Thursday, July 03, 2008

understanding satire

i touched on this ever so briefly in the previous post, but wanted to come back to it again.

abdul hakim shabazz has been getting heat from fellow republicans for his blog post suggesting that "what this town needs are a couple good police beatings."

today, in his defense, abdul writes:

The way I figure it, if someone doesn't have enough synaptic activity to understand sarcasm and satire when they read it, then what would be the point of trying to explain it to them?

this is another one of those old soft-shoes that abdul knows by heart: i didn't mean that horrible thing i said; i was joking! the don imuses and ann coulters of the world regularly trot this out when they get criticized for tossing around racial or homophobic slurs, or fantasizing about their political opponents dying in a terrorist attack. but the only thing funny here is the thought of abdul trying to explain satire to someone else—because his post was not satire.

in situations like this, the coulters and abduls of the world compare themselves to jonathan swift. swift, their thinking goes, suggested cannibalism and infanticide in a modest proposal, which is considered a great work of satire. therefore, when i daydream of violence toward my political enemies, that's satire, too. but it doesn't work that way.

the core of satire is irony. the entire point of a modest proposal was to draw attention to the plight of the irish under english oppression. the english, swift wrote, "have already devoured most of the Parents", so they might as well eat irish babies, too. what swift truly wanted, though, was the opposite: for the english to treat the irish better.

abdul's post has no such irony. there is no sympathy for violent criminals. no, his post is not so much a satire as a revenge fantasy. he's sick of seeing violence against innocents, so he fantasizes about the aggressors getting beaten up, too. maybe he doesn't really mean it, and if there were a true upswing in police violence, he might be aghast. (then again, in the past when police brutality has been alleged, he's always been the first to write that he's seen the tapes and the police did nothing wrong, that guy was asking for it, etc.) but you can't help but sense that part of him would enjoy it.

we all want to see bad people get their comeuppance. we enjoy watching entertainment about people who punish evil, and root for those people, even if they're rule-breaking vigilantes like jack bauer or dirty harry, or cold-blooded murderers like dexter. one of my favorite shows is death note, and yes, part of me is rooting for the murderous kira. that's okay because it's just a story; if kira existed in the real world, i wouldn't be a fan.

if abdul's post is satire then tell me: what is he satirizing? is it the fact that we seem to have a lot of dirty cops in town? is he mocking the concept of biblical eye-for-an-eye justice? because i just don't see it. and abdul isn't known for being particularly deep.


Wilson46201 said...

In Nuremberg in 1945, how many times did the interrogators hear: "I was just joking! Don't you guys have a sense of humor?"

stAllio! said...

ah, abdul. there you go showing your typical attention to detail. not only do you not know what satire is, you don't even know who you're talking to!

Anonymous said...

Abdul - I have. :-) You seem to be reading the wrong blog, Dude.

The Amazing Abdul said...

My apologies for confusing your identity. The next drink is on me.

Regardless, that still doesn't change the fact that some people in this town need to be on the business end of a nightstick and maybe they will learn to behave and honor the social contract.

Anonymous said...

it just keeps getting worse.....some people dont know to keep their mouths shut when they have already stepped in it.

Marti said...

You can tell that Abdul is skilled at this. I remember someone being ran out on a rail for saying zip coon... but Abdul can make an equally offensive statement and he's cherished by his employer. The fact that he still has a job is testament to something...but I'm not sure to what.

Wilson46201 said...

...and a member of Ballard's campaign staff, "Flipper" aka Tim Dugan, still is allowed to post his fantasies about me being beaten up by police. Why is Abdul encouraging such thuggery?

I'm a decent law-abiding citizen and taxpayer. Ballard and Abdul should realize there'd be quite a firestorm of righteous indignation and protest should anything untoward happen to me.