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Viral Local News Celebrities: Are We Laughing with or Laughing at?

Last posted May 12, 2013 at 09:31PM EDT. Added May 09, 2013 at 01:39AM EDT
26 posts from 20 users



So Charley Ramsey is the next Sweet Brown and Antoine Dodson, but not without some troubling implications, as The Atlantic (Charles Ramsey is an Internet Hero for All The Wrong Reasons), Slate (The Troubling Trend of the “Hilarious” Black Neighbor), NPR (Are We Laughing with Charles Ramsey?), ThinkProgress (What The Internet Fame of Cleveland Hero Ramsey Tells Us About Race, Trust and Community) and others. Here are some common points made by these articles:


  • It is unsettling that Ramsey’s heroism and fame may be making light of a somber situation.
  • Charles Ramsey is a hero.
  • It could very well be the case that racist humor is at play in some communities.


    Now, let’s talk about some really awesome, generally likable qualities about Ramsey the man:
  • natural ease with storytelling
  • habitual use of the word bro


and to top that off, he ends on a striking note of what can be best described as real and funny, reflecting the reality of racial segregation in Cleveland.

So is it possible that Charles Ramsey, like many others who came before, is being genuinely appreciated for his expressive language and natural ease in storytelling? Or is this some post-racist BS and should we think twice about sharing this on Facebook? Discuss.

Last edited May 10, 2013 at 02:57AM EDT
May 09, 2013 at 01:39AM EDT
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Haven’t been able to watch the video yet so my opinion might be moot, but it seems like we’ll be going through the same cycle over and over, an easily mock-able / parody-able figure made viral through a video makes the rounds, with the endless same image macros, remixes and jokes made.

The internet doesn’t like to focus on the implications of serious events, for the most part. They’ll focus on the elements that make him more entertaining at a glance, whether it be race, gender, age or any other factor without any deep or meaningful thought behind it. “If it makes them more entertaining to the masses, do whatever” is the internet’s attitude.

In this particular case, I think there’s been an even split on content created that’s laughing with and laughing at. Although it is reassuring to see more people than ever perceptive of the blatant racism of some.

One day we might break out of cyclical nature of viral events of this type, with hopefully more people realizing they’re being fed the same old horse-beaten jokes but in different forms. Until that day…

May 09, 2013 at 02:36AM EDT
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Can’t someone have an enjoyable demeanor and way of speaking without it being a conspiracy or controversy?

May 09, 2013 at 02:37AM EDT
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Always a good topic. I made a thread similar to this a long time ago (without specific focus on racial issues, which are of course quite real) which was much less interesting than the survey on the topic that went with it. In the interest of furthering Internet science, I’d ask people to take the survey, and I’ll try to dig up the link to the results which I’ll put in another post.

May 09, 2013 at 02:40AM EDT
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@Akimbo Trolls

+1

Exactly what I was thinking. Brad, all those places you menti---no, just ANY journalistic organization makes their living off over-analyzing things and trying to spark controversy where none really exists.

CNN, for the past 3 or 4 days has been OBSESSIVELY going over this whole “politician weight loss surgery” thing. Bringing in analysts, dedicating gruelingly long segments to it. I can only sit there with my eyes wide open going “why in the flying fuck does anyone care about this!?”

If you ask me, the extreme over-analysis of this topic is far more racist than the media going viral.

May 09, 2013 at 02:47AM EDT

I love him because he took action when so many would falter. His race does not enter into my thinking.

As for his treatment of his interview, humor is an effective means of dealing with stress. He was joking to defuse his own stress.

Last edited May 09, 2013 at 05:58AM EDT
May 09, 2013 at 05:55AM EDT
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@Akimbo Trolls & Beta_Carotene:

I understand your dislike for the question, but I think there are good reasons for it nonetheless.

First, regarding my understanding, I would note that on a larger scale, it often seems that the person crying “offensive!” is someone other than the person who is supposedly being offended. I myself don’t like to use the term “American” to describe a person from the U.S., since Canadians, Mexicans, Brazilians, Argentinians, etc. are also “Americans”, but honestly, people in all those countries refer to us as “Americans” anyway, so I do know it’s largely silly. Often these things have no practical significance until one starts nitpicking.

