On Satire

Monday’s review of They Eat Puppies, Don’t They? — Christopher Buckley’s ninth political satire — raises the question of just what satire is. Trouble is, no one is really sure. The term has become a verbal shrug (“You know?”) for any kind of fiction at all with a humorous smack. As George Meredith famously said in his Essay on Comedy (1877), “If you detect the ridicule, and your kindliness is chilled by it, you are slipping into the grasp of Satire.” At its most precise, then, satire denotes humor that is mean as distinguished from humor that is nice. Peter De Vries advanced a similiar distinction in his novel Sauce for the Goose (1981):

Mrs. Dobbin had once read an article on humor in one of the magazines with smooth complexions, which analyzed satire by sorting its practitioners into two classes. Satirists were either soft-mouthed or hard-mouthed. They both brought their prey back dead, true, but some mangled it in purveyance while others did not.

If De Vries is to be believed, however (and no one understood the use of humor in fiction any better than he), the distinction belongs to satire instead of blocking it off from other types of humor. And De Vries has got to be right, because not all satirists are chilling meanies (Christopher Buckley, for example, is warm-hearted toward his prey).

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On Satire

Must-Reads from Magazine

No One Is Overturning Roe v. Wade Anytime Soon

But the freak-out continues.

As Noah has pointed out, the left has made a fetish of abortion, as though it were a positive good, like the polio vaccine, instead of something that should be “safe, legal, and rare.”

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The Great Republican Forgetting

The cult of personality corrupts.

Pro-Trump constituents in the press have a peculiar preoccupation with the president’s conservative critics. Specifically, they’re concerned with the amount of credit Donald Trump receives for his achievements, which presumes those achievements are self-evident. Objective accomplishments—for example, how the Republican Party under Donald Trump has methodically nominated and confirmed originalist judges to federal courts—demand no hectoring from the credit police. Principled conservatives are as happy to heap praise upon Trump for his stewardship of the courts as are #MAGA brigades. It’s only the president’s more dubious feats that raise the hackles of Trump’s enforcers, and for a good reason; they’re not accomplishments at all.

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The Daily Beast Sounds the Alarm About a Papist Menace

Old-school anti-Catholicism.

“To be sure” is one of the slipperiest expressions in the journalistic lexicon. There are legitimate uses for it, to be sure. But an unscrupulous reporter will drop a “to be sure” just before he launches a nasty, underhanded attack on his subject, all while giving the appearance that he (the reporter) is all too sensitive to nastiness—that he is not making the claim he is plainly making.

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The Liberal Fetishization of Abortion

Provocation for its own sake.

As Americans gird themselves for the sound and fury of a Supreme Court confirmation “fight,” they should prepare to hear one poll-tested expression repeated with Pavlovian consistency: “extremism.” The label could be applied to any number of conservative policy preferences, but Democrats seem especially prepared to direct the epithet at conservatives’ belief that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided. On its face, this is a sound political decision. Senate Democrats cannot prevent Republicans from confirming the next Supreme Court justice, so the party’s best bet is to motivate its voters by implying that the new Court will strip them of their right to access abortion services. That’s a message to which Democratic voters are very receptive, but there is a thin line between motivation and fanaticism. The pro-choice party that once stood in opposition to the outright prohibition of abortion has begun to make a fetish of that procedure.

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PODCAST: It’s Hotter Than July

Podcast: NATO and North Korea

It’s a smorgasbord of a podcast today, in which we talk about NATO, and British governmental collapse, and military spending, and the dangers of a remilitarized Europe, and Europe’s declining birthrate, and Mike Pompeo and North Korea, and whether liberals are going insane. Give a listen.

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