The Tribunal Eats One More of Its Own

What do you do with an old dog who can’t be taught new tricks? If you are the progressive leftist tribunal, and he’s your old dog, then you eat him as a warning to other old dogs. Such is the fate of horribly unfunny but absurdly successful milquetoast comedian Jay Leno, the man who inherited Johnny Carson’s coveted role as host of The Tonight Show.

For decades, we have watched the gradual (aka “progressive”) annihilation of free thought and open discussion by neo-Marxist totalitarians hiding behind a theoretical mask of “cultural sensitivity.” In recent years, however, apparently smelling the last drops of liberty’s blood, the tyrannical tribunal is positively swarming for carrion, as though desperate for their last meal, like mutts fighting for scraps at a garbage dump. And as is customary in the late stages of Marxism’s practical devolution, the mutts are now, increasingly, turning against their old allies and enablers in a feverish quest for ideological purity, i.e., the merciless silencing of all thought and speech not perfectly in line with this month’s collectivist totalitarian moral morass of convenience.

And it’s funny we’re talking about eating dogs — as Leno might say in one of his hackneyed Vegas-style routines — since I was just at a Korean restaurant, and….

But in all seriousness folks, and this really is getting serious, in the “First they came for the socialists” sense of the word, Leno has suddenly gotten himself hauled up before the Marxist tribunal for the most trivial and innocuous example of old-fashioned “ethnic humor.” Specifically, during a recording of one of those worthless American “talent shows,” he apparently remarked that some dogs in a photograph reminded him of something you would see on the menu at a Korean restaurant. Needless to say, this remark, which was (of course) edited out of the program, has organizations with pretentious and self-important names like Asian Americans Advancing Justice and Media Action Network for Asian Americans calling for Leno’s head on a platter.

This kind of joke is “so toxic because it is intended to minimize a community and somehow make that community seem less civilized,” claims a spokesman for one of those self-importantly named groups.

Is it? How does that progressive attack dog from Asian Americans Advancing Justice know what Leno’s intention was in telling the joke? And why does joking about cultural differences that seem peculiar to those not from the same culture necessarily constitute “minimizing” anyone, or fostering the idea that others are “less civilized”? If one happens to think eating dogmeat is uncivilized, then one might think this Korean cultural habit is indeed evidence of incivility. If, on the other hand, one does not harbor any special reservations about which animals people use for food, then why should Leno’s joke have the effect of making Koreans seem less civilized? In the latter case, Leno’s remark would be, at best, a playful joke about a peculiar cultural difference, but a joke without any particularly nasty overtones. That perception is entirely up to the individual audience member, isn’t it?

And more to the point, if you don’t like Leno’s style of humor, then you have a simple option: Don’t listen to him. That Leno, or anyone else who says something like this, deserves to be hitched to a social justice pickup truck and dragged around the town for a public shaming session due to the incorrect thoughts in his mind, and the alleged immorality of expressing such obsolete and “regressive” views, says far more about the self-righteous and essentially totalitarian mind of the Marxist tribunal than it says about either the evils of corny ethnic humor or the dignity of Korean culture.

And what it says, above all, is that these phony, self-appointed representatives of Asian-American “justice” are really just typical progressive weaklings, hopelessly bloated with repressed self-doubt that spews out of their seams at the least provocation in the form of indignation, which is to say that they get angry when someone dares to mention a fact that, contrary to all their attempts to mask this from themselves with outwardly-directed outrage and hatred, actually makes them feel awkward and uncomfortable about their own “community.”

A digression on indignation — a widely and conveniently misunderstood concept. During my first year in Korea, my wife and I took a taxi ride with a Korean colleague. The driver joked to our colleague — who immediately translated the comment to us as though it were very funny — that he was shocked to meet us, as he had previously thought all Western people were fat. I remember being annoyed and offended at the presumptuousness of this stranger flinging such a “cultural stereotype” at his guests and customers, and also at our coworker for failing to notice the insulting condescension of the remark. (Of course, I never thought for one second that this taxi driver should lose his livelihood or be publicly vilified or “outed” for his insensitive remark.) And yet, if I am completely honest, I have to confess that having lived in Asia for a while, one of my first thoughts every time I arrive back at any North American airport is, “My god, everybody’s fat!”

