From the best essay I’ve read all month (not James Corbett, but I was reminded of his excellent vid on the topic, so I used that image).
This one comes from a ‘new to me’ writer on Substack called ‘The Upheaval’:
“The most obvious answer is that ridicule undermines authority. Or, perhaps more accurately, it is inherently destabilizing to brittle, illegitimate, undeserving authority. Hence why, as Milan Kundera put it in The Joke, “No great movement designed to change the world can bear sarcasm or mockery, because they are a rust that corrodes everything it touches.”
Me: Milan Kundera was my favorite writer for years and I’ve read most of his works, some of it multiple times. I find it extraordinary that despite his popularity among New York intelligentsia, that same circle has not understood its deeper implications, clearly, otherwise they would’ve seen right through the corporate-fascist institutions they are still supporting even now.
“The answer strikes to a much deeper insight: genuine humor is utterly reliant on its connection with the truth. As any good comic could explain, the best jokes play off the gap between expectation and reality; or between propriety (social pretense) and reality; or on irony, the gap between words and their real meaning; and so on – in all cases the most effective humor functions through revelation.”
“Nor perhaps why, pearls firmly in hand, a 2021 EU report literally titled “It’s Not Funny Anymore” warned breathlessly that, by “blurring the lines between mischief and potentially radicalising messaging,” the “transgressive humour” of online “meme culture” threatens to expose people to such amorphous “far-right” and “extremist” notions as “anti-elite arrogance and condescension,” or jokes making fun of those who “do not question the information that comes from mainstream press and politics.” And why, decrying that “humour has been weaponised as a form of resistance against a political culture that is supposedly curtailing free speech,” it called for increased global efforts to “monitor” and “quarantine” such humor in partnership with tech companies and “progressive communities.”
Me: Indeed. Just try to find funny political memes on a basic Google search today. Hardly a laugh to be found.
“But humor’s intimate relationship with the truth also explains why the authoritarian is typically incapable of it. If the punchline of a joke is not the revelation of the real but simply the reiteration of the lie, no genuine laughter – of the kind that seems to well up unbidden from deep within the listener – can be produced. Hence why most mainstream comedy has long since replaced laughter with “clapter,” why the left can’t meme, and why the EU report bemoaned the fact that “attempting to counter extremist humour with a form of alternative humour has proven very difficult.”
Me: As much as I agree and appreciate this entire essay and hope ya’ll will go read it, I also need to add that seed of doubt, because it’s there.
A question for y’all: Does humor also serve the tyrannical system by normalizing its crimes and diffusing the hostility of the masses? After all, back in the day it was the ‘court jesters’ who performed at the behest of the rulers. It is part of the ‘bread and circus’.
And so far, it has proven to be completely ineffectual at curbing the influence of the unelected elite whose power has only increased despite all the best efforts of George Carlin, among precious few others.
It may make us feel better, but does it really have any chance of changing the game? Because, if it did, wouldn’t it have worked by now? Is humor just the new ‘Opium of the masses’? After all, the ‘Emperor With No Clothes’ remains the Emperor.