Stand-up comedian and host of the no-longer-in-production Food Network show Ginormous Foods Josh Denny recently found himself under fire for an astonishingly tone-deaf Twitter thread in which he claims the phrase “Straight White Male” is the 21st century equivalent of the “N-word.” But, as Twitter sleuths discovered, he actually has quite a history of actually using the racial slur.
“Straight White Male” has become this century’s N-Word. It’s used to offend and diminish the recipient based on assumption and bias. No difference in the usage.
— Josh Denny (@JoshDenny) May 18, 2018
In his nine-tweet essay, Josh Denny writes:
“Straight White Male” has become this century’s N-Word. It’s used to offend and diminish the recipient based on assumption and bias. No difference in the usage. My point is, when you call someone this in conversation — you know exactly what you’re doing: attempting to devalue their POV based on negative cultural stereotypes. That’s racism.
Saying “my label for you invalidates your opinion or your place in society” is literally what Dr. King fought against. We have to be better than that. Use our words and our minds and our hearts to win arguments. Not by trying to dehumanize the opposition to your beliefs. No matter who you are.
BTW — if you know me, you know I reflect on things like this constantly — it’s literally the core of my podcast. I do think it’s interesting that the statement itself has multiple times drawn out the exact example I was making. The response to the initial tweet is exactly the “sound byte” culture Kanye West was referring to: people choosing to ignore context to confirm their own biases is the problem with our society.
The incendiary initial implication did exactly what was intended — attract people to the conversation — but all of the comments are actually proving my point: your belief is invalid because of x, y, and z that aren’t part of this discussion. This is what perpetuates divisiveness.
We will only eliminate racism, bigotry, and discrimination when we stop thinking of people and discussing society in those terms. Saying “this person can’t think this because they’re this” is why we are a nation divided. Merely switching power dynamics isn’t the cure.
Also everyone check out my new album that drops 6/1.
First, is this really the appropriate place for him to plug his upcoming album?
More importantly, though, his argument is absurd. Forgetting that “racism” refers to a power differential and that the word he really means is “prejudice,” we might be more willing to lend credence to this argument if there were any examples of people being beaten or repeatedly stabbed as their assailants cry “Die, straight white male!”
When called on his idiocy, Denny explained, “You don’t think [“Straight White Male”] is being used the same way? Twitter search it. All shootings, all oppression; everything is blamed on [straight white males].”
When a reply pointed out, “Yep, it’s blamed on us, because 7 of 10 Fortune 500 execs are SWMs. The majority of legislators are SWMs. So, who will people blame when things are not going well? And when you see racist rants from lawyers, and the mass shootings are all SWMs who gets the blame?”
Denny then went to the standard #NotAllMen-style fallback — “But not all SWM’s are responsible for the actions of few: hence the comparison to racial generalizations often made by white people about people of color.”
But some Twitter sleuths quickly discovered Josh Denny’s relationship with the real N-word — as well as other examples of racism (with bonus sexism!).
Check out some disgusting gems from the Twitter account of Josh Denny:
After these tweets started circulating, the Westside Comedy Theatre cancelled his live stage show, The Darkest Hour, which ran monthly for the past four years. In a Facebook post, he complained, saying, “But as the internet is teaching us, with people like Owen Benjamin, Steven Crowder, Ben Shapiro and Jordan Peterson — [inclusivity] doesn’t include ‘diversity’ in ideas or thought.”
Looking at his examples, we have:
- Owen Benjamin, a far-right comedian banned from Twitter for a series of racist jokes against Asians.
- Steven Crowder, an anti-feminist comedian who makes the trans community a major target of his comedy — and was described by Vice as “What would happen if Dane Cook got his material from Breitbart’s comments section.”
- Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire, a far-right website that regularly traffics in Islamophobia. Shapiro’s rhetoric warning that “the myth of the tiny radical Muslim minority is just that, a myth — and, unfortunately, it’s a myth that’s going to get a lot of civilized people killed” has been linked with the Toronto Mosque shooting earlier this year.
- Jordan Peterson, a Canadian philosopher who most recently argued for “enforced monogamy,” to keep women from “only [going] for the most high-status men,” parroting the nonsense of the incel movement.
And, of course, all of these people — including Josh Denny! — are free to say whatever dumb things come to mind. But is that really the company you want to keep?
Everyone’s free to say what they want — and just as Josh Denny is free to say that “straight white male” means the same thing as the N-word, Westside Comedy Theatre (as well as the rest of us) are free to choose what we promote as well.
Remember: Free speech goes both ways. You can say what you want, just as we are free to call you out for it.