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Cede the Political

Satire cedes the political

Coe, 10 – satirical author of novels including ‘What a Carve Up!’ and ‘The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim’ (Jonathan, “Has political satire gone too far: I am less convinced that satire is good for democracy,” Financial Times: The Arts, 10/11/10, http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/5784ac84-bc50-11df-8c02-00144feab49a.html#axzz37BmCs8Yz)//IS

However, far from tearing down the established order, most satire (except in a few very great, very extreme cases – Swift’s A Modest Proposal being the obvious example), does the exact opposite. It creates a welcoming space in which like-minded people can gather together and share in comfortable hilarity. The anger, the feelings of injustice they might have been suffering beforehand are gathered together, compressed and transformed into bursts of laughter, and after discharging them they feel content and satisfied. An impulse that might have translated into action is, therefore, rendered neutral and harmless. I remember a recent edition of Radio 4’s News Quiz where the comedian Jeremy Hardy brought this up: after cracking a series of (brilliant) jokes about failed bankers collecting enormous bonuses, he suddenly said, “Why are we laughing about this? We should be taking to the streets.” He was right. So it’s no wonder that the rich and the powerful have no objection to being mocked. They understand that satire can be a useful safety valve, and a powerful weapon for preserving the status quo.

Satire cedes the political – laughter stops incentives to take action

Ziv, 1988 –written extensively on the subject of humor, his titles including Humor in Education: A Psychological Approach, The Psychology of Humor, and Personality and Sense of Humor, from which the following has been excerpted. Ziv chairs the department of education sciences at Tel Aviv University and has also chaired international conferences on humor. His ten books have been translated into a half-dozen languages. (Avner. "Humor as a Social Corrective." Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum 3rd ed. Laurence Behrens and Leonard J. Rosen, eds. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman and Company, 1988. 356-60.)//IS

In every oppressive regime there is this kind of underground humor, and it fulfills an important function: Laughter shared by the (page 360 begins here) oppressed at the expense of the oppressor reduces fear and helps people to go on living under the regime with more ease. Totalitarian regimes possibly do themselves a disservice in preventing manifestations of humor against themselves, for laughter may be a safety valve for the release of tension and frustration. Similarly, a government that lets its subjects laugh at it evinces its strength, inasmuch as it is not afraid of mockery. Feelings of hostility and frustration may well be increased among the oppressed by the restraint enforced on humorous expression. When such feelings build up and must be held in, a kind of "pressure cooker" is created, which can explode in violent ways. It is to be supposed that in democratic societies, in which freedom of expression is given to political humor, satire indirectly serves the interests of the government. The possibility of ventilating feelings against the state by means of laughter offers release; the hostility might otherwise be demonstrated in far more violent forms, even outright rebellion. The first piece of methodical research on the function of humor as a mode of facing oppressive social power was carried out by Oberdlik (1942). He investigated the jokes that appeared in Czechoslovakia during World War II, when the country was under Nazi occupation. In analyzing the humor of that period, he stressed its role as a mode of coping with the conquerors. One of his examples is as follows: "Did you hear that the Germans have decided to lengthen the day to 29 hours?" "No, why?" "Because the Fuhrer has promised them that by the spring they'll be in Moscow!"

Attempts to totally reject the current system of politics are doomed to fail, and strengthen those in power already.  Only by making specific attainable demands on the system can we hope to change it.

Zizek 07 (Slavoj Zizek. “Resistance is Surrender” 11/15/07, http://www.lacan.com/zizsurcrit.htm)//IS

