Watchdog Blog

Gilbert Cranberg: Wanted: A World Safe for Satire

Posted at 10:57 pm, November 1st, 2008
Gilbert Cranberg Mug

Satire–A literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision or wit.

I quit writing satire years ago when too many angry readers took what I wrote literally. I blamed their lack of discrimination on an increasingly dippy world in which reality too often seemed bizarre. I made the break with satire permanent after an especially depressing experience when the government went on an economizing-at-all-costs binge. My contribution: turn the Pentagon into a profit center by renting out the military since it is idle much of the time. The U.S. made money from fhe first Gulf War, I argued, so cover overhead and perhaps produce a profit by giving fresh meaning to “doughboy” and fight other people’s wars.

The thought was totally repugnant, if not amoral, but seemed to me a way to spoof what had become a search for money divorced from values. Readers did not appreciate the finer things I was trying to teach. They were outraged. They thought it was insane for Americans to fight other people’s battles and I was loony to suggest it. But what do readers know?

My final break with satire came in the form of a letter from an academic who asked permission to include my essay in a collection of innovative ideas he planned to publish. I said OK, but warned he should know that some people had taken it seriously.

Scarcely a day passes without being tempted to reconsider my disavowal of satire: The automakers begging the government to dig them out of the hole they irresponsibly put themselves in by going all-out to promote SUVs; John McCain joking about his many homes as foreclosures forced people into the street; second-hand Sarah forsaking the fancy duds the GOP bought her to rediscover the joys of consignment shopping.

Yes, material for satire, but also a reminder that absurdity has not taken a holiday. I miss writing satire, but not the brickbats. Perhaps I’ll return when people quit behaving in ways that make satire indistinguishable from real life. The way things are going, that will be a very long, long wait.

One Response to “Wanted: A World Safe for Satire”

  1. Angry Texan says:

    Oh please don’t give up on satire, it’s just to much fun for intelligent people. Maybe this will help. I once read that “Satire” could be translated from the Chinese characters to: Laughter with knives. I try to keep that in mind often when commenting on current events. Thanks anyway for your great insight.

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