Satire is Dead. What use is it?

Satire deals in ridicule, irony and exaggeration. It’s supposed to be a rhetorical device, but it’s our new reality. In the age of fake news, where the ridiculous has become the reality and the reality our entertainment, where fake news shows like the Daily Show and the old Colbert Report were more popular as a source for current events than real news, where one of the biggest and most trusted news network is Fox, where both sides of our ideological extremes regularly twist or ignore facts, and where our social media allows us to “curate” creating an intellectual feed bag that has only content that we feel comfortable with, what need could we possibly have for satire?

Allan Ishac

Look at this guy, Allan Ishac. My feed delivers him daily. People read him. he gets hearts in the dozens. He must be talented. He has an urban garden gnome named Elfie. I dig that. I am sure from his accomplishments he’s not dumb. I won’t read him. His headlines infuriate me. Not because they aren’t funny. I am sure they are. Or they would be. I can’t feel much humor about his subjects at the moment. This is a serious time. Sorry Allan, it’s nothing personal.

Stephen Colbert

The heir apparent to David Letterman and Johnny Carson ended his most recent foray into politics by remarking that the President of the US likes to have his dick sucked (Cock Holstered tbp) by the President of the Russian Federation. There’s a point where we leave even satire behind and just go straight to the gutter, and that’s it. There was no humor there that you couldn’t purchase at 3AM on a Saturday night on 7th Avenue in Ybor City, Florida. I think that monologue sucked. Not only wasn’t it funny, it was weary. Like us all, I am tired of watching the elites bat at each other and then buddy up when we aren’t watching.

Real Time with Bill Maher

Bill Maher (who isn’t on Medium but is represented here by HBO PR) demonstrates this whenever he gets a guest on who is talking about something very serious and he derails them to do some satire. Here’s an example with Professor Timothy Snyder. [Youtube link from The Show’s Official Youtube Channel]

The Professor is a serious person, talking about something he thinks is serious for the nation. (see caveats below for his content) Maher can’t help with the jokes, because that’s his show, it’s his schtick, it’s his job. It’s certainly a distraction when it’s time to be serious. But you see this happen over and over again, well fed, well made up elites, kicking down and howling like hyenas when he gets the quips out. Doesn’t matter who they are. They are part of the same class, and they’ll gladhand each other backstage and go out for cocktails after the cameras are done. In times like these, their laughter makes me angry.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

John Oliver, also not on Medium, also represented by HBO PR. The sounds of his audience just whooping it up to classics like this State of Kansas Sex Toy Auction Segment [Youtube Link Here] don’t calm my nerves. My first thoughts were poor Kansas, here it comes. And sure enough. It did. Sure dicks are funny. Rubber ones? Doubly so. But at the time, Kansas was in severe financial straits, like many agricultural states, they have an opiod problem, they aren’t doing well. In 2014 people were losing hope, they still are. Why are their own people cheering while he kicks down?

And this is the same man who satirically urged Donald Trump to run for office. Ironically provided by paragons of journalistic integrity, CNN.

Parasites like John Oliver need people to fail, to hurt, to make huge mistakes, to be dumb, to be hypocritical, they need things to go wrong, awry, they need and seemingly want things to crash for their targets so badly, that they can be mocked. Because that’s their job. They aren’t making original comedy. They mock.

Except Kansas voted for Trump by 56.6%. Trump won enough states to win the national vote. It’s not funny now. It wasn’t funny then. There are serious times.

The defense is going to be, hey, it’s just a joke, don’t you have a sense of humor?

Humor can help us get through horrifying situations. It can rekindle hope. But the line is thin. Satire is only half meant to be funny. I am sick to death of this brand of it. And that’s no joke.

Caveats.

  • I’m not lumping all these artists / satirists together as Parasites. They are doing different things that annoy me under the same rubric. I don’t think that Maher and Oliver are comparable. Maher can’t seem to help himself, and he occasionally comes up for air. Oliver is however a parasite. And like I said, I am sure Allan is a wonderful person. There are more than these three, Colbert isn’t even doing satire anymore, he has apparently also left comedy and good taste behind.
  • I don’t agree with Professor Snyder 100%. I’m quoting him for his seriousness. Not because I endorse him or his book. I don’t.
  • Maher is critically uninformed for someone in his position. For example Bill says Hitler was elected. That’s a myth. He was appointed Kanzler by emergency decree. He wasn’t appointed with a majority, or as result of a particular election. The Nazis had lost 4 seats in the last one prior to his appointment. Hitler took the appointment with a minority cabinet, which he then quickly flipped procedurally, and then took over for real after the President died. Bill? If you want history to mean something with utility for deciding the present? Be accurate.
  • While they talk about the importance of the Reichstag Fire Event to come, we already had the Reichstag Fire Event in 2001. The Patriot Act and subsequent acts of government and SCOTUS rulings have shown us that the government can now covertly surveil, apprehend, hold without a warrant, and even execute American citizens in the name of security without the traditional checks on government power. If that’s not a Reichstag Fire Event, then I don’t know what one is. And I’m strangely qualified to understand that particular historical phenomenon.