When the Polk Awards decided to honor the murdered cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo, one obvious name came to mind. Gary Trudeau.
If there is one man who represents the opposite of what the Charlie cartoonists did, it’s Trudeau. They took risks, Trudeau takes none. They lived knowing that they could be killed at any moment. There is no person on earth who would bother killing Gary Trudeau even if it was Kill Gary Trudeau Day.
Trudeau is that paradoxical creature, the establishment cartoonist, the party satirist, the hack who dares to say exactly what he is expected to say. Imagine NPR in a few black and white sketches. That’s Trudeau’s Doonesbury. Republicans are bad. Liberals are good. And then insert a topical reference.
The Polk Awards were the best forum for Trudeau. George Polk invented heroic wartime exploits that got him a job at CBS. Unlike Brian Williams, Polk did serve, but he was not a fighter pilot, he serviced aircraft. In Greece, his dubious reporting attacking Truman and the Greek government was defended by his lefty colleagues by inventing even more imaginary heroics that he had never claimed for himself.
By the time they were done, Polk had singlehandedly defeated the Japanese.
After Polk was murdered by Greek Communists, American lefties went all out to prove that there had been a conspiracy by the Greek government to silence him. All it took to believe in the Polk Conspiracy was a willingness to disregard the entire history of Communist activities and how casually its armed bands, agents and guerrillas killed people across the entire political spectrum for minor offenses.
But these revelations have not in any way interfered with the Polk Awards. And the Polk Awards decided to make Gary Trudeau the first cartoonist honored with an award. Trudeau would join a seminar on “Dangerous Lines: Cartoonists and Other Subversives” featuring such dangerous subversives as a writer for The Onion and Obama sycophant Jules Feiffer. It was a seminar so dangerously and outrageously subversive it could have been held at Whole Foods.
Trudeau reciprocated by blasting the murdered Charlie Hebdo cartoonists as free speech absolutists and bigots. He claimed that the cartoons of Mohammed did not “challenge authority” and argued that “Satire punches up, against authority of all kinds, the little guy against the powerful.”
While the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists had challenged the authority of a system of theocracy over a thousand years old, Trudeau’s latest cartoon mocks people stockpiling gasoline.
Trudeau’s rant, published in The Atlantic as “The Abuse of Satire”, claims that Charlie had pandered to the Jews while offending Muslims, described Muslims arrested for supporting the attacks as having exercised their freedom of speech, and contended that by, “attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority with crude, vulgar drawings closer to graffiti than cartoons, Charlie wandered into the realm of hate speech”.
Supporting killing cartoonists for drawing Mohammed is free speech. Drawing Mohammed is hate speech.
That’s certainly a subversive idea, but it subverts such things as Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion. It subverts the idea that a cartoonist shouldn’t be killed for challenging a theocracy.
But then what else can an establishment hack denied an administration he can oppose, subvert? When the establishment of the left is in charge, the only things left to subvert are the barriers to the absolute rule of the left.
Dangerous subversives become the destroyers of democracy fighting against free speech absolutists. The dangerous subversive stops dangerously subverting and instead lectures on the appropriate uses of satire. He becomes a commissar who censors with one hand and cartoons with the other.
Real satire exists to challenge the sorts of people who would set out appropriate uses of it. State satire isn’t satire. Soviet cartoonists in Krokodil churning out incessant cartoons of capitalists in top hats being thumped by Communists weren’t satirists. Like Trudeau, they were establishment hacks pimping out propaganda.
Their work was usually more talented than Trudeau’s, but it was just the establishment talking to itself.
The left has adopted “Punching up” and “Punching down” as the legitimate metrics for comedy and satire, but real ‘Punching down’ comes from the establishment. When an establishment satirist like Trudeau attacks satirists who risked their lives challenging a real authority with the power to kill them, what he is really saying is that satire should only serve the ends and agendas of the establishment.
That is the very definition of “Punching down”. When the establishment tells you what satire is supposed to be, then anyone following those rules is punching down.
The entire rhetoric of “Punching up” and “Punching down” limits comedy to a crude Marxist structural pyramid. The left “Punches up” by building alliances with “disenfranchised” groups in order to rule. It then uses them as shields to punch down. Establishment hacks like Trudeau do not refrain from “Punching down” by mocking ordinary Americans who lack their wealth and access to power. They claim that by doing so they’re really punching up on behalf of their disenfranchised shields.
But the model collapses altogether when we consider a segment of the population that believes that everyone must submit to its religion and is willing to back up that demand with lethal force.
Muslims are by no means Trudeau’s “powerless, disenfranchised minority”, but suppose they were. There was a time when the followers of Adolf Hitler were powerless and disenfranchised. Power is not just about the guy who wins an election. It’s also about his shadow who is willing to kill to take over.
Mocking him takes a lot of guts.
It takes no guts to throw another few barbs at Newt Gingrich or Rick Perry for the entertainment of your lefty audience. Not only won’t their followers kill you, but they can’t even disinvite you to any of the better establishment parties. Mocking them is actually a ticket into the cocktail party circuit. It’s as subversive as Mark Russell tinkling away on the piano.
We have a lot of “Punching up” satire in America which is as toothless as that tinkling. We have few satirists willing to mock Obama because that is a ticket out of every single cocktail party ever.
Saturday Night Live could mock every president, but it drew the line at Obama. It occasionally builds jokes around him, but it doesn’t draw an exaggerated ridiculous caricature of him the way that it did of Clinton and Bush. We’ve seen a drunken lecherous Bill Clinton. We’ve seen a drunken numbskull Bush.
There’s been nothing like that on the show for Obama. There can’t be. It would be too dangerous.
There is in fact an easy way to tell whether your satire is really punching up or down. Try it and see what happens. If you run into a gigantic backlash that impacts your career and your safety, then you’re actually punching up. Just ask a rodeo clown out of Missouri who went out wearing an Obama mask and ended having to go into hiding while the Governor, a Senator and the Kansas City Star called for his head. Bans were issued, blacklists were assembled and Obama fans threatened to burn down his house.
That’s what real “Punching up” looks like. Real punching up might mock establishment journalistic awards named after the world’s greatest fake fighter pilot not named Brian Williams.
To comedy cowards like Gary Trudeau that would be the reprehensible antics of free speech fanatics who don’t know that there’s good satire and abuse of satire. They don’t understand that there are jokes that you’re supposed to tell and jokes that you never should. They might draw Mohammed, and then in response to the outrage, draw him again and again.
What do you do with people like that? You shoot them. And when they’re dead, you smear them. Because if you don’t, their courage exposes you for the cowardly hack that you really are.
That’s what real establishment satirists do. Just ask the old dead Soviet cartoonists of Krokodil.
Don’t miss Shillman Fellow Daniel Greenfield on The Glazov Gang discuss The Real Meaning of ‘Allahu Akbar’.
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