I can’t explain why but topical humor has always appealed to me. Entering high school, when I was supposed to be studying algebra, I usually had my nose in the latest edition of Mad magazine (I still have issues dating back to 1962). When the other kids were watching cop shows and westerns, I was watching “That Was The Week That Was” (like a lot of other 16-year-old boys, many of my fantasies revolved around the “TW3 Girl,” Nancy Ames). While my classmates were watching American Bandstand, I was listening to the comedic routines of Bob Newhart and Mort Sahl.
A hitch in the Army and four years of college did nothing to change my proclivities, except that I graduated to sophomoric humor such as National Lampoon (the parody ad showing a floating Volkswagen Beetle and the caption of “If Teddy Kennedy Drove a Volkswagen, He’d be President Today” is a classic) and idiotic movies such as Porky’s and Naked Gun.
Now, what does this have to do with anything? In a word, nothing; I’m just attempting to make the point that we, as Americans, have the right to determine for ourselves what we think is (and, is not) humorous.
I thought about this a few days ago as I was reading an article in the Washington Examiner which dealt with a fairly new website known as the Babylon Bee. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the Bee. It was launched back in 2016 with a format based loosely on that of The Onion and a penchant for satire that, evidently, makes the liberal establishment quite uncomfortable (examples: blaring headlines that feature stories such as “Coronavirus Polling Higher Than All Presidential Candidates” and “Democrats Warn That American People May Tamper With Next Election”).
Incredibly, the Bee has driven the mainstream media into paroxysms of indignation with dark warnings that this type of humor poses an existential threat to us all. In a laughable editorial last summer, the New York Times intoned, “The line between misinformation and satire can be thin, and real consequences can result when it is crossed … humor has been weaponized to help spread falsehoods online.”And, not to be outdone, Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism, chimed in, “Maybe you know that (an) article is satire, but a lot of people can’t tell the difference.”
Now stop, stop, and think about this. Consider the implications. One of the things that makes this country, and we as Americans, unique is our ability to laugh at ourselves and to use humor to point out the foibles of our society, our government, and our so-called leaders. From publications such as Mad and the National Lampoon to standup comedians such as Mort Sahl and George Carlin, we may have been angered and perhaps even scandalized but we recognized that this was the price to be paid for our freedoms.
But now, something has changed and I believe that we have a good idea of what that is. Does anyone remember the Our Gang comedies? I remember one episode in which one of the kids had been hurtful toward one of the others. Naturally, there was some payback and this payback was accompanied by the line, “You can dish it out Spanky but you sure can’t take it.”
And this is precisely where we are today. For decades the Left has been comfortable in that most, if not all, social satire was directed at conservatives. Pro-life? Pro-Second Amendment? That was all grist for the (supposedly) better educated “sophisticates” of our ruling classes. Most of them eagerly tuned in to Comedy Central every evening to chuckle at Jon Stewart’s “news” broadcasts. Appallingly, some of them viewed Stewart as a “trusted news source.” Funny thing; The New York Times and Harvard University didn’t seem to be as concerned back in those days.
I don’t believe that there’s any question that the Left has always had a “Free Speech for Me but Not for Thee” philosophy but now they have become truly brazen about it. What is particularly galling is that they have clothed their attempts at outright censorship in flowery language such as “the avoidance of misinformation” and the ever-popular “hate speech.” Does anyone still remember Garry Trudeau’s nauseating remarks following the murders at Charley Hebdo? In a typical act of liberal hypocrisy, the Doonesbury creator bloviated, “Freedom should always be discussed with the context of responsibility. At some point free expression absolutism becomes childish and unserious.” In other words, “I’m safe to write anything I wish, but those guys over in Paris deserved it because they made the wrong people angry.” Gutsy guy, that Garry Trudeau. But, sadly, he’s not alone. There are unprincipled cowards aplenty in the Fourth Estate.
One of the most heard phrases that we hear coming from the Left is that anyone who disagrees with them is a “hater.” Each time I hear that I think of two things; one, the definition of projection (the act of projecting one’s feelings onto others) and two, George Bernard Shaw’s phrase, “Hatred is the coward’s revenge for being intimidated.”
