Laughter in the dark

I realize this is self-indulgent, but (from a Q&A with your friend Dana Milbank, whose recent piece on the response to terrorism was actually quite good):

Blue Rock, MT: With all due respect, Mr. Milbank, should anyone really be laughing about terrorism? Did people laugh about Pearl Harbor? Did people laugh about the battle of Stalingrad?

In Muslim cultures, laughter is a sign of weakness. By mocking the man who tried to set off the dirty bomb on that flight, we give comfort to our enemies. What will it take to make people like you understand this? A second Caliphate?

Dana Milbank:

Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?

I am intrigued by this notion of laughter-as-weakness. Admittedly, if you laugh in a “tee-hee” kind of way, that could be seen as a sign of weakness, but I think a solid guffaw is a show of strength. I believe in power laughter.


Palo Cedro, Calif.: If terrorists aim to cause terror, aren’t Dick and Liz Cheney aiding them with their constant fear mongering? I think laughing at al Qaeda makes much more tactical sense.

Dana Milbank:

Well, I would have agreed with you before that previous questioner said that laughter is a sign of weakness in the Muslim world. So this puts the Cheneys’ strategy in a new light: Perhaps they are issuing these statements in hopes of making the Qaeda leadership laugh. This, in turn, would cause the Qaeda leadership to be perceived as weak in the Muslim world, thus undermining their effectiveness. It is a brilliant strategy, really.

(I’m Blue Rock but not Palo Cedro.)

78 replies
  1. 1
    dm says:

    I can’t get past the Germans bombing Pearl Harbor.

  2. 2
    Kryptik says:

    DougJ, this is funny and all…but be careful.

    In our sarcasm-challenged online world, you might have just created the newest right-wing idiot meme. How long is it going to take for someone to go on Faux News to mimic your point with no irony at all?

  3. 3
    Tom Hilton says:

    Dana Milbank has a sense of humor. Good to know.

  4. 4
    Comrade Mary says:

    Dude, the right joke in the wrong hands is dangerous.

  5. 5
    Alex S. says:

    He must have had a gun pointed at his neck when he answered that question…

    The Palo Cedro guy is completely right. In the pure sense of the word “terrorist”, the Cheneys are terrorists because they cause terror (french: terreur, scare).

    Edit: Hmm, if Milbank was joking I apologize for my first sentence, but it’s hard to tell these days.

  6. 6
    BigSwami says:

    Be careful of DougJ, people. Don’t boss him, don’t cross him. He’s wild in his sorrow.

  7. 7
    Wordsmith says:

    Laughter is seen as weakness…..

    What? The result of too much estrogen? And for fuck sake – who DID bomb Pearl Harbor?

  8. 8
    licensed to kill time says:

    Dana got tipped off by the “with all due respect” lead-in….

  9. 9
    Tiparillo says:

    Palo Cedro was me….I only steal from the best.

  10. 10
    DougJ says:

    Be careful of DougJ, people. Don’t boss him, don’t cross him. He’s wild in his sorrow.

    Yeah, listening to that right now, in fact, though I’m at “Remember Me” now.

  11. 11
    MattF says:

    Well, tee-hee.

    FWIW, I’m getting the feeling that there’s been a shift in the media commentary towards the Cheneys of late. As in, “Gee whiz, they’re really not being totally super-helpful at a dangerous time. Hmmm…”

  12. 12
    Svensker says:

    In Muslim cultures, laughter is a sign of weakness.


    I’ll admit, this fellow sounds like an absolute expert on Middle Eastern and Muslim cultures and a solid guy to listen to in any discussion on pretty much anything intellectual.

  13. 13
    gex says:

    So all it takes to change Dana Milbank’s mind on various approaches to terrorism is an random internet comment by a troll? How can he be confused about who bombed Pearl Harbor? Usually the Villagers are very good at telling the difference between white people and non-white people.

  14. 14
    DougJ says:

    How can he be confused about who bombed Pearl Harbor?

    I’m pretty sure he was kidding.

  15. 15
    JenJen says:

    Oh, jeebus, DougJ! I’m LMFAO.

  16. 16
    Ash Can says:

    Lulz! Milbank handles this very well. Credit where credit is due.

  17. 17
    Tiparillo says:

    confuses about who bombed Pearl Harbor

    That was a John Belushi/Animal House reference…..

