We are currently engaged in a culture-wide race to the conclusion of a reductio ad absurdum.
Think of it this way. Back in the Bill Clinton era, there were always stories of the “trail of bodies.” If you gave any credence to them at all, you were a nut, a conspiracy theorist, a true head case. One of the ways I knew that Hillary Clinton was finished is that the “trail of bodies” meme went from a strident outside case against them to a cynical inside joke. It no longer had to be believed — it just had to be believable.
In the first Clinton era, if you referred to it at all you would be shouted down angrily. In the second Clinton era, when James Comey suspended his second review of Hillary’s emails, the memes appeared instantly. “I discontinued searching her emails when I found my own suicide note.” And there was no high indignation.
What this does is tell you how much “juice” there is in a movement. When everybody gets the joke, you are in trouble.
We are in a similar place when it comes to radical Islam. The strictures of political correctness tell us that we must not generalize. Whenever we hear of a bombing, we must not assume that the bomber was named Mohammed. We must wait until the evening news to find out that his name is Mohamed. Another meme: “We must not jump to conclusions . . . aaaaaaand it’s Islam.” When everyone gets the joke, even if the joke is not considered in the best taste, the thing being mocked is in trouble.
In the old Soviet Union, a judge came out of his chambers, laughing so hard he was weeping. One of his colleagues asked what was happening. “I just heard the funniest joke I’ve ever heard,” he said, still laughing. “What was it?” his colleague asked. “I can’t tell you . . . I just gave someone 10 years for it.”
When this kind of subversive humor is widespread, the target regime is doomed. It doesn’t matter if the jokes are widespread and whispered, the regime is still doomed.
Let us modify the old saying—whom the gods would destroy, they first make ridiculous.
One of the hallmarks of being ridiculous in this way is the stark fact that you cannot imagine yourself as being the ridiculous one. All you see is that you’re up against Trump . . . and he is the butt of the SNL jokes. But I am not talking about who the court comedians make fun of. When the kept comics finally join in, the regime is more than doomed. It is Baghdad-Bob-doomed.
The radical jihadists are of course humorless. All they see is western culture supine and defenseless – their suicide bombers will go through us like a hot knife through butter. They see how stupid it is. What they don’t see is how many of us see how stupid it is.
When the tyranny has it all buttoned up, jokes are not simply forbidden. They are not possible. But once they become possible, and widespread, and very funny, the punch line is in sight. So notice the jokes, and mark the reactions. That is your barometer. As Orwell put it, and he should know, “Whatever is funny is subversive, every joke is ultimately a custard pie.”