It seems the US has come to a point where I have to ask if something is satire.
Satire is, at root, mockery through exaggeration. Done well, it leaves people with a very clear understanding that it is an exaggeration, and that it is poking fun at the thing it is exaggerating. Done poorly, it comes across as either churlish, or as lunatic.
The problem with satire today is that a lot of things going on in our so-called “public discourse” are impossible to satirize because it is impossible to think of any way to exaggerate, so bizarre is the thinking in the first place. This leaves me with the uncomfortable sense at times that I’m being led on by satire-within-satire. Then it turns out that I’m not — the people I suspected of being deviously clever are not being clever at all. They’re serious. And that leaves me feeling sad, and tired.
The latest example of this is a video that popped up on my Facebook feed, which can be found here.
Ellysa Maye is a cutie, with good, strong white teeth, and she’s charming and “hip.” As I watched, I chuckled a bit, because the video initially seemed so clearly satirical — like the first point, that Democrats want to take away people’s money so they can’t do “this,” which then cuts to a picture of a (fat) cat rubbing itself on a pile of catnip-laced money. That’s something you might expect from Stephen Colbert, though the message is a little… well, muddled. I figured, Ellysa is young, she’ll get better at it.
Then, as the video continued, viewing it as satire grew more and more tenuous. I started to get the really creepy feeling that I was watching a young Michelle Bachmann or Anne Coulter in the making. Or maybe that she was a young actress paid for by Karl Rove, Inc., to launch one of his insidiously inside-out Republican propaganda campaigns.
Or maybe — just maybe — this was a serious, “hip” young Republican who represents a significant number of our children, and this is the appalling depth to which our education of the young has descended. God help us.
I asked the person who posted this on Facebook if this was satire, and got a very curt, “No.” I’ll probably get unfriended after I post this blog entry. Which also makes me feel sad, and tired.
Here’s Ellysa’s top ten list of reasons she will never, ever vote for Democrats.
- They want to take more money from us
- Radical feminists
- History of the Democratic Party
- School lunch mandates
- Refusal to secure the border
- Democrats push for collectivism
- Democrats don’t believe your kids are your kids
- Al Gore
- Because Nancy Pelosi, who leads House Democrats, is so scary
So let’s see: three absolutely naked ad-hominems (2, 9, 10), two deliberate misunderstandings (6, 8), one straight up ignorant blunder (3), one falsehood (5), one code-word (7), one shallow understanding (1), and one utterly incomprehensible comment (4). Though the llama was funny.
It isn’t especially hard to do this. Let me give it a shot, from the other side…
- They want to shut down Social Security so all the old people will starve
- Old, white Republican neighborhood association Nazis in shorts with suspenders
- History of the Republican Party (image of a Communist flag)
- No Child Left Behind (image of marines pulling a child out of a classroom)
- Trying to shut down our military
- Deficits don’t matter
- (Can’t think of anything, Republicans have done nothing since Truman dropped the atom bomb on Japan)
- Republicans think the police need to shoot more black people
- Dick Cheney
- Because John Boehner, who leads House Republicans, is so orange
Now, if I were young and hip and cute as a button, like Ellysa Maye, with strong white teeth and a pink stripe in my hair, I’m sure I could sell this load of anti-Republican rot to a whole bunch of studly young men out there: they’d go out of their way to avoid implying I was full of crap. They’d die for a chance to chat me up, even in 140 characters or less. And the girls would flock to me, too, because I’m so hip, and smart, and have my own v-log with millions of hits.
Alas, I’m old, and crusty, with a white beard and too much waistline, and bloody-handed ignorance does not sit well with me. So let’s pick this apart, shall we?
The Right has finally learned the term ad hominem, which is good, because they use this rhetorical technique almost as often as the fanatical Left: it’s nice to be able to point it out tersely. Ad hominem is the fallacy that the bad men are always wrong about everything — or in this case, not even bad men, just people who make an adolescent girl go, eyeew. Ad hominem is a sophisticated form (if you want to call it that) of name-calling. So three of the ten points go down without effort, and if you really want to get into ad hominem fest, sweet Ellysa, remember that the Republicans have Dick Cheney, Donald Trump, and Newt Gingrich to live down.
The two deliberate misunderstandings are just that: twisting words with the intent to deceive.
