Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Death of Satire

Question (and this will be on the test, for those applying for American citizenship):
What do Sheldon Adelson -- the human enema-bag -- and Donald Trump -- the World’s Worst Human Being -- have in common, besides being casino scum?
Answer:  They are the heaviest high-rollers in the Romney campaign.

(Murmuring at the swearing-in ceremony.  “We’ve changed our minds;  we want to be citizens of Norway.”)

So now the latest:  Romney plans a romp with Trump, not merely in the fetid backrooms of fundraising from fellow millionaires, but live on television, before millions of witnesses:


It has been reported that Donald Trump is likely to play a “surprise” part on the first day of the Republican National Convention next week in Tampa — perhaps, some speculate, in a comedy bit involving the firing of a Barack Obama impersonator. “The role, like Mr. Trump,” says a Trump spokesman, “is unique and will be memorable for all those in attendance at the convention and those watching around the country. Stay tuned.”

The appearance is further evidence of one of the oddest flirtations in American politics. Trump and Mitt Romney appeared together at a Las Vegas fundraiser in May. The Romney campaign raffled off a meal with the pair as a reward for campaign donors.

Romney supporters tend to be perplexed by his ties to Trump but dismissive of their importance. No one is likely to confuse the members of a couple this odd. On the plus side, this connection may help unbutton Romney’s public image. Add a little pop culture sizzle. Bring in some extra cash.

All of these justifications would make sense if we were talking about Kim Kardashian, who is famous merely for her fame. But Trump is also famous for spreading conspiracy theories. He is the nation’s highest-profile “birther,” who sent investigators to Hawaii to uncover proof of Obama’s duplicity. Finding none, he moved on to the sinister mystery of the president’s unreleased college transcripts. Turning his attention from politics to medicine, he has asserted that multiple vaccinations cause babies to be “different,” based on this evidence: “I’ve known cases.” When informed that most physicians disagree, he responded: “I know they do. ... I couldn’t care less.”

Set aside that vaccine skepticism is the medical equivalent of encouraging children to play in traffic. Trump represents not merely wealth and brashness but an attitude toward authority and knowledge. He has developed a standing among some populist conservatives by arguing that mainstream information is fundamentally biased, that public officials are engaged in elaborate deceptions, and that only a courageous few can understand and uncover the alarming reality. Politics, in this view, is not the contest of ideas; it is the exposure of a plot. It matters little if hard evidence is nonexistent; that is taken as further evidence of the plotters’ diabolical sophistication.

This isn’t new in American history, but that doesn’t make it less damaging. In “Voodoo Histories,” an entertaining demolition of modern conspiracy theories, David Aaronovitch argues that tolerance for conspiracy thinking amounts to a kind of “relativism,” which “doesn’t care to distinguish between the scholarly and the slapdash, the committed researcher and the careless loudmouth, the scrupulous and the demagogic.” Everyone becomes entitled to their own “alternative narratives,” at the expense of rationality, earned authority and objectivity. And conspiratorial narratives are often divisive and disturbing.

That is certainly true of presidential conspiracy theories — that Bill Clinton ordered a series of murders, or that George W. Bush was complicit in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, or that Obama illegally holds the presidency through deception. These charges are designed to delegitimize presidents. Instead of being opponents with different views, they become aliens or oppressors, unworthy of power and respect.

A few official campaign appearances by Trump do not imply a full embrace of birtherism by Romney or the Republican Party. But it is not healthy to take even a little bit of this hemlock. Trump’s appearance at the Republican convention represents a disturbing tolerance for disturbing ideas. What does it say about the modern GOP that the leading advocate of the theory that Obama is Kenyan is on the convention schedule, while the leading advocate of , say, mainstream climate science would risk being booed off the stage?

Until now, in the face of a deluge of emetic news from the ranks of the Tea-Baggers et ilk, I have attempted to turn lemons into giggle-juice, in various merry parables.  But this stuff beggars satire -- there is just no room to embellish anymore, no space to jape, when the reality is this bad.

(Gotta check if they have space left in the monastery …)

-- Oh, and now this:

Ted Cruz, who won the Senate primary in Texas and is all but certain to be elected, favors the closure of the Departments of Energy, Commerce and Education, along with the Transportation Security Administration and, naturally, the I.R.S. He says he is very worried that the United Nations is trying to ban golf courses and paved roads.

I … truly … can think of nothing funny to say.

[Update 22 August 2012]  Oh, and now this.
Lubbock, Texas, is voting an increase in taxes !!!  Man bites dog!
Only…  the reason they need to raise taxes is to pay for the militias that will be needed to fight the UN troops (! Not National Guard: UN troops) that Obama is expected to dispatch to Texas in the event he is reelected.  (What the mission of these troops might be, was not specified -- possibly to tear up the golf courses and paved roads.)
[Update!  For the inside scoop on this dastardly Papistical-Democratico plot click here quick --
before the Illuminati  take down the site !!
http://worldofdrjustice.blogspot.com/2012/08/obamapope-invasion-plot-unmasked.html ]

You cannot satirize this stuff -- it comes pre-satirized.  Humorists world-wide are facing starvation.  Please be generous!  Contribute here to the Fund to Buy Dr Justice a Nice Yacht! --


[Update 28 Sept 2012]    
Satire can die for two reasons:
  (1) As noted above, because the absurdity of reality outdoes lampoon.
  (2) As noted below, because a lot of folks  just ….  don’t ……..    get it.

Some people just don’t get satire.

Fars News Agency, described as “Iran’s leading independent news agency,” apparently was the latest in a proud tradition to mistake an Onion story for the real deal. The Onion’s signature deadpan description of a poll finding that the “overwhelming majority of rural white Americans said they would rather vote for Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than U.S. President Barack Obama” was lost on the Iranian news service, which ran a story of its own about the poll.

Interestingly, the Fars story is a word-for-word reprint of the Onion piece, so it seems that the agency might be guilty of ... unoriginality as well as gullibility.

The line between total absurdity and outrageous-but-true can be a fine one, but most savvy readers would have been tipped off by the Onion’s over-the-top treatment: the poll identified “77 percent of rural Caucasian voters … would much rather go to a baseball game or have a beer with Ahmadinejad, a man who has repeatedly denied the Holocaust and has had numerous political prisoners executed, than spend time with Obama.”

And if that hadn’t sent up flags, this line should have been a dead giveaway: “According to the same Gallup poll, 60 percent of rural whites said they at least respected that Ahmadinejad doesn’t try to hide the fact that he’s Muslim.”

Oh and -- almost forgot -- Buy My Books.

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