Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Dead Satyr

Van Dyck's Silenus

Satire is the weapon of the aristocrat, and so must always die in the hands of a democracy. A perfect example of this we can see in the just past presidential election. For weeks leading to the event, Saturday Night Live aired a series of devastating skits at the expense of McCain's running mate Sarah Palin. They were full of the true spirit of satire, a sublime mocking spirit of the noble soul who smiles in condescension at the fumbling's of the village idiot who pretends to more than she owns.

After a series of these scathing broadsides, the show decided to allow the attacked to attempt to laugh at themselves, completely negating the power of their parodies‘. The American answer to this is: "we want to be fair and give the other side a chance." Since when is fairness a requirement of satire? When Voltaire so nimbly vivisected the buffoonery of the Catholic church, he did not then turn to the Jesuits and say: "Now you do me."

The whole point of satire is to belittle one's enemies and bring to light the foolishness of the world. By then handing the poor man's (often) only weapon to that same enemy is an act of shear stupidity.

To add to the sense of cognitive dissonance, Tina Fey, who played the rustic Palin with such delicious glee, and who made comment that she would have to leave the planet should Palin be elected, was recently reported saying: “The people on the left were like, ‘No, you can’t do that!”’---And it’s like, ‘We don’t work for you.”’ First, all entertainers do work for us, the public. That is why when we are no longer entertained we ask for our money back and take our business elsewhere.

Secondly, I know there are those who will argue she has a point in giving the other side its voice, but no. We must live in a truly cynical and relativistic age when all points are deemed valid, and any fool can be allowed a clear shot at destroying the world. It defies reason and likewise, defies the spirit of the form.

If the mirthful spirits of Voltaire and Dean Swift could listen to such logic, no doubt they would find their disdain for human intelligence justified and smile just a bit more.

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