  18. 18
    Capri says:

    Gex – He’s quoting from the movie, Animal House.

  19. 19
    MattR says:


    How can he be confused about who bombed Pearl Harbor?
    I’m pretty sure he was kidding.

    The lack of familiarity with Animal House is just stunning.

  20. 20
    Mnemosyne says:

    For all of the people who apparently have never seen Animal House:

    “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”

  21. 21
    JeremyH says:

    Most of you probably already know this, but I think it’s worth pointing out that the line about the Germans bombing Pearl Harbor is from the movie “Animal House”. Watch it here.

    A truly great movie. God bless the Belushi.

    EDIT: Damn, Mnemosyne beat me to it. And MattR. And Capri. And Tiparillo. Sheesh – I must be slowing down.

  22. 22
    Tom Hilton says:

    @MattR: “appalling” is the word I’d use, but “stunning” works too.

  23. 23
    Comrade Sock Puppet of the Great Satan says:

    I loved Jon Stewart’s joke about Captain Underpantsbomber how there were going to be 72 disappointed virgins if he’d been successful.

    Mockery of the terrorists is good.

  24. 24
    Zifnab says:

    It’s comforting to know that our political dialogue has been reduced to exactly when and how loudly it is appropriate to laugh in the public square.

    Christ on a crutch, do we ever actually discuss policy in this country, or is it all about the tenor and inflection of the voice when said policy is announced?

    You’d think the entire War on Terror hinged on the presence or absence of a “Gaffaw!” Must be why we need those extra 40k troops in Afghanistan. Someone laughed/didn’t laugh hard enough in a Washington news room.


  25. 25
    Zifnab says:

    Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?

    Shame. I thought for sure this was a Bushism.

  26. 26
    beltane says:

    Umm, being laughed at is a sing of weakness, not the other way around. This holds true with all higher primates with the apparent exception of wingnuts. Only in America is pissing your pants and squealing like a little girl a sign of machismo.

  27. 27
    Osprey says:

    Give them a few weeks and they’ll be saying teh Mooslims! bombed Pearl Harbor and it was the fault of the previous Democratic Administration. That train’s never late.

  28. 28
    geg6 says:

    OT, but I thought all BJers would be interested in this:

    Shocking, I know.

  29. 29
    gex says:

    Didn’t know Belushi 101 was necessary for this discussion. I have some studying to do! Please don’t make me take the second semester which focuses on Jim, though.

  30. 30
    handy says:

    With all due respect, Mr. Milbank, should anyone really be laughing about terrorism? Did people laugh about Pearl Harbor? Did people laugh about the battle of Stalingrad?

    The helicopters sure weren’t laughing.

  31. 31
    Brian J says:

    Considering that a major military site wasn’t fucked up, as was the case with Pearl Harbor, or that about two million people didn’t die, as was the case with the Battle of Stalingrad, laughter might be appropriate. Even if it’s not, to equate a terrorist attack that WAS NOT SUCCESSFUL with two events where the bodies piled up is just nuts.

  32. 32
    gbear says:

    The helecopters are not showing signs of weakness.

  33. 33
    Svensker says:

    @Comrade Sock Puppet of the Great Satan:

    I loved Jon Stewart’s joke about Captain Underpantsbomber how there were going to be 72 disappointed virgins if he’d been successful.

    I’m sorry, but that meme bugs the crap outta me. A basic misunderstanding of Islam. It’s like ridiculing Catholics for thinking they’ll have wings in heaven.

    Muslims take enough grief from us non-Muslims. We don’t need to add MORE sheer ignorance to our list of sins.

  34. 34
    gbear says:

    Damn, missed it by three minutes. Comment fail + edit fail.

  35. 35
    handy says:


    These things happen.

  36. 36
    MattR says:


    Didn’t know Belushi 101 was necessary for this discussion. I have some studying to do! Please don’t make me take the second semester which focuses on Jim, though.

    Nice comeback :)

    If you happen to hear a reference to “double secret probation” that is Animal House too.

  37. 37
    Randy P says:

    @Brian J:
    It’s a joke.

    DougJ has made a habit of asking loony-tunes pseudo-Colbert questions on these reporter Q & As. Trying for some kind of “Get a Brain Morans” type persona I think. And I think the reporters are catching on and giving tongue in cheek answers.

    Hence the Animal House reference in the answer.

  38. 38
    DougJ says:

    It’s like ridiculing Catholics for thinking they’ll have wings in heaven.

