Keep calm and carry on

10 Aug

Well, I thought it was harmless enough.

But sometimes even the most innocuous jokes are taken poorly. As my tweet spread, I became inundated with @-replies that ranged from mild frustration (“poor taste”) to rage and even a couple of death threats. (My first!) Oh, sure, plenty of people seemed to like the joke, too—and I imagine those that retweeted it, for the most part, understood its tone. But for every positive comment I got, there were ten more iterations of “twat,” “wanker,” “cunt,” “kike,” and “knob jockey.” That last one is the most adorable euphemism for gay I’ve ever heard, so by all means, slur away!

I was overwhelmed by the response—and also really surprised. What about my tweet was actually offensive? Yeah, if you take it literally, it’s an indictment of the English people, but why would anyone take umbrage at another country’s prompt clean-up efforts? As I explained in subsequent tweets—which I’m certain few of the furious masses read—it’s more of a joke about American inactivity and ignorance (particularly about the UK). Of course I don’t think that being quaint and proper are universal English characteristics, or that community action is worthy of criticism. I’m frankly astounded anyone could take it otherwise.

I think there are valid reasons to criticize me for writing that. The riots are taking a serious toll on the country, and it is, for some, “too soon” to joke about them. Fine. But to the slew of people who responded, “We’re cleaning up because we care about our community,” I have to ask, are you fucking kidding me? Of course I understand. Of course I sympathize and admire your efforts. I’d argue that the very stereotype I was lampooning, the “quaint and proper” Englishman, comes from a positive quality many British people do possess—that is, the ability to “keep calm and carry on.” This is not a bad thing.

And then there were the responses that compared the riots to September 11th and Hurricane Katrina. I’m not going to touch that, insofar as I’m not a fan of ranking tragedies. I will say that it strikes me as ass-backwards to suggest a rather tame joke is on par with making light of the deaths of thousands. Which is not to say that comedians haven’t made jokes about 9/11 and Katrina—because plenty have, and often. But the type of humor I was employing is, in my mind, a different animal entirely.

At this point, I have to address what many of you may be wondering—is this entire post just a humblebrag? I won’t deny that I enjoyed the attention I got yesterday: no tweet I’ve written has ever spread so far and so fast. That having been said, I don’t relish being called names, or threatened with violence. And I get no satisfaction from offending people. Now, I didn’t lose (much) sleep over yesterday’s outrage, because I stand behind my joke, and even elaborated it to diminish its potential for being misunderstood. Still, I don’t want attention for being a wanker. (Maybe for being a knob jockey. Aw, knob jockey.)

I’ll also admit I got twitchy at the number of tweets calling me ugly. But then I reminded myself that my avatar isn’t exactly flattering, and I am too adorable to be this insecure.

As always, this experience has reminded me about the downside of exposure. The more people you reach, the more people you can piss off. Someone is always going to be offended, whether for reasons rational or not. Someone else is always going to try to tear you down, perhaps just for the hell of it. I have written before about my need to develop a thicker skin, and I think yesterday’s onslaught of negativity was good exposure therapy. It’s not that I’m past taking harsh words to heart—I’m just learning to appreciate them for what they are.

I understand my humor. I know my heart is in the right place. And I know the people who matter don’t think I’m a soulless monster who deserves to have his house burned down. So it’s here that I note my explanation and reflection on the events do not mean I regret anything. I’m doing something that doesn’t come naturally to me—not apologizing.

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27 Responses to “Keep calm and carry on”

  1. veracityspillsVeracity August 10, 2011 at 3:54 pm #

    I am adopting the word “knob jockey” and using it from now on. Thanks knob jockey!

  2. yoyoha August 10, 2011 at 3:55 pm #

    Kudos Louis! The fact so many people were ‘intrigued’ by your tweet is a testament to the tweet itself and the mind behind it. Anger and frustration are always looking for other avenues to tread, so an American knob jockey is as good as any I suppose. I know your heart remains in the right place. Well done Louis, well done. – yoyoha

    • loula August 15, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

      Dear me!

  3. Miah Saint (@MiahSaint) August 10, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

    Good for you, you poncing little knob jockey.

    • loula August 15, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

      Poncing means to get something that you want by asking someone else for it instead of providing it or paying for it yourself. I’m confused? Didn’t find any evidence of poncing in the above “Keep calm and carry on” or past tweets, Couldn’t comment on whether Knob jockey applies

  4. Mark Leggett (@markleggett) August 10, 2011 at 4:42 pm #

    Burn in Hell Louis Peitzman.