BUT! Memetics is largely a sociological topic of study, and so as much as sociology is important to anyone (YMMV), memes give sociologists a sort of window into the culture as a whole. When a random person in society somehow rises to celebrity status through a meme or viral video, one can always ask what role their ethnicity or gender may have played, because that is a sociological issue.

Consider this*: The Advice Animal entry has 89 “sub-entries”, and only about 28 of them are actually animals, the rest of course being mostly people. Going by census data, if those people were representative of the U.S. population, there should be about three Asians, eight blacks, and 43 whites. Instead, there are three, three, and 52 respectively. Asians seem to be proportionately represented, but two of those three are memes that play off of Asian stereotypes, as are two of the three Blacks. How many of the 49 whites serve to play off of white stereotypes? Two. Furthermore, there should be about 30 women, but there are 14, four of which are there for gender stereotype jokes. (About five of the 46 males are for male-stereotyping humor of some sort.)

So what does all that mean? It could indicate that memes show Internet culture’s inherent bigotry, or conversely its ability to show power over outmoded racist and sexist concepts through ridicule. At the very least, it shows that there are people (namely me) who still show interest in “extreme over-analysis of this topic” because the question nonetheless can’t help but be valid.

*The numbers in this paragraph may be off due to sloppy counting and subjectivity.

May 09, 2013 at 06:36AM EDT
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I had hoped my fears (and that of many other netizens) were unfounded when “Kabooyow!” became a fad, but I’m afraid that Ramsey is the harbinger of black people becoming memes for saying something funny on the news.
Ramsey did something noble, and he seems genuine, but I’m afraid black people on the news will actually intentionally overreact to something in an attempt to garner infamy.

May 09, 2013 at 07:36AM EDT
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The racial implications of this are indeed unsettling. Race, whether you like it or not, will be noticed (even moreso if you’re not white). When you compare Antoine Dodson, Sweet Brown, and now, Charles Ramsey to white people who gain internet notoriety from acting nobly and then responding ridiculously afterwards, like George Lindel (Reality Hits You Hard, Bro), or Kai The Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker, the internet hangs onto the Black people longer and various sound-bites of their normal way of speaking are co-opted into internet lingo. People still say “Hide yo X” these days and it’s less of a genuine appreciation of Dodson’s bravery in confronting his sister’s potential rapist and more of a mockery of his speech. Same goes for Sweet Brown and her specific way of saying “Ain’t nobody got time for that”. Most people don’t even remember why she was being interviewed in the first place, and instead focus on how she talks, mocking it. Furthermore, when you compare how many “normal” white people stay memetic on the internet, it’s usually for being a badass (Epic Beard Man), being “unusually” pretty (Amber Lamps, Ridiculously Photogenic Guy).

In the end, however, Charles Ramsey should be appreciated, most definitely. Share the word. But we need to make sure that we’re appreciating him for the right reasons, that is, the noble thing that he did, rather than focusing on his form of vernacular.

May 09, 2013 at 09:22AM EDT
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Cyber6x wrote:

The internet doesn’t like to focus on the implications of serious events, for the most part. They’ll focus on the elements that make him more entertaining at a glance, whether it be race, gender, age or any other factor without any deep or meaningful thought behind it. “If it makes them more entertaining to the masses, do whatever” is the internet’s attitude.

^This pretty much. Although for some the internet is a medium to gather information and discuss serious topics, for the most of “the internet” as we know it it’s still just a way of entertainment and to get away from day-to-day stress.

Looking for topics to have fun with at that moment or things to easily kill time, a viral news story is of course a good source. Post-suicide, Amanda Todd was still a topic of mock on various websites. The Boston Bombing became a source of random photoshops the same day the actual bombing happened. Both died down over time, but that’s the internet’s short attention peak. But regardless of that, it’s clear that things like “too soon” or “taking something too far” are not something that direcly apply to (certain areas of) the web, as people like to go on the internet to get away from daily issues, not discuss them.

