Politics, Sarcasm, and the Decline of Meaningful Discourse

Sarcasm...

Sarcasm… (Photo credit: mallix)

I am following a thread a friend posted on Facebook telling everyone that she finished her taxes and sarcastically added that she wanted Barack Obama’s phone number because she had “a few things to say to him.”

Sarcasm is the language of sincerity today.  Does my friend have a few things to say to Barack Obama because she’s happy to pay her taxes?  Just asking that question is feigning a level of irony that today’s sarcasm doesn’t permit.  Of course we don’t have taxes today because Barack Obama is president any more than we would have taxes if Mitt Romney were president.  However in an era when sarcasm speaks truth, we can easily conclude that it is more likely than not that if Romney had been elected, my friend would not be asking for the president’s phone number.

Sarcasm blends with sincerity so seamlessly that one might have a hard time seeing any political power in irony anymore.

Consider a comment posted on my friend’s thread.  He wrote:  “if you were single with a few kids…you’d be in tax heaven…but since you work and give a shit…. you get screwed.. unfair.” 

Sarcastic or sincere?  Clearly there is strong sense of cynicism here, however it isn’t difficult to understand what is being said here and thus it a statement of strong sincerity.  Suggested here is the idea that a single woman with kids would get tax breaks, which is probably true.  (Families with children get breaks, too.)   However, the comment suggests that single mothers don’t “give a shit” while women who work do.  So the worker get’s screwed.  Unfair.

What is said by being unsaid is the now-familiar “takers” argument, a sincere dose of cynicism if there ever was one.  My friend enjoys a comfortable income and lifestyle, it’s hard to imagine that she would think living on a working wage — or less — just to take advantage of tax breaks is “fair”.  No one would take that option.  That argument is ironic sarcasm, but in a world where irony coexists with reality that is irrelevant.  As a result these common sense counter examples go unheard.  More than that, they cannot be heard, they don’t resonate.

Thus the political power of irony — cynically suggesting to these people that my friend giving up her successful career and lifestyle to “enjoy” the benefits of lower taxes is absurd — has no play.  Serious discourse is dead.

 

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