I like to think that I have a pretty good sense of humor. (Then again, so does most everyone — it seems that the louder one proclaims one’s sense of humor, the less likely others are to agree.) But lately it seems that the “humor defense” is starting to get a little tiresome — especially when the politics of the “jokester” are taken into account.
Let’s take a look at some people who’ve tried to play the “joke defense,” and see how well it worked.
First up, Don Imus. The man built his career on being a crass buffoon, and parlayed that persona into millions. Then he’s a bit too crass to the wrong target, and he’s history. He instantly becomes toxic, and nobody will have anything to do with him.
Then there’s John Kerry. He attempted to make a crack at President Bush, but flubbed the punchline and ended up insulting the troops. He spent a few days arguing that he hadn’t made the mistake, the listeners did — but insulting your audience’s intelligence is never a good move. It made him nearly as toxic as Imus, but it passed quickly.
Let us not forget Ann Coulter. She’s probably the most limber bomb-thrower on the right, wresting the crown from Pat Buchanan (whom I personally loathe). She’s decided to make a regular target out of John Edwards (who’s welcomed it as a huge boon to his name recognition and fundraising to the point where he really ought to list her among his campaign assets), and every single damned time she does it, as a “joke,” her critics erupt in a lather about her “hateful, vile” rhetoric.
(The fact that they usually couch their condemnation alongside terms related to bulimia and transgenderism is an irony that they are blind to — but amusing nonetheless.)
Now we have Martin Lewis. This Huffington Post essayist committed an open and flagrant act of sedition, inciting the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff to violate his oath, the law, and the United States Constitution — and during a time of war. Then, after his remarks provoked a firestorm of criticism, he tried to laugh it off by calling it a “satire” — even comparing himself to Jonathan Swift and mocking his detractors as ignorant buffoons.
If his piece was a satire, it was a case of “friendly fire” — the mentality he was allegedly satirizing is the side that thinks President Bush ought to be impeached, arrested, shot, or in some way driven out of office before January 20, 2009. But those are his “homeys.”
No, what I suspect what he was thinking when he was writing that piece was “OK, this oughta really get my readers all worked up. This will establish my credentials with them that I’m not only one of them, I’m one of the best. And if the crap from the wingnuts gets too intense, I’ll just say the whole thing was a joke and they’re morons for not seeing it.”
Sorry, Mr. Lewis, that ain’t working. If Swift was your model, then he would have to have had a long history of anti-Irish sentiments and expressions before his “Modest Proposal” was published.
No, Mr. Lewis, your piece was not satire, it was red meat. It was intended to cheer your supporters and infuriate your detractors. It was an extension of your own opinions, carried to the illogical extreme.
Your essay isn’t the joke here, Mr. Lewis. The joke here is you.