Davies claims such jokes enjoy an “enormous and universal popularity.” Moreover, part of their ideological function is to present or construct a group of people who are characterised as “stupid outsiders.” This is not a small or inconsequential matter, he argues, because people have a “deep-seated” need to manufacture these outsiders. Davies’ position supports Bauman’s perspective on the social significance of “moral distance” and the corresponding link to notions of moral respect. For example, he writes:
By telling jokes about the "stupidity" of a group on the periphery of their society, people can place this despised and feared quality at a distance and gain reassurance that they and the members of their own group are not themselves stupid or irrational.
Davies reproduces a selection of the jokes to reveal the “stupidity” of the victim population. In one example, the way of suggesting that a targeted human being is an extremely stupid person is to indicate the possession of less intelligence than a nonhuman animal. This joke concerns a rocket being launched with a crew of one human (a representative of the victim population) and one chimpanzee. Every so often the chimp is instructed by “mission control” to complete complicated and important flight tasks inside the rocket. Unemployed throughout, eventually the human gets extremely irritated and restful; but then his orders finally arrive. They read: “feed the chimpanzee.”
On one level, the human is simply denigrated by being shown to be intellectually and hierarchically inferior to the chimpanzee pilot. However, when real live chimpanzees have been blasted into space by humans they have been sent there as experimental animals; as “scientific” models. Thus - in this joke - this human and the nonhuman animal share the same designation of “experimental tool” or “test subject,” even though the chimpanzee is given superior status. Keeping the focus on the position of the human, and recalling Bauman’s “holocaust thesis,” which involved Nazis subjecting depersonalised humans, that is human-animals-seen-as-nonhuman-animals, to painful and often fatal experimental procedures, it is suggested in the joke that once humans can be said to share the same referent as “animal,” they may be used in potentially stressful, painful or lethal experiments.
However, as in many jokes, the status of the nonhuman as an exploitable and legitimately “harmable” being, while essential for the internal logic of the joke, is silently assumed as a given reality.
In another example, Davies reproduces a North American joke about a Polish couple who buy chickens and proceed to plant them in the ground like vegetables. Their stupidity is predicated on their surprise that the birds died. However, the deaths - and the property status of the chickens - are not important or problematic within the internal logic of the joke. After all, it is this very lack of importance which leads Bauman, citing Stanley Milgram’s infamous social psychological experiments about “authority,” to warn that any successful “moving away” of people from the status of human being is likely to lead to negative consequences for the individuals involved. However, processes of dehumanisation can only “work” (function) if the successful transformation of humans to the status of nonhuman is widely understood as an act that is imbued with sociopolitical and hierarchical meaning(s). In other words, intentionally placing human beings into a category of “animal” in order to subsequently exploit or oppress them would seem to serve little purpose if many other animals were not already constructed as potentially exploitable or, for various reasons, “killable” (ideologically “cullable”) beings; or “human resources,” and so on