Satire in the Age of Outrage

by Akim Reinhardt

Jonathan Swift | Satirist, Poet & Clergyman | Britannica
Jonathan Swift

Satire seems all but dead for now. Maybe it’s because the world became increasingly ludicrous, culminating with a real-life president as ridiculous as any satire Jonathan Swift or Dorothy Parker could dream up. Donald Trump’s bizarre presidency may have been the peak of absurdity (fingers crossed), but it had been building for a while as right wing extremism became more and more cartoonish, TV evolved into formulaic lunacy, and QAnon convinced millions to believe the Lizard People conspiracy. This rising tide of insanity neutralized satire by making reality itself seem like parody.

As the world became almost unfathomably strange, many people reacted by demanding seriousness; social and political critics understandably turned very sober. And this too marginalized satire, which addresses serious issues by mocking them.  Its seriousness is dressed up in pasquinade. Satire doesn’t loudly demand righteous justice or offer up moralistic lessons. It exposes crimes by spoofing them. It’s neither judge nor jury, but rather the jester who sends up the corrupt and lecherous court.

For a while I’ve observed that satire is caught in the middle, between the craziness and the sanctimony. Between the outrageous and the outraged. This was driven home to me last week when I watched the film Slapshot, which I’d not seen in over 30 years. A 1977 comedy about minor league hockey, it comes from an era that was ripe with satire. But I suspect most audiences today would not recognize its satirical edges. Partly because it’s nearly half-a-century old and the culture has shifted in numerous ways. But also because satire currently flies over many people’s heads. Read more »

Deep Disagreement and the QAnon Conspiracy Theory

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse

Deep disagreements are disagreements where two sides agree on so little that there are no shared resources for reasoned resolution. In some cases, argument itself is impossible. The fewer shared facts or means for identifying them, the deeper the disagreement.

Some hold that many disagreements are deep in this way. They contend that reasoned argument has very little role to play in discussions of the things that divide us. Call these the deep disagreement pessimists – they claim that many of the disputes we face cannot be addressed by shared reasoning.

There are also deep disagreement optimists. Their view is that deep disagreements are intractable only for contingent reasons – perhaps we have not yet surveyed all the available evidence, or we are waiting on new evidence, or there is some background shared methodological principle yet to be uncovered. With deep disagreement, the optimist holds, it is hasty to give up on rational exchange, because something useful is likely available, and the costs of passing such rational resolution up are too high. Better to keep the critical conversation going.

Disputes among pessimists and optimists regularly turn on the practical question: Are there actual deep disagreements? The debates over abortion and affirmative action were initially taken to be exemplary of disagreements that are, indeed, deep. Later, secularist and theists outlooks on the norms of life were taken to instantiate a divide of the requisite depth. More recently, conspiracy theories have been posed as points of view at deep odds with mainstream thought.

This brings us to QAnon. Read more »

The Scourge of Religious and Political Disinformation

by Thomas Larson

For those of us who classify ourselves as Nones—about 27 percent of the population, a broadminded, semi-coalition of nonreligious people—we must often remind the God-fearing that our goal is to live free from the fake martyrdom of those who say their right to worship and proselytize their faith is being denied. The allegation of censorship that many religions promulgate against the nonreligious has been a reliable untruth since the nation’s founding. But it seems never as hyped as it has been recently.

We know the tired, recycled charges. The “radical left” has started a war on Christmas, downgrading Christ’s birth to a “holiday.” College liberals so detest Christians that they try and denigrate their campus organizations or muzzle their speakers. Houses of worship and their arm-swaying congregants have been forbidden under Covid-19 lockdowns to gather. Christian film and music stars, especially country singers, have a tougher time getting gigs than their secular counterparts since the entertainment industry is biased against the faithful.

This is mumbo-jumbo. Just look at the cultural and historical force of Christianity in America where 70 percent are looped in: the massive voting blocs of Catholics and Evangelicals, the millions of crosses on church steeples seen everywhere, the two-dozen Christian channels that proliferate on my DirectTV, the solicitation of God on our money and in our pledge of allegiance, the Christ-adoring superstars from Reba McEntire to Chris Pratt, and the testimonials after Covid scourges or West Coast firestorms by those who survived, apparently, due to divine intervention. Read more »