Americans for the Prevention of the Extinction of Satire (APES) have issued an alert and put forward the Gloomsday Clock by 6 seconds. The alert is in response to events in Florida which have caused yet more Usaian satirists to renounce their calling and seek other forms of employment.
US satirists have long been threatened by the sheer alarming silliness of real events in the US and the tendency of Usaian people and institutions to be self-satirising. APES president and spokesperson, noted satirist Rush Limbaugh, explains: “It is difficult for a working satirist to make a living these days. In order to be funny I have to sound more extreme than the right-wing pundits I am mocking and that is becoming nearly impossible to do.”
Historically, US satire has been under fire for a long time. Many trace the decline to the famous declaration by Tom Lehrer that political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Kissinger was already one of the most famous mass-murdering warmongers in human history but also, as his intended co-laureate Le Duc Tho indicated (when explaining why he would not be accepting the prize) the prize was awarded for bringing an end to a war which was still raging and still causing mass suffering and death.
The problem is not a US problem alone. The Nobel Institute is not American at all. But as Limbaugh points out, the problem of satire has much deeper roots in the US. “People tend to forget that the Ku Klux Klan have always looked and sounded really stupid and insane. People forget that in 1985 the Philadelphia police dropped two bombs on some political activists causing a fire that killed eleven people and destroyed 61 homes. It’s not actually funny, but even so, how could a satirist top that?”
The latest losses to US satire have come in response to a number of connected matters. The first is Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Mirrored by identical or near identical legislation in many states, the law provides that a person who feels threatened in a place in which they are lawfully entitled to be has no duty to retreat. The effect is that there is a greatly enhanced ability to claim self-defence. You only need a reasonable belief that you are in danger in order to/ use lethal force to defend yourself. Naturally, since anyone could, like yourself, be carrying a concealed weapon and could at any time shoot you and credibly claim to be threatened because you in turn can shoot them and credibly claim to be threatened, the ultimate logic is problematic. If this were applied to the Wild West there wouldn’t even have to be some sort of tense showdown between pistol packing hombres, each willing the other to draw first. Unlike those civilised and lawful times both gun-totin’ yahoos could open fire whenever they felt like it, secure in the knowledge that whomever was left alive at the end would be safely exonerated.
When the Circus court came to town they acquitted George Zimmerman. I won’t go into much detail, but his self-defence claims rested on his own testimony. The prosecution could not question this version of events by showing that Zimmerman had contradicted himself on other occasions, because it was the prosecution that introduced the testimony. The prosecutor of the case had recently been more successful in securing a conviction against Marissa Alexander who had fired a warning shot to deter her enraged and dangerous ex-husband. She fired into the ceiling and, because a judge rejected her argument of innocence under “Stand Your Ground”, she was sentenced to 20 years in prison for an incident in which no one got hurt. Alexander is of African descent.
“The actual application of the Stand Your Ground law by police and courts in Florida” Limbaugh explains, “reveals a certain racial bias. In reality what it means is that if you are not black, and you want to shoot a black man or teenage boy, you can do so. It is like lynching. The problem for our members is that afterwards you have to engage in a South Park-like ritual of constructing some emotive narrative about how the unarmed man that you just shot to death with the deadly weapon that you had on you was really, really super-scary and how you’ll probably have to have therapy now because you have been forced to take a human life and that will scar you forever. We lost a lot of good satirists over the Zimmerman affair, and I’m personally struggling to do anything with it that sounds satirical at all.”
Asked about the renowned Gloomsday Clock, Limbaugh responded that “I think we added about 10 seconds to the clock. It is now well into the early afternoon.” Opinions differ as to the significance of the clock. Some think that when midnight is struck it will symbolise the time at which all satire has become eradicated, others believe that there is even less time and believe that by the time midnight actually strikes everyone is going to be far too drunk to care any more. Still others view the Gloomsday Clock in a more exotic light. To them, time is cyclical and midnight will mark only the end of another revolution. In this theory, by this point, the satirists will have become the real political actors while the politicians and pundits will have become a comical sideshow. “It’s already happening. People are watching The Daily Show as their primary source of news. The satirical website Alternet now just prints the news and lists of the most insane thing the police or Republicans are doing. And last year the Republican Presidential Primary Show made a clean sweep of television awards in both the comedy and daytime drama categories.”
Limbaugh slumps back in his chair, as if suddenly deflated and burdened. “Increasingly my own audience don’t even think of me as a satirist. Soon the transformation will be complete. Me, at least the person I think of as me, will be gone, dead. And some right-wing loudmouth will be all that’s left. He… I, will probably run for office.” Limbaugh sighs deeply and sadly. “There’s a natural order to things, and that’s all there is too it.”
Since going to press, APES has put forward the Gloomsday Clock by a further 18 seconds. It is now 1:38:46PM. In a press release APES attributes the two recent news stories. The first reveals that the US Government is justifying its alcohol prohibition policy by citing how well alcohol prohibition worked in the 1920’s. The other story is entitled: “Abu Ghraib Torture Victims Sued by Their Torturers“. USANITY will post regular APES updates, detailing the stories that push the Gloomsday Clock forward and make satirists lives so hard.