Satire is insanely important
I write for a living. And with that as my job, it’s easy to get lost in the drudgery of the day-to-day: editing, working through writer’s block, coming up with new ideas, trying to convince myself to turn off Netflix, etc. It’s not often that I think to myself, “This shit matters.”
With the attack on the leftist and anti-religion satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris and the recent hacks on Sony over the release of The Interview, though, it’s hard for me to think otherwise: Satire — and writing in general — is insanely important. Language is the only true magic in the world, the only tool we have with which we can truly change another person’s mind, or to get masses to act as one, or to destroy and humiliate bloated demagogues or systems of power and oppression.
Alan Moore, the famed comics writer, believes that our concept of magic came about as soon as we discovered language. “Magic has quite a lot in common with fiction and with fantasy,” Moore says. “We almost get into the notion that the two are pretty well interchangeable.”
“The idea of a grimoire — a book of spells. Grimoire is simply another way of spelling ‘grammar.’ According to [famed occultist Aleister] Crowley, to cast a spell is simply to spell.”
In the movie A Knight’s Tale, (yes, I’m quoting A Knight’s Tale), Geoffrey Chaucer, the famed English writer, says to a couple of thugs who cheated him out of his gambling money, “I will eviscerate you in fiction. Every pimple, every character flaw. I was naked for a day; you will be naked for eternity.”
Satire, then, is the only true curse. Never mind the quality of the satire: I haven’t seen The Interview yet, but my guess is that it’s not great. What matters is that Kim Jong Un was made to look ridiculous, like his father was in Team America: World Police. Satire sticks. It stays with us for eternity. Their legacy is eternally tarnished by a pair of silly films that they weren’t able to quash.
The same can be said of the attack on Charlie Hebdo: the type of people who would attack a satirical magazine are the type of people who realize what a threat humor and satire is to their fundamentalist vision of life. Never mind that there’s a simple counterspell to the satirical curse: all you have to do is laugh at yourself, and the curse harmlessly flits away. No one remembers a simple self-deprecatory joke, especially if it’s taken in a good-natured manner.
Our written words always outlive us. But by killing the satirists and cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo, the terrorists have guaranteed that they will eternally be villains. They are tarnished forever. And in that sense, the murdered satirists have won.