The Death Of Satire

A few days ago, I posted about the increasing prominence of what I can only call bat-shit crazy political beliefs–beliefs that evidently function to justify the adherents’ fear and hatred of various “others.”

The growth of what we might call the fantasy phenomenon has a number of consequences; for one thing, it makes it difficult–okay, impossible–to “reach out” and try to find common ground. What do those of us who live in what we fondly hope is the real world have in common with people who actually believe that an elitist “cabal” rules the world, and that its members keep children in basement hideaways so that they can periodically drink their blood? Because they also believe that drinking young blood keeps them young…

I’m not making that up; it’s a staple of the QAnon fantasy.

A troubling but far less consequential result of “the crazy” is its effect on satire. It would seem that our current political reality has killed satire. And that matters for far more than entertainment, because satire can be a particularly effective form of political criticism.

Satire is defined as the” use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.”  Exaggeration is particularly important to the creation of a satirical observation; it is by exaggerating an argument or behavior that the humorist identifies and amplifies what is ridiculous (or at least silly) about it.

So what do you do when reality overpowers your ability to exaggerate a position in order to demonstrate its essential nuttiness–when what people say or believe is already so outsized and insane that there’s nowhere else to go?

I think we are there. I was struck by a recent post to Daily Kos that featured a quiz: Is it satire or is it real?

Here’s the quiz:

1)  Eighty-five Percent of White Evangelicals Support Boastful, Lying, Thrice-married Serial Adulterer, Say He’s “Good Christian.”

2)  Republicans Who Oppose Using Tax Money to Aid Needy Americans Lament That Money Sent to Ukraine Could be Used to Aid Needy Americans.

3)  Congressman Who Claims He Didn’t Witness Systemic Sexual Abuse of College Athletes Named to Oversight Committee

4)  Mass Shooting Victims Offered Thoughts and Prayers by Thoughtless, Godless Politicians.

5)  Majority of Republicans Deem Colleges, Universities Harmful to Society, Prefer People Remain Ignorant.

6)  Republicans Who Warn of “Government Coming Between You and Your Doctor” Mandate Medically Unnecessary, Invasive, Trans-Vaginal Ultrasounds, Feel No Disconnect

7)  Congresswoman Who Angrily Disrupted State of the Union Bemoans Lack of Civility in Restaurant.

8)  Book Banners and History Deniers Decry “Cancel Culture.”

9)  Conservative Commentator Sexualizes M&Ms, Gives “Melts In Your Mouth, Not in Your Hands” Disturbing New Connotation

10)  Supporters View Man who Lost Money Owning Casino as Great Businessman

11) Reporters Routinely Hide Blockbuster News Until Book Published, Still Regard Themselves as Journalists

12) News Media Insists Upon Calling Most Radically Activist SCOTUS Justices in History “Conservative.”

13) Republicans who Tout Deregulation of Rail Safety, Environmental Protection Criticize Safety Regulators, EPA, For Not Doing Enough

14) Republicans in Uproar Over Mister Potato Head Call Other People “Snowflakes”

15) Tennessee Legislator Promotes Lynching as Capital Punishment Method, Remains Utterly Lacking in Awareness of Term “Utterly Lacking in Awareness.”

16) Georgia Congresswoman Proposes Red State/Blue State “Divorce,” Forgetting Her State Elected Democratic President And Two Democratic Senators.

Those of you who follow this blog, or political life in general, undoubtedly answered correctly that all of these examples are real world specimens snatched from today’s degraded political landscape. (Granted, the framing betrays some bias, but the identified behaviors are accurate.)

How can you possibly exaggerate today’s walking, talking buffoonery?

The purpose of satire has always been to make a point–to demonstrate the inanity or wrong-headedness of a particular behavior or belief, and (hopefully) to shame those who are engaging in that behavior or endorsing that belief. What we are discovering in our bizarro new political world is that the people who take these positions and/or trumpet these beliefs are either dishonest–playing to the MAGA crowd–or clueless true believers, and in either case, that they are utterly shameless.

Whatever the true beliefs of today’s performative political figures, the real question doesn’t focus on them. The conundrum is the question that several commenters to this blog routinely pose: what is wrong with the people who vote for these buffoons?

The real problem isn’t the embarrassing idiots who dominate the news cycles. It’s the large number of our fellow-Americans who are evidently impossible to embarrass.


  1. We are witnessing what is perhaps the ultimate example Poe’s Law. Or maybe it’s ultimate defeat. With today’s GOP you can’t tell the difference between satire and seriousness even if there is a winky face.

  2. I have said it before and will say it again: regarding the supporters of the GOP of today, whether it be the MAGA crowd in Congress or the super-majority in the red statehouses: either they don’t know, or they simply do not care. And, given the mounting evidence available, I must conclude that they simply do not care. Willful ignorance is no excuse.

