Fireside Chat #9 (Fall ’05)

FACE-SAVING ‘SATIRISTS’

So I stumbled across this news website called “The Onion” last week, and the top story was “Trick or Treaters to Be Subject to Random Bag Searches.” I said to myself, “It’s about time. The streets should be as safe as an airport. After all, children are the future.”

Then this sad-about-a-breakup, glasses-wearing emo kid looked over my shoulder and said, “You like ‘The Onion’? That site is so funny.”

“Funny?” I said. “What could be funny about our children’s safety, you lowlife degenerate?” Well it turns out that when you peel this “onion,” what you find is another of these satire imitation websites that look real. And it stinks.

Entertainers have had a long, annoying history of saying the opposite of what they mean. I had to read Jonathan Swift for school one time, and I was right there with Johnny all the way through “A Modest Proposal.” In the essay, Swift makes some striking points about how maybe we should solve the hunger crisis by eating our children. At first I wasn’t sure that I agreed with him, seeing as how children are the future and all, but by the end of the essay I was convinced that Swift’s proposal wasn’t just an option—it was a necessity.

Then some loves-math-so-much-why-doesn’t-he-marry-it, glasses-wearing nerdo told me that Swift’s essay wasn’t serious. “Well thanks for nothing!” I thought. “Now do us a favor and come up with an actual solution to this hunger plight we’re all in.”

And don’t get me started on allegory! I loved Animal Farm—animal uprisings and pigs that learn to walk on two legs. It was funny, like that Mel Gibson movie, “Chicken Run.” But I read the afterward, which was all about Josef Stalin. I’m pretty sure J-Stal was not mentioned once in the book, so I’m a little confused as to how it’s about him. Give me a break, George Or-not-so-well!

Yet Swift’s insightful essay and Orwell’s delightful book were so good outside of the realm of satire that I devised a theory: Nine times out of ten, people don’t actually intend to write satire. They are just so scathingly honest that their contemporaries don’t know to take them seriously. Once Swift was applauded not for his sound advice but for his dry wit, he just went with it. “Oh, it was funny?” Swift said. “Good, good—yes, of course it was satire.”

Because we all just want to be liked. A few weeks ago, some bull-taunting, glasses-wearing matador said, “Gabe, I liked the column when you pretended that you were running for Supreme Court Justice, seeing as how everybody knows that justices are appointed by the president, not elected.”

First I was excited that someone besides the Graphic staff that edits out all my profanity had read the column. But then, when I realized what the Spaniard had said, I felt like a grade-A, first-rate fool. I thanked him for appreciating my razor-sharp wit, and went on to say that “some people had thought I’d been serious, ha ha!”

I immediately ripped down my campaign posters from all over school and sobbed in my room for a week.

But if you’re reading this, Mr. President, I understand that there may still be an opening for Supreme Court and I’d be very happy to conform my own political views to yours if you choose to appoint me. Seriously.

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