Another example. During my Korean life, many colleagues and students, learning that I am from Canada, feel an urge to ask me about the widespread, and now legal, marijuana use in my home country. Recreational (and non-alcoholic) drug use remains very rare and socially frowned upon here, and Koreans who have not spent much time abroad are often inclined to overgeneralize and oversimplify the behaviors and attitudes of “foreigners,” as most humans do. Thus, they often assume that a behavior that is famously common in another country must be universal, and hence that of course I, as a Canadian, must be an experienced dope smoker with fascinating stories to tell. They are frequently disappointed, and even a little skeptical, when I tell them that while many Canadians use drugs, the practice is far from universal, and furthermore that I myself have never so much as tried even one puff. These encounters used to make me uncomfortable, as though these people thought I must be a druggie or associated with loafers and ne’er-do-wells, merely because I am white. But of course I know that their overgeneralized perception of Canadians as pot-smoking transgender activists has more than a grain of truth in it, and that I myself am terminally offended by my home country’s disintegration into a haven of irrational self-indulgence and progressive radicalism.

Thus, in the Leno case, rather than apologizing to, or tiptoeing around, these moral infants and over-educated tyrannical souls with their tribunal shaming practices, we ought instead to confront them with this question: “What is it about Jay Leno’s reference to Koreans eating dogmeat that makes you so uncomfortable?”

Because at the heart of all this self-protective outrage and indignation, the central fact that these cultural justice warriors are hoping to obscure, and that makes nonsense of all their allegations that Leno’s joke minimizes or de-civilizes the Korean people, is that the joke is based on a simple and verifiable truth: Koreans, unlike Western people, do indeed eat dog.

Yes, they really eat dogs, typically in soup. And the Koreans who eat dogmeat are not merely a few ancient holdovers from the third world days of Korea’s post-war poverty. Though the practice has become less prevalent in recent years for a variety of reasons, including the increased interaction with mainstream Western society and norms, and the increasingly common perception, in wealthy, modern Korea, of dogs as family pets (rather than merely as guard animals or food), it is still far from strange to meet people who have eaten dog soup, and even some who eat it fairly regularly.

And we are not talking about uncivilized hicks from the sticks or people stuck in the ways of ancient paganism. I have lived in Korea for almost thirteen years. Most of my acquaintances and friends here are university-educated, middle class city dwellers with high speed internet — and you have to come to Korea to find out what “high speed internet” means — and all the latest gadgets and info-entertainment trends at their fingertips. Among them are many people who eat dog, and nevertheless seem no less “civilized” to me for having done so.

I was recently asked to serve as officiant at the wedding of a former student. I wrote my speech in English, and it was translated into Korean (to be displayed on a screen at the wedding hall) by a mutual friend and former graduate student of mine, with some assistance from her husband — who happens to be both the pastor at a local Christian church and an aficionado of dog soup.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have had the opportunity to renew contact with a former student and teaching assistant of mine, an extremely devout Christian who has lately been struggling with certain issues of biblical interpretation and the relationship between reason and faith. In recent days, we have been engaged in a lengthy and robust e-mail discussion about the etymological and theoretical roots of the terms “soul” and “mind,” the uses of “heart” and “spirit” in the Bible, and the nuances of the Greek word logos, as used in the famous opening of St. John’s gospel, “In the beginning, there was the Logos….” This young woman grew up eating dogmeat every summer with her parents, as it is traditionally thought to be good for digestion.

For what it’s worth, I have never eaten dog in Korea, just as I never smoked dope growing up in Canada. I have almost as little urge to eat an animal that I have always perceived as a family pet as I have to turn my mind and character into mush merely because “everyone else is doing it.” Between the two practices, dogmeat makes a lot more sense to me, and if I were ever forced to choose one of the two, I would certainly eat dog soup rather than smoke dope. I have seen what eating dog and using recreational marijuana do to the “civilized” intelligence of many people I know well — nothing and severe damage, respectively — so the choice would not be difficult. 

The upshot of all this, then, is straightforward. Jay Leno made the kind of simple “ethnic differences” joke that people used to think was just part of having fun within one’s own tribe, and also potentially a way of getting along with other tribes, by reducing cultural divides to fodder for playful mockery rather than the fuel of serious intolerance. There is absolutely nothing wrong, let alone unacceptable, about his Korean menu joke, because not only does it imply no meaningful rebuke of Korean society, but it is merely an allusion to a true and well-known oddity about Korean life.

Leno is factually correct. A picture of dogs does indeed look like something you might see on the menu at some (relatively rare these days) Korean restaurants. If that fact makes Leno and his audience laugh, that’s their business. And if it makes some self-righteous progressive snobs feel uncomfortable or “triggered,” then that’s their problem. Until, that is, we arrive at a time like the present, when people of their tyrannically-minded sort gain access to the levers of power, and decide to grant themselves the authority (the “right,” as they see it) to coerce other people into telling or laughing at only the kind of jokes they approve of.

And we won’t even get into the favorite traditional snack food of Korean children, namely silkworm larvae. (I have never been inclined to sample that either, for slightly different reasons.)

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