The next time I make a joke that falls flat, I ask you, the Pandatariat, to immediately declare that everyone else’s sense of humor is dead on my behalf.
The problem that I and most of the people who didn’t like the New Yorker cover had wasn’t that it was some gravely offensive thing that hurt our souls. Gary Kamiya actually lays it out in his critique of people who didn’t like the joke:
If you satirically depict Obama as an Islamist terrorist, in this view, you are only reinforcing and giving broader currency to right-wing smears.
Since the essence of satire is exaggerating negative stereotypes, this means that satire itself is off limits. Or, at least, all satire except that which the cowering — but oh so semiotically sophisticated — left-wing commentariat deems to be sufficiently broad-brush and polemical to pass its funny test. There’s no arguing taste in humor, of course, but it’s hard to escape the conclusion that those who find Barry Blitt’s drawing completely unfunny have traded their appreciation of subtlety and nuance for an instrumental, ends-obsessed, political-unto-death worldview.
This is, of course, the pooh-poohing of us dour fraidy-cats who lack the sufficient fortitude to Laugh At Ourselves (or other things whose inherent humor is apparently a test of our basic decency) – but, uh, if the point of satire is to exaggerate negative stereotypes, and our main complaint is that it didn’t actually exaggerate anything, how are we bad people for thinking that? There’s an answer!
trios may be reading secret e-mails from Fox News containing Protocols of the Elders of Obama that I haven’t seen — oops, I shouldn’t have made a joking reference to that noxious forgery, because by so doing I have played into the hands of anti-Semites — but I haven’t come across any right-wing hits on Obama that feature an American flag burning in the White House fireplace and a portrait of Osama bin Laden on the wall.
Yeah, but right wingers frequently say that bin Laden and Democrats are in league and it’s not as if there wasn’t an entire movie that hinged on liberals burning flags or anything. “But they’ve never said that exact thing in that exact way about this exact person!”, you may say. And I simply sigh and leave you to wonder why they don’t make the entire plane out of the black box.
It’s one thing to criticize people for not getting the joke, it’s another to not even understand the joke that you’re defending. As much as we all love being lectured by those with the superior comprehension skills that we all read about (but ironically didn’t understand), sometimes it’s acceptable to admit that a joke simply flopped and move on.
UPDATE: Mahablog has more.