The Unexpected Conservatism of Satire
thesisposted on 02.05.2020, 00:00 by Jason Lux
Satire as a genre is often associated with progressive causes and liberal politics. Academics and common audiences alike see it as a form of punching up, of speaking truth to authority, challenging the status quo and potentially displacing or destabilizing established forms of political power. The majority of recent mainstream political satire in the U.S., such as that of the Onion, Jon Stewart and Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show or Stephen Colbert’s The Colbert Report, appears to affirm this view. This paper will argue that satire has overlooked conservative functions. Not only providing a false release of emotions and a flattering sense of intellectual or political agency, satire also introduces an ambiguity into political oppositions that can paralyze political and social change. What’s more, satire can covertly co-opt and divert the energies of those who present the largest threat to the status quo—those with advanced intellectual and creative capacities—who all the while believe that they are supporting progressive ends. Thus, although appearing progressive, satire serves conservative ends by co-opting and diverting progressive energies and reducing actual change to a minimum.