Tuesday, 19 September 2006


I read the Eye, of course, used to read the Onion, watch the occasional tv show like Time Trumpet but otherwise I'm at a loss. I gave up with the Onion because of its increasingly knee jerk leftism. Maybe it is like the Eye of the 60s, which as Richard Ingrams said, became more left wing as the only response to the outrages of Macmillan's government, and particularly the appointment of the Earl of Home as PM. In other words, when events became too bizarre for rational argument and standing on one side shouting abuse was the only option. Time Trumpet is just too surreal for me, I wonder if Armando Ianucci is really a satirist of the human condition, (an existentialist maybe) rather than of politics per se. I fail to see where the political punches are really landing in that show. I find more accurate and biting satire in Viz these days than anywhere else. but the writers of Viz don't want a satirical magazine, they want jokes about toilets, which is fair enough, because when I read Viz, that is exactly what I want too.

But although I love satire I worry about its health. Does satire work? Is it actually worth anything at all for the Eye to print a few spoof articles about the Rev ARP Blair? Has it ever really done anything, apart from raise a few wry grins or temporary moral panic?

There is no cold war anymore, to be sure; there may be no semi-permanent heated argument being played out in the nation from the Commons down through business, the unions, to the streets anymore - but there is a government stealing our privacy and rights away; causing death on an industrial scale; and sitting in the middle of the festering corpse of the United Kingdom's constitution apparently enjoying the smell.

So where is the outrage? where are the humanists with anger and pity in their hearts to expose and reflect all of this and hold up the vileness for public consumption? I suppose the likes of George Galloway are the satire on modern politics we need, given (say) his ridiculous and laughably hypocritical statements on all manner of issues from Palestine to um, other Muslim-concerned issues. But the sad thing is I think he really means it.

We might, given some proper satire, take more interest in politics. We might be tempted to act on certain issues. We might, at the very least have a wider (ie not blogger based alone) debate on the key problems facing us. I don't think satire should have a definite, firm standpoint, because then it just risks being selective political pointscoring, which I think is now the Onion's problem. It needs people of intelligence, anger, honesty and thoughtfulness to bring more than just spoof articles; there has to be other kinds of visual and literary satire too in which targets other than the soft ones are hit. Arguments, made in a polemical style (after Swift, maybe); a new Gerald Scarfe (sorry, Steve Bell doesn't count- he is propagandizing) is needed; something completely new like an interactive satirical webpage maybe (or am I missing this already) or computer games, downloadable ones like Stickcricket but with a satirical theme.

You see that I am short of ideas already. Is it me, or satire, which has the problem defining what it should be? More spoof articles, however acute, will do nothing, change nothing, attract nobody to political thought or engage anyone with a sense of scepticism or anger. We need less of Marcus Brigstocke taking the piss out of the old lefty targets (cah! those Daily Mail readers, eh? cah!) and more of someone willing to evenly puncture authority whenever it is not in danger of bursting. But maybe, as I heard on Radio 5 Live today, in our advanced, nearly technocratic society, we will have to trust authority and "experts" more and more, because we just cannot get it (in this case, the rationale for closing hospitals to provide a better service). Maybe that is the reason for the lack of satire. Also, of course, the fact that the leftists who write most of the satire I've read recently actually quite like authorities like LEAs, councils, unions, loudmouth MPs, Brussels, media scientists (especially if they can put some environmental problem down to capitalism), academics and so on. They just don't seem very keen on having a go at stupid academics, like the 75 US idiots who recently confirmed their moonbat belief that 9/11 was caused by the evil Bush government.

So who is going to be honest and stand up for true satire? Not me, I'm afraid. Not up to the job (as Attlee would have said, in between puffs on the pipe).

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