Political satire is a significant part of satire that specializes in gaining entertainment from politics; it has also been used with subversive intent where political speech and dissent are forbidden by a regime, as a method of advancing political arguments where such arguments are expressly forbidden.
Political satire is usually distinguished from political protest or political dissent, as it does not necessarily carry an agenda nor seek to influence the political process. While occasionally it may, it more commonly aims simply to provide entertainment. By its very nature, it rarely offers a constructive view in itself; when it is used as part of protest or dissent, it tends to simply establish the error of matters rather than provide solutions.
Origins and genres
The oldest example that has survived till today is Aristophanes. In his time satire targeted top politicians, like Cleon, and religion, at the time headed by Zeus. "Satire and derision progressively attacked even the fundamental and most sacred facts of faith," leading to an increased doubt towards religion by the general population. The Roman period, for example, gives us the satirical poems and epigrams of Martial while some social satire exists in the writings of Paul of Tarsus in the New Testament of the Bible. Cynic philosophers often engaged in political satire.
Due to lack of political freedom of speech in many ancient civilizations, covert satire is more usual than overt satire in ancient literatures of political liberalism. Historically, the public opinion in the Athenian democracy was remarkably influenced by the political satire performed by the comic poets at the theatres. Watching or reading satire has since ancient time been considered one of the best ways to understand a culture and a society.
During the 20th century, satire moved from print to other forms of media (in cartoons as political cartoons with heavy caricature and exaggeration, and in political magazines) and the parallel exposure of political scandals to performances (including television shows). Examples include musicians such as Tom Lehrer, live performance groups like the Capitol Steps, and public television and live performer Mark Russell. Additional subgenres include such literary classics as Gulliver's Travels and Animal Farm, and more recently, internet Ezine and website sources such as The Onion, the Humor Times, ArnoldSpeaks.com and the Happening Happy Hippy Party. Some websites exist solely to poke fun at politicians, per the examples below.
One example is Maurice Joly's 1864 pamphlet entitled The Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu (Dialogue aux enfers entre Machiavel et Montesquieu), which attacks the political ambitions of Napoleon III. It was first published in Brussels in 1864. The piece used the literary device of a dialogue between two diabolical plotters in Hell, the historical characters of Machiavelli and Montesquieu, to cover up a direct, and illegal, attack on Napoleon's rule. The noble baron Montesquieu made the case for liberalism; the Florentine political writer Machiavelli presented the case for cynical despotism. In this manner, Joly communicated the secret ways in which liberalism might spawn a despot like Napoleon III. However, The Prince itself has also been sometimes understood as political satire.
- ^ Stephanos Matthaios, Franco Montanari, Antonios Rengakos Ancient Scholarship and Grammar: Archetypes, Concepts and Contexts pp.207-8
- ^ Ehrenberg, Victor (1962) The people of Aristophanes: a sociology of old Attic comedy p.263 quotation:
The fact that the gods could be brought down to a human or 'far too human' level is certainly rooted in the very nature of Greek religion, and there is no doubt that this attitude contributed to the gradual undermining of the old belief in the gods. [...] To tell immoral and scandalous stories about the gods did not offend average religious feeling; it troubled only advanced spirits like Xenophanes and Pintar [...] and it is clear that people no longer believed either in the story or in Zeus. Satire and derision progressively attacked even the fundamental and most sacred facts of faith, above all faith in the gods' power, and it was from this that doubt began to grow.
The power of the gods, whose dignity and stringth were impressively reflected in most of the tragedies, however different the religious attitudes of the tragic poets were, this same power was on the same festival days belittled and questioned by the comic poets who made fun of the gods and represented traditional and sacred forms in a starling manner.
- ^ Henderson, J. (1993) Comic Hero versus Political Elite pp.307-19 in Sommerstein, A.H.; S. Halliwell, J. Henderson, B. Zimmerman, ed (1993). Tragedy, Comedy and the Polis. Bari: Levante Editori.
- ^ Aristophanes I: Clouds, Wasps, Birds, Peter Meineck (translator) and Ian Storey (Introduction), Hackett Publishing 2000, page X
- ^ Emil J. Piscitelli (1993) Before Socrates-Diotima The Special Case of Aristophanes: Tribal and Civil Justice
- ^ Life of Aristophanes, pp.42-seq
- ^ George Santayana : Egotism in German Philosophy. 1915. chapter 13.
- ^ Christa Davis Acampora & Ralph R. Acampora : A Nietzchean Bestiary. Rowman & Littlefield, 2003. p. 109
Examples of political satire on the web:
- Self Deprecate Political Satire
- Political Subversities
- The Washington Fancy - Your Leading Misleading Source for Politics
- Underneath Politics
- Scrappleface: News Fairly Unbalanced. We Report. You Decipher.
- Pinkomenace.com - Satire about the Pinko (Commie) threat
- Idiocracy Watch: A unique Canadian satirical comic strip
- FridayMash.com: We Caricature and Chide but never Belittle
- George W Bush's satirical online resume
- The People's Cube
- Faking News : satire on politics of India
- QuickDraw McCain
- The Republic Newswire
- The Secret Diary of John McCain
- Ugly Democrats
- Ugly Republicans
- Freeze Dried News : Satire from a conservative/libertarian perspective
- The Earmark: Political Humor from Below the Beltway
- Gunner Sykes:Political Satire With a Conservative Bent
- Phil Linehan:Verses about US/UK politics
- The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
- The Colbert Report
- The Taxman: 'There's truth in fiction'
- Twisted Reality: Freedom for Subversive Artistic Expression
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