The Corruption of Humor in the Kingdom of Cruelty

The Corruption of Humor in the Kingdom of Cruelty October 18, 2018

Uncle Screwtape talks about the uses of humor in hell:

My dear Wormwood,

Everything is clearly going very well. I am specially glad to hear that the two new friends have now made him acquainted with their whole set. All these, as I find from the record office, are thoroughly reliable people; steady, consistent scoffers and worldlings who without any spectacular crimes are progressing quietly and comfortably towards Our Father’s house. You speak of their being great laughers. I trust this does not mean that you are under the impression that laughter as such is always in our favour. The point is worth some attention.

I divide the causes of human laughter into Joy, Fun, the Joke Proper, and Flippancy. You will see the first among friends and lovers reunited on the eve of a holiday. Among adults some pretext in the way of Jokes is usually provided, but the facility with which the smallest witticisms produce laughter at such a time shows that they are not the real cause. What that real cause is we do not know. Something like it is expressed in much of that detestable art which the humans call Music, and something like it occurs in Heaven–a meaningless acceleration in the rhythm of celestial experience, quite opaque to us. Laughter of this kind does us no good and should always be discouraged. Besides, the phenomenon is of itself disgusting and a direct insult to the realism, dignity, and austerity of Hell.

Fun is closely related to Joy–a sort of emotional froth arising from the play instinct. It is very little use to us. It can sometimes be used, of course, to divert humans from something else which the Enemy would like them to be feeling or doing: but in itself it has wholly undesirable tendencies; it promotes charity, courage, contentment, and many other evils.

The Joke Proper, which turns on sudden perception of incongruity, is a much more promising field. I am not thinking primarily of indecent or bawdy humour, which, though much relied upon by second-rate tempters, is often disappointing in its results. The truth is that humans are pretty clearly divided on this matter into two classes. There are some to whom ‘no passion is as serious as lust’ and for whom an indecent story ceases to produce lasciviousness precisely in so far as it becomes funny: there are others in whom laughter and lust are excited at the same moment and by the same things. The first sort joke about sex because it gives rise to many incongruities: the second cultivate incongruities because they afford a pretext for talking about sex. If your man is of the first type, bawdy humour will not help you–I shall never forget the hours which I wasted (hours to me of unbearable tedium) with one of my early patients in bars and smoking-rooms before I learned this rule. Find out which group the patient belongs to–and see that he does not find out.

The real use of Jokes or Humour is in quite a different direction, and it is specially promising among the English who take their ‘sense of humour’ so seriously that a deficiency in this sense is almost the only deficiency at which they feel shame. Humour is for them the all-consoling and (mark this) the all-excusing, grace of life. Hence it is invaluable as a means of destroying shame. If a man simply lets others pay for him, he is ‘mean’: if he boasts of it in a jocular manner and twits his fellows with having been scored off, he is no longer ‘mean’ but a comical fellow. Mere cowardice is shameful; cowardice boasted of with humorous exaggerations and grotesque gestures can be passed off as funny. Cruelty is shameful–unless the cruel man can represent it as a practical joke. A thousand bawdy, or even blasphemous, jokes do not help towards a man’s damnation so much as his discovery that almost anything he wants to do can be done, not only without the disapproval but with the admiration of his fellows, if only it can get itself treated as a Joke. And this temptation can be almost entirely hidden from your patient by that English seriousness about Humour. Any suggestion that there might be too much of it can be represented to him as ‘Puritanical’ or as betraying a ‘lack of humour’.

But flippancy is the best of all. In the first place it is very economical. Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else; any of them can be trained to talk as if virtue were funny. Among flippant people the joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it. If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour-plating against the Enemy that I know, and it is quite free from the dangers inherent in the other sources of laughter. It is a thousand miles away from joy: it deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practise it,

Your affectionate uncle

One the countless pernicious effects of the rise of Trump is that he has given the cruels who teem in his train is permission to mock the weak.  We saw this, of course, with this:

Trump Disability GIF

Ann Coulter described it has his “standard retard” schtick.  Christianist People of the Lie were filled with the delicious tang of evil and loved his mockery of a disabled reporter, but also covered their tracks with a cock-and-bull story that he was not mocking the disabled at all.  This was just how he mocked everybody.

