I just got wind of a brewing controversy over at UCLA Law School involving this year's Moot Court problem. A detailed, up-to-date commentary is available here. Briefly, the Moot Court hypothetical centers around a Mexican illegal immigrant child molester named "El Guapo," and all other fictitious names in the fact pattern (including the names of judges, INS agents, and geographic locations) are named after popular brands of liquor. This was an ass-headed move on the part of the Moot Court Board.
My theory on offensive humor is that it's fine, in fact desirable, as long as the humorous content is sufficient and the offensiveness makes sense in the context of the humor. Here, by all appearances, the decision to call the Defendant "El Guapo" and to name things after alcohol appears to be devoid of any humorous context whatsoever. And while I don't believe the liquor-based nomenclature was an intentional attempt to draw a connection between Latinos and booze, absent some other explanation it certainly invites the sort of outrage that the Moot Court board has suffered at the hands of La Raza and other students. Indeed, the liquor names may have been innocuous standing alone, but use of "El Guapo" casts suspicion on the hypo's other feeble attempts at humor.
Furthermore, the overall context of the asinine non-humor is the Moot Court Program at UCLA Law School, a prestigious, highly institutionalized student activity at a nationally recognized law school. The UCLA Law Review's Sopranos-based write on packet was stupid enough without adding the specter of racial insensitivity to the mix.
To be clear, I'm not saying that the Moot Court Board should face any official retribution from the school. I just think that surprisingly little thought went into such an important aspect of the law school, and I would hope that UCLA had more to offer. Offensive I can handle. Dumb is just dumb.