Liberals and Satire

JesterHatby Timothy Lane2/24/16
Liberals are famously humorless, an affliction especially associated with feminists. (“How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb? One — and that’s not funny!) But that isn’t really quite the case. Liberals are quite prepared to laugh at their enemies (conservatives, middle Americans, and Republicans, three overlapping categories), and many (such as Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, and any number of veterans of Saturday Night Live) have made a living of it. They’re also probably as likely to enjoy non-political humor as anyone else is.

But there is an interesting hole in their minds (well, more than one, but I’m talking about one particular hole here). Isaac Asimov was noted as many things, and one of them was a good sense of humor. He even wrote a Treasure of Humor heavily loaded with good jokes, some of which involved political satire. Left-wing satire, anyway. When Al Capp, during the 1960s, switched from mocking General Bullmoose to mocking Phoney Joanie and Students Wildly Indignant about Nearly Everything (SWINE — and I might add,plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose), Asimov complained in public.

This was nothing new, either. A friend once pointed out that Mort Sahl became very popular among the goodthinkful well-doers as a satirist of the Eisenhower administration. When JFK came in, he switched targets, naturally — and lost that popularity. Liberals, it seems, can’t tolerate any form of mockery of their political sacred cows.

One reason for this is that they often can’t even recognize that some things really are intended as humor. When Rush Limbaugh joked at a conservative conference about buying his mother a can-opener to open dog food to eat (a liberal myth of dubious merit), Putzy Schroeder the next day spoke about this as if he had seriously meant it. I’ve similarly encountered elsewhere a leftist inability to recognize, for example, that certain comments by humorist P. J. O’Rourke were intended to be funny.

Most people probably aren’t thrilled about having their sacred cows laughed at. But most people at least realize when it’s supposed to be funny. But not ideological liberals. Time and again, they show such strange mental holes. Liberalism is indeed a mental illness But this also shows that anti-liberal satire can be a very powerful weapon against them. They react badly to being laughed at, far worse than most other people do (at least when it’s their ideology that’s the target), so the more we can do it, the better it is.

Timothy Lane writes from Louisville, Kentucky and publishes the FOSFAX fanzine.
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18 Responses to Liberals and Satire

  1. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Putzy Schroeder. What a jerk. And she was held in such high regard by the Left for so many years.

  2. Steve Lancaster says:

    The best weapon against the statists is scorn, derision, and laughter. The most humorless state is the one that is most repressive. There was a time when satire was an art even during the heart of the Cold War. For example That Was the Week That Was,

    There was a time even NBC had sense of humor

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Even as a kid, I liked this show.

      • Steve Lancaster says:

        Dr. Tom Lehrer is just as relevant today as in 1964 he died about 4 years ago.
        I suggest
        1. It makes a fellow proud to be a soldier
        2. So long mom I’m off to drop the bomb
        3. Poisoning pigeons in the part
        4. MLF lullaby

        • Timothy Lane says:

          For a few months in late 1964, the local station didn’t carry the show, and we were very disappointed. (On the other hand, I did take a liking to Petticoat Junction.) We even gave up on :NBC until I noticed that the listing was ‘To Be Announced”. A lot of people had complained. I can still remember their parody coverage of LBJ’s inaugural as well as their coverage of the guerrilla war between North and South California (including a reference to the Viet Carmel). As a matter of fact, I have an LP of the show’s highlights, though we don’t generally play those anymore. (I also have an LP of skits by Wayne & Shuster, who used to appear on Ed Sullivan.)

          As for Lehrer, I have a complete collection of his songs. I note that you don’t mention anything from his original collection, Songs by Tom Lehrer, which has a number of excellent items. My chemistry professor once played his “The Elements” at the beginning of a lecture. I do remember some of his songs from TW3, including “Pollution” (which was included in a book on the subject that I had in a college course). And I’ll also note his few non-album songs, such as “I Got It From Agnes”. I would also mention “Wernher von Braun” and “Folk Song Army”, both of which I’ve done recent parodies of (“Hagel and Crist” and “Vote Fraud Army”).

