The Role of Satire

19 Oct 2011

I doubt that I will ever link to a reddit thread again, but in a discussion about Jon Stewart and the role of the Daily Show, chass3 had a thoughtful comment:

Satire challenges through humor. The best satire, though, the most artistically valid, insightful, and meaningful satire, will challenge something that YOU hold. I guess a distinction needs to be made between Juvenalian satire and Horatian satire–Jon Stewart is Juvenalian to the core, and Juvenal, like Donne, Swift, Orwell, and Kubrick, are out to make you uncomfortable in something that you believe. Absurdity isn’t out there, it’s in everyone and everyone’s behavior. If watching the Daily Show for years hasn’t eroded our faith not only in power but in yourself, you’re not paying close enough attention to yourself.

If reading that fails to give you the vapors then there is a fundamental difference in our brain chemistries. It is the reason that I moved from studying English to Political Theory without missing a beat. For me, art and politics have always been intertwined.

There was a time when the process of democracy motivated action and inspired me towards politics, but that earnest hope and belief in the system has disappeared. I do not watch the Daily Show anymore, because it stopped being funny a long time ago–although that has nothing to do with Jon Stewart or the show itself, I am simply unable to separate the humor from the honest and terrifying satirical truth: our democracy has been shattered.

This it has nothing to do with most of the nonsense that we are hearing from the Occupy movement. The problem that Stewart makes clear is that there is no longer political discourse on anything but the most basic, local levels and this system that we claim is democracy falls apart without open, honest, sincere dialogue.

It is not the talking that is important; democracy is, fundamentally, about listening.