high desert sketches
The death of satire is upon us
By GEORGE A. COVINGTON
While most of my readers are highly intelligent, witty, and charming, there are occasionally those who do not understand satire. I have discovered it necessary, at least once a year to explain the great tradition of Jonathan Swift, Voltaire, and Mark Twain. I have plundered most of the world’s great dictionaries and found that the best definition is home grown.
Leo Dominguez, internationally renowned Dean of Student Life at Sul Ross State University, and famed Machiavelli of college administrators, wrote in my 2007 column on satire, “My definition of Satire is simply the cognitive conjuring of complicated criticism that causes comical critical and convoluted condemnation of a condition.” Usually I would steal the quote as my own, but Leo, a man of humble countenance and demeanor can use all the credit and acclaim when facing the upcoming budget cuts to higher education.
Like higher education, the present political clime may mark the end of satire. How can you write about an era of American history when reality and fantasy are indistinguishable? Satire is intended to make the populous reflect on what they perceive as facts and the accepted norms of the day.
Western civilization saw the world through the eyes of the Three Estates. The First Estate included the monarchs and the priesthood, while the Second Estate included the nobility and lesser aristocrats. The Third Estate included the merchants, peasants and the assorted riff raft that probably included most of our ancestors. The invention of the printing press led to the creation of the Fourth Estate, which comprised journalists, drunks, satirists, and other reprobates. The modern Fifth Estate was born of the turmoil and unrest of the 1960s and was made up of alternative print media, often called The Rag, The Voice or other words that were easy to spell.
Unfortunately in the mist of technological confusion The Fifth Estate was born around the time of the millennium. This final Estate (hopefully) consists of a morass of electronic squawks and squeals that include blogs, podcasts, tweets, Snap Chat, Instagram, Facebook images and child pornography, among other things.
My mordant sense of humor should have no few targets, but alas, while everything on the web lives forever, somewhere on the web, most of the ideas and information consist of elements so shallow and so little consequence it is like having a huge feast that consists of nothing but small slices of bologna. The feast is so vast that it is not worth the time and effort to discover if hidden among plenitude to discover that there might be a small chicken fried steak.
An example of my plight is the current gaggle of geese adding their droppings to the swamp in Washington, D.C. Past presidents have been known to make a few verbal blunders in a year or even a month, but none have ever been able to match the volume of President Tweet. On a daily basis, our current potentate of platitudes covers the planet with such an avalanche of “alternative news,” “alternative facts,” and mundane mumblings that it is impossible to select a target for satire. So, I have decided to ignore the present and compare our president to King Kong.
I am aware, from the loud protests from my assistants that King Kong is more a character of sympathy rather than menace, but look at the facts. They both share a desire to dominate tall buildings. They both were attracted to beautiful young women and both are a little zealous in the touching department. Neither can handle intellectual or historical concepts very well and they both stomp on “little people”. Personally, I think King Kong would make a better president because he could not tweet and his bellowing had a purpose.
George A. Covington has worked in the fields of law, education, journalism and disability rights. He considers himself retired from every one of them with the possible exception of journalism. He is a graduate of the University of Texas schools of journalism and law. He moved to West Texas – Alpine – in 1997 after a 20-year career in Washington, D.C. where he once served on the staff of the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (Democrat) and shortly thereafter served as Special Assistant to the Vice President of the United States (Republican) 1989-93.