The response of some critics on the postmodern Left to this predicament is to call for a new politics of resistance. Those who still insist on fighting state power, let alone seizing it, are accused of remaining stuck within the ‘old paradigm’: the task today, their critics say, is to resist state power by withdrawing from its terrain and creating new spaces outside its control. This is, of course, the obverse of accepting the triumph of capitalism. The politics of resistance is nothing but the moralising supplement to a Third Way Left. Simon Critchley’s recent book, Infinitely Demanding, is an almost perfect embodiment of this position. For Critchley, the liberal-democratic state is here to stay. Attempts to abolish the state failed miserably; consequently, the new politics has to be located at a distance from it: anti-war movements, ecological organisations, groups protesting against racist or sexist abuses, and other forms of local self-organisation. It must be a politics of resistance to the state, of bombarding the state with impossible demands, of denouncing the limitations of state mechanisms. The main argument for conducting the politics of resistance at a distance from the state hinges on the ethical dimension of the ‘infinitely demanding’ call for justice: no state can heed this call, since its ultimate goal is the ‘real-political’ one of ensuring its own reproduction (its economic growth, public safety, etc). ‘Of course,’ Critchley writes,¶ history is habitually written by the people with the guns and sticks and one cannot expect to defeat them with mocking satire and feather dusters. Yet, as the history of ultra-leftist active nihilism eloquently shows, one is lost the moment one picks up the guns and sticks. Anarchic political resistance should not seek to mimic and mirror the archic violent sovereignty it opposes.¶ So what should, say, the US Democrats do? Stop competing for state power and withdraw to the interstices of the state, leaving state power to the Republicans and start a campaign of anarchic resistance to it? And what would Critchley do if he were facing an adversary like Hitler? Surely in such a case one should ‘mimic and mirror the archic violent sovereignty’ one opposes? Shouldn’t the Left draw a distinction between the circumstances in which one would resort to violence in confronting the state, and those in which all one can and should do is use ‘mocking satire and feather dusters’? The ambiguity of Critchley’s position resides in a strange non sequitur: if the state is here to stay, if it is impossible to abolish it (or capitalism), why retreat from it? Why not act with(in) the state? Why not accept the basic premise of the Third Way? Why limit oneself to a politics which, as Critchley puts it, ‘calls the state into question and calls the established order to account, not in order to do away with the state, desirable though that might well be in some utopian sense, but in order to better it or attenuate its malicious effect’? These words simply demonstrate that today’s liberal-democratic state and the dream of an ‘infinitely demanding’ anarchic politics exist in a relationship of mutual parasitism: anarchic agents do the ethical thinking, and the state does the work of running and regulating society. Critchley’s anarchic ethico-political agent acts like a superego, comfortably bombarding the state with demands; and the more the state tries to satisfy these demands, the more guilty it is seen to be. In compliance with this logic, the anarchic agents focus their protest not on open dictatorships, but on the hypocrisy of liberal democracies, who are accused of betraying their own professed principles. The big demonstrations in London and Washington against the US attack on Iraq a few years ago offer an exemplary case of this strange symbiotic relationship between power and resistance. Their paradoxical outcome was that both sides were satisfied. The protesters saved their beautiful souls: they made it clear that they don’t agree with the government’s policy on Iraq. Those in power calmly accepted it, even profited from it: not only did the protests in no way prevent the already-made decision to attack Iraq; they also served to legitimise it. Thus George Bush’s reaction to mass demonstrations protesting his visit to London, in effect: ‘You see, this is what we are fighting for, so that what people are doing here - protesting against their government policy - will be possible also in Iraq!’ It is striking that the course on which Hugo Chávez has embarked since 2006 is the exact opposite of the one chosen by the postmodern Left: far from resisting state power, he grabbed it (first by an attempted coup, then democratically), ruthlessly using the Venezuelan state apparatuses to promote his goals. Furthermore, he is militarising the barrios, and organising the training of armed units there. And, the ultimate scare: now that he is feeling the economic effects of capital’s ‘resistance’ to his rule (temporary shortages of some goods in the state-subsidised supermarkets), he has announced plans to consolidate the 24 parties that support him into a single party. Even some of his allies are sceptical about this move: will it come at the expense of the popular movements that have given the Venezuelan revolution its élan? However, this choice, though risky, should be fully endorsed: the task is to make the new party function not as a typical state socialist (or Peronist) party, but as a vehicle for the mobilisation of new forms of politics (like the grass roots slum committees). What should we say to someone like Chávez? ‘No, do not grab state power, just withdraw, leave the state and the current situation in place’? Chávez is often dismissed as a clown - but wouldn’t such a withdrawal just reduce him to a version of Subcomandante Marcos, whom many Mexican leftists now refer to as ‘Subcomediante Marcos’? Today, it is the great capitalists - Bill Gates, corporate polluters, fox hunters - who ‘resist’ the state. The lesson here is that the truly subversive thing is not to insist on ‘infinite’ demands we know those in power cannot fulfil. Since they know that we know it, such an ‘infinitely demanding’ attitude presents no problem for those in power: ‘So wonderful that, with your critical demands, you remind us what kind of world we would all like to live in. Unfortunately, we live in the real world, where we have to make do with what is possible.’ The thing to do is, on the contrary, to bombard those in power with strategically well-selected, precise, finite demands, which can’t be met with the same excuse.¶

