Extremely Foreword: Satire As Prophecy
29 Mar 2023

Oh satire! Explains Oxford – once upon a time an authority on English – ”the use of humour, irony, exaggeration or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.” Think Animal Farm – a play using farm animals changing their social structure to critique communism (yup, sorry, not just some wishy washy all tyrannies generally but commie stuff specifically, sorry). Think Dr Strangelove. Think any absurd thing you watch or read and then – as you move gingerly along – suddenly think to yourself: Self, this is just like X!

For those who are into it, there are all different kinds and typologies of satire. You can get really into it.

But you can also just throw something out, almost casually. No deep thinking, no big design – just a quick satirical conceptual one liner thrown out there as a punchline. With the sole purpose of being funny.

A while ago, thinking I was hilarious, and noticing how ill-informed people who watch a lot of news are, I shared this on one of my antisocial media platforms:

Informed?

EVENT:

A train loses control, derails, completely destroying a small town in an inferno, killing 783 people and causing $2-billion in damage.

BALANCED, MULTI-PARTISAN INTERNATIONAL COVERAGE:

South Africa 1: “Unless action is taken, we may eventually face a crisis.”

South Africa 2: “Confronting the colonial legacy of trains.”

South Africa 3: “I just love our ability to look on the bright side and laugh at our own train disasters.”

UK 1: “Another Brexit cost.”

UK 2: “Trains were invented by slave owners.”

UK 3: “Scum Tories Behind Latest Efforts To Dehumanize Commuters”

UK 4: “Starmer caught once praising trains.”

UK 5: “Boris had cake on a train despite rules.”

UK 6: “That train was an immigrant.”

UK 7: “Royal Family was very mean to the train”

US 1: “Modern transport rooted in systemic oppression.”

US 2: “Criticizing the Transport Department is homophobia”

US 3: “Jews control the trains.”

US 4: “Trains used for grooming.”

US 5: “Trains don’t kill people, people kill people.”

US 6: “Just because some trains are bad doesn’t mean abortion is right.”

US 7: “Why America sucks at trains.”

US 8: “783 deaths are bad, but a mere fraction of what trains caused throughout history.”

US 9: “The Science On Trains Is In, And It Doesn’t Look Good for Trump”

US 10: “My train hell. Survivor tells all.”

US 11: “Train passengers latest victims of cancel culture”

US 12: “Train OWNS and DESTROYS 783 Libs”

US 13: “Yes, trains can have a gender identity.”

US 14: “I used to be a Republican, and even I can see that the train was wrong.”

US 15: “No one was more harmed than the train itself – Cardi B”

US 16: “Oprah interviews train in tell all, raw confession”

US 17: “Hands down the greatest train wreck in the world.”

US 18: “Texas might secede over train issue.”

US 19: “Was the CIA behind the train?”

US 20: “If that train was so great, why are there still kids in cages?”

US 21: “America was founded on bad trains.”

US 22: “Congress fails to reach compromise during train hearings.”

US 23: “$780-trillion stimulus package for train victims approved by Senate.”

US 24: “Train crash a symptom of the decline of Christianity in the public sphere.”

US 25: “Russia colluded with Trump in Traingate.”

US 26: “Joe Biden thought the train was his wife in bizarre press conference.”

US 27: “White House Vows To Invade, Then Abandon, Small Nation Over Trains”

US 28: “The Science recommends masking 7 year olds to avoid train accidents in future.”

US 29: “Republican Senator: Trains Aren’t Real”

US 30: “Class Action Lawsuit Launched By Ex-Wives Of Train Conductor.”

PRC 1: “Nefarious Western meddling behind latest effort to destabilize region and insult President Xi.”

PRC 2: “Western White Devils Behind Racist Onslaught Against Underdog Most Populous Nation On Earth.”

RUSSIA 1: “Trains are Nazis and attacking trains is self-defence.”

EU 1: “Look, a train with a cigarette – Macron.”

EU 2: “Brussels demand fishing rights in Scotland after train insult.”

EU 3: “Train is next Mussolini.”

EU 4: “German U-Turn: Now Importing Russian Trains.”

IRAN: “Martyr Who Destroyed Decadent Western Imperialist Vehicle Welcomed In paradise.”

UN: “Israel is evil.”


There’s a lot in there and some of it you may or may not think is funny.
It was all a lot less funny when, a few days later a train derailed in East Palestine Ohio – poisoning the local town and devastating the place. And even as the actual toll became clear and my piece became progressively less funny – it became progressively more true. Because true to form, the media behaved exactly as satirized. They polarized, and pushed the approved propaganda of their side in the bipartisan teenage bipolarism of US politics.

Now I’m terrified to crack jokes, because the laughs wither away with age and society seems to think the wisecrack is a request.

I’m not the only satirist to have things come true.

The Onion News puts out a lot of things which the right wing then makes happen.

The Babylon Bee gives fodder to the left wing for some particularly unhinged enactments.

On Twitter, a satirical personality known as Titania McGrath pokes fun at the uber-woke – and while I’m a live and let live sorta guy – that’s a group of people who deserve to get poked. She cracks a joke, a few days later, some ideologue in a media outlet concurs. From a thread on her feed:

“On 1 October 2019, I suggested that young women should be encouraged to travel alone in rural Pakistan. On 12 October 2019, Forbes Magazine concurred. On 19 September 2018, I criticised Julie Andrews (aka Mary Poppins) for chimney soot blackface. On 28 January 2019, the New York Times concurred. On 7 March 2019, I published my book WOKE in which I argued that skyscrapers are oppressive phallic symbols. On 6 July 2020, the Guardian concurred.”

The thread, incidentally, goes ON and ON and ON and ON – proving that rather than being the comic creation of comedian Andrew Doyle, Titania may in fact be the new Oracle of Delphi. She sure gets things right statistically, if nothing else.

Which brings me to the new definition of satire (since everyone already redefines whatever they wish, it’s my turn)…

Satire is the insertion, in memetic form, of a command snippet into the collective psychology of humankind, which instructs them to find their worst excesses and go above and beyond to top that.

And unlike many new definitions, mine is empirical.

Consequently, folks, since, we are told – doom is nigh and the world is about to completely end in disaster and we’re all gonna die – I suggest, on top of publicity theatrics, activism, social censure and BeKind hashtags – mankind adds one thing to our survival toolbelt.

Get close, this is important…

You ready?

Okay. Peeps, if we want to make it a few more years…

Nobody, nobody crack a joke.