I often succumb to the temptation to mock, or relay the mocking by others, of the efforts of the extreme right wing fanatics who speak with such a loud voice in US politics. Matt Taibbi, while also laughing at the antics of the armed people who have taken over a remote wildlife refuge in Oregon as a stand against government tyranny, addresses the question as to whether this is a good thing.
It has been suggested that it’s somehow wrong to laugh at the Y’all Qaeda/Vanilla ISIS movement. “The idea that satire… can serve as a bulwark against far-right ideas is provably false,” writes Natasha Leonard at AlJazeera.com. She goes on to point out that the paranoia and xenophobic racism of people like Bundy are not funny, and neither are the redneck caricatures that have spilled across the Internet in the last week as this “siege” played itself out.
“Satire that deploys classism to skewer racists and conservatives is certainly such a worst case,” she says. “Why not focus on their very real, very frightening beliefs?”
There’s no doubt that these people are dangerous, but their ridiculousness is a huge part of who they are. Incidentally, this is true of groups like the actual al-Qaeda, too, led as they are by men in beards and Rick-Perry-style “smart glasses” who play at being religious scholars and intellectuals when in fact they are the kind of people who are afraid of cartoons and lie awake at night wondering if it’s permissible to play chess with a menstruating woman. Just because a person is dangerous does not mean he’s not also absurd.
Again, these people may be dangerous, but their boundless self-pity, their outrageous sense of entitlement and their slapstick incompetence as rebels and terrorists are absolutely ridiculous. Sure, it may not help, but how can we not laugh?
The Daily Show has no trouble laughing at the Oregon militia.
(These clips aired on January 5, 2016. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Nightly Show outside the US, please see this earlier post. If the videos autoplay, please see here for a diagnosis and possible solutions.)