  3. Republican House Committees investigating the investigators who investigated them while the DOJ continues using the reported results of the January 6th Insurrection Committee, co-chaired by a top Republican, for information to indict a number of those on the current House Republican investigative committees is beyond satire and bordering on insanity.

    I am reminded of a deeply disturbing time in my family when my 15 year old brother was arrested and placed in Norman Beatty Memorial Hospital for the Criminally Insane because there was no medical diagnosis for his violence. Arrest was the only way he could be hospitalized without a diagnosis. When visiting, we were taken to the hospital cafeteria where we were told/warned that there may be violent disruptions from other patients visiting with family members and we were to sit quietly and ignore these disruptions as if they were not happening. This was for our own safety. Here I am again, years later, expected to behave as if none of the Trump/Maga/GOP insanity is not going on around me; but they can’t promise it will result in the safety for any of us. My brother’s mental problems were the results of doctors recommending radiation be used on a small tumor on his forehead shortly after he was born in 1944. Cause and effect!

    Today we are in the midst of the irrational Pandemic vaccine denial, anti-abortion and continuation of overturning the 2020 presidential election and expected to sit quietly and act as if this is normal.

    “The real problem isn’t the embarrassing idiots who dominate the news cycles. It’s the large number of our fellow-Americans who are evidently impossible to embarrass.” We need to drag out our copy of “The Dangerous Case Of Donald Trump”, “27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President” and add the current SCOTUS/MAGA/GOP members who continue dragging Trump along like an incomplete abortion. Embarrassment is not in their vocabulary nor is it considered a treatable mental condition.

  4. Until the sane voting republicans choose to call out the insane behavior of their party’s representatives the insanity won’t stop. The silence of both the voters and the gop office holders makes them complicit in the insanity.

  5. A victory for extremist political claim is when there is no further room for satire to exaggerate further to make a humorous argument. But no worries. When otherwise hostile aliens listen in from interstellar cosmos during one of our news cycles, they conclude they have no use for our level of intelligence and just ignore us. Perhaps the thin majority among us would benefit from following their example.

  6. It’s sad to watch the media giants all mixed up with these political hacks. Does anybody even care about 1/6 anymore? Must get ratings among certain target markets. Sad, really.

    Everybody I know is turning it off…even after the media provided Joe with a diversion over the Sy Hersh piece where pro-Ukrainian saboteurs sabotaged the Nord Stream pipelines.

    They’re just not serious anymore. None of them…

  7. This just in on my morning feed from Daily Mute. It seems a well privately funded DNA testing lab in Los Alamos is doing research on evidence of cross breeding among latent Neanderthal and Cro Magnon. They requested DNA sample from Marjorie Taylor Greene. The Congresswoman’s Office reported no comment.

  8. One of my favorites: Putin launches massive attack on Ukraine in order to prevent war.

  9. To accentuate this discussion even more, it is to be noted that Speaker McCarthy appointed Marjorie Taylor-Greene the Speaker pro tem yesterday. Remember the theory that “Jewish space lasers” were responsible for the outbreak of wildfires in California in 2021?! That has been only one of Greene’s outrageous comments. Democrats refused to seat Greene on House committees because of her longstanding parade of antisemitic memes and irrational conspiracy theories. But yet she was seated yesterday as the House speaker! I am personally offended by the sight of a secessionist appointed to preside over a Congressional legislative chamber that is a symbol of our national unity for this country!
    These are the pathetic depths to which the House GOP has descended in recent weeks. Ironically these images are a perfect poster child for depicting quite graphically a lack of any leadership or morals by this party which was reluctantly handed the gavel by former Speaker Pelosi.

  10. Well … the Los Alamos lab reconstructed the image of Marjorie Taylor Greene without cosmetic make-up and surgery and surmises a remarkable resemblance to facial features of early emergence of modern human species. It is now reported the Congresswoman’s Office has reconsidered the request from the lab for her DNA sample if they make a substantial contribution to her campaign fund. Alas, science is acknowledged for the right price! 😏

  11. Brilliant billionaire businessman runs a scam “university” and sells steaks exclusively out of a clothing store chain.

    Norris, I have to say I’m a little appalled at the way you’ve slighted our early human ancestors in your comment. They did not deserve that!

  12. James:
    they are lobbists for the rich. anything that will come to their pockets being second,is a matter of national security. they want a corp style goverment whereas,no one votes,no one complains.
    its not rigged its a vast set up over 40 years to con the public into believeing its some one elses fault for anything. social media has glorified the meaning of ignorance on a atomic scale.