          • Steve Lancaster says:

            There is a chemical engineering prof at the University of Arkansas that plays the elements several times a semester. The smarter students get it, those who will never be engineers don’t.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I liked “The Vatican Rag” and “Pollution”.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Most people probably aren’t thrilled about having their sacred cows laughed at.

    Besides their authoritarian impulses (which they say belong exclusively to conservatives), I can’t help thinking that the Left is humorless because what they tend to do and believe is already so ridiculous. We’re not supposed to laugh at Caitlyn Jenner, a man pretending to be a girl. What then does that leave?

    Satire can be corrosive (mindlessly contrarian). But it also can be a relief from the insanity of supposed and imposed normalcy. Satire is taking a pinprick to the overinflated ideas and egos of people who have often done their best (see: Jenner) to make the ridiculous normal. The right generally not being of this bent, this is surely why humor is an enemy of the Left. They are, by nature, ridiculous…and should therefore be ridiculed accordingly.

    That’s one reason when the Left (Jon Stewart, etc) makes fun of the right (I can see Russia from my front door), they often have to fabricate things. They create the caricature out of thin air. On the other hand, just turn the camera on the typical Leftist. They are prima facie ridiculous. It takes an iron and threatening hand (speech codes, etc.) to keep people from not obeying their inner and natural funny bone that knows stupid when they see it.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I recall that the old Rocky and Bullwinkle show was produced by two guys, a Republican and a Democrat, who shared a delight in puncturing stuffed shirts. One reason liberals do so poorly in caricaturing conservatives is that, since this should be based on truth, one has to understand the other side to do a good, honest satire. This is another reason they rely on mockery instead.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Bob Hope — generally Republican-leaning — certainly had fun playfully skewering both sides. I wasn’t aware of the parentage of R&B. And in regards to puncturing stuffed shirts, it’s always been amusing to me that the hip, enlightened, aware, smart, Jon-Stewart-types can’t seem to find much to puncture in Obama, Hillary, etc. And yet when they engage in mindless groupthink and take a reflexive sledgehammer to “debunking” and parodying those meanies on the right, they are blissfully unaware of their own innate dullness, if not cowardliness — one of the definitions for “C” that Pat ascribes to “Political Correctness.”

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I once saw a TV special on the series, and also have a book about it. I loved Rocky and Bullwinkle. Of course, I took an early liking to satire; I was reading MAD Magazine in the early 1960s.

  4. David Ray says:

    Your concise article has resonated.
    It brought to memory how a Dan Roberts remarked on my self-deprocating humor. (We were soon to be both layed off from soon-to-be corporate AT&T.)

    I told him that us conservatives can, and do, laugh at ourselves. Liberals can only laugh at others. (That was back in 2005. Where does the time go?)

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Actually, I think Asimov could have laughed at himself, and his collection had a whole chapter on jokes about Jews. It was joking about his ideology he couldn’t tolerate. Of course, it’s interesting that both Reagan and the elder Bush had the Capitol Steps appear at the White House and insisted that they only do jokes about them. Clinton doesn’t seem to have done anything of the sort.

      • David Ray says:

        Interesting observation.

        Bush 41 invited Dana Carvey to the White House during his exit. Reagan signed “i’m the one wearing the watch” on the chimp movie poster.
        Boy Hussein had a vicious bitch muse on the joys of Limbaugh’s kidney failure . . . during that news reporter diner that traditionally is the venue for presidents to be roasted.
        Trouble was is that B. Hussein lacks any substance for challange. He’s always been nothing more than the gold stars awarded for just being in the class room with victim status. (Sure as shit wasn’t his GPA that got him in the Oval Office.)

        • SkepticalCynic SkepticalCynic says:

          I would say he got in the Oval Office by way of ignorant voters…..twice. “There is no cure for inherent stupidity.”

  5. David says:

    I would disagree that ignorant voters put the current resident in the WH. No one I know voted for him the second time.
    Since he is placed in office by the Electoral College, I’d look for rampant corruption in that direction first. How else could his ‘highness’ declare to Putin that he’d had the election all wrapped up prior.
    Just sayin’

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