Saturday, September 10, 2005

Satire and Katrina

On HumorFeed, the site that gives this pleasing little blog a home (dig the new look, fellas), you'll no doubt encounter headlines from many sites satirizing the events in the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. (Side note: if you want to donate, be sure to check what they're asking for first - witness Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's quixotic tale on the subject.)

Satire in the face of disastrous events is a tricky thing. Witness the dignity of Jon Stewart in The Daily Show's first post-9/11 show, and you'll see a modern example of the best American satire has to offer. Done poorly, satire devolves into nothing more than jokes in bad taste - and I won't link to any of them here.

This is just one of many topics explored in an interview with Dave Barry by Tom Fiedler, posted today on the Miami Herald's website. (If you don't like registering with free sites to view content, go to Bug Me Not for a password.) An unedited excerpt:

Fiedler: How long will it be before there are jokes about hurricane Katrina?

Barry: There probably already have been. They'll be good jokes and bad jokes. And the bad jokes will be at some expense of the victims and the good ones and, in fact, I heard some of them already. The good ones will be making fun of the unbelievably incompetent preparation for response to Katrina by pretty much everybody. That's a good use of humor to mock failure like that and then hold the people who, cause we can't indict them. We don't even know who they are a probably, yet. But at least ridicule is a very effective weapon that people respond to.

He's right, but "probably" have been jokes already? He must be using the same TV as Michael Brown.
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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

"Every joke is a tiny revolution"

The Peninsula, an English news site based in Qatar, has some interesting musing on the power of satire, and specifically why people in power hate it so much. Noting the attempted shutdown of the Belarus satire site a few weeks ago ("the surest sign of a doomed regime"), editor Ben Macintyre of the Times Online notes:

"Satire is the mark of a healthy democracy, the pricking of pomposity that reminds our leaders that they are not self-anointed. "Every joke is a tiny revolution," thought George Orwell. "Whatever destroys dignity, and brings down the mighty from their seats, preferably with a bump, is funny." Every politician craves gravitas, but the more extreme the politics, the more crucial dignity becomes, for laughter leaves the emperor with no clothes. This is equally true for terrorists. Osama bin Laden has become a staple of playground humour. Within hours of 9/11 and 7/7, the jokes, tasteless and defiant, began to emerge, the natural response to the oppression of terror, a tiny revolution against fear."

Watch carefully who in D.C. has a sense of humor, and who does not.
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Satire pervades the web, seeping into mailboxes and mainstream news like a spilled cup of coffee. It stains and it won't go away.

The Bitter Cup is a collaborative blog for members of HumorFeed, a collaborative of satire and humor sites that has been making trouble since 2003.