetto, and then fleeing under assumed identities until the end of World War II, always under the imminent threat of capture and death, because most of her family was either carted away for slaughter or rounded up and shot like dogs. It fucks me up because her surviving family and friends from those days, the really beautiful old souls that I grew up around, were so strong, so full of love, that their sole concern in life was to imbue every moment I had with joy, fulfillment, safety, generally the absolute opposite of the constant peril, want, and uncertainty that they endured for years.
It fucks me up because my real name is Noah, not after some stupid myth about a guy with a big boat, but after my grandma’s brother whom I only knew as a tragedy, one of so many that my grandmother carried in her heart for over 60 years before she passed away. I know that to some, the solution is to “not let it get to me” or “it’s the internet,” but as life increasingly depends on the internet, the two modes of discourse and existence are not divisible. To me, as someone who semi-professionally offended people for a few years, it seems entirely easier and, more importantly, the ethical responsibility of others to simply not make jokes out of pain to which they have no connection.
Maybe this seems like an excessive response, or like I’m letting the trolls win, but I’d like to think that part of my obligation is to remind the audience aka y’all, that if you are willing to shout down the bullshit, to not laugh when the hurt outweighs the comedy, then maybe you can help undermine the sheer fuckery that people anonymously inflict online. I know that a lot of folks know who I am, but I’m not some kind of unapproachable, industry-manufactured, PR-manicured, rich celebrity. I’m just struggling to make something out of music that lasts and helps people. No matter how successful I become, I will never stop being human, and while some things about me are sound, even welcome targets of mockery, the very real, harrowing history of the people who raised me is not one of them. Peace.