Who Should Satire Satirize?

June 25, 2018
Posted by Jay Livingston

Those children at the border – families separated, children sent far from their parents. It all seems so cruel. But what else can we do? The defenders of the cages and the family separations can make it all see so rational, so based in procedural and legal rules.

Swift satirized this way of thinking in  “A Modest Proposal,” where he lays out a perfectly rational solution to the problem of impoverished children — a policy other less rational people might find cruel

I was thinking of trying to write something along similar lines, but not only do I lack the wit (in the 18th-century meaning), but I thought that too many people would not see it as satire or irony. The left would be outraged, and the right would try to figure out ways of implementing the suggestions.

In any case, someone at Texas Tech beat me to it. The difference is that while Swift was using exaggeration to scorn those who inflicted cruelty, the Texas Tech student is using exaggeration to scorn the victims of that cruelty.*

In case the jpg above is too fuzzy to read, here are the key comments

Alex Provost: Don’t bother reporting them just use a firing squad

The cocaine cowboy: I’m telling you build a wall, and the us govt. can sell permits for legal hunting on the border and we can make a sport of this, can be a new tax revenue stream for the govt.

The cocaine cowboy: The us govt would be making money to stop illegals insted of spending it, win win for everyone

Nate Novak: Kyle run for president in the future please

The cocaine cowboy: No the poors would get me ... I’d stop all of their support and let them die ... I couldn’t get votes haha

Haha indeed — this from students who are getting tens of thousands of dollars from the taxpayers in the form of lower tuition (compared to what they would pay at a private university) plus whatever other financial aid they may get.

Satire works best when it is comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.  But The cocaine cowboy’s modest proposal puts it the other way round, comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted. Like too much of what passes for humor on the right — like Trump’s mocking a disabled reporter — it speaks with the voice of smugness and cruelty.                                

* Insider Higher Ed (here) has more information.

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