Satire is powerful. It’s the She-Hulk of comedy, which is perhaps why I identify with it so much. It’s also, I believe, a force for immense good in this world. It’s the closest thing I have to a religion in my life, to a guiding force that I know in my bones is vital to cultural and societal progress. I wholly believe that a world without satire, without the ability to lampoon, would be a sad and stupid world.
I understand entirely why some are so angered by being the object of satirization. The worst feeling in the world, when you were seven, was to be laughed at on the playground. That’s why smartly calibrated satire can be so potent—it takes the rich and powerful, the systems that control us and govern us, the bullies and the extremists, and reduces them to seven year olds on the Playground.
Satire is why we have trouble remembering what was actually said by Sarah Palin and what was a silly Tina Fey line. Satire can deflate misused, abused and unearned power. Because satire, in its essence, is a question. A challenge of authority, of powers that be, of extremism, of status quo, of aspects of the world that fucking suck and need to be addressed.
There are many discussions to be had about what constitutes good satire, what people and groups and systems need satirizing, and how power structures inform or may limit an individual satirist’s ability to pull off good satire depending on the group she or he belongs to and which group he or she wishes to lampoon. However, one issue that is not up for debate is the human need to laugh.
The more that extreme forces (of any nature, of any religion, of any group) try to silence satire, the more emboldened we should all be to stand up for it and defend it, even if we disagree with it. What happened at Charlie Hebdo is a fucking nightmare. But it’s also proof of the power of the pen, and how we need, need, need to keep creating comedy.
Whatever you think of their content, it didn’t deserve twelve people to be shot. Don’t give extreme forces (of any nature, of any religion, of any group) any more power than they’ve already misused. Silence makes them powerful. Satire makes them smaller.