I’m finding satire harder to write these days
“We’re not a respectable network. We’re a whorehouse network, and we have to take whatever we can get.” – “Network.” 1976
I’ve been writing satirical news stories since the Nixon administration, poking fun at government stupidities that seemed so inane that the public should have run for the hills, escaped over the border into Canada, or gone flat nuts.
My wife and I watched “Network” a few nights ago. We don’t think it works now as well as it did when was released because in our view, all of the networks are whorehouse networks. That is to say, they all seem biased for or against President Trump.
I introduced my old-style reporter character Jock Stewart in my in 2011 in Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire after using the character in blogs as my alter-ego for poking fun at the major political parties for years. “He” has appeared on this and other blogs since then as well as in several Kindle books of short stories.
The problem seems to be this: everything I read in the national news already seems to be satire. At some point, Peter Sellers and/or Oscar Wilde took over the world and everything has gone crazy. Since both of them are dead, you can see that the problem must be tangled up with karma and reincarnation.
The challenge for those of us who enjoy writing satire is this: People don’t think it’s funny because they think it’s true.
The Howard Beale character in “Network” said: “So, you listen to me. Listen to me! Television is not the truth. Television’s a god-damned amusement park. Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, sideshow freaks, lion tamers, and football players. We’re in the boredom-killing business. So if you want the Truth, go to God! Go to your gurus.” If the movie were made today, Beale would include the Internet.
Yes, I know, “Saturday Night Live” and “The Onion” are still out there. But when I see them, they look like the real news, the stuff we’ve been told is fake news. Gosh, when real journalism is in the toilet, satirists have no place to go. In order to save satire, we first have to return journalism to the world of objectivity. Easier said than done.
But if we lose satire as an art form, civilization is done for.