Only an arrogant, ungrateful fool thinks he has ever accomplished anything in business (or much of anything else) on his own, and Obama should not — in my opinion — have minced words. The video clip attached to point six came up, as I recall, during the 2012 election in reference to Mitt Romney, who somehow managed to overlook his father’s fortune, his own education, his wife, his friends, his business partners, his employees, and two hundred years of law in this country to make the common Republican claim that “I built this business all by myself.” Obama should have looked him right in the eye and called him an arrogant, ungrateful fool and left it at that.
As for point eight and raising kids, the issue is that it’s almost impossible to raise a child without community, and it is impossible to raise a child if the community is busy tearing your family apart. The comment in the video clip comes from the title of a book by Hillary Clinton, published in 1996, which makes the point that a shitty neighborhood makes for a shitty childhood, even if the parents are the best in the world — and then makes a call to make neighborhoods less shitty. Scary Democratic plot, for sure, making neighborhoods less shitty for children and parents.
In both cases, Republicans took the words, stripped them out of context, and made them mean very nearly the opposite of what they meant in context. It always shocks me that people are dumb enough to fall for ruses like this. I want to think better of them: Karl Rove always proves me wrong.
The ignorant blunder in point three is typical: the “history of the Democratic party,” followed by a picture of the KKK. Yes, indeed — Democrats were the Party Of The Deep South. In 1860. Guess who is the Party Of The Deep South today? Ever hear of respected Republican David Duke? Strom Thurmond? Jesse Helms? Sorry, Ellysa sweetie — fumbled and lost the ball on this one.
The border controversy is just plain wrong. Get your facts straight, sweetheart. Ten yard penalty.
Then there’s Obamacare. Which is terrible, and they should have enacted the Affordable Care Act instead. Damned Democrats. What’s that? The ACA is Obamacare? What? Was that a trick question?
Let’s just turn this around and say: “Fine, Obamacare sucks. Propose something better. Anything. Anything at all.”
Of course, that’s not really fair, since the entire complement of Republicans in Congress has remained completely silent when faced with this challenge. So I can’t really ask you, dear Ellysa, to answer it on your own. But I would expect you to be smart enough to understand that the Republican party has nothing to offer here. As in nada.
Perhaps the Democrats will come up with a better idea in a few years, and we can watch the Republicans try to repeal that 54 times.
There’s the school lunch thing. I have no clue what that is about. So I matched it with the No Child Left Behind program all mixed up with the marine ethic of not leaving soldiers behind. You’d have a child sitting in a classroom, all alone, coloring with crayons, and then a full platoon of marines bursts in, firing wildly out the windows; they grab the kid and rush him out the door. Funny, right? What’s that? The llama was funnier?
Fine, be that way.
Finally, there’s the money thing. You know, Ellysa, I can’t really fault you here. It’s complicated, and it’s taken me a few years, myself, to get any grasp on what’s going on. Given the level of the rest of your complaints, I’m sure you haven’t the time or the inclination to learn any of that, so the simplest I can make it is this: there are no longer any tax-and-spend Democrats, nor any fiscally responsible Republicans. Those all died out in the 1980’s — every last one of them. They’re extinct. All we have now are borrow-and-spend politicians, and taxes go toward paying down debt. Period.
Oh, except for FICA taxes. Those are the only true taxes we have left, and those DO need to be raised by 2%. Do you know why? So that we Baby Boomers can pay our own way through retirement, instead of dumping the whole load on you kids. If we don’t raise that tax by 2%, and soon, while we’re still working, what’s going to happen in about 15 or 20 years is that we’re going to see Social Security checks drop suddenly by about 25%, because we Boomers didn’t put enough into the Social Security Trust. We won’t be working, then, so it will all land on your shoulders like an elephant riding in a brick airplane.
Of course, you could go out at that point and shoot all the old people. Or just let them starve to death. That’s surely the mark of a glorious free society, shoveling useless old people into trenches with backhoes. All to avoid a 2% increase in taxes, so that fat cats can roll in catnip-scented money. (Dang, this has got to be satire.)
Ellysa Maye, I sincerely hope that I’ve totally missed the point of your video, and that this was intended as a satirical piece, and that I’ve just been punked. I’ll laugh with you. A little hysterically, perhaps, but I’ll laugh.
Otherwise, I’m feeling pretty sad. And tired.