Yunnadevil recently responded to my post on ad hominem attacks with the following…
So now you want me to be politically correct to spare Mr. Law’s feelings? Seriously? What, am I cyber-bullying by using satire and sarcasm? Judas…I weep for the future of Mormon intellectualism.
It’s a clever little twist of my own argument; I probably would have used that myself against myself. The problem, though, is that you misunderstand the intention of satire. Satire functions as a subversion against power, never in the service of power. Hence the reason why the Catholic Church does not satirize but is satirized. Satire, sarcasm, ridicule, and scorn through wit—these are the devices of the marginalized to subvert relations of dominance, but not to position themselves as those who dominate (although this does happen, but it is not the intent of satire in the hands of artists—it is the way satire can be appropriated by revolutionaries and militants).
Voltaire did not satirize the monarchy or aristocracy because he wanted to rule them—he wanted democracy for the masses; just as Swift did not want the Irish to govern the British—he wanted the Irish to govern themselves. I do not claim that Mr. Laws is vulgar (well, his ideas are vulgar but I’m sure he is an upstanding citizen for the most part, Libertarian views excepted) in the same way he wants to claim that I am vulgar. I am not seeking to purify him.
None of this is to say that I feel marginalized and oppressed by Mr. Laws’ worldview. Hardly. I am quite self-assured (if not admittedly arrogant). Simply, I find satire an effective part of intellectual discourse. As stated before, what worries me is the implementation of his worldview by others who would take it to an extreme (as is historically evident). Mr. Laws’ position is that we use caution with our words—I agree, but perhaps he should be more cautious with his own.
But, true to your claim, this does have the tendency to get away from Mr. Laws’ ideas. Perhaps more pointedly, the arbitrary nature of his position. The irony of the Mormon “don’t-hurt-my-precious-ears-with-vulgar-language” routine is that these very people are those who say “dang” or “frick” or “crap.” What is the difference? I say “fuck” you say “frick.” Do you really think there is a difference? The intent is exactly the same—the very idea is exactly the same. I would respect a Mormon more if he/ she simply grunted rather than saying “fetch” (although, in my experience grunting is part of that equation as well). As a society we could suddenly and just as easily reverse the poles of what we consider “vulgar”: tomorrow we might decide that “shit” is acceptable, and then Mr. Laws would be decrying me for saying “shoot” while he defends “shit.” It’s absurd.
Yunnadevil brings up a lot of good points here (I will respond to his thoughts on foul language in another post). It is often difficult to discern when a writer is using satire to subvert power versus obtain power. The question I suppose is knowing when we are reading the words of an artist versus those of a bully. How do we know?
I mean, a writer whose position inclined him to deny his use of satire as oppressive, can almost inevitably seem, to the intellectuals who read him, to be maintaining an effective disguise for what his argumentative goals really are. Now that’s not to have proven yunnadevil’s position as being guilty of this disguise; it just means that those who employ sarcasm and satire will always be suspect, regardless of who uses them. Hence, my confusion and frequent distrust for those particular literary devices.