    Although Catholic theology does hold that every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.

  39. 39
    Brian J says:

    @Randy P:

    Yikes, my bust.

    I guess I should read more carefully next time. My apologies, Doug J.

    Although I will say that I do reserve the right to say what I said again if this does, as someone suggested above, become a wingnut meme.

  40. 40
    BigSwami says:

    ‘Twas the time of the Pundit,
    In the year of 2010,
    When will it be over?
    Come wake me up then.

  41. 41
    DougJ says:


    Just when you think it’s all over, it’s only begun.

  42. 42
    AnderJ says:

    @Randy P: I thought Milbank only selects questions to which he has a witty response.

  43. 43
    Tom Hilton says:

    @handy: Now what kind of an attitude is that, these things happen? They only happen because this whole country is just full of people, who when these things happen, they just say these things happen, and that’s why they happen!

  44. 44
    Mnemosyne says:

    Given human nature, people probably did make jokes during and after Pearl Harbor and the battle of Stalingrad. It’s what we do when we’re confronted by something that big and horrible.

    It’s horrible that this guy tried to kill several hundred people. It’s funny that he failed, and that he did so in a particularly embarrassing way. Therefore, jokes.

  45. 45
    handy says:

    @Tom Hilton:

    It is what it is.

  46. 46
    slag says:

    @Tiparillo: Good to know that the only people participating in WaPo chats are BJ commenters. That’s a definite time-saver.

  47. 47
    jeffreyw says:

    @DougJ: Something about killing kittens as well.

  48. 48
    Chris says:

    Alright…alright. If we didnt know before that Dougj does ALL the trolls here…now we do. I guess I can still pretend I dont know though right? That was some poetic concern trolling there.

  49. 49
    maus says:

    In Muslim cultures, laughter is a sign of weakness.

    The Republican thinktanks that released video of people “laughing and dancing in the streets after 9/11” in the successful attempt to package and sell us the wars we are currently fighting only hire the best cultural anthropologists.


    God damn, I can not argue with conservatives anymore. I used to be able to have a back and forth and get some enjoyment/enlightment offered to them, but the modern Republican is a faux independent who simply makes things up and calls them reality. Not that they were always great, but they weren’t nearly this bad.

  50. 50
    machine says:

    It worked out pretty well when Kirk laughed at the “superior intellect.” Khan engaged in 2-dimensional thinking, which was ultimately teh fail against 11-dimensional chess.

  51. 51
    V.O.R. says:

    @ beltane:

    The differences between wingnut foreign policy and primate foreign policy – once you make adjustments like substituting a carrier battle group for a raised fist – are twofold.

    First, wingnuts often do it wrong – laughter as weakness is a great example.

    Second, the targets of wingnut policy aren’t apes, great cats, or water buffalo. This apparently elusive point explains most flaws in hard-core conservative/GOP f. policy.

  52. 52
    Jeroen says:

    I think I read a reference to that Animal House scene in an earlier thread, could Millbank be BJ lurker like me?

  53. 53
    MattR says:

    Speaking of Animal House, anyone else notice a resemblence between the logic of Otter’s “defense” of the Delta house and the whining of Republicans?

    Jump to about 2:15 at this link

    EDIT: And I just found this great vdeo where Animal House explains the financial meltdown. youtube link

  54. 54
    Origuy says:

    I saw the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour in Cupertino, in a hall that was about half Persian and Arab. The people there didn’t act like they thought laughter was a sign of weakness.

  55. 55
    trollhattan says:

    Twenty quatloos to Milbank for a. having a funnybone and II. being facile in its use. I’ll wager more quatloos that Blue Rock, MT was not aware of the joke.

  56. 56
    Tuffy says:

    Dana shows some great mirth and quick-wittedness here. He’s scum, but perhaps sometimes lovable scum.

  57. 57
    elmo says:

    @Mnemosyne: What Mnem said, times eleventy billion. I stone-cold guarantee you that people did in fact laugh about Pearl Harbor, about Stalingrad, about the Battle of the Bulge, and even (hafta whisper this last part) about 9/11. Shhhh! Don’t tell the Republicans!

  58. 58
    licensed to kill time says:

    @trollhattan: You’d lose your quatloos on that second bet since DougJ said:

    (I’m Blue Rock but not Palo Cedro.)

