The Babylon Bee, a brilliantly funny satire website authored by Christians, hit the big time recently when the folks at Snopes, a fact-checking and debunking website (that has drawn criticism for ideological bias) started deconstructing some of the Bee’s jokes and memes as if they were real stories. This, despite the obviousness of the satire and the lack of any moment where the Bee actually represented itself as something other than a satire site. The Bee’s perspective does lean conservative, but they sting their own just as hard as they do everyone else, and they do so joyfully.

I’m frequently reminded of that joyfulness when I see posts from The Onion, the “established old dog” among the satire sites. The Onion, which leans more to the left, seems to have lost a step in its humor. Many of its posts of late seem to prioritize scolding or angry mockery, rather than making the joke the top priority.

An interview I recently heard, where some comedians were discussing the nature of humor and the challenges it faces in today’s culture, pointed out that the number one requirement is getting the laugh. Without the laugh, it’s not comedy, and all the demands for social commentary, woke-ness, respect for the oppressed, and the like that the social justice taste-makers levy cannot displace or replace the laugh.

The Onion seems to have forgotten that. Or, as likely, the writers at The Onion have decided that their target demographic is that aforementioned pack of social justice taste-makers and those who take their cues from them. A recent Onion post illuminated this notion. It sought to have fun with Warren’s proposal for a wealth tax:

Pro: Kinda nice knowing there’s a tax out there you’ll never, ever, ever have to pay.
Con: Unfair to those who worked really hard to inherit all that money.

Being “that guy” in that moment, I commented that the joke would work better if it was about the estate tax, because a – you’re dead when the estate tax is due, therefore you never have to pay it, and b – inheritance is related to the estate tax.

Of course, this being the open Internet, I immediately got disagreement, along with some personal digs. The joke-splainers rushed to point out what I already “got,” that Warren’s estate tax would only affect a very few, and that the wealth tax would bleed out the billionaires before their inheritors got a chance at the money.

That the discussion so quickly came to this illustrates my point. The joke wasn’t that funny to begin with.

Compare that with some Bee headlines:

  • All Democrats Drop Out Of Presidential Race Since The World Is Ending From Climate Change And There’s No Point
  • Millennial Diagnosed With Tragic Inability To Even
  • Legal Experts Warn Amber Guyger Verdict Could Set Dangerous Precedent Of Police Officers Not Being Allowed To Shoot Anyone They Want
  • Media Warns Excessive Forgiveness Could Set Back Outrage Narrative Hundreds Of Years

All sharp and political, all very funny with solid foundational elements. And, all carrying a sense of glee, mirth, and a wink along with the message conveyed by the satire. Acute? very. Scolding? Not so much.

But, perhaps I’m being picayune.

Were I considering this in a vacuum, I’d be inclined toward that self-criticism. But, in the broader context, I’m comfortable in my conclusion.

It’s widely lamented by professional funny people how the progressives are destroying humor and comedy. We even have a new phrase for it: “Cancel Culture.” Self-appointed social arbiters and their lemmings are no longer content with not watching a comedian’s performance, or watching it and offering a critique. They have taken it upon themselves to be censors, to determine what the rest of us should or should not see, hear, or read, and actually invest effort in damaging the livelihoods of those who don’t conform to their rule book.

Or, who may have, once in their dim and distant past, written or said something that’s now deemed offensive. By them and theirs, of course. And they’re proud of their power and their priggishness, and defend it, using their language of identity and oppression politics.

There’s a distinct absence of joy in this crowd. Every moment of their lives seems invested in judging others, seeking offense wherever it can be contorted into existence, worried about being “woke,” fearful of being tainted by association with those who are “not woke,” and figuring out new ways to express moral outrage, because it’s the only way to stand out from their ultra-conformist crowd. And, most importantly, to rail against those who might find moments of joy in their own lives, because their mollycoddled first world iPhone-Starbucks existence is so dreadful and taxing that they require physical and intellectual sequestration from anyone who doesn’t wholly agree with them (see: safe spaces and trigger warnings).

I am reminded of an H.L. Mencken quote:

Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.

It’s so obvious: the social justice people are the new Puritans, eager to carry the burden of the world’s guilt, real and imagined, on their spindly shoulders, and even more eager to impose their self-inflicted misery on the rest of us. And, just as in seventeenth century Salem, there are Hester Prynnes all around us, deserving of being “cancelled,” the modern equivalent of bearing a scarlet letter.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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