Sunday, 25 January 2015

Satire, power, offence and SCUM.

I sometimes think the biggest constituency in the world is the well-meaning idiots. They want to do the right things and they want to think the right things, particularly now that everyone not only has opinions but is expected to express them all over the place, all the time. They are well-meaning, so they (for instance) get sucked by Britain First (no, I am not linking to them in any shape or form) printing a picture of a doggie or a dignified veteran and don't read the small print where the facism lurks.
At the moment, the well-meaning idiots are worrying about offensiveness. It's OK to disagree with other people's religious beliefs, they bleat, but do you have to be so nasty and rude about it?
The answer is yes. Yes, you fucking do. Ridicule is an effective, sometimes devastating weapon and a necessary one. Well-meaning idiots don't get satire, in the same way that they don't get fiction (all erotica writers get asked, endlessly, if they have done or regularly do all the sexy things they write about, and when you ask the latest well-meaning idiot to put the same question if s/he thinks JK Rowling attended Hogwarts herself, they get all huffy...)
Satire isn't 'nice' because satire is born out of rage. Good satire should make you uncomfortable even while it's making you laugh, but great satire actually aims to ^make things better^. The intention is to shock you into examining your own behaviour, or the behaviour of people you have allowed to hold positions of power. Being 'offended' is sometimes the equivalent of the metaphorical good kick up the arse that makes you see the world in a different way.

And it is about power, at bottom. The powerful don't satirize the powerless. They may mock, degrade, humiliate and harm them, but they don't satirize them because they don't need to. Satirizing radical Islam, by the way, is not about insulting or degrading non-white people - what is being attacked in this form of satire is a violent, homophobic, misogynistic superstition that is used to justify brutality and murder.
It's the power differential that makes the SCUM manifesto an exhilarating satirical work, whereas all those Angry Neckbeard sites about putting women back in their place may be uninentionally hilarious at times (Return of Kings you just know is written by a clammy-palmed drip from his parents' damp basement) but, because men are far more dangactually dangerous to women than women are to men, even when misogynists are insisting that they are being funny, the message that lingers is not 'Women have too much power and should be nicer to men' but 'Some men are really, really inadequate'.
Mind you, that's the point at which SCUM starts feeling less like satire and more like a Good Idea.

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