Maybe the joke was better than I thought? | Bleader

Maybe the joke was better than I thought?


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I stand somewhat corrected, based on a couple observations on the New Yorker cover.

The Poorman: "I further suggest that 'A Modest Proposal' would not actually be improved by putting the whole thing in the blood-drenched mouth of a Tory industrialist named 'Dasterdly McBabyeater von Evil' and/or renaming it 'An Absurdly Broad Caricature of Aspects of Contemporary Society which The Author, In Truth, Deplores'."

TPI: "there are a lot of stupid people out there who do not know what satire is and cannot recognize it even in its baldest, lamest form. I am referring of course to national political correspondents. You should see what Fox News is doing with this stuff."

And, fair enough: for me to find it funny it probably would have had to have been more exaggerated or not making fun of things that I find pretty obvious. The point of the cartoon, which to me is crystal clear (but I regularly find things clear that clearly aren't), is that these smears are absurd, so if you visually depict all the smears simultaneously, it will be absurd, and therefore funny, and therefore it will be obvious that the smears are dumb.

What ended up happening is that it wasn't obvious at all. As Jonah Goldberg, weathervane for unthinking Republicanism, puts it: "What I find interesting about the New Yorker cover is that it's almost exactly the sort of cover you could expect to find on the front of National Review."

And because it wasn't obvious, you have a full-on toxic meltdown of Not Getting It--which, arguably, is a much more important purpose for satire than my own personal amusement. Obviously, I'd prefer to have it both ways: Stephen Colbert's virtuoso performance at the White House Press Correspondents' Dinner had the same effect of getting our unfunny ADD national press in a snit while in and of itself being funny. But one out of two ain't bad.

PS: There's a broader question here of how the national press corps serves as a very conservative yet reactionary (and I mean that in an aesthetic/cultural sense, not a political one) and not particularly reflective arbiter of what is and is not appropriate in our national discourse: America's schoolmarm. And it's a presumed discourse that doesn't seem to have much connection to how actual people on both sides of the political spectrum think and talk. I don't know if newspapers were particularly funny before I started reading them (I know there have been funny writers, eg Mike Royko, but history separates the wheat from the chaff), but they sure as heck aren't now; more often than not they're stumbling all over each other in a race towards the fainting couch.

And I can't help but think this contributes to an erosion of readership in the sub-45 age bracket; National Prom Chaperone isn't the most appealing product.

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