“The End of Satire”

charlie hebdo

Detail from an exhibit of children’s drawings sent to the Charlie Hebdo office after the 2015 terrorist attack. Credit Francois Guillot/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images.

I have a taste for good satire. I also revere an ability to change one’s mind in a considered, informed way. The article quoted here moves me for what it shows of this process, which can be painful, as well as for what it articulates about satire. Mr. Smith, a professor of history and philosophy of science at the University of Paris, says that the real problem with satire now is “that it has become impossible to separate it cleanly from the toxic disinformation that defines our era.”

… Satire is a species of humor that works through impersonation: taking on the voices of others, saying the sort of things they would say, using one’s own voice while not speaking in one’s own name.
… I insisted that satire was speech in something like a grammatical mood of its own, as different from the declarative as the declarative is from the interrogative, and that it was therefore subject to its own rules.
… Over the past few years I have been made to see… that the nature and extent of satire is not nearly as simple a question as I had previously imagined. I am now prepared to agree that some varieties of expression that may have some claim to being satire should indeed be prohibited.
… The truth is that the nature and proper scope of satire remain an enormous problem, one that is not going to get any easier to resolve in the political and technological future we can all, by now, see coming.

(Justin E. H. Smith, “The End of Satire,” NYTimes, 4-8-19)

(c) 2019 JMN.

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day, and watch Netflix and Prime Video for entertainment. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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