December 01, 2017
Joseph de Maistre, the great Catholic reactionary thinker, conceived of intellectuals as grotesque, loathsome beings, because their cleverness and ambition amount primarily to confusion and discord in the culture and, worst of all, the upending of the traditional morality on which men and women depend. No one who pays close attention to the mainstream media, and the rotten universities that produce it, can fail to agree with this severe judgment.
Consider, for example, the well-known liar Julie Hirschfeld Davis of The New York Times. A Yale graduate and child of a television producer and director, she has made a good living distorting contexts and disseminating gross simplifications. The purpose, of course, is to distract the public from understanding the important issues by appealing to base instincts, namely, the powerful feelings of anger and resentment. For, like most journalists today (whether they are aware of it or not)—including the good never-Trump liberals at National Review and The Weekly Standard—Davis is a handmaiden for the global corporate class for whom there is no state, only a world of consumers, sources of profit and pleasure. Moreover, by feigning concern for “the underprivileged,” women, minorities, and the rest, Davis is not only able to maintain the good life into which she was born; she can also alleviate her trite class guilt by donning a moral mask for the smug and perpetually self-righteous public.
Davis was up to her usual bad work on Monday. Writing about President Trump’s satirical jibe at Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a typical shrill and touchy academic, she declared that he “transformed a White House ceremony to honor Navajo veterans of World War II into a racially charged controversy…a platform to deride Senator Elizabeth Warren as ‘Pocahontas.’” Ah, the poor dishonored fellows! For, “standing in the Oval Office alongside three Navajo code talkers, whom he called ‘very, very special people,’ Mr. Trump dispensed with his prepared remarks and took aim at Ms. Warren without naming her, resurrecting a favorite nickname as the veterans stood stonefaced.”
Here is the usual humorlessness of progressives, persons who are so priggish that a reference to Pocahontas, in their interpretation, has to be “racially charged.” Now, it goes without saying that, in order to understand the moral significance of an action, you must understand the person’s intent. That is why, in law, intent has much greater weight than consequence. Ordinary people know that President Trump intended to make a joke, not insult the Navajos. Ordinary people—who are much less obliged to keep up herd appearances—also take it for granted that humor is, by its very nature, shocking. For that is a big part of its special imaginative function, and often the feeling of delight that humor affords is not possible without offense. Indeed, offense is often what makes humor, well, humor.
“We have a representative in Congress who has been here a long time, longer than you. They call her Pocahontas.” These words, delivered in a lowered voice with a deadpan faux gravity, are superb comedy, the work of our satirist-in-chief, who, as Michelle Malkin said recently on Fox, has made covering politics fun again. A representative academic fraud, Warren—who was predictably outraged by the joke—pretended to be Native American in order to get a Harvard professorship. That is the actual racial slur, and the proper response is mockery and invective. Though rarely understood as such now, these “rude” practices have always served a vital moral purpose, showing in a forceful way—as nothing else quite can—the wrongness of the offender.
According to Davis, the president “dispensed with his prepared remarks.” Yes, he did for a moment, for that is what wits do: They invent on the fly. Of course, Davis—a generic mind—cannot appreciate that. Most Americans can; although, unlike Davis, you’d never find their history of affluent family connections on proud display in a wedding announcement in America’s most influential newspaper. The class difference is crucial here. The Jewish genius for comedy, so melancholy and cynical, has a lot to do with the history of that long-suffering and ostracized people. Likewise, with America’s many fine black comedians, from Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor up through Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle. Black wits, who tend to come from the working class, evince a blunt and raw humor that whites—the bad guys in our morality play—can hardly get away with today. It is telling that, among literary writers, satire barely exists—my own satirical verse excepted. By satire, most people now understand childish, self-satisfied snark, the stuff of late-night television liberals like Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, and others.
Such comedians are in fact conformists. They provide what is expected. They do not take chances, because they are cowards. But high comedy, again, requires not just imagination, but the willingness to offend, in which there is exalted relief from our general moral constraints. Like John Quincy Adams, and unlike most American “men,” President Trump is suitably pugnacious. He is no coward, whether it’s in respect to China, North Korea, or elsewhere. And not being a coward, he is capable of wonderful humor. He might usefully be compared to Jonathan Swift, still the best satirist in any language. Take, for instance, this infamous sentence from Gulliver’s Travels (1726): “Last week I saw a Woman flay’d, and you will hardly believe, how much it altered her Person for the Worse.” Like the president, Swift is despised by feminists. Here you can see why. This is brutal, and yet the brutality, it is necessary to understand, is what allows it to be so wickedly funny. Swift, a moralist, means that the woman is so depraved and, therefore, contemptible that one can “hardly believe” that she looks “the Worse” for being “flay’d.” The logic of this is deeply shocking, and the mind’s response is that strange, irrational, and wildly pleasurable experience we call humor. It is, however, not for the weak, who therefore reject it. Like Swift, President Trump goes places where most are afraid to, and without doing so he would not be so very amusing.
So it is no wonder that so many ordinary people like the man. In him they see one of their own, even though he is a billionaire. They do not have that reaction to Hilary Clinton, long the soulless head of a pay-to-play “charity,” which was defunct as soon it was known that she would not be president. We men define ourselves in terms of competition. Locker-room talk about the ease with which we can seduce women reflects our nature, and hardly constitutes advocacy of “sexual assault.” Here too ordinary people are not bothered by the president’s bragging. For they know what men are like, just as they see through the farce of political correctness.
There is an immense zeal for life in our satirist-in-chief. A swaggering and rascally bullshit artist from Queens, New York, he comes off as the sort of man with whom you can have a beer and chase women. His manner works in the boardroom and on the street corner. He seems as much at home with businessmen as with gangsters. His way of dealing with people—the style of an exuberant huckster—will be familiar to anyone who grew up in the urban Northeast, especially to those from working-class neighborhoods, like his Queens of the ’70s. He is real and, like a man in the old sense, doesn’t much care what people think about him. Why should he? After all, it’s not as if once the politically correct curtains are pulled back we behold a culture of ladies and gentlemen! It is not so with progressives. They are distinctly weak sentimentalists, bound to other people’s opinions. So, for them, whatever is politically correct is “right” and “normal.” Hence, then, their characteristic lack of humor, which makes them so boring and tiresome to deal with. Hence also their natural aversion to Trump the man, whose presidency, for psychological as well as political reasons, they will do anything to undermine.
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