Each time I see videos of those cute little college students running amok, shouting down any speakers that they disagree with, the first thing I see (other than roomfuls of participation trophies) is the raw hatred in their faces. And then, I can’t help but think that these narcissistic little Torquemadas will be entering the workplace; maybe at The New York Times; maybe at Google or Microsoft and they will be taking that hatred with them. Unlike the tiresome ’60s student radicals, many of today’s college graduates will have the power to shape, and most importantly, censor ideas that come through the internet and over the airways. In other words, they will be able to construct their very own “Ministry of Truth” made famous by George Orwell.
Unfortunately, some of those folks that we have come to know as Never-Trumpers seem to think that this hatred will go away when there is no Donald Trump residing in the White House. They could not be more wrong. Do they actually believe that the hatred of the Left can be placated? I believe that they would do well to take the words of the Babylon Bee’s publisher to heart, “The more zealous a movement is, the less that movement can abide mockery and humor. Since the Left is now a religion, its prophets and priests want to silence the heretics that mock their faith.”
“Avoid zealots; they are generally humorless.” We’ve all heard that proverb. However, we can’t avoid them. We now have an entire political party that has given itself over to far-left zealotry (and bigotry).
There may be a few of you that are unfamiliar with the name of Lenny Bruce. He was a standup comedian who frequently ran afoul of the law due to his frequent use of obscenities during his performances and a drug habit that ultimately caused his death in 1966. His talent as a social critic and satirist was undeniable. I thought about Mr. Bruce a few days ago as I heard the idiotic patter of three “commentators” on CNN.
In one of his routines, back in the early ’60s, Mr. Bruce observed that “We’ve forgiven the Japanese once and the Germans twice, but the white Southerner has been getting kicked in the a** for the last 100 years. ‘Folks, I think this nuclear fission is’… Aw, shut up you schmuck! You don’t know anything.” As a native of Appalachia, I couldn’t help but see the parallels between the truths that Mr. Bruce spoke and what I heard on CNN.
A Never-Trumper “Republican Strategist” by the name of Rick Wilson seemed to take great pleasure in the denigration of Trump supporters by labeling them as “credulous boomer rubes” and with an exaggerated Southern accent mimicked them, “Donald Trump’s the smart one – and y’all elitists are dumb.” The host, Don Lemon, seemingly could not contain his mirth and made overblown gestures of wiping his eyes. (I had never heard of the third participant and his name is not worth remembering.) The scene was truly bizarre. The three of them reminded me of the two toothless, murderous mountain men in Deliverance; there was nothing funny in the entire scene. Particularly weird was Lemon’s high-pitched giggling (Note: Please, no comments that Lemon would have been perfect for Ned Beatty’s role). I could almost hear the strains of “Dueling Banjos” in the background as I reflected; after 60 years, Lenny Bruce’s words still rang true.
As strange as this scene was, I would never dream of censoring them. They have the freedom to say anything they wish; the same freedom that they seek to deny us. And, I wonder if our Never-Trumpers have any grasp of this whatsoever. Have they ever contemplated the old saying that “Inside of every Progressive there is a totalitarian screaming to get out?” Do they even care?
I am to the point that I have completely lost my patience with the Never-Trumpers. Before the Presidential election of 2016, National Review ran a special issue devoted solely to the Never-Trump movement. There were several articles and I read each one. There were some excellent points that I agreed with. However, there was not a single one that would have justified the election of Hillary Rodham Clinton.
I admit that there is much about Donald Trump that I do not like. However, he has done nothing to limit the freedoms that I enjoy as an American. Every Democratic candidate that I have heard has threatened to limit my freedoms; from speech to owning a firearm to even the freedom to buy a soda containing sugar. I’m simply not having it.
P.J. O’Rourke once observed that, “The Democrats hate you. They hate you like a prostitute hates her John.” I’m tired of Republicans who just can’t get that through their heads. I’m also tired of Republicans who continually lose elections and still shrug it off with the attitude of, “Sure, we lost again, but we still adhered to our principles.” Although I voted for John McCain in 2008 and the now-Senator from Utah in 2012, I had the feeling that neither one of them had the “stomach for battle” that was needed to defeat Obama. I was right.
So, in answer to my own question, I’m not sure that Lenny Bruce would vote for Donald Trump. One thing is sure though, he would not be pleased with the plunge into totalitarianism that the Democratic Party has taken.