Irony and satire are spectacular double edged rhetorical blades. Capable of cutting both toward the obvious and obscure. A master of this weapon does not shy away from using either end.
In order to be effective, a satirist pits extremes against each other. The using a juxtaposition of an obvious subject of ridicule to critique a seemingly justified thought. Contrary to the opinion of many that reside within the confusingly existent grey area between the alt-right and libertarianism, there is a difference between being a satirist and being an edge-lord.
If you laugh at “helicopter ride” jokes without noticing that the primary target is Pinochet, you might be an edge-lord. Assuredly then, you are the type that would be proud you are not the first in your history to fit this label. The economic right’s authoritarian fringe has a long lineage of confusing their own crude hatred for some sort of tact. It is not your responsibility to have an entirely refined sense of humor, but satire is more dynamic than a crude joke. If you can only grasp the dull end of an ironic joke, you probably aren’t too sharp, and your jokes probably are’t defensible.
Bullies are not far off from their, often self deprecating, targets in their phrasing. Where they differ is in the intention of their insults. A brutish schoolyard bully may be kidding when he calls you names, but he genuinely intends to hurt your feelings, meanwhile your friends may throw equally disturbing platitudes your way, but they are thickly laced with irony- demeaning the very words they are speaking by their own absurdity, a nuance not found in the bully’s tone.
Nazis, real National Socialists of the mid twentieth century, used to use this same misunderstanding to make their cause seem viable. Writer, Jean-Paul Sartre, who wrote during the holocaust and personally witnessed the fever pitch of antisemitism had this to say about the willfully unsound argumentation of fascists,
“Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words.”
Just like a bully’s only aim is your hurt and outrage, edge lords seek anger to justify their continued action. By pushing their adversaries to anger, they make themselves the martyrs and attract new support.
Needless to say, Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and other collectivist ideologues are diametrically opposed to the founding fathers’ ideas about individual liberty and sovereignty.
Straightforward jokes celebrating the harm done to political opponents in Charlottesville are not cleaver, they are crude. This distinction is not a moralization. Make whatever joke you like, but have some linguistic discipline. Genuinely celebrating Heather Heyer’s death does not make you satiric humorist, a lover of individual sovereignty, or a libertarian. She died without a good reason and it takes a collectivist thought process to liken her personal ideology- or any ideology- to a justification of her- or anyone’s- murder.
You may notice that the most violent and uncivilized actors on either political extreme are the ones who equivocate one sided slander to mere jokes. Only bullies and the vigilantes empowered by them miss the distinction between anger unmitigated by truth and jokes intended to make such truths glaringly obvious.
Subtlety is a spice, not a base ingredient of satire, but it isn’t the only one. Cruelty and crudity can also be used to make a counter-intuitive point. Their place is to be noticed and confronted by an audience. A kind of hyperbole designed to make a statement louder than its literal definition. Spices, however, do not make a dish alone. The same kind of immature bone in each person is drawn to cinnamon challenge videos on YouTube and extremely crude, cruel, or nasty jokes. It doesn’t make you a bad person to have a soft spot for “uncivilized” humor, but call a cat a cat, don’t pretend all piles of crassness are sophisticated or satirical. Even the most inventive curries are not just piles of overpowering spices. Don’t make it hard to find the meat.
When writing satire, do not only temper your blunt edge, but sharpen your point. Irony, by definition requires, not only a base lens of exaggeration, but a true target.
The expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.
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