Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Curious Case of Spanker Johnson

Several people told me I should look at the new book Humorists by Paul Johnson, since it has a chapter on a favorite artist of mine, Thomas Rowlandson. So I put it on my Christmas wish list and my sister got it for me. Had I known that the author was a Thatcherite twit I would probably still have read it, but I would done so through inter-library loan. It's actually sort of interesting and informative on some matters, but it is peculiarly deformed in places by the author's own neuroses, including his misogyny. His Reactionary paranoia, is quite evident in the several places where he rails against that Political Correctness which is "fatal to humor." Tories like him always get a little vexed when someone questions their right to piss on the traditional groundlings.

It generally flabbergasts me when people, even people who ought to know better, blithely accept Political Correctness as exclusively left-wing, over-corrective humorlessness, when in fact this kind of fun-police overcorrection functions much more powerfully to suppress critique of the status quo and the power elites. For instance, when people dislike Limbaugh's calling the President "Halfrican," to people like Johnson, they are being too Politically Correct. But when lefties like, arguing quite correctly that he's about to again sell us the "light at the end of the tunnel," make a little pun on Petraeus' name ('General Betray Us'), the Senate, with Democratic support, passes a resolution condemning the pointed and apt satire. Now that's Political Correctness.

You learn on the first day of law school there's no such thing as justice in or out of court, but sometimes there's comeuppance. Paul Johnson's latest got a really fabulous flogging in the New York Times Book Review, wherein the author, Neil Genzlinger, did his readership another real service: he reminded us of a Salon article where Christopher Hitchens took the Tory douchebag apart, for being simultaneously a philandering fetishist and champion of "family values."

This was apparently before Hitch swooned over Bush in his flight-pajamas and decided that women aren't funny, so it's also sort of doubly instructive. It reminds us of two elusive truths: that assholes sometimes do good deeds, and that as we grow older we do not necessarily grow wiser.


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