Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Pike Pepper Spray Meme: Pros and Cons

As the Huffington Post noted last week, John Pike's pepper spraying of UC Davis students has become a massive meme of Internet ridicule.   Jeanne Moos's CNN piece yesterday had some truly funny examples, my favorite probably being Pike as the cause of John Boehner's tears.

But I admit to having mixed emotions about this meme.  On the one hand, Pike's act of casual depravity - pepper spraying non-violent students like "he was watering a garden," as Sharon Osbourne aptly put it  - is deserving of all the cleansing ridicule the creative among us can bestow upon it.  Humor is a good way of diffusing cultural pain, of sublimating the fury we feel at Pike's nonchalant cruelty, as per Freud.

On the other hand, maybe we don't want our anger sublimated all that much.   Pike assaulted those students, plain and simple.  He committed a crime that warrants not only conviction and punishment - as in jail - but maximum publicity in its raw form, to serve as a warning and reminder to other police officers to control themselves when they are attempting to control groups of people.  All of that is no laughing matter.

Still, there is a healing quality in humor, in laughing at Pike's vent from hell aimed at everything from Mount Rushmore to the Beatles to Bambi.  My other favorite is Pike showing up in prehistoric cave art - Pike as the demon of authoritarian violence which has beset our species from the beginning - and here's a shout-out to James McGrath's contribution (James' comment on my blog post here yesterday got me thinking about this).

Occupy Wall Street Chronicles, Part 1

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