    The Jokester not aware of the joke? Unpossible.

  59. 59

    @gex: Save me a seat because I didn’t know the reference, either. I just thought Milbank was making a funny.

    @trollhattan: Really? I’ll take that bet as Blue Rock was DougJ.

    @Origuy: I am totally jealous. I heard one half on NPR, and he was killer.

  60. 60

    @licensed to kill time: Damn you for your fast fingers!

  61. 61
    licensed to kill time says:

    @asiangrrlMN: Trollhattan owes me an unspecified amount of quatloos. If s/he pays up, I’ll split ’em with you.

    ETA: Apparently it’s more than twenty, so we’re in the money-Woot!

  62. 62
    geg6 says:


    The helicopters sure weren’t laughing.

    DougJ totally should have used that line. Milbank would have been puzzled by it, but arguingwithsignposts would have fallen over laughing.

  63. 63
    MNPundit says:

    I guess he took a break from dickwhispering.

  64. 64
    adolphus says:

    A little late in the thread, but I’d just like to point out that there was plenty of laughing at both the Japanese and the Germans, see the book Dr. Suess Went to War for some hilarious, and racist, cartoons written by Theodore Giesel during WWII. Also Warner Brothers did bunches of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck shorts making fun of all of the Axis countries. Also, Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” was before Pearl Harbor but still pertinent as well as a Marx Brothers movie if I recall correctly. None of this was about specific events involving massive casualties and we wouldn’t be making fun of the Captain Underpants had he succeeded, methinks.

    And while this might take up a lot of room, I’d like to leave you with some lyrics from a Spike Jones ditty from I think 1943 entitled the Fuehrer’s Face :

    When Herr Goebbels says we own the world and space
    We heil (pffft) heil (pffft) right in Herr Goebbels’ face
    When Herr Goering says they’ll never bomb dis place
    We heil (pffft) heil (pffft) right in Herr Goering’s face

    Is we not the supermen?
    Aryan pure supermen?
    Ja we is the supermen
    Super duper supermen
    Is this Nutzi land so good
    Would you leave it if you could?
    Ja this Nutzi land is good
    We would leave it if we could

  65. 65
    trollhattan says:

    Okaaayyy, reading for comprehension am I not. Also.

    I’m out of quatloos so you may have twenty minutes with my drill thrall.

  66. 66
    Cris says:

    You can’t hang a man for shooting a lady trying to steal his horse.

  67. 67
    Tom Hilton says:

    @handy: It is indeed.

    …but can anyone ID the movie?

  68. 68
    MNPundit says:

    @Tom Hilton: Animal House.

  69. 69
    Tom Hilton says:

    @MNPundit: I was talking about this quote. Older reference than Animal House…

  70. 70
    Snarla says:

    Laughter is a sign of weakness? Out of whose butt was this gem of wisdom pulled?
    Stupidest thing I’ve read yet today, but then, I stay off the right-wing sites.

  71. 71

    @geg6: Late to this, but I saw what you did there. And yes, I would have.

    Speaking of which, has Dana Milbanks put his credenza online? How do we know he is who he says he is?

  72. 72
    Origuy says:

    @asiangrrlMN: Maz Jobrani, the Persian one, has a new special on Showtime this month.

  73. 73
    bjacques says:

    He shot her so quick, they had no time to warn her, she never heard anyone say…

    I was THERE, man! The infamous Fourth of July Picnic. I saw it ALL, man!

  74. 74
    Kevin Phillips Bong says:

    Wow, when multiple users of the intertoobz are missing Animal House references it’s time to wheel myself to the old folks’ home.

  75. 75
    Mnemosyne says:

    One of the funniest movies of all time takes place during the Nazi invasion of Poland. The original, not the Mel Brooks version.

    “So they call me Concentration Camp Ehrhardt!”

  76. 76
    Beej says:

    @elmo: Because Americans and Brits, in particular, have a sarcasm gene that pops up in about 70% of the population in every generation. I find it very odd that the 30% or so who carry the recessive, I-don’t-get-sarcasm gene are almost all conservatives. Of course it could just be that God has a sense of humor too.

  77. 77
    tootiredoftheright says:


    Usually the people behind those demonstrations give out candy and tell the kids and people to dance if they want more candy.

    Clearly all candy should be destroyed in the Middle East.

  78. 78
    buermann says:

    He had a dirty bomb in his underpants? Gross.

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