Political satire badly needed to expose Washington’s BS

We need someone who speaks with common sense in Washington. President Joe Biden recently tweeted that his $ 3.5 trillion “Build Back Better” plan, funded by tax increases, “costs zero dollars.” Spokeswoman Jen Psaki recently coined the term “irregular migration” to avoid referring to illegal immigration. During the Kabul debacle, she went to great lengths not to admit that American citizens would remain “stranded” in Afghanistan. (That depends on the definition of “is”?)

Former President Trump often had only intermittent respect for facts. Then there are the tortured statements by Nancy Pelosi, like her famous “We have to pass ObamaCare to find out what’s in”. Not to mention “mostly peaceful protests” and similar nonsense from mainstream media personalities.

Americans want clear words. But that’s not what we get out of Washington so often.

What happened to the good old-fashioned humor to point out the stupid talk of the mighty? This is exactly what has a long and venerable tradition, embodied by William Shakespeare’s courtly “fool”. His court jesters use humor, observation, common sense, and sharp wit to tell the mighty and wise that they are not.

Mr. Shakespeare intends the fool to shed light on the truth. One of the bard’s most famous fools, Touchstone, says when threatened with a whip for telling the truth, “It is a pity that fools do not speak wisely when wise men act foolishly.”

Satire is another weapon in the hands of motley fools. Jonathan Swift’s 1729 A Modest Proposal is a shocking satire that is required reading in many high school literary classes. He suggested raising Irish babies as a source of food (and worse) since the effects of English colonial policy in 18th century Ireland were just as dire.

There have been some classic American “fools” over the years. Take Mark Twain, “There is no clearly American criminal class other than Congress.” A scandalous charge unless you name the members of both parties who have been found guilty of corruption. Or the cowboy comedian Will Rogers: “The more you read and observe this policy, you have to admit that each party is worse than the other.”

Then there are modern “fools” like Bill Maher and Greg Gutfeld who mix humor and pointed wit. One of the best foolish writers is PJ O’Rourke. “Since I’m not a liberal, I have very little understanding of things that I don’t know about.” But he is an equal opportunist. “Republicans are the party that says the government isn’t working and then they’re elected and they prove it.”

Sometimes politicians are their own fools. Ronald Reagan was famous for his self-deprecating and anti-government sense of humor. In response to critics who thought he was becoming mentally weak as he got older, he said, “I have left orders to be woken at any time in the event of a national emergency, including if I am in a cabinet meeting.” His comment came forty years before his time.

Shakespeare, true satirists, and the better modern comedians point out the foolish ideas, words, and actions of those in power. But humor and satire should ultimately bring about positive change. The 17th century satirist John Dryden

Of course, there is a danger in the revival of political satire, as we all seem to be losing our sense of humor. The demolition culture says that nothing is funny anymore. Liberals want to “fact-check” the satirical website The Babylon Bee. Comedians cancel and cancel tours. Thank goodness for meme creators who eschew censorship and the handful of political cartoonists who stay.

Maybe we all take politics too seriously. There is so much in Washington that deserves a bit of satire, from spending on pork kegs to twisted words like a carnival balloon to harmful acts of political theater and propaganda. Not that this is all funny, but there is a lot of folly to work around.

The emperors don’t have clothes, people. If there are too few voices in Washington to point this out, the rest of us may have to do so with a wry smile and a one-liner to bring the temperature down in the room.

• Tom Copeland is Director of Research at Centennial Institute and Professor of Politics at Colorado Christian University. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policies or position of the Centennial Institute and Colorado Christian University.

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