A curious characteristic of totalitarian communist regimes is the dearth, if not the total absence, of comedy. No comedy films were ever made in the Soviet Union or in any of the other Communist countries. In fact, cinemas in communist countries were almost always empty, the films being so mind-numbingly abysmal. (One time in Havana, the government allowed American films to be shown in a theater and the lines stretched around the block, whereupon the government arrested the attendees inside the theater.)
In the Soviet Union, circuses were a major source of popular entertainment, devoid of the usual crude propaganda. The favorite aspect of Soviet circuses were the clowns, when the otherwise unsmiling Russians could let loose with belly laughs.
Yoani Sánchez stated that one of the things that first helped her to break through the indoctrination received at school of the cult of personality of Fidel Castro was her observation that Castro never joked, highly unusual for a Cuban.
We are in the midst of a Marxist upheaval going full throttle towards turning America into a Communist utopia. The symptoms are all there: self-censorship, censorship (aka “cancel culture”), political indoctrination of the military, indoctrination in the schools, network news deliberately becoming propaganda outlets, Balkanizing the population, etc.
Another symptom is the slow strangulation of comics and comedy.
Comedians are complaining of the toxic air that is stifling comedy. “Cancel culture” is being waged by insufferable, self-righteous fanatics always lurking in the background, ready to pounce on the slightest transgression. Cancel culture has gone after comics because of the hypersensibility of the chronically offended–in other words, the leftists. It is a type of censorship. Some of the people who partake of the cancel culture also do so for the sheer exercise of power at ruining other people’s lives and livelihood, amazed that it is so easy to do nowadays. The range of punishment varies. Just ask Andrew Dice Clay.
Incidentally, it all began with the feminists decades ago, who would, at the drop of a hat, mob and shriek at the offender making a joke at their expense–and feminism is the mother lode for comedy, for anyone who has the brass to go down that route, as did Milo Yiannopoulos.
But, just like there are journalists and academics who promote and enforce censorship in their professions, there are also comedians who are traitors to their craft. Their position is, if one must do comedy, it must be done with the aim of promoting Politically Correct ideology. The primary motivating force behind Politically Correct comedy is hatred, as exemplified by the foaming-at-the-mouth-while-smiling Stephen Colbert. Whether they act this way because of sincere ideological fanaticism, or opportunism, only they know.
When a newspaper assigns two journalists to investigate whether or not Donald Trump’s grandson built a model of the White House with Legos all by himself, well . . . .
Mind you, making fun of certain persons and ideologies and their sacred cows and their absurd manifestations can be done, and it is fun. It just takes backbone, the ability to, when the cries of outrage start pouring in, simply lift a big, fat, middle finger at the chronically offended. And, as David Cole points out, condemning a joke for ideological reasons just makes that joke become widespread–even if it is sotto voce.
Nonetheless, consider the following casualties:
Pourtions created dinnerware that had concentric circles etched on the plates along with these words: skinny jeans, favorite jeans, mom jeans as a way to remind diners of possible diets. It took one person’s tweet, “How can I get these plates banned from Macy’s?” for the chain store to hurriedly pull the line of plates from its stores.
After comedian Ahmed Ahmed’s made a joke about Muslims and terrorism, a couple called 911, and AA had to explain himself to the police.
Former Saturday Night Live writer Nimesh Patel was interrupted and stopped in the middle of his comedy routine at Columbia University because some of the snowflakes felt “offended,” (the all-purpose term for censorship these days). Other comedians have stated that they refuse to work in those bastions of fanaticism.
Owen Benjamin made a joke about transgender treatment and immediately lost his livelihood.
Washington (Com)Post humor columnist Gene Weingarten joked that he did not like Indian cuisine because it seemed to be made with only one spice so, afterward, he had to grovel and apologize while the editor printed a correction . . . over a joke.
Steven Crowder has been ridiculing Carlos Maza, a self-described “Marxist pig” (is there any other kind of Marxist?) who advocates violence and censorship. Vox, BuzzFeed, and HuffPost have demanded that Crowder be de-platformed (i.e., censored out of existence).
Nor is it just comedians. Ted Cruz made a joke about Obama and it did not sit well with leftist Salon. But that was predictable since he is a politician.
A woman who is not a professional comedian joked in her Facebook account that a spork was transgender cutlery. And she got an earful.
Twenty-one-year-old Lucas Gerhard, a student in a Michigan university, announced in his Snapchat account that he was bringing his new rifle to school, having followed school rules by checking his gun and ammunition in with the school’s safety office. He made a joke that the snowflakes would melt on seeing it. Three students complained of his having made a terrorist threat and he was arrested.
The Babylon Bee
Perhaps the most hilarious incident involves The Babylon Bee, a satirical daily that skewers all the pompous asses, fanatics, politicians, and criminals out there, including journalists. Conservatives are also made fun of, though their main targets are leftists because, let’s face it, that’s where the biggest concentration of pompous asses and fanatics can be found.
Whereupon, the New York Times claimed that the satirical website was a source of far-right misinformation!
But it gets better: Buzzfeed accused the Babylon Bee of pushing conspiracy theories–without providing any evidence.
And then came the matter of Erica Thomas, a Georgia state representative who claimed victimhood status by saying the “white man” told her to “go back where she came from” at a Publix grocery store. It turned out she lied. She told the Cuban to go back where he came from. The Babylon Bee satirized the incident. And then, Snopes fact-checked The Babylon Bee to see whether its satire was factual, then . . . fact-checked itself. But, just to be sure, USA Today checked BB, which has always and openly claimed to be a satirical outlet, and announced that, lo and behold, the revelation: The Babylon Bee is satirical.
First-rate journalism, all around.
BB struck back, writing a piece on Snopes, wherein people are conned that it is a fact-checking site.
But, it doesn’t end there.
Donnie O’Sullivan, a CNN reporter whose job is “covering disinformation, politics, and technology” had a fit because The Babylon Bee had a satirical article.
Since America and the U.K. have a symbiotic relationship, the two cultures influence each other. Intolerant, repressive cancel culture has become manifested in the U.K. as well, particularly in regards to comedy, though it has not been as extensive and intensive as in the U.S. (it will come as a surprise to many Americans that Britain has censorship). Nonetheless, British comedians have been aghast at seeing the instances in the U.S.
From the above, we see the obvious, that the attack on humor, satire, and comedy is simply another manifestation of censorship by leftists, with the result that the political right is now enjoying comedy in all its manifestations: in sarcasm, satire, humor.
Whether comedy will survive the attacks being made on it will depend on whether American democracy itself will survive the attacks from its internal totalitarian enemies. Success or failure will depend on two intertwined things: First, whether the ones who transgress against PC dogma through comedy will have the backbone to ignore and/or fight back, or whether they will follow the usual script that we have seen in the past few years (first, apologize and grovel, followed by a self-flagellating declaration, followed by resigning). The second depends on how the war against the overall totalitarian movement goes and whether here, too, there will rise men and women who are fearless and defiant, or who will continue to follow the script. The atmosphere in the U.S. has become so absurd, so toxic, that satire has even become foretelling.
Armando Simón is a native of Cuba, a retired college professor, and forensic psychologist. He is also the author of When Evolution Stops, The Only Red Star I Liked was a Starfish, and the satirical Pandemic or no Pandemic I’m Getting Married!!.