Why ask why?

Not all questions are asked for the same reason.

That’s a point that Larry King should have brought up to Jerry Seinfeld a few years back. While interviewing Seinfeld, Larry asked a question that he undoubtedly knew the answer to.

“You gave it up, right? They didn’t cancel you.”

Seinfelds incredulous reaction to that question was an embarrassingly obtuse moment for an otherwise intelligent actor. He berated King for asking a question that he should’ve damn well known the answer to, as King was well familiar with Hollywood and the entertainment industry. King, a bit shocked at Jerry‘s response, was so caught up in trying to deflect Jerry’s incredulity that he was probably too flustered to mention what seemed pretty damn obvious to me – the question wasn’t being asked for King’s sake. King hosted a show which was watched by millions of people – people who may or may not have given enough of a fuck about the Seinfeld show to know why the show went off the air. (I fell into that category, by the way).

He asked the question for the benefit of his viewing audience. Not because he himself didn’t know the answer.

Bill Engvall and company like to play on this theme – the “stupid question” joke, referring to how people ask questions whose answers are obvious. Understanding that his business is comedy, it makes sense that he would drop context for the sake of a laugh. I am all about twisting intellectual considerations for a laugh, so I’m not criticizing comedians for doing so, but I’d like to point out that they do it deliberately, and they do it because they know it works. People laugh because they don’t realize that context has been switched.

The joke works because not all questions are asked for the same reason. Some are asked to gain the information ostensibly requested by the questioner. Others (such as in Kings case) are asked in order for the answer to be explicitly communicated to all who may be listening. Others may be asked for lack of a better way to demonstrate concern (“Are you hurt?”). Other’s may be asked in cases when the answer is obvious, yet the asker wants to make it clear that he or she is not making assumptions. There are many different legitimate reasons for asking a question other than the standard reason of wanting to gain information. 

That’s why I get so irritated at the kind of bullshit I saw directed at Dr. Phil in this article today. 

Dr. Phil McGraw, a well-known TV personality and generally likable guy, drew the ire of feminists and liberals all over the country by posing the question on Twitter, “If a girl is drunk, is it okay to have sex with her? Reply Yes or No to @DrPhil #teenaccused”

To me, it was clearly a question asked with the intent of provoking conversation, and possibly to demonstrate how many people may answer in the affirmative. That in itself would have been a worthwhile endeavor – demonstrating how many people potentially believe that it’s quite find to take advantage of vulnerable women. Shit, if you’re truly interested in bringing attention to mass victimization, then you such a demonstration should be welcomed!

But no….

Instead Dr. Phil was fucking cruci-twied.

“You know good and goddamn well that “asking” when a girl “deserves” to be raped is a destructive question in itself. #DrPhilQuestions

— Rad-Femme Lawyer. (@femme_esq) August 21, 2013 ”

“If Dr Phil asks a hateful misogynistic question, is it okay to rename him Dr Landphil?#DrPhilQuestions — Harold Itzkowitz (@HaroldItz) August 21, 2013

“If a TV Shrink makes my daughter feel guilty b/c she was date raped while drunk, can I punch him in his dick? #DrPhilQuestions @DrPhil

— Patrick (@QuadCityPat) August 20, 2013

This is just another instance in a long list of manufactured outrage by hard-left politically correct alarmists that are so goddamned concerned with “appearing” concerned that they are willing to martyr an ally to their cause. Sometimes a question is asked as a lead-in. Sometimes it’s asked in order to ensure all interlocutors are on the same page before moving the conversation forward. Sometimes a question is a statement phrased as a question.

The salient point of all this is the uncharitableness with which any and all apparent violations of political correctness is returned. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or an amatuer blogger to understand that Dr. Phil might have been asking that question not for the purpose of actually gaining information, but as a lead-in to a larger discussion of victimization. And that would’ve been a great discussion to have, if only these fucking politically correct asshats would’ve let him have it.


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