In some exchanges on a post I made on my Facebook timeline, we’ve been talking about the increasingly blurred lines between satire and reality. So often, I see news-articles posted on-line about political candidates, political leaders, and other news items, and will get several paragraphs in before I realize that what I’m reading is satire. Likewise, I’ll sometimes find myself reading an actual news story, saying to myself, “this has got to be satire, it’s too absurd not to be.” But, in those instances, it’s reality that has turned out to be the absurd one. One of my friends lamented that satire is a dying art form. She thought this because it is harder and harder to discern the difference between reality and satire. I disagree. I think satire is alive and well, and better than it’s ever been. It’s the absurd reality of our world today that is the problem. It’s reality that is dying.
It’s a sad reflection on our society when the voice of reason becomes the satirist. I’ll read a column by New York Times columnist Andy Borowitz and think, “wow, this guy is sounding more reasonable than all the so-called ‘expert’ talking heads I see elsewhere on the news!” It’s sad when more and more people turn to comedians and their fake news shows like The Daily Show for their information because the mainstream media (especially in the United States) has become a sad reflection of the absurdity of the society it serves. News, especially in the United States, has become entertainment, and has increasingly little connection to transmitting important information. Most of the big media outlets have their obvious biases, which many wear proudly. It should not be that way. I bristle at the notion of any media outlet endorsing a political candidate. To me, that should be considered journalistically unethical, but it’s been an accepted practice worldwide for many years.
As I think about my on-line conversation, I and my friends have come to the conclusion that it’s the unbridled absurdity of society today that’s caught up with the satirist. I see the surging popularity of people like Donald Trump as a scathing indictment on society. When a man who espouses misogyny and racism the way he does, who flaunts an outsized ego the way he does, can command the level of popularity that he does, where does the line between absurd reality and satire lie? Elections have become clashes of personality rather than debates about and choices between differing policies. While this has been the norm in the United States for decades, this cancer is spreading to other countries as well.
No, it’s not satire that is dying; it is reality that’s on life-support. In many ways, reality is sometimes an abstract concept. You ask five people to describe the same scene, and you’ll get five sometimes different descriptions, and you won’t think they’re necessarily talking about the same thing if you haven’t seen it yourself. As someone who was raised in Christian Science, a faith that completely warps one’s concept of reality, the whole idea of reality, what it is, and how absurd it can be, is a deeper conversation sometimes, than it is for many. As Pontious Pilate is famously quoted as saying, “What is truth?”