Posted on 01 April 2015.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I can’t seem do the links correctly for these (in bold) Tried using wordpress function, but trial run was unsatisfactory. Please do them for me?
EDITOR’S NOTE: No problem. Now I just have to figure out how to delete these damn notes to each other here up top.
At the risk of egregious flattery to my colleagues, my favorite satire outlet I write for is Glossynews. And I once wrote the following piece, which actually means a lot to me. [a href=”http://glossynews.com/entertainment/television/201410120242/autistic-savants-inspiring-says-cable-tv-diversity-pimp/”>It is THIS one.
This piece is a little “close to home.” I later read it at the Creative Writing Society at King’s College London, during Disability History Month. I believe there were signs of amusement; this was the very first “fake news” satire piece I had read at the Society.
Shortly after, however, I found out that someone (JihadTimes) had written also written a piece on Glossynews called:
ISIS the Autistic Brother of Al Qaeda
Upon reading this piece, I felt vaguely uncomfortable; although I certainly didn’t “throw my rattle out of the pram” (!) The humor appeared obscure and impenetrable to me, and I was already aware (of course) of some existing odd or unusual usages of the word “autism” in a broader context in the English-speaking world.
By the way, as an entirely un/necessary savant digression, I have heard elsewhere of an “autistic economy,” and at least one curious reference to “autistic” as an adjective in “An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought,” by the brilliant but erratic Murray N. Rothbard.
Actually, given the peculiar cottage-industry of speculative, amateur diagnoses of Asperger’s, I am almost tempted…
… Well, if anyone is entitled to do that, I am! And it’s plausible enough, after all… you know what they say about those influenced to some extent by right-libertarian thought
(Don’t ask me to explain what a bleeding-heart-post-humanist-libertarian™ is, or I’ll be here all day, as I’m a un/fairly garrulous person)…
Still, on a more serious, or at least po-faced note, I did find the article disturbing.
But later, I reflected on my reception of the article. Isn’t satire supposed to be ambivalent? Is satire normally “right” or “wrong,” or is it more amoral than (im/)moral?
Actually, I do believe that it is very rare indeed for satire to be “wrong,” regardless of the ethical criteria. As regards immorality, one could perhaps speak about Nazi or Wahhabi caricatures of Jewish people, or the portrayal of “class enemies” in some periods of Communist history.
But there is partly a question of definition here; are such distortions “satire” or something else? Either way, in the UK (where I live), or the USA (where two articles mentioned above were published), one could hardly compare the function of internet satire, generally speaking, to the more brutal examples of “humor” just cited.
Yet, ultimately, I consider the piece on ISIS a compliment. The fact is that the author of the piece in question did not patronize me; they did not “spare the feelings” of any individuals at Glossynews who might or might not have Asperger’s Syndrome or autism.
Whether or not the person in question knew or not (whoever they are), I am deeply moved that they felt at liberty to take the risk they took. I would far rather they were prepared to take that risk, than walk on eggshells around me.
To speak more poignantly:
I once knew someone who was (I believe) utterly incapable of humoring me. That person has had a tremendous impact on my life, and enriched it immeasurably. And although it was not to be, and I have been in mourning for a long time, for what I and we have lost, I will never forget the beauty and the joy of sitting face to face with someone who could never ever speak to me otherwise than directly. As someone with Asperger’s, I have never known such a thing again, and probably never will.
For some of us with Asperger’s, we get used to people being polite, perhaps because (at least earlier in our lives, when our symptoms may be more pronounced), others may not know how to respond.
But the person of whom I speak was different. This person was not merely unwilling to humor me; I am tempted to say that it would not even cross their mind, although that is a dangerous speculation. And I will never forget, and I will never regret.
The reason I make this point is that on a very different level, it was great to see someone write an article that could be considered “offensive” to autistic people. It was a great thing, precisely because, in a funny kind of way, I was being treated as an equal, and not as someone of less worth.
For, to be treated “specially,” to be some kind of “holy fool” up on his or her cloud, pristine and heavenly, and to be liberated (and hence) deprived of all humor, mockery or satire; whether monological sneering or dialogical banter; this would be hell on earth.
For, I cannot afford to be oblivious to how if I lose the one-way humor, I may also lose the two-way humor.
And, of course, the one-way/two-way distinction itself is problematic. For, even though I found myself unable to laugh at the article I have spoken of, I would say that I also participated in the humour, insofar as, even without laughing, I gave it my blessing.
Not that the satirist in question required my blessing; rather as the truth needs no defence, neither does humour or satire. No one needs an endorsement from me in order to satirize autism, Asperger’s or disability.
Still, I will draw a (somewhat loose) analogy. In many countries, women are free to marry whoever they wish, and yet in a church or perhaps other religious wedding, there will still be something like a “giving away” of the bride.
Nowadays, such a custom is not intended to imply that the woman is the property of her father, brother or whoever; but it represents a kind of good will and blessing that, although not strictly required for a free individual, is something that is healing to give. It is not to be bestowed (via “conspicuous benevolence,” as I call it); but to give as a free gift, in love; unasked and unflaunted.
And the same applies to the covenant between the many individual satirists in our world.
But of course, I’m not implying the existence of a monolithic “satirist community;” please don’t be giving assimilationist political parties any ideas!
Anyway, I just added a (not so) new core principle to my semi(non-)ironic “Confession of Faith on my academic blog :
“The day you can no longer laugh at yourself; that is the day you know they have finally won.
This is the thread on which all my laws and prophecies hang.”