Attention people! Everybody relax. There is nothing really new here.

In what appeared to be a very disturbing development according to a recent story by the BBC, Russia has been working to “weaponize” humor or at least use humor for political influence. Ha ha, people have known forever that humor is a weapon. Is the Kremlin just catching on? Weaponizing humor is like saying newspapers are trying out sensationalism to sell more papers.

Where have they been for the past 2,000 years? Humor has been used for political influence since politics emerged, however that influence was wielded generally by the individual author or comic and not written and orchestrated by state-controlled media.

Humor has been recognized as dangerous for so long that language has evolved describing the fact that someone was skewered by a comic routine or cut down by a rude gag. It’s not uncommon to say that some people have very sharp wit that cuts like a knife and may cause explosive laughter. Comics can bomb on stage or kill the audience, and nobody wants to use jokes that are duds. And haven’t the Russians ever noticed political cartoons in the newspapers? Did they just assume all of that political satire was for children?

Governmental control of humor on mass media is easier than you might think. First the government takes control of all the big media outlets and then it censors all the jokes, fires the writers that put it in a bad light, and replaces everything with programs that make fun of anything the government wants to disparage. You might imagine the current administration producing a situation comedy called “It’s the Democrats’ Fault.”

Really, it’s not such a big deal. For goodness sake, even the TV networks are terrible with humor, and they’ve been trying for decades to get it right. Governments are hopelessly incompetent with humor; they can’t handle the receiving end and their delivery and timing are always off.

Take for instance the recent and very sad case in Sri Lanka, where apparently humor is considered very dangerous to the regime. Two men were arrested in the town of Vavuniya after posting a satirical video where they try to bribe a cardboard cutout of a traffic cop holding a speed radar gun that had been displayed on the side of the road to deter speeders.

The 23-year-olds were charged with humiliating and creating a bad public image of the Sri Lanka police, who, incidentally, have a problem with corruption. It’s like being arrested for creating a religious public image of the Pope.

Authoritarian governments find that it’s easier to develop nuclear weapons than it is to hone the use of humor, because those that have been seduced by the corruptive properties of power generally lose their sense of humor somewhere early along the way. You don’t see North Korea and Iran issuing hilarious proclamations catching us off guard; they can’t do it. Instead they are taking up rocket science because it’s easier.

Not only is humor an effective weapon, but it also makes a great shield to hide behind when a political figure is caught lying or making offensive statements. “The senator was just joking” is the first defense that comes out of the bag of pathetic excuses — and it’s a familiar one, since we all learned how to use it in third grade.

Ultimately this weaponizing of humor usually backfires. State-sponsored humor just has to be mediocre at best. The most powerful and incendiary political humor is written by independent individuals who are emotionally motivated to produce it. Since jokes are relatively easy to manufacture and not hard to transport and conceal, clandestine humorists can be making and stockpiling jokes, cartoons and visual gags against repressive administrations while waiting patiently for an opportune time to release them.

Unlike conventional munitions, which are generally single-use, jokes can be used and then reused time and again. More worrisome is that good humor will multiply itself and spread far beyond the original target.

Yes, the pen is mightier than the sword; especially a very keen and sharp pen that can poke you in all your ticklish spots.

In a related development, Russia’s president Putin, as reported by the BBC, wants the government to control rap music since it is based on sex, drugs and protest, with the additional headache that it typically contains bad language. Yeah, well, good luck with that, too.