Consent: Do you speak it?

Yes, humor is a matter of taste. Does this mean that practical jokes, pranks, and social engineering are just a matter of taste?

No.

What's different, and what's missing, is consent. A key characteristic of practical jokes is that they involve a third party in the joke without getting specific prior consent because to get prior consent would ruin the joke. There are situations in which that's fine: if the people involved know each other well, they can give implicit consent to that sort of joke, for example. If the victim isn't known to the pranksters, they are outside of the set of situations in which this is okay.

Consent is something that human society in general seems to be struggling with right now. Consent to sex. Consent to have one's personal information used by a corporation. Consent to have one's pictures posted on-line. And in every case, I think the default position should be the same as the gold standard for sex: enthusiastic consent. If you want to make someone else part of your business, your art work, your joke, your sex act, or anything else that happens outside of your head in a way that affects them, the required step is very simple: you need to get their enthusiastic consent.

If that's too much trouble for you, if that makes it less fun for you, if that means you can't make money, if you think your great idea overrides their rights over their own life, body, ideas, information, or participation, then you fail. That simple.

If you want to use someone else, you have to ask first. It's not a hard concept. One might even say that it's basic politeness.

Now, the role of governments in this is limited and often not practical. For example, I don't think one can write laws about radio performers who like prank calling, at least without causing so many negative side effects that the effort isn't really practical. Doing that doesn't make you a criminal. It just makes you an asshole.

Also, doing things to other people without their consent doesn't mean that you're then morally responsible for anything that subsequently happens that may or may not be related. But you're still an asshole. And if your employer decides that you being an asshole as part of your job has suddenly stopped being funny and fires you, hey, works for me.

Posted: 2012-12-07 18:39 — Why no comments?

Last spun 2013-07-01 from thread modified 2013-01-04