Satire cedes the political – people want satirist to act for them

Bremner 10 – a satirist known for his work on ‘Spitting Image’ and ‘Bremner, Bird and Fortune’ (Rory, “Has political satire gone too far: People want satirists to fight their battles for them,” Financial Times: Art, http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/5784ac84-bc50-11df-8c02-00144feab49a.html#axzz37BmCs8Yz)//IS

I’m amused, and intrigued, by the perennial debate about the health of satire. Often it’s a sign that the political opposition (or, as Jim Naughtie suggests, the media) is weak and ineffectual, and in some way people want the satirists to fight their battles for them.

I disagree with John Lloyd. I don’t think satirists (at least any with a sense of self-irony) make, or should make, any grand claims for themselves or their power. In fact, often it is the opposite. Remember Peter Cook pointing out how satire in the 1930s “did so much to prevent the rise of Adolf Hitler”? And I imagine most people in Britain knew Saddam was a tyrant. We didn’t need a satirist to tell us that but it didn’t stop Britain from arming him. (We did satirise that, by the way.)

They cede the political

Boggs 97 (Carl, Professor of Social Sciences at National University in Los Angeles, “The great retreat: Decline of the public sphere in late twentieth-century America,” Theory and Society, December 1997, SpringerLink, p. 773-774)//IS

The decline of the public sphere in late twentieth-century America poses a series of great dilemmas and challenges. Many ideological currents scrutinized here—localism, metaphysics, spontaneism, post-modernism, Deep Ecology—intersect with and reinforce each other. While these currents have deep origins in popular movements of the 1960s and 1970s, they remain very much alive in the 1990s. Despite their different outlooks and trajectories, they all share one thing in common: a depoliticized expression of struggles to combat and overcome alienation. [end page 773] The false sense of empowerment that comes with such mesmerizing impulses is accompanied by a loss of public engagement, an erosion of citizenship and a depleted capacity of individuals in large groups to work for social change. As this ideological quagmire worsens, urgent problems that are destroying the fabric of American society will go unsolved—perhaps even unrecognized—only to fester more ominously into the future. And such problems (ecological crisis, poverty, urban decay, spread of infectious diseases, technological displacement of workers) cannot be understood outside the larger social and global context of internationalized markets, finance, and communications. Paradoxically, the widespread retreat from politics, often inspired by localist sentiment, comes at a time when agendas that ignore or sidestep these global realities will, more than ever, be reduced to impotence. In his commentary on the state of citizenship today, Wolin refers to the increasing sublimation and dilution of politics, as larger numbers of people turn away from public concerns toward private ones. By diluting the life of common involvements, we negate the very idea of politics as a source of public ideals and visions.74 In the meantime, the fate of the world hangs in the balance. The unyielding truth is that, even as the ethos of anti-politics becomes more compelling and even fashionable in the United States, it is the vagaries of political power that will continue to decide the fate of human societies. This last point demands further elaboration. The shrinkage of politics hardly means that corporate colonization will be less of a reality, that social hierarchies will somehow disappear, or that gigantic state and military structures will lose their hold over people's lives. Far from it: the space abdicated by a broad citizenry, well-informed and ready to participate at many levels, can in fact be filled by authoritarian and reactionary elites—an already familiar dynamic in many lesser-developed countries. The fragmentation and chaos of a Hobbesian world, not very far removed from the rampant individualism, social Darwinism, and civic violence that have been so much a part of the American landscape, could be the prelude to a powerful Leviathan designed to impose order in the face of disunity and atomized retreat. In this way the eclipse of politics might set the stage for a reassertion of politics in more virulent guise—or it might help further rationalize the existing power structure. In either case, the state would likely become what Hobbes anticipated: the embodiment of those universal, collective interests that had vanished from civil society.75

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