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Alexander Macris responds to letter

Thank you for the opportunity to respond.The hand gesture was an E, for Escapist. The Escapist is a popular video game website that I run; its logo is a stylized E. I’m not affiliated with any gangs and don’t condone gang violence. That’s not to deny the fact that my hand gesture is a parody of a trope of the gang lifestyle. Mr. Robinson acknowledges “it is socially acceptable to parody gangs in this manner.” I agree with him on this.

However, I part ways with him when he argues that humor about serious matters should be taboo. Were Mr. Robinson to watch my TEDx speech, on the declining intellectual quality of our society’s content, he would find that my entire talk was punctuated with jokes that satirized the very topic I had spent so many weeks researching and writing about.

Was that because I believed my use of humor would show how the problems I outlined were trivial? No — I think they are serious problems. But I also think that humor wakes us up, refreshes us and helps us maintain perspective without falling into a state of despair. Moreover, humor is entirely contextual: In the context of a tedious photo shoot at the end of a long day, there was no possibility that my hand gesture would trigger a gang shoot-out, but there was the possibility it would provoke some laughs and genuine smiles. That’s what it did, and I think it resulted in a nice picture. Certainly the editors of the magazine seemed to agree, since they selected that photo for publication over the other available options.