Why is discrimination funny on the internet?

 

The Internet. Home of amazing ideas like crowd funding, putting world leaders on YouTube, and of course, blogging.
But the internet also harbours some pretty creepy to downright not-effing-okay-ever stuff. To realise the volume of stuff, just one topic on a couple of specific sites, check out nohomophobes.com, a site which tracks, tallies and shames the use of particular homophobic language on twitter and Facebook.
Unfortunately, jokes at the expense of immigrants, LGBT*, non-white, or really any minority people are only a Google search away (I don’t recommend you try this, it might break you).
Ok, so the internet provides spaces for all sorts of people to find other people with similar views to them. However, I think it’s more than this. I think people who aren’t particularly political or educated, either/or, for whatever reason, fall into the trap of laughing at and perpetuating culture online that they would object to or at least avoid offline, in their everyday lives.
I have a couple of theories as to why this might take place.
The internet is often most attractive to individuals who feel disempowered. It is anonymous, and there will always be someone to gratify something you post, or people who agree with things you do. Anyone can feel welcome somewhere. So, those who feel so disempowered are able to perpetuate things anonymously. But why would they, these otherwise-okay people? Schadenfreude? Anger management? All possible, and also a sense of rebellion against social norms.
There’s also the old adage “if you didn’t laugh, you’d cry”. Do those of us who feel impotent against negative forces in our lives become so accustomed to laughing off their existence that it becomes a normalised defence mechanism?
The suggestion has also been made to me by a serial YouTuber and meme fanatic that stereotypes become independent entities in a similar non-nonsensical style to meme culture, and so lose any cultural significance in relation to the real world, or can seem to.

Finally, the overwhelming opinion keeps rearing its head: without any potential punishment, the social contract breaks down and on the internet the life of man becomes solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short once again. Is the internet in fact revealing the human nature we have fought centuries to civilise out of ourselves? Are we tired of being considerate? Or is it really just that this stuff is like a magnet for troubled souls, which highlights issues that haunt our society, too hard to heal as quickly as they can be abused.

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