Sunday, November 13, 2011

Unemployed satirists

"Satire ends at the very point where hatred of the world's abuses becomes irrelevant. This point is reached when absurdity gains control of that plane of experience at which men, throughout the ages, have formed their idea of order and normality [...] When Hitler came to power, Karl Kraus realized that it was the end of his satirical world. In 1919 he said of The Last Days of Mankind that its satirical inventions and exaggerations were mere quotations of what was said and done. Hitler's Germany reversed the situation: her words and deeds merely quoted, and by quoting exaggerated beyond belief, the satirist's inventions."
Eric Heller, from The Dear Purchase (Bowes & Bowes, 1971), p. 259

Below are three examples from contemporary culture that show a similar tendency to that described by Heller: what would have previously been satirical commentary on a particular event or cultural tendency (the mourning of the death of a billionaire technocrat, the insularity of academic political correctness, or the commodification of anti-capitalist discourse) is produced now as sincere expression by the would-be cultural target. Like Kraus during WWII, today's satirists are out of a job.

1. "Steve Nagata, right, holds an Apple iPad displaying an image of a candle as he takes part in a vigil outside the company's store in the Ginza district of Tokyo on Oct. 6, 2011."

3. Tote bag worn by a graduate student at my university.

1 comment:

  1. I wanted to go one better. I wanted to petition to get Adorno a star on Hollywood Boulevard; an impossible proposition that would probably gain me two sets of enemies simultaneously, but sure would be fun. I suppose this is as much double satire, with no where to land.