But of course controversy still applies to many, so topics like a suicide or a bombing are something many refuse to make fun of and will ask the same of those that do. People like Antoine Dodson, they weren’t a criminal, a suicide victim, or someone with a notable history. They just popped up during an interview. There is not really something for the internet to cause controversy over. Sure, those articles do, but the news likes to dig deeper into a subject than might be necessary.

You also have to consider the difference in the situations. Antoine Dodson gave us some of his now famous catchphrases (He’s climbin’ in your windows etc.), as did Sweet Brown (Ain’t nobody got time for that). Both catchphrases are very easily exploitable. What did Charles Ramsey give us to directly links us to him? The word “bro”, an already common word on the web? Eating ribs? There isn’t much to exploit there. And if there isn’t something, attention lowers quickly.

Charles Ramsey was however easy going on racism. Accepted it existed and made jokes about it during the interview. Aintoine Dodson or Sweet Brown didn’t, they just gave an interview. Should Charles Ramsey have not have made some jokes about blacks, I doubt those newsstations would’ve bothered with it. They just watched the interview, looked for something interesting, and build up on that. It’s just cause and effect.

Besides, who says this only happens to blacks? “Really Hits You Hard Bro”; The Chk-Chk-Boom Girl; Corey Worthington’s Party. These were all the result of interviews with white people who went viral. They’re from older days, when content didn’t spread as quickly as it does now, but they were notable.

Racism is simply a topic of discussion and controversy in everyday live. You don’t see articles on why Corey Worthington was made fun of because he’s white. News Stations just see a story in the topic of racism and they build on it. The internet just likes to have fun, and if stereotypes can result in fun then they will use that.

May 09, 2013 at 09:40AM EDT
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Sneaky Bit wrote:

People still say “Hide yo X” these days and it’s less of a genuine appreciation of Dodson’s bravery in confronting his sister’s potential rapist and more of a mockery of his speech.

Probably not related to the overall topic, but you’ve reminded me of something that always bothers me about Dodson as a meme: I’ve never heard it mentioned whether the rapist was caught! I mean, attempted rape is a damn serious thing, but all anyone seems to care about it “Hide yo’ kids, hide yo’ wife…” and not if the criminal being talked about was ever brought to justice. Surely I’m not the only person who ever wonders about that, right?

May 09, 2013 at 09:42AM EDT
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He, to me, feels like the ultimate social satire. He reminds me of the fact that some elements of racism still exists in America, and yet has a funny way of depicting it. I love when people like him become popular, because he helps remind people of the fact that racism and the legacy of racism is still felt throughout America. He is amazing, and I hope he gets a $1000 coupon to McDonald’s in reward for his open honesty and for him helping these women.

May 09, 2013 at 10:32AM EDT
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Is spreading and remixing someone’s speech patterns mockery?

You’ve heard it said that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. Linguistically, no form of speech is “worse” or “better” than another, and I think that AAVE (African-American Vernacular English) is beautiful, like some people think British accents sound nice, or what have you.

Perhaps many of the people viewing this are having a good laugh at Charles’ expense. But I think it’s very possible for modern folk to enjoy his delivery without thinking: “He’s making a fool of himself on TV.”

On the other hand, we really should be more concerned about those girls.

Last edited May 09, 2013 at 11:12AM EDT
May 09, 2013 at 11:10AM EDT
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He had an opportunity to do something good – and did it! He is a likable character, videogenic, and a storyteller.

Why does he have to be compared to anyone?

May 09, 2013 at 02:56PM EDT
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This is actually the first time I’ve felt that there weren’t a lot of racist undertones surrounding the story. With Sweet Brown and Antoine Dodson and the rest of them there seems to be a current of laughing at these people for their, let’s say, “folksiness” – we think they’re funny because we think they’re inferior to us. We look at them and our subconscious reaction is “These people funny because they’re stupid, I’m smarter than them, and I’m glad I’m smarter than them.” It’s like they’re comic relief characters in an old movie. This is also the reason why there are so many shows about “rednecks” on TV right now. At least, that’s the way I see it.

