Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Irony Deficient “Messiah”

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By medusa

I stopped reading Maureen Dowd and the rest of the New York Times’ misogynists during the primaries. Like many of Hillary’s supporters, I could not stomach their CDS hatefest, and their Kool Aid keggers just added insult to injury. However, now that Himself is the presumptuous Democratic nominee, Ms Dowd has taken to noticing some of the problems of his candidacy. In a recent Op-Ed, Dowd writes:

When I interviewed Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert for Rolling Stone a couple years ago, I wondered what Barack Obama would mean for them.“It seems like a President Obama would be harder to make fun of than these guys,” I said.“Are you kidding me?” Stewart scoffed. Then he and Colbert both said at the same time: “His dad was a goat-herder!”When I noted that Obama, in his memoir, had revealed that he had done some pot, booze and “maybe a little blow,” the two comedians began riffing about the dapper senator’s familiarity with drug slang.Colbert: Wow, that’s a very street way of putting it. ‘A little blow.’Stewart: A little bit of the white rabbit.Colbert: ‘Yeah, I packed a cocktail straw of cocaine and had a prostitute blow it in my ear, but that is all I did. High-fivin.’ ’

During the primary, when I went looking for editorial cartoons on Barack Obama, I read on Daryl Cagle’s cartoon site that because cartoonists couldn’t draw him well, there were few cartoons of Obama. I wondered then if that statement was a dodge because cartoonists didn’t want to be accused of racism when they caricatured Obama’s African American features. It has been abundantly clear that cartoonists have absolutely no problem finding ways to caricature Senator Clinton. The Cagle cartoonists now appear to be comfortable caricaturing Obama, as can be seen above. About the difficulty to find humor with Obama, Bill Carter writes:

When Mr. Stewart on “The Daily Show” recently tried to joke about Mr. Obama changing his position on campaign financing, for instance, he met with such obvious resistance from the audience, he said, “You know, you’re allowed to laugh at him.” Mr. Stewart said in a telephone interview on Monday, “People have a tendency to react as far as their ideology allows them.”.Noting that the senator seems to emphasize the historic nature of his quest, Mr. Stewart said, “So far, our take is that he’s positioning himself to be on a coin.”

Making fun of politician has been a staple of democracy since its founding. Political satire, invective humor and dramatic irony began in Athens with the founding of democracy and remains essential to the democratic process of vetting, critiquing and exposing through humor. Aristophanes made good use of it in Athens and we continue to reap the benefits from the freedom to laugh at our leaders. In his comedy, the Knights, Aristophanes writes about an Athenian leader:

You have all the characteristics of a popular politician: a horrible voice, bad breeding, and a vulgar manner.

Remarkably, Dowd appears to understand that by being off-limits to humor, Obama, who is mostly unknown anyway, is becoming a tight little knot of impenetrable actions, defended vociferously by his surrogates. She writes:

Certainly, as the potential first black president, and as a contender with tender experience, Obama must feel under strain to be serious. But he does not want the “take” on him to become that he’s so tightly wrapped, overcalculated and circumspect that he can’t even allow anyone to make jokes about him, and that his supporters are so evangelical and eager for a champion to rescue America that their response to any razzing is a sanctimonious: Don’t mess with our messiah!If Obama keeps being stingy with his quips and smiles, and if the dominant perception of him is that you can’t make jokes about him, it might infect his campaign with an airless quality. His humorlessness could spark humor.

Americans make fun of their politicians. In fact, all free people do. Hillary joined Amy Poehler in caricaturing herself on Saturday Night Live and people loved it. If out of political correctness or sanctimony, a politician is not laughing along with people, then the jokes are whispered and become less, not more, acceptable. If Obama doesn’t begin to laugh with people, he will become the laughingstock of people. In fact, that is already happening to the arugula candidate, as Dowd states:

He’s already in danger of seeming too prissy about food — a perception heightened when The Wall Street Journal reported that the planners for Obama’s convention have hired the first-ever Director of Greening, the environmental activist Andrea Robinson. She in turn hired an Official Carbon Adviser to “measure the greenhouse-gas emissions of every placard, every plane trip, every appetizer prepared and every coffee cup tossed.”The “lean ‘n’ green” catering guidelines, The Journal said, bar fried food and instruct that, “on the theory that nutritious food is more vibrant, each meal should include ‘at least three of the following colors: red, green, yellow, blue/purple, and white.’ (Garnishes don’t count.) At least 70% of the ingredients should be organic or grown locally, to minimize emissions from fuel during transportation.”Bring it on, Ozone Democrats! Because if Obama gets elected and there is nothing funny about him, it won’t be the economy that’s depressed. It will be the rest of us.

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