Schadenfreude needs to be sincere to be funny. It's what made "Chocolate Rain" hysterical and everything Tay Zonday did afterward crap. Because self-awareness is the plague of the internet. And plagues never made anyone smile.
"Everyone's self-aware these days though," you say. Well, no. There is still at least one group that doesn't understand what Reddit is. That group is the Jehovah's Witnesses, and the internet's meme-hunters have just caught wind of a Church-affiliated video that discourages deaf Jehovah's Witnesses from turning to that most shallow of pleasures, masturbation.
The video is essentially a couple of different signers emotively pleading with the viewer not to crack one off, and because sign language isn't the most politically correct of dialects, they do this through all of the most obvious gestures that signify masturbation, married to a bunch of guys miming orgasms.
With its dismissive wank gestures and air boob cupping, the overall effect resembles some kind of crude road rage dispute carried out through shut car windows. The fact that the signal for female masturbation looks a bit like a gang sign with its downward-facing V shape only adds to the feeling that you might have just cut up the wrong Cadillac on Compton Boulevard.
Needless to say, a bunch of YouTube comedians have fired up Windows Movie Maker and given us their own mashed up versions of the original. The song choices range from the depressingly obvious ("Ignition Remix"), to the obvious yet still hilarious ("I Touch Myself"), and the pointless meme doubling ("Gangnam Style").
While it's all very amusing, I was intrigued as to what the video's real message was. From what I could tell by the signer's expressions, the Jehovah's Witnesses are of the belief that masturbation sends you into a state of unparalleled sexual ecstasy, but all the research suggested the Church was very much in the "save it for the real deal" camp.
I decided to call up my local Jehovah's branch, but was informed I couldn't speak to the elder there—not because he was unwilling to talk, but because he was deaf (an irony so thick you could choke a blue whale on it).
Eventually I was redirected to a spokesman named Mark Holman.
VICE: Hi, I was wondering if I could discuss a video that’s gone viral recently?
Mark Holman: Yes, of course, what video is this? Is it on our website?
I'm not sure if it's on your website. I can tell you about it briefly…
If it’s not official, I can’t discuss it with you. But I can discuss with you ideas and suchlike.
Great. Well, the video is specifically aimed at deaf Jehovah’s Witnesses and it warns them about the dangers of masturbation.
Oh, I haven’t heard of that one, but I’ll keep a look out for it. You can ask me about the themes in the video.
OK, firstly, as a Jehovah’s Witness, what are your views on masturbation?
Well, we always go on the Bible’s view, which is that it is something that we should try to steer away from. Masturbation is not something we would suggest doing. We just encourage positive things.
So is masturbation an official "sin"?
It’s not officially a sin, but if you think of it as sinful then you shouldn’t do it. We don’t really refer to things as "sins"; if you have a good moral compass and love for the Lord then your actions will be pure. We do not encourage selfish activity.
Is masturbation one of the more selfish things you can do?
I don’t see how it can be a non-selfish activity, by its very nature.
Are there any specific parts of the Bible I should study to help combat onanism?
Galatians 5.22 and 5.23 are good bits.
Wow, you know it off by heart.
That is my job and my faith.
Um, is it true that masturbation can send you blind?
As a member of the Church, I don’t know. Certainly, there have been instances. Apparently. You would have to check with someone in the medical profession.
Is there medical evidence?
It would be worthwhile checking that out for yourself.
The video is specifically aimed at stopping deaf people masturbating. Are the deaf particularly at risk from the dangers of masturbation?
I’m guessing it must be hard to have such a disability, so the Church in America may have identified them as an "at risk" group. I don’t know if I am qualified to comment on that.
What advice would you give to any Jehovah’s Witnesses who felt the need to masturbate?
Well, I wouldn’t give advice. It’s expected that people can exercise control themselves. To some I might say read a book to take your mind off it, for others this might not work. Hobbies are always good. It just depends on the person.
Cool. Have you heard of the pop singer, Prince?
Yes, I have. He is a Jehovah’s Witness.
He's quite vocal about how much he likes to masturbate. In fact, he apparently had two ribs removed so he could self-fellate. What do you think of that?
That’s disgusting. I don’t know if that’s true.
Is he a bad Jehovah?
It is down to personal choice. He has a different lifestyle to most people. He’s a little odd.
Do you like his music?
Yes, I do.
Do you play it in church?
We have our own, specially composed music to suit whatever occasion we need.
Is it good?
Yes, it’s very good. You should come along and listen to it.
I might do that. Thank you so much.
It was nice speaking with you.
Although I'm not 100 percent sold on the religion's views on the issue, it doesn't really affect me because I have never actually masturbated. So maybe there's still hope for me to find my route to God.
If Prince can dig it, so can I.
Previous tussles with religion: