Sunday, May 16, 2010

Why Aren't Conservatives Funny?

I read in FDL that some really zany "conservatives" are starting a web thing called Richochet that promises to be like a "cocktail party" with about 40 different right-wing voices. Well, more like a circle-jerk I suppose than any cocktail party I would ever attend -- except perhaps in the spirit of field anthropology. The idea is that it will be fun and funny apparently, completely ignoring the fact that self-styled "conservatives" are virtually never funny. True, they can sometimes get a bully's laugh at the expense of the defenseless from their fellow sociopaths, but they are as incapable of wit as snakes are of opera.

I'm not quite sure why self-described "conservatives" are so unwitty, but perhaps it has to do with the fact that they can never transcend their own affectation of wisdom and uprightness. Armored within their own fundamental pretentions, they lack the nimbleness to skewer the pretentions of others. It may also have to do with the fact that wit involves a considerable, if ironic, reverence for the truth, and right-wingers universally prefer dogma, superstition, legend, prejudice and romance to the truth. For instance, one of the honchos at Richochet (you gotta love the NRA cachet of this) says this kinda thing:

"At a time when the country is being dragged to the left by Washington and mainstream media, this is another way to fight back," says Robinson.

Now, the idea that the country is being "dragged to the left" seems about as ass-backwards as the notion that the sun goes around the moon, but it's about as universally accepted as geocentrism once was. I suspect that it's mighty difficult to intuit le mot juste when your reality detector is so earnestly overridden. You must have a basic impulse to conform your understanding to the real events, properties and propensities of the world, before you can distort these to good satirical effect.

Finally, the death of wit among the brownshirts may have to do with the inherent levelling function of wit. A joke upward, had at the expense of powerful and/or sanctimonious pretense works, whereas a joke had at the expense of one less entitled seems gratuitous. It may be a matter of moral authority. Just as one's heroic claims about one's self are discordant though one's similar claims about another may be poetic, it may well be that people with all the power can't really kick downward with any aesthetic distinction -- especially when they're preoccupied with whining about what victims they are, as John Yoo, VD Hanson, Mark Steyn and some of the other fun-filled folks at Richochet seem to be.

It reminds me of the Tea Party Woodstocks we keep being promised. Woodstock is perhaps not the best metaphor for the reincarnated Klan. It ought to remind people, that whatever the failures and excesses of the "hippie movement" were, it consisted in a snowballing creativity (Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Hendrix, Hunter Thompson, Michael Herr, R. Crumb, Saturday Night Live) that really did change the world briefly, and the arts enduringly.

The Tea Party, which is really just the logical extension of Republicanism since Nixon, epitomizes what happens to wit when divorced from art's anarchic life forces, from its moral, subversive purpose: it dwindles to a husk of it's obligatory and rightful self. We get, say Richard Pryor or Dave Chapelle, they get nigger jokes.


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