2012-01-26 / Editorial

Scattering Seeds

BY JOHN A. MURPHY

After his retirement, Winston Churchill was cruising the Mediterranean on an Italian cruise liner, when some Italian journalists asked him why a former British prime minister would choose an Italian ship. Churchill replied, “There are three things I like about being on an Italian cruise ship. First, their cuisine is unsurpassed. Second, their service is superb. And then, in time of emergency, there is none of this nonsense about women and infants first.”

This tale, currently circulating on the Internet, probably was never uttered by Winston Churchill. It comes from the Italian wing of the underground library of bad jokes and poor humor, which features some notable references to Alitalia.

Why is humor taken at the expense of an ethnic or religious group rightfully considered to be in poor taste? One reason may be that it is a form of bullying. It certainly violates the Golden Rule. Even though many might consider the transgression to be harmless, jokes based upon ethnic stereotypes almost always cause some pain, and almost always are directed at a minority group which has suffered a history of discrimination.

Old jokes and stories are being given new life through circulation on the Internet. Often recipients are unable to distinguish fact from fiction, and pass along many a scurrilous tale, attributing to a respected source a less-than-elevating diatribe.

When in doubt, don’t circulate an attachment until you have checked it out on the information-packed website that identifies urban myths, Snopes.com.

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