Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Two-Edged Sword Of Satire

There has been an issue that has remained a continual undercurrent in the Blogosphere: freedom of speech. It has surfaced in a storm of sorts recently, with this blogger calling for a "Code of Conduct" where "Civility will be Enforced." Hmmm. For another look at this, check out this additional "exchange" with the Fake Steve Jobs. FSJ is a satirist, not a comic, although he is often tasteless, he can be humorous and even brilliant at times. The definition of satire is "a literary work in which vices, follies, stupidities, abuses, etc. are held up to ridicule and contempt... (and) the use of ridicule, sarcasm, irony, etc. to expose, attack, or deride vices, follies, etc. (Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary.) Satire is not nice, and can be cruel- but only a dictator need fear it. If it stings, then it's true. If it's off the mark, without a grain of truth, then the satirist makes an ass of himself. The word Sarcasm is from the Greek Sarkazein and means to "tear flesh like dogs."

Blogs are personal. If you don't like a blog, don't read it. If you want to criticize something in it, use the comments, but if you go too far, don't get upset if your comment is deleted- it's not your blog. If you post something vile, expect like in return. This blog has been lucky, I've only deleted a few comments (besides spam), and then only because they weren't germane to the post.
One of those commenters who was deleted wrote me an angry e-mail, saying that I wasn't being "fair" and that his remarks should be reinstated. This blog, and most blogs that aren't expressly stated as "open forums" aren't fair. They are not democratic. They represent a person, and you ultimately have to accept (or reject) them as such. This blog was set up to explore ideas, and communicate those ideas with the world. From the very beginning I have made this clear here. Many of the posts that I write are started simply because I am curious myself to see how they end. I'm not comfortable with expressing myself in a vulgar or confrontational way, but I respect the right of others to do so, without any group of "enforcers" determining what they deem as a acceptable form of expression. If an "Internet Taliban" ever does gain real power then the use of the blogs as a means of inter-personal communication will cease, and the world will be poorer for it.

This blog has a very small readership- perhaps a dozen regular readers, and a few dozen more each day who end up here through search engines. But they are from all over the world, interested in a wide variety of things, and sometimes we do connect. This is a good thing. There are occasional problems, but I believe that, in general, people are good. I don't think I need a self-appointed "Sheriff" enforcing his fuzzy vision of right and wrong on what is, basically, none of his business.

I should point out that this current upheaval was precipitated by this post and answered by this post. The principals made this joint statement. Draw your own conclusions.

The recent flap concerning radio "personality" Don Imus calling a women's basketball team "nappy-headed ho's" is related in a way. Both this and the Kathy Sierra incident involved sexual taunts directed at women. Imus used a "Forbidden" race word as well (which is getting far more attention than the sexual insult), but his situation is somewhat different. His show is a public institution, a for-profit enterprise supported by sponsors, and licensed by the Federal Government for broadcast in the public interest. He should be held responsible if he oversteps his mandate- Al Sharpton, who has in the past said many inflammatory remarks on his radio show, demands that Imus lose his job. Does anyone really want Al Sharpton as the final arbiter of language?

There is a remedy. If reasonableness is out of the question there is another answer. It is imperfect, but it has managed to survive for a couple of thousand years. It is called Law. If it is criminal act (a real possibility in the Sierra case), arrest the culprit and try him in court. If it is civil, sue him in court. If it is in bad taste, or bad judgment, or even mean-spirited and evil, deal with it- life is like that sometimes. But don't use what considerable fame or influence you have to bypass the Law with threats and sanctions- you then become as one with the "criminal".

By Professor Batty


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