Answering Hate with Humor

In online commentary sections when it comes to emotionally charged topics like refugees and asylum, you often find hardened fronts and insults that are full of hate - so called hatespeech. How can you react to that? At the TINCON, the first festival for digital youth culture, youngsters and YouTubers found an answer: with humor.

Marina Kunert | May 2016
TINCON_Story 2016_Header
Gregor Fischer

What should I do when leading a rational discussion seems impossible? This is a question that many people are asking themselves, especially when they come across obdurate ideas and hurtful insults on the Internet – so-called hate speech. Even young people are taking on this topic. They are very active on the Internet and have to learn how to debate in this environment and form an opinion – civic education in the digital world.

At TINCON, the first festival for digital youth culture in Berlin, the Robert Bosch Stiftung supported lectures and workshops focusing on societal and political topics. Here, young people between the ages of 13 and 21 and YouTubers found an answer to the hateful comments on the Web: humor.

Muslim Satire from the Datteltäter

"Muslims are planning a new satire caliphate at the heart of YouTube – the "indigNation" is secure! So long, stereotypes! We are declaring an educational jihad!" This is how the Datteltäter describe their YouTube channel where they present German Muslim satire. They want to make their audience not only laugh but also think – about the prejudice that all Muslims are potential terrorists, for example.

At TINCON, the Datteltäter presented their channel and explained why they opted for satire. The group of Berliners behind the channel includes the students Nemi El-Hassan and Fiete Aleksander. They, too, have had experiences with hateful comments. But rather than letting the comments bring them down, they use them as material for their satirical videos. During the conversation, they explain why humor is the best response and how they perceive the debate in Germany regarding refugees and Islam.

Young People Create a Meme That Takes on Hate

The topic of harassment and hateful comments also affected the young visitors at TINCON. In a workshop on viral trends, these young people talked about how they have been bullied on the Internet. For Thilo Kaspers, the workshop's moderator, it was about showing the young people – through collaboration – how opinions are formed and how they can get their message out to others.

The objective of the participants was to create a viral trend. Or a meme, to be precise – an image with a message – which is used over and over by others and can be reinterpreted. The idea was to write down an insult that you hear often and then tag the whole thing with the hashtag #thx4yourH8. In this way, they show how ridiculous hateful comments are and say: "Thanks for your hate – your insults do not affect me."