what do you feel to be the role of satire in a society where reactionary politics are on the rise, unhindered by mockery?
In America’s current culture, I believe political satire is used to agitate or soothe an audience against the anxiety and anger that people antithetically opposed to them (who may or may not exist to the extent they are characterized) have some measure of control over their lives/the lives of people they care about.
The most effective satirists in history operated in eras when general ignorance was widespread. E.g., Thomas Nast’s ridicule of Boss Tweed was effective because it cut through the general low literacy of his audience to succinctly illustrate Tweed’s corruption.
We live in a time where we can practice selective ignorance to an unprecedented stream of information. It’s trivial for us to cultivate a flow of news and entertainment that aligns with our tastes. Political cartoons and satirical skits and web shorts aren’t lights in the darkness illuminating unknown truths. The majority are artless, heavy-handed dressing-downs of the audience’s target of ridicule. Increasingly, the audiences are not general, but specific. The criticisms are typically not brilliant and insightful, but predictably dull and facile. Most of them amount to little more than cheer-leading and rabble-rousing.
As such, they serve mostly to galvanize back-slapping partisans and mock their opponents to an audience who is always willing to tear them apart. Preaching to the choir that they’re right and those who don’t agree are hypocritical dullards. A half-step above sarcasm in value, such applications of satire are impotent and useless for anything more than mindless agitation and insulating reassurance.