January 22, 2022

Column: “That Got Me to Thinkin’…?” “On Satire”

12/13/2021

“That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” “On Satire” Chapter 76
By Bruce Williams

Bruce Williams

While we live in an age of misinformation and conspiracy theories, the perfect opportunity for satire emerges from the thicket to mock the unending ridiculousness and to bring laughter instead of the alternative—shouting into the abyss of “no amount of proof will ever dissuade me.”  Whether it’s The Onion, the Colbert Report or Alice in Wonderland, satire dates back to the Romans and is a useful tool in lampooning the defiantly ignorant and toxically ill-informed in all of their hoarse-throated buffoonery.

One of my all-time favorites has been the Facebook home page of Shares From Your Aunt—the musings of Council Bluffian middle-ager Aunt Sharon, a staunch conservative and supporter of the former President.  Posts featuring a meme of a youthful Tom Brady in a letterman’s jacket and the following, “An ‘Obamacare Doctor’ told this young boy from San Mateo, CA that he’d never be able to throw a fully inflated football because of his tiny hands.  BUT HE WENT ON TO PLAY IN THE NFL AS A BACKUP QUARTERBACK FOR DREW BLEDSOE!!!”—followed by the instruction that one “like” equals 1000 “respects.”  Or another (somewhat dated) meme that states, “NFL All-Star Colin Kaepernick Says He Won’t Stand For Our National Anthem (the last three words in patriotic red, white and blue) Because The Authorities Give Preferential Treatment To “White People”… …OH REALLY?  TELL THAT TO THIS “WHITE PERSON” (an arrow pointing to what I believe is a badly beaten Jim Caviezel portraying Christ on his way to Golgotha).”  The meme is suffixed by, “SHARE if you think CRYBABY COLIN is Full Of CRAPernick”.  “ Auntie” has her following, and they gleefully mirror her misspellings and awkward punctuation as well as passing along all the gossip from their small Iowa township and dysfunctional extended family.  This page has all but disappeared after it developed a billboard fundraiser for their “Take Back Are (sic) Country” campaign that the IRS became increasingly interested in as to the source of what seemed to be political funding.

From The New York Times I read this morning about a young, 23-year old man that has started a “Birds Aren’t Real” crusade, driving around the country in his boldly scripted white van with the warnings of “WAKE UP” and “birds charge on power lines.”  This conspiracy theory is described as, “…a parody social movement with a purpose.  In a post-truth world dominated by online conspiracy theories, young people have coalesced around the effort to thumb their nose at, fight and poke fun at misinformation.  It is Gen Z’s attempt to upend the rabbit hole with absurdism.”  Pushing on both Instagram and Tik Tok the intricately scripted hypothesis that birds are simply government drones used to spy on the population, the “Bird Brigade” has swarmed Twitter headquarters to ironically protest their use of a bird in their logo, as well as appearing at and drowning out misinformed protests with their passionate trademarked, three-word chant.  As Connor Gaydos, one of the movement’s founders pontificated, “If anyone believes birds aren’t real then there’s probably no conspiracy they don’t believe.”

Not shying away from incendiary topics is the crux of good humor, and I propose that political satire is the 5th pillar of our democracy—no less important than the Legislative, Executive, Judicial & Free Press.  The “Birds” parody, described succinctly by one of its young adherents “…makes you stop for a second and laugh.  In a uniquely bleak time to come of age, it doesn’t hurt to have something to laugh about together.”  Much like Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal “For preventing the children of poor people in Ireland, from being a burden on their parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the publick” (he soberly suggested that they should simply be cooked and eaten by the populace to assuage their hunger as a response to the off-handed indifference of the British government to the plight of its Irish subjects), modern satire—whether it’s Beck Bennett wildly caricaturing the My Pillow guy on SNL’s Weekend Update or someone on the right eventually coming along and mocking the ripe “Defund the Police” movement—is meant to propel us forward by simply exposing the preposterousness of our present, and reminding us not to take ourselves too seriously…and as a response to that ALL CAPS guy you went to high school with that does his own goddamned research, thank you.  

Wake up, sheeple.

 

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