Saturday, October 22, 2005
Pity the poor satire writer. After years of growing popularity that began during the second half of the Clinton Administration in the late nineties and reached it’s peak during the 2004 election cycle, political satire seems to be becoming a thing of the past, or at least irrelevant. While most political humor websites still register thousands of hits a day, and television shows such as Jon Stewart’s remain immensely popular, those who do the actual writing are…well, seeing the writing on the wall. Very soon, the realize, they will be completely unneeded. Why? The answer lies with the very target of ninety percent of the humorous pieces written today: George W. Bush.
Political Humorists are finding themselves struggling more and more just to find a topic to satirize. No, it’s not because the Bush Administration policies and actions have left them no ammunition; far from it. The problem is actually the opposite one of an embarrassment of riches. So many members of the Bush White House and it’s cronies and supporters both past and present…Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, Tom Delay, Bill Frist, ex FEMA head Michael Brown, former Attorney General John Ashcroft, Jerry Falwell, UN Ambassador John Bolton, White House Counsel and current Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers… and the list goes depressingly on and on, ending with Vice President Dick Cheney and George W. Bush themselves, are committing so many bizarre acts that satirical writers are finding it increasingly difficult to come up with a punch line.
Political satire depends in a large part on the truth. All good humor depends on plausibility; as Johnny Carson so succinctly put it, “You buy the premise, you buy the bit.” But when the premise becomes so outrageous that people refuse to believe it, the bit becomes redundant and therefore unnecessary. When the President of the United States admits that he preemptively invaded a sovereign nation that posed no threat to our country because, “God told me to” and a “religious” leader like Pat Robertson advocates the political assassination of another sovereign nations leader…when top Administration officials intentionally name a covert CIA agent as way to exact political revenge, when the White House allows a Gay Conservative Republican Christian Homosexual Military Prostitute an Political Commentator (whew) to be a White House Press Reporter in order to feed George Bush softball questions when things got too rough…well, I mean, where do you go from there? Who’s gonna buy the lie when the truth is unbelievable? Nowadays, when people want to be taken for a ride intellectually, all’s the have to do is just read the regular news media reports.
When I write my pieces, my goal is to take a morsel of truth and then try to subtly blend in the lie that makes the whole thing funny. While I regularly fail miserably in that task as my regular readers will attest, the concept is sound. But more and more, when I try my pieces out on say, my wife, she can’t recognize the truth in the fiction anymore; the truth has become the unbelievable part.
So, while the current Administration and it’s assorted hangers-on are investigated and indicted, while they allow major American cities to flood and leave it’s residents writhing in agony, while they go to war for one reason then blithely change that reason afterwards after the original one is proved to be as false as they apparently knew it was all along, when one man’s conversations with God dictates the course of a nation and the wars it fights, political satirists are finding themselves with less and less to do. After all, why bother to tell the joke when everybody’s living it?