If the Devil has all the best tunes, it seems to be the losers who have all the best laughs. Trump’s victory has produced a treasure-house of wonderful anti-Trump jokes and mockery, on television, in the press and (especially) on the internet, beneath whose weight you would have thought any normal person would have crumbled. Of course I may be getting a skewed impression of the balance of satire in the USA, with mainly liberal Facebook friends, and those clever people at Facebook obviously choosing to feed me only with items I’m likely to respond to positively. I could be missing out. Are there any Right-wing jokers or impressionists to compare with, for example, John Oliver and Alec Baldwin? Does Fox do comedy? Or is it all beetle-eyed hatred and crazy conspiracy theories on that side of the fence? (See Trump’s latest tweets: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/03/04/trump-accuses-obama-of-nixonwatergate-plot-to-wire-tap-trump-tower/?utm_term=.a1145b44acd4.) For someone like me, over the pond, these are just as entertaining. (They may not be to Americans.) Both the jokes and the conspiracy theories serve to make more palatable to many of us what is happening in America. But, seriously: doesn’t the Right do satire these days? Or rather, satire that is intended as such?
Satire of course has a very long and distinguished history. It has often been banned by the authorities it is directed against, for fear of the harm it may do to them; and still is in some dictatorships. There’s no question of that in America, of course, with its noble free speech traditions – at least so far. So Oliver, Baldwin and Co are here to stay.
Whether they can actually damage Trump is questionable. Hurt him, certainly, with his trademark narcissism and thinnest of skins. They obviously annoy him, more than a grown-up man ought to be annoyed. He’ll be blaming it on the liberal intelligentsia – the ‘fake press’, and all that – which is one of his main political and personal targets, if not the main one. His problem is that to be really funny, you have to be bright, which rules out most of his followers, apart from the Machiavels. (Sorry; elitist.) But it’s difficult to see even the cleverest satire, in itself, seriously undermining his preening self-confidence or damaging his government, with Congress stacked up on his side (for the moment) as well. The greater danger is that it might so enrage him as to provoke him to do something even more outrageous than he already has. And it’s he, remember, who has his finger on the nuclear button. That’s not funny, or even satirical. It’s scary.
I’m resting my hopes, if conservative Republicans don’t turn against him, on the CIA and the FBI to subvert him clandestinely. I never thought I’d say that, after what I’ve written about the malevolent interventions of the secret services in both Britain’s and America’s political histories. But in this case, her spooks may be the last defence America has of the best of its values, as well as – as in the past – the worst. Maybe MI6 can lend them a hand. One of them, ex-agent Christopher Steele, has already contributed. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Trump–Russia_dossier.) If MI6 want to call me back after all these years (see https://bernardjporter.com/2017/03/02/my-james-bond-years/), I’ll be happy to chip in. Now that would be satirical.