Question for the audience: who is more insufferable than a humorless wokescold?
Answer: a humorless MAGA scold. The former wants to cancel anything that isn’t Chelsea Handler on an apron stage screaming “BIGOT BULL CONNOR REPUBLICAN!” ad nauseam. But, as a slim saving grace, they’re transparently censorious and moralistic. The latter self-styled lib-triggerers take brave stands for the First Amendment, especially when their Kodak-yellow king is denied his Twitter fob, but go into a Dorito-dust-spitting spasm whenever a joke is made at the 45th president’s expense.
As the old truism goes, better to trust an honest communist than a lying liberal. The former will forthrightly fleece you to finance an egalitarian utopia; the latter will tax you to save the indigenous bullfinch while pocketing hefty campaign donations from the indigenous-bullfinch spotting industry.
Lateral-thinking pioneer Edward de Bono said “humor is by far the most significant activity of the human brain.” The simple wisdom is readily apparent to any would-be funny man. Parodies, skits, gags, farces, and wheezes all command our attention more than the run-of-the-mill knight’s tale or happily ending rom-com. No wit worth a whuff will admit their craft requires heavy cognitive lifting. But try to write a knock-knock joke, or a five-minute standup routine you’re confident will bring the house down, and you’ll hit writer’s block harder than Dan Brown translating Hafiz.
Therein lies the signal difficulty in attempting to pull off the most difficult of ink exercises: satire. You run the risk of some thick-headed bunk shooter taking it seriously and calling you all manners of the scum of God’s sod. Which is exactly what happened to Joe Matthews.
The Californian columnist attempted to blend Swift and Marx into an invigorating concoction to awaken his fellow gold-staters to the dangers of implacable woke thinking. In “California should abolish parenthood, in the name of equity,” Matthews makes an overly simplified case for going full Huxley in the rearing of children.
He begins: “If California is ever going to achieve true equity, the state must require parents to give away their children.” Now, depending on your view of Poe’s law, or your knowledge of dystopian fiction, such a preface may be bracing. Is this dude serious? Parents have to give away children so achieve an abstract ideal of pure material equality? Huh?
But Matthews’s intention quickly becomes clear: “Fathers and mothers with greater wealth and education are more likely to transfer these advantages to their children, compounding privilege over generations.”
Ah, the old