~ 19 June 2007 ~

Truth vs. Humor

Ever wonder why conservatives have such a difficult time in getting their message across in the marketplace of ideas? One reason might be that we’re not fighting with the same artillery:

So, how can you criticize someone who makes no positive assertions to criticize? Or even more difficult, how do you do it when his or her negative judgments are funny? Much of the power of cynicism comes through wit and humor. To question truth claims of cynical judgments often requires an unnatural shift of your whole state of mind or of the momentum of any given conversation. Imagine questioning the truth of some of the claims of the political satire on Saturday Night Live. You may not object that this is just light entertainment, and so of course you cannot “agree” with caricatures as if it was serious political discussion. But that is just the point. It is entertainment, but nonetheless it is powerful in communicating ideas and impressions about important subjects and people. Presidential candidates have altered their campaign strategies as a result of watching the way they were being satirized on Saturday Night Live. (p.14)

So says Dick Keyes in Seeing Through Cynicism: A Reconsideration of the Power of Suspicion — a book that’s giving me much pause as I read it. The point here is that it’s often fruitless to argue truth against cynical satire. It doesn’t mean that truth shouldn’t be argued and proclaimed, but it shouldn’t surprise us when completely rational arguments are summarily dismissed.

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