In the ancient world, there were three types of satire. That which made light of the difficulties of life; that which openly attacked the monstrous incompetence of public figures; and that which attacked the mental models which led them to act in cruel and prejudicial ways. Nowadays constructing political satire requires a huge amount of effort and subtlety – why? Because the boundaries between satire – parody – and reality have become terrifyingly blurred.
This snippet is from the brilliant ‘The New Statesman’ (see more here) which aired in the UK between 1987 and 1992. The most disturbing thing about watching this little speech in 2016, is that what passed for a ridiculous parody of Conservatism in the 1980s, is now quite an accurate depiction of the behaviour, attitudes and even appearance of our incumbent politicians. How easy is it to imagine Jeremy Hunt bleating with a similar level incredulity in response to people resisting his efforts to destroy the NHS?
“I like curry, but now that we’ve got the recipe, is there really any need for them to stay?”
Still not convinced that our politicians, buoyed by the right wing press and unrestrained by any real accountability, are morphing into horrible parodies of themselves? Try this snippet on immigration, from Rowan Atkinson’s ‘Not the 9 O’Clock News’ sketch from 1979.
And here’s the real-life George Osborne……
Finally, I’ve always wondered where that old story came from, you know the one about how overspending on the NHS, The Police, Social Security etc during the last Labour government caused a Global Financial Meltdown. You know – that story they tell over and over and over again to justify Austerity? What’s that? It’s based on empirical observation, careful reasoning and expert analysis you say? Not exactly – it’s actually just rehashed from this ‘Not the 9 O’Clock News’ snippet circa’ 1980.
So herein lies the problem. Maybe when we see and hear politicians nowadays, our brains subconsciously think that what we are experiencing is satire and parody. Perhaps, as a result, our outrage and horror – which should be spurring us into action – are instead being transmuted into amusement.