  13. The “crazies” have even (if unknowingly) invaded the civilizing effect of the use of our language with their crass and dirty use of it. When was the last time you heard their use of the flexible term “clever” or heard Trump use any mood other than the superlative in describing his underappreciated exploits and/or the failures of anyone of any party or any institution of government (FBI, special counsel et al) who oppose what he did, is doing, and proposes to do when the stolen election is overturned and he is returned to power? Such fantasy when repeated often enough becomes an article of faith among the crazies, since anyone who calls the fantasy fantasy is a socialist, pedophile, a liar et al, and not to be trusted with the reins of government, all of which required a righteous effort to overturn such tyranny on 1/6.

    These crazies with their reiteration of not only the Big Lie but truckloads of little lies in support thereof bereft of vigorous counterclaim are proving Dr. Goebbels’s theory that with constant reiteration of untruth it becomes truth. Readers will recall that Dr. Goebbels was Hitler’s
    Propaganda Minister, and with the remarkably similar attempts by the crazies here today to his efforts on behalf of Hitler’s murderous reign nearly a century ago, we are headed down the same path to dictatorship.

    I have therefore concluded that it is not enough to merely announce that I will not be a “Good German” and watch the propaganda peddlers of woke take our Madisonian democracy down the path to dictatorship; I will rather be part of a vigorous counterclaim to any such attempt to do so by the crazies or any other aggrieved grouping of would be Nazis.

  14. The current GOP cares not how low the bar is set (MTG, Santos, etc) as long as they have and keep power. That’s it.

  15. Can we call these clowns self-satirists.
    Does MTG believe her gibberish, or is she some diabolically brilliant manipulator.?
    MTG and Boebert both won in ’22, the latter by a very thin margin, but still, people
    actually voted for her. “Hey, I’m a looney tune, but what about you?” Did they vote for either
    just to “get the libs”? Might that be more important to them than having a functional government?
    Oh…might this be the right-wing cabal’s anarchist plan? You know, destroy the gov’t
    by way of creating irrelevancy?

  16. George Carlin and Lenny Bruce are either turning over in their graves, or collecting massive amounts of new material for future gigs.

  17. Poe’s law is an adage of Internet culture saying that,
    without a clear indicator of the author’s intent,
    any parody of extreme views can be mistaken by
    some readers for a sincere expression of the views
    being parodied.

  18. To John H: “Norris, I have to say I’m a little appalled at the way you’ve slighted our early human ancestors in your comment. They did not deserve that!”

    John, I just received my new orthopedic shoes and now I stand corrected. My brilliant world history teacher in the 9th grade (way back when Moby Dick was just a sardine) tried in vain for me to accept Neanderthal folk without judgement. Unfortunately, the GOP was not around then to pass a bill to prevent cross breeding. Now I am afraid this has come back to haunt them.

    This could be my last attempt to prove Sheila is right today. Satire runs a great deal more risk to attempt humor beyond bounds of current extremist postering.

  19. I have started to call the Republican Party the Party of Death because it seems to me they don’t give a damn how many Americans die as a result of their psychotic ideas. If there are any sane people in the Party of Death, I doubt that their voices calling out the psychotic stuff will ever be heard. Every day I read articles where conservatives are pointing out the truth. Unfortunately, the psychotics are saying things that too many Americans believe. Equally unfortunate is the plain truth that liberals/progressives tend to be lazy about voting and researching every candidate down ballot while the right wingers are avid voters.

    For those who might be interested, I have a group on Facebook, Gloriamarie’s Progressive Stuff. I’ll share the link and mention that there are 3 screening questions that must be answered because I have had terrible problems in the past with spammers and trolls. Here’s the link:

  20. Simply put, when you have to label your satire in advance, it’s no longer satire.

  21. Political humor became redundant when –
    “Richard Nixon became President”
    “Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize for bombing Cambodia”

    Both attributed to Tom Lehrer – he retreated to mathematics.

    jack smith – I’d settle for a second party, instead of a party and a cult.

    MAGA people craziness – to paraphrase Wittgenstein, That about which nothing can be said should be passed over in silence.

    MAGA people/DeSantis autocratic tendencies – Scream people – that needs to be stopped.

  22. Jonathan Swift’s satire, “A Modest Proposal”, used precise economic statistics to propose the simple solution to poverty and hunger was for the poor to eat their infants. The economic logic was impeccable and his tone was coldly rational, which exposed the lack of humanity and heart as appalling – which was of course his point. Just days ago I read this absolutely serious comment from Alaska state legislator, David Eastman (R): “It can be argued, periodically, that [fatal child abuse is] actually a cost savings because that child is not going to need any of those government services that they might otherwise be entitled to receive and need based on growing up in this type of environment.”

    All I can respond anymore is “where is your compassion?” Have you, “at long last, no sense of decency?”

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