I didn’t see that with Ramsay. He’s not a character, he’s just an ordinary guy caught in a crazy situation.

May 09, 2013 at 04:15PM EDT
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@Serious Business

AAVE is indeed wonderful and no better or worse than American English or any other American dialect. However, AAVE is often repeated and misappropriated by nonblack people not primarily as a form of flattery. Think about how AAVE is mimicked by other people generally. It’s usually either very stereotypical or used out of context. Either way, it’s incorrect. AAVE is often seen as “unprofessional” and therefore lesser simply because it is attached to Black America. Similar to how “ghetto” has negative/“trashy” connotations. At the same time, however, AAVE has been misappropriated in order to for people to sound “cool” or “hip”. Again, often used incorrectly.

Basically, Paul Mooney said it best:

Regardless, I still feel that the way that Charles Ramsey is being treated by the internet and the media as a whole completely unacceptable and somewhat revealing of modern day race relations.

May 09, 2013 at 05:57PM EDT
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In my opinion there is some sort of race element to it.

In modern media and culture, a lot of black people are viewed as the “comic relief”, so Ramsey was a big target, even though he was just attempting to joke around to lighten the mood to the whole situation.

May 10, 2013 at 03:39AM EDT

I personally enjoy Charles because of his character. It’s so great seeing down-to-earth people that are kind and try to help relieve tension out of a situation. It’s the same with Kai the Home-free Hitchhiker.

Yeah, some might laugh at him due to racial perception, there’s no denying that, but there will always be those that are fond of them because they just are good human beings in an era where very few good people are reported on the news.

Last edited May 10, 2013 at 01:19PM EDT
May 10, 2013 at 01:19PM EDT
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RandomMan wrote:

Besides, who says this only happens to blacks? “Really Hits You Hard Bro”; The Chk-Chk-Boom Girl; Corey Worthington’s Party. These were all the result of interviews with white people who went viral. They’re from older days, when content didn’t spread as quickly as it does now, but they were notable.

Racism is simply a topic of discussion and controversy in everyday live. You don’t see articles on why Corey Worthington was made fun of because he’s white. News Stations just see a story in the topic of racism and they build on it. The internet just likes to have fun, and if stereotypes can result in fun then they will use that.

Case and point, the Internet just likes lulzy things -- something that’s interesting and makes us smile. Sometimes, things like Two Girls One Cup go viral just because of their unusual and shocking nature -- a twenty-first century version of the side show. Things can also spread because they affect us in other ways: they can be profound socio-political commentary, elicit indignation, or produce man tears.

To whatever extent racism is involved in the spread of Charles Ramsey, Sweet Brown, and Antoine Dodson, I think it’s minimal compared to what the articles are implying. Their virality is no more a result of racism than the “Just Girly Things” reframes are the result of sexism. I tend to agree with RM. The media sees something and creates a story from it. Clearly, it got us talking, but I think -- as the media often does -- it drew implications beyond what the facts of the case entailed.

May 10, 2013 at 02:20PM EDT
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Okay, time for more specific follow-up honesty about Charles Ramsey.

In case people didn’t notice, while I had much to say in previous posts, none of it was about Ramsey. To be honest, I didn’t get specific because I didn’t get around to watching the clip until just a few minutes ago. I’ve got to say, until this:

the Ramsey could have been any race. Yes, he clearly is black, but I didn’t see him display any speech patters or mannerisms that I would have identified as being typical of any ethnic or social group. He was just a cool guy that was in the right place at the right time and did the right thing, which is great.

That does lead me to question why this story is memetic. It’s a good story, but what makes it any more interesting than any other local news story in which some everyday schmo does something kind and gets interviewed after the fact? While I’m open to other interpretations (very much so, I just don’t understand this one) my only thought is a mildly racist idea: Even before this thread, I myself admittedly saw this trending on KYM and thought, “A black man interviewed about thwarting a crime? Must be an Antoine Dodson sort of thing, I guess.”

May 10, 2013 at 11:20PM EDT
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Y’know, the question we might ask ourselves is “would I still find this funny if a white guy/girl was saying it”. With Charles Ramsey’s white girl running into black man’s arms, no it wouldn’t, it’d because, taken at face value, it’d be racist. In other words, that it’s a black man making this satirical observation isn’t what makes it funny, but it is what makes it acceptable, in much the same way that this video isn’t racist, and could be considered an amusing parody of black cultural sterotypes, but it certainly wouldn’t be OK if it was really a white guy who’d coated himself in boot polish.

But with Sweet Brown, Kabooyow and Dodoson’s “lock up yo husbands because they is raping everyone out there”, I’d say the humour is because their reactions are so crazily emotional, and they’d be funny regardless of what colour the person saying them was.

That’s my view, anyway

May 11, 2013 at 09:44AM EDT
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Agree with OP %100

There is more to the story then just the heroic black guy, there’s tongue in cheek racism, 3 girls who were imprisoned and sexually tortured, and the fact a black person being interviewed on a news program automatically, in most cases, leads to a distinct meme.

I think, for all intents and purposes, their should be one meme entry, “Viral Black People On The News” which would include bed intruder, Sweet Brown, Ramsey, Bub Rub (whistler tip videos), and the Crichton Alabama Leprechaun witnesses.

Last edited May 11, 2013 at 10:31PM EDT
May 11, 2013 at 10:29PM EDT
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>Some memes form around news interview clips
>Most of them are due to a person saying something crazy or in a thick accent/dialect
>Most of them are African-Americans
>African-Americans are a minority of the US population

From this you could hypothesise that people are more likely to be made fun of due to their race because of lingering racism in the people laughing, but also observe that:

>Most people with thick accents or abnormal speech patterns are likely to be from poor or rural neighbourhoods
>Most African-Americans living in the US today are likely to be poor due to a hangover of 20th-century structural racism
>OP is a fag
>Most of these videos are of people in poor neighbourhoods, which suffer more violence

…and you can realise that the image macro at the top of this thread is backwards; it should be:
“A wild meme appears of someone saying something funny in a news interview
aaaand it’s a black person (p less than 0.3).”

That is, the people in these memes are more likely to be African-Americans because poor/rural dialects tend to get mocked by people in cities, who account for more internet traffic. However, that’s not to say that there aren’t some European-Americans out there laughing at these particular videos because of the ethnicity of the people speaking, but we’ll probably end up laughing at those people too one day because of something stupid that they do.

tl;dr we’re laughing at poor people, most of whom just happen to be black, and that’s actually quite sad.

Last edited May 12, 2013 at 04:41PM EDT
May 12, 2013 at 04:32PM EDT
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Wow, I think 4ndy has an excellent analysis of the phenomenon that makes a lot of sense. Last night I was considering adding something to this thread about how despite there being whites that end up the subject of memes like this, they tend to be poor and/or under-educated. I wasn’t able to put it all together into something meaningful, though, and I’m actually glad because the above post is probably more readable than I would have managed.

These memes don’t show racism, at least not directly. They arise as a side-effect of inherent social inequalities that already exist. The socially disadvantaged (who happen to be disproportionately non-white) are simply more likely to be in a unpleasant situation and give an entertaining, memorable reaction.

It doesn’t invalidate the questions raised, but gives a different way to look at possible answers.

May 12, 2013 at 07:25PM EDT
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@Esprit

I think, for all intents and purposes, their should be one meme entry, “Viral Black People On The News” which would include bed intruder, Sweet Brown, Ramsey, Bub Rub (whistler tip videos), and the Crichton Alabama Leprechaun witnesses.

We would have to include an entry for viral white people on the news as well because that also happens. Take virtually any political figure for example..

Besides. I also think that race doesn’t really factor into this. Cultural differences and the humorous highlighting of those cultural differences in media are the real driving factors behind these memes in my opinion. To imply that all of those memes centered around ‘being black’ seems misleading to me

Remember “You dun goofed” and Epic Beard Guy? I am positive that those memes were popular for their portrayal of an alternate culture in the exact same vein as “Hide yo kids”

May 12, 2013 at 09:31PM EDT
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