Woody Allen: “Has anybody read that Nazis are gonna march in New Jersey? Ya know? I read it in the newspaper. We should go down there, get some guys together, ya know, get some bricks and baseball bats, and really explain things to ’em.”
Victor Truro: “There was this devastating satirical piece on that on the op-ed page of the Times – devastating.”
Allen: “Whoa, whoa. A satirical piece in the Times is one thing, but bricks and baseball bats really gets right to the point of it.”
Helen Hanft: “Oh, but really biting satire is always better than physical force.”
Allen: “No, physical force is always better with Nazis.”
Despite what the Demos think tank says, public ridicule can never be more than an intermitently effective weapon.
Why? First, because we no longer live in a world where “what people think about us” matters, especially to misfits who join anti-social groups.
Putting someone in the stocks was effective punishment in the Middle Ages, where you had to give a damn about what the local baker and the butcher thought of you.
But today, being above reproach, having a “good reputation,” is a liability, or simply neutral. Look at Paris Hilton, Eliot Spitzer, Tiger Woods — the list is almost endless.
Starting with Byron, then on to Bonnie and Clyde, the calculus of fame changed.
At one time, girls posed for Playboy and hoped it would make them famous. Turns out that what works much better, is getting famous so you can pose for Playboy.
Today, folks clamour to be in the stocks. What else do you call YouTube on its worse day?
Second, because the kind of people who join radical Muslim groups, at least as foot soldiers, are too stupid to understand sophisticated Western style satire. And the smart ones understand it is satire, but don’t care.
I’m all for making fun of our enemies. I do it every day. But I’m under no illusions about its greater effectiveness, other than as entertainment.
That’s how ridicule works best: as a morale booster for one’s own side.
And we can see the results, twenty, thirty years on: p.c. is more entrenched than ever.
Because the types who embrace it, just like those radical Muslim belligerents, are so stupid they are impervious to ridicule. Nazis going to Skokie weren’t reading the New York Times — or going to Woody Allen movies…
Also: it’s always been hard to tell anti-p.c. the satire from the real thing.
Charles Chaplin mocked Hitler. Chaplin was the most famous man in the world at the time (next to, well, Hitler.) Millions of people saw The Great Dictator. How did that work out?
He and Daffy Duck made our side laugh. That’s vitally important. But that’s all it does.
Do you really think Hitler was all, “Oh my God! A cartoon duck is making fun of me!! I better change my plans”?
When you’re fighting a “smart vs stupid” war, it’s possible to be too smart for your own good.
I meet people constantly who think we can rely heavily on satire and funny t-shirts and so on to win. As someone who’s been at this a while, let me tell you: we’re gonna need bricks and baseball bats, too.
UPDATE: thanks to Mark Steyn, for the link and the flattering words. He (gently) reminds us that he said it first, and better:
Take the most devastating rapier wit you know – Oscar Wilde, Noel Coward – and put him on a late-night subway train up against a psycho with a baseball bat. The withering putdown, the devastating aphorism will avail him naught.
The quality of your argument is only important if you want to win by persuasion. But it’s irrelevant if you want to win by intimidation.
UPDATE: no sooner did I hit “post” than this crossed my screen via HotAir.com: seems the creators of South Park are getting death threats, by people posting the cartoonists’ addresses…
May Allah kill Matt Stone and Trey Parker and burn them in Hell for all eternity. They insult our prophets Muhammad, Jesus, and Moses…
I for one am happy to burn in Hell for all eternity if it means never having to deal with belligerent Muslims again.
Come and get me, you fairies!