Satire should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable

It’s election day and all over the media are the Good, Bad and Ugly thoughts about today’s General Election.  I particularly liked the SkyNews teams General Affection Ballad:

The most remarkable aspect this time around is that the most lauded politician, Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the SNP, isn’t even standing for Parliament. Cartoons have littered the landscape a plenty – perhaps the one best expressing the ‘memes’ of our time is this one from Matt.

It won’t come as any surprise to readers of my Blog that I am a Liberal by persuasion, supporting that so-called party back in the ’70s and representing its views as best I felt possible on Union Council at University. During that time, I also engaged in Leicester’s Charity Rag, becoming editor of its Rag Mag, known as ‘Lucifer’ for my edition of 1974. I had to run its entire contents past the Lord Mayor of the time, whose support was essential if we were to be gain the City’s permission for disruptive student activities of one kind another for our 7 day long festival. Walking into the Mayor’s parlour, to present our ‘working copy’ was nerve wracking.  He chose to wear most of his regalia, and was the spitting image of that well known fictional figure, the Mayor of Trumpton.  My meeting was short sharp and sweet – he put a red pen through anything that was remotely rude or scurrilous, leaving me with a joke-free Rag Magazine. Given that we planned to sell 20,000 of these to raise funds, I had to revisit the process and find jokes and stories that simply flew over the Mayor’s head. Second time round, the copy got through, we published, only afterward then receiving a furious letter from the Mayor, once one of his staff explained the ‘new’ material to him!

On Social Media in 2015, new characters have appeared, including including @Trumpton_UKIP, a fictional town and candidate purporting to support UKIP. Here’s an excellent account from the Guardian Newspaper explaining where the ‘Kippers have come from, and the efforts of UKIP to have the spoof banned.  At the time of writing, I am well aware that there is a fine divide between satire and ridicule, not just because of the Charlie Hebdo killings on 7 January and subsequent events in Dallas last week, but because more generally, poking fun at people has very limited permissions, and can’t be assumed to be a personal right. Free Speech means something very different.

I’ll conclude not by writing more, but by adding a lovely short paragraph from an article written by Will Self, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-31442441, entitled: ‘What’s the point of Satire?’ It rather says it all. Enjoy your freedom to vote today, and let’s see what happens from Friday 8 May onwards – there’s plenty left to enjoy!

“The paradox is this – if satire aims at the moral reform of a given society it can only be effective within that particular society, and, furthermore, only if there’s a commonly accepted ethical hierarchy to begin with. A satire that demands of the entire world that it observe the same secularist values as the French state is a form of imperialism like any other. Satire can be employed as a tactical weapon, aimed at a particular group in society in relation to a given objectionable practice – but like all tactical weapons it must be very well targeted indeed. A satire that aims to afflict the comfortable in other societies requires the same sort of commitment to nation-building as an invasion of another country that’s predicated on replacing one detestable regime with another more acceptable one. The problem for satire is thus that while we live in a globalized world so far as media is concerned, we don’t when it comes to morality. Nor, I venture to suggest, will we ever.

About jameswilding

Academic Principal Claires Court Schools Long term member & advocate of the Independent Schools Association
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