Thursday, April 14, 2016

Thanks For Coming and Try the Beheadings!

The other day, in all seriousness, Bono told a Senate subcommittee that he thought comedy--yes, comedy!--was the most effective weapon we could deploy in our fight against ISIS:
It's funny, you're going to … don't laugh, but I think comedy should be deployed. Because if you look at National Socialism, and Daesh and ISIL, this is the same thing, we've seen this before, we've seen these people before. They're very vain, they've got all the signs … it's show business. And the first people that Adolf Hitler threw out of Germany were the Dadaists and the Surrealists. It's like, you speak violence, you speak their language. But you laugh at them when they're goose-stepping down the street and it takes away their power. So I'm suggesting that the Senate send in Amy Schumer and Chris Rock and Sacha Baron Cohen. Thank you.
A Slate scribbler, for one, thinks that "Bono may be onto something here," reasoning that
Comedy has a power to deflate tyrants that should not be underestimated. As Peter Cook famously said, we should never forget “those wonderful Berlin cabarets which did so much to stop the rise of Hitler and prevent the outbreak of the Second World War.”
Er, he does know that Cook was being facetious, doesn't he? Because that quip shows that Cook (call him the un-Bono/non-Bono/anti-Bono) knew that "comedy" did absolutely nothing--in German, "überhaupt nichts"--to put the brakes on Hitler and WW2. Ron Rosenbaum, author of Explaining Hitler, even argues that comedy in the form of Chaplin's lampoon of the great dictator (in The Great Dictator) did Western civ. a great disservice by minimizing Hitler's evil:
And speaking of trivializing, there is no more trivializing, over-rated, treatment of Hitler than Chaplin’s dimwitted, laboriously unfunny Great Dictator. Yes Chaplin made some funny movies, but when he tried his hands at politics Chaplin made a movie that did nothing but help Hitler because he made him seem like an unthreatening clown just at a time, 1940, when the world needed to take Hitler’s threat seriously.Yet Chaplin’s film makes it seem like Hitler was nothing but a harmless fool (like Chaplin, same mustache and all). And he made it at a time, during the Nazi-Soviet pact, when the world most needed to mobilize against Hitler’s threat. And yet Chaplin, to his eternal shame ended the film not with a call to oppose fascism, and its murderous hatred, but rather—because he was following the shameful Hitler-friendly Soviet line at the time—ended his film with a call for all workers in the world to lay down their arms—in other words to refuse to join the fight against fascism and Hitler.
What say you about that, Bono?

Don't get me wrong. I love comedy. I think comedy is awesome. I love how it can puncture the pompous and deflate the phony quicker than you can say, "Donald Trump's comb-over." I adore the way comedy, the quintessence of free speech and therefore of freedom itself, can expose and help undermine the manifold insanities of our time. At the same time, however, I know that even the sauciest, rudest, most in-your-face funny business has its limitations; that comedy alone, comedy in the presence of implacable evil and in the absence of actual bullets and tanks and boots on the ground, cannot win the war.

If that isn't the lesson of what went down with Charlie Hebdo, I don't know what is.

I think I'll let my droll friend and fellow free speech warrior/Steynette Laura Rosen Cohen have the final word on the subject. In a recent blog post, she writes:
It's really hard to deliver that kick-ass comedy routine on Infidel's Night when your head is no longer attached to your neck.

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