12 August, 2008

The Current Impossibility of Satire

I adore skilled satirists. Voltaire and Mark Twain enjoy a special place in my personal pantheon of literary and philosophical heroes for their immense talent in the art. Every time I read them, I wish I could be even a fraction as good. Sarcasm I can do. Mockery comes easy. Snark seems an inborn trait. But satire? That's hard work, and takes far more brains than I possess. I'd have to work at it.

Sadly, had I pursued that goal and honed my satirical skills, the effort would have been wasted. This was brought home to me a few nights ago, as I was reading the chapter on Voltaire in The Western Intellectual Tradition:
Further, satire is intimately connected with urbanity and cosmopolitanism, and assumes a civilized opponent who is sufficiently sensitive to feel the barbs of wit leveled against him. To hold something up to ridicule presupposes a certain respect for reason, on both sides, to which one can appeal. An Age of Reason, in which everyone accepts the notion that conduct must be reasonable, is therefore a general prerequisite for satire.



Well, I should have known, shouldn't I? In an age where Poe's Law reigns, satire is dead. How can you satirize your opponents when their outrageous stupidity taxes even the most active imagination? I've seen it happen often enough - the neo-theo-cons fall hook, line and sinker for a perfect parody. Satirize them, and they think they've been complimented. I could come up with a scathing diatribe worthy of Voltaire, which everyone but the clinically dead should recognize as completely ridiculing their world view, and they'd believe I've come over to their side. And I can't even write satire for folks like you lot - how many times have you had to thoroughly research a piece, including tracing the history of its creator throughout their career, just to be absolutely sure it's not some utter fuckwit spouting some extraordinary new bullshit that they really truly believe?

You can't satirize a group of pig-ignorant, batshit insane, self-righteous fucktards who constantly satirize themselves. Voltaire himself would be defeated by these people.

Sarcasm, mockery, and snark it is, then.

1 comment:

Nicole said...

I can't remember the source (I'll try to find it), but I read an essay about satire/wit that said satire used toward people who don't have the intelligence to appreciate it is simply cruel.

Perhaps you can test your satire in the next COTEB?