Jonathan Swift, like Al Franken, was a satirist.  When Swift suggested the Irish solve their problems by raising and eating their own children, he wasn't serious.  While perhaps Franken is no Swift, satire is satire.  Satirizing the opinions, actions, and morals of others by hyperbolizing them does not mean you endorse those opinions, actions, and morals.  Nor does it mean you think such extreme things constitute "entertainment" pure and simple.

Someone ought to tell Michael Gerson, when he wakes up from his fainting spell at the "vulgarity."

Satire has been called "punishment for those who deserve it." Writers from Erasmus to Jonathan Swift to George Orwell have used humor, irony and ridicule to expose the follies of the powerful, the failures of blind ideology and the comic weakness of human nature itself. 

So what is Franken's "provocative, touching and funny" contribution to the genre? Consider his article in Playboy magazine titled "Porn-O-Rama!" in which he enthuses that it is an "exciting time for pornographers and for us, the consumers of pornography." The Internet, he explains, is a "terrific learning tool. For example, a couple of years ago, when he was 12, my son used the Internet for a sixth-grade report on bestiality. Joe was able to download some effective visual aids, which the other students in his class just loved." Franken goes on to relate a soft-core fantasy about women providing him with sex who were trained at the "Minnesota Institute of Titology." 

I'd be tempted to say he's taken Franken out of context, but he's has just said that Franken is a satirist.  If Gerson weren't so earnest in his desire to avoid "vulgarity," I'd say his op-ed was satire.  

6 thoughts on “Satire”

  1. Not old-timey Irish babies.  Here’s a rule: anything old-timey, regardless of how horrible it is, is wholesome.

  2. Right…Old America good, New America bad. I did a google search for articles about Franken’s article – written eight years ago – and was surprised to see that there was so much news coverage about it. These sorts of public outrages always remind me of the indignant crowd noise made by characters on “South Park”: “Rabble! Rabble! Rabble!”

  3. Could it be the case that Franken was satirizing the adult entertainment industry’s “penetration” into popular culture?  Or is this an instance of something you cannot talk about without endorsing–something you cannot mention, to use the technical phrase, without using?

  4. Yeah, I was going to say that one might suppose that cannibalizing one’s own children might be considered vulgar in some quarters. But given the environmental record of much of the conservative establishment, one might begin to wonder if such Swiftian recommendations are closing in on the norm for certain people. (But that would be a vulgar thing to say.)

  5. “Porn-O-Rama!” is a modern campaign document every voter should read — the Federalist Papers of lifestyle liberalism.

    That was definitely the idiocy climax of this Gerson piece.

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