It was a lie, of course.  A filthy, disgusting one.  Disabled people protested his behavior in their pain at his behavior.  If Christianists had been anything other than filthy disgusting liars, they would have responded–and Trump would have responded–like decent human beings and said, “We are so sorry for wounding your feelings.  It was not our intention and we deeply apologize for laughing this display.”  But since they are filthy liars and bullies who savor cruelty to those weaker than themselves they instead accused those who took offense of trying to make the Biff Tannen they adore of looking bad.  It was, these liars claimed, their fault for taking offense.

In short, they punched down.  Because Trump punches down.

In a civilized world, the powerful are permitted humor that is self-deprecating or at the expense of peers.  They are never permitted to use humor as a weapon against those weaker or poorer than themselves.  So Bush could, for example, tell a joke like this:

And Churchill could remark of a peer that he was a modest man with much to be modest about.

But none of Trump’s humor is self-deprecating. All of Trump’s humor is humor at the expense of those weaker and poorer than himself.  He mocks the disabled.  He mocks women as pigs and dogs. He mocks POWs.  He brutally mocks sexual assault victims to the roar of his orcs.  He is a vicious, powerful bully.  And one of the core lessons he has taught his vindictive, sadistic base of Christianist bullies is that mockery of those weaker than themselves is cool and that they should imitate it.

So after the murder of Heather Heyer, the very fine people in the mob of Nazis marching under the banner of the swastika filled their chat groups with jokes at her expense.

A GOP thug made fun of Christine Blasey Ford’s looks and suggested she was too ugly to sexually assault.

Trump has likewise said that his victims were too ugly to assault.

After two of his thugs used a metal pole to beat the living daylights out of a sleeping homeless man, Trump signaled to his mob of orcs his approval by calling them “passionate”.

Trump constantly sends the signal to his base of pagan thugs swanning around in Christian garb and symbols that viciously hurting those weaker than themselves in word and deed is the New Awesome. And they are putting it into practice in a hundred ways, including caging children at the border. They love this sadism and they have taught themselves to laugh with each other about it.

A civilization that internalizes the message that cruelty to the weak is funny is a civilization ripe for tyranny. It is a civilization begging for this:

An Oregon county sheriff’s office has condemned the actions of three of its deputies who filmed and laughed at an Army veteran as he died of a drug overdose in a padded jail cell.

The veteran, 31-year-old Bryan Perry, served in the Iraq War, was honorably discharged and received a Purple Heart, his lawyer told local media outlets. Perry’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Clackamas County.

Two videos were filmed on the deputies’ cell phones in November 2016. In them, viewers can hear the jailers laughing at a man as he flails around in agony.

“We should go show this to his girlfriend and be like, ‘You love this?’ ” one of the deputies said on the recording.

and this:

A Milwaukee police officer stepped on NBA player Sterling Brown’s ankle during his arrest and others mocked any potential civil rights complaint he might make, according to bodycam footage reviewed by CNN.

and this:

Jose Luis Conde, 23, was arrested on Jan. 28 after the car he was riding in was pulled over. Police said in an arrest report that during a search that detected suspected drugs in his sock, Conde “tensed” and turned to face the officer. The officer says in the report that he believed that an attack was about to occur, so he grabbed Conde and “took him to the ground,” the report said. Police said he resisted arrest.

“I was tased, I was punched over and over by multiple cops. I was gouged in the eye. And I was hit in the head with a massive police flashlight,” Conde said at a news conference with his attorney in Phoenix on Thursday.

“After all of this, they laughed — they laughed at me while I laid in a pool of my own blood, barely conscious.

When the black guy was in power, all the gun nuts were all talking about how we needed to protect ourselves from a state that holds the individual in contempt with overweening, bullying power.

The instant the bullying White Supremacist-in-Chief came to power all that ended.  When Trump addressed the NRA and announced he was going to lard our police with a ton of military grade weapons the white supremacists of the Gun Cult cheered.  Why?  Because they knew the bully was on their side and they knew he was going to punch down at their enemies: the poor and brown.  No need to fear the cops now.  The state is their weapon now.

A rich bully who teaches his cult of personality to bully the weak and laugh at them is one of the many evils the diabolical Christianist cult has visited on our country.  May God destroy that cult in his justice and establish his mercy in our land through the genuine gospel of Christ our Lord.

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment