What does it mean when genocide becomes a punch line? Lately, we’ve had a bunch of opportunities to find out. Example 1: Monday’s Attack of the Show starts off funny enough, as an unsuspecting gummy bear is dumped into potassium chloride and an impressive chemical reaction follows. Jokes all around. “We can hear your screams.” And, honestly, the gurgling in the video doesn’t sound too far from it. Giggles.
Then it gets interesting. Host Kevin Pereira goes on about powering cars with the chemical reaction: “Screw the Prius, why can’t I run my car on that?” [more banter] “Running your car on gummy bears would be just like, well, genocide.” Uhm. Still funny, or did we just get a little sick?
Want more? Have a look at the review of Lost Planet in February’s Wired:
In the opening scenes of the gorgeous sci-fi actioner, a green-eyed alien or some such has killed your father and you’re ticked off about it. Vent your wrath by going genocidal on an army of insectoids straight out of Starship Troopers.
I know it’s supposed to be tongue-in-cheek. Hell, maybe it’s a coping strategy. Still, I can’t seem to find the word genocide amusing in any context. And I find it particularly sickening considering there’s a genocide going on this instant. Not to mention all those in recent memory: Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo.
Let’s be clear: these are largely good folks. (Any channel that shows Ninja Warrior can’t be all bad, for instance.) Being a tech person myself, I typically find the folks in my field more thoughtful than most. Still, when I hear talk like this, it really makes me wonder if we are quite as in touch with the difficult things that are happening in the world as we should be.
And, to some degree, we should be thankful for that. Most of us don’t have contact with genocide beyond the headlines. But imagine how those who aren’t so lucky might feel on hearing it used as a punchline. Every once in a while, we need a reminder.
So, that’s how I spent my Fourth of July. Giving thanks that we are to live in a country where large scale horror doesn’t visit us daily. And remembering that we need to do more to change things for those who don’t share our fortune.