    • loula August 15, 2011 at 4:37 pm #

      A little excessive but so much better than “Kudos”

  5. Mary Kay August 10, 2011 at 11:01 pm #

    Good for you! I, too, was astonished at the number of people who answered earnestly, but even more gobsmacked (see what I did there? I am so NOT British) at the epithets flung at you. It’s shocking to me (though perhaps it shouldn’t be) that, when angered, so many people went straight to “ugly,” “kike,” or “knob jockey.” (However, not a whisper of “faggot” that I saw– did that bit of hateful speech fall out of favor while I wasn’t looking?)

    Anyway– good for you. I have a policy of never apologizing if I’m not really sorry, and I’m glad you took that tack.

    • loula August 15, 2011 at 4:45 pm #

      True, you are “so NOT British”; “faggot” is an American expression

  6. Tara August 11, 2011 at 3:35 am #

    I love being quaint and proper….except when calling people knob jockeys.
    I absolutely can’t see what the problem was, keep it up I say.

    • loula August 15, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

      Jolly good show

  7. Kirrus August 11, 2011 at 8:03 am #

    Ignore the idiots. Some of us Englishmen found your tweet quite amusing. 🙂

    • Emma20 August 11, 2011 at 1:01 pm #

      I thought it was funny too and I’m English. I’m actually slightly more shocked by the response you got from my fellow countrymen (the great big galloping knob jockeys) than I was by the riots.

      • loula August 15, 2011 at 4:54 pm #

        Shocked re response, really? What part of England are you from, the Cotswolds?

  8. Saz August 11, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    I am an Englishwoman, living in Liverpool, quite close to where a lot of the rioting in our area took place. I was having a medicinal glass of Pinot Grigio when I saw your tweet and I guffawed so hard that wine came out of my nose. Maybe it’s because I am married to an American that I revel in the ‘quaint English’ tag, or maybe it’s because we were all full of so much tension from the rioting sewer-rats destroying our community, that I thought your tweet was a little ray of humorous sunshine. I think you’re ace.

  9. Bird August 12, 2011 at 4:09 am #

    Well crafted, funny and delivered with great timing. In short a great joke, almost as good as an English one.

    I can’t believe you’ve had a bad response to this, it certainly brightened up a gloomy evening for me. A bit of affectionate ribbing only reinforces a stiff upper lip.

    You’re a witty and astonishingly handsome man and you’re right not to apologise.

  10. loula fey August 14, 2011 at 1:55 am #

    you sneakily sidestepped your comment about the British not being educated enough to know the difference between your and you’re? We don’t mind quaint just cant take dumb

    • Louis Peitzman August 14, 2011 at 9:10 am #

      Seriously? I didn’t “sneakily sidestep” anything. I also didn’t talk about the two tweets I wrote explaining the joke. More to the point, the “your”/”you’re” tweet was a product of my frustration after already getting so many angry replies of, “Your a twat” or “See what happens when it’s you’re country.” It’s a pretty big leap to infer my meaning as, “the British not being educated enough”—especially when so many Americans would make the same mistake.

      On the other hand, yes, a snarky comment doesn’t exactly smooth things over. But given that almost all of the responses I got were to the original tweet, I don’t think the majority of angry tweeters bothered reading the rest of my timeline.

      • loula August 15, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

        Maybe it was the words “a lot of you Brits” that came in the same sentence that led me to make such a giant leap.

        Actually liked the “quaint” comment, found it amusing, this was what made me read on.

        The “Your”/”You’re” tweet was obviously going to aggravate, as well as further encourage angered Brits to think up diverse ways of using either your or you’re, or both, in increasingly insulting tweets. It felt like we had been set a test

      • Louis Peitzman August 15, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

        Fair enough. In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t tweeted that, though I still think most of the angry comments I got came from people who hadn’t read my other tweets.

  11. Emma20 August 15, 2011 at 12:31 am #

    Louis, I’m with you on the collapse of the apostrophe in England. Our teachers gave up teaching punctuation 20 years ago, and it is rare to find anyone, even a university graduate, under the age of 30 who understands its correct use. We have a generation who don’t understand the difference between “your” and “you’re”, or “its” and “it’s”.

    It makes me so angry I could twat a copper.

    • loula August 15, 2011 at 5:06 pm #

      Emma20 – Vagina a policeman? You are from the Cotswolds

      • Emma20 August 16, 2011 at 1:13 am #

        How very dare you. As a mackem, the closest I ever come to the Cotswolds is listening to the The Archers.

  12. loula August 15, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

    Never underestimate the height of bitter indignation that can be reached when the British are insulted re punctuation.

    • Emma20 August 16, 2011 at 1:16 am #

      … or it is suggested that they hail from the Cotswolds.

      • loula August 16, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

        Emma20.

        They should never have killed off Nigel; he was the only straight gay in the village.

        OK calling you a Cotswoldian was a little high handed

  13. Satan August 15, 2011 at 9:00 pm #

    well i did think the joke was funny! of course, i’m naturally inclined to make fun of americans before anyone else, so maybe that helps?

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