Request: Please share your comments, but don’t turn this into a rant against PETA or a discourse on rap artists. This post is looking at free speech, what’s funny, what’s tasteless, and what’s downright harmful.
Rap star 50 Cent posted a photo to his twitter account depicting him holding a knife up to his dog. It was meant as a joke, but animal rights group PETA responded immediately on their own twitter page:
“Sorry 50 Cent but that pic is not funny considering how many calls we get from ppl alerting us to dogs who really have been stabbed.”
Predictably, the rapper shot back at PETA with a few choice words consisting of 140 characters or less.
I didn’t think the photo was funny, partly because I don’t find the matter of cruelty at all humorous, and partly because the image wasn’t particularly clever or inspired. Maybe thought bubbles just don’t do it for me (in the photo, a thought bubble coming from dog admonishes 50 Cent to chill out).
So is this a matter of someone making light of animal cruelty? Or is this simply one example of one person’s lack of discrimination when it comes to joking about sensitive subjects? Would the rapper be as quick to laugh about genocide or child pornography?
A quick scan of 50 Cent’s twitpics pages seemed to imply that he would. Children in “inappropriate” positions and photoshopped images of the-rapper-as-brutal-dictator are among his favorite subjects. Ok, not my particular brand of comedy, but apparently this stuff resonates with his over 3 million followers.
My verdict, in the grand scheme of things, is that this photo is a misdemeanor, not a crime. While the message absolutely stinks, no actual harm was inflicted, and far more offensive acts occur on a daily basis. Still, I’m not laughing. Animal suffering already receives an alarming lack of serious consideration, and the topic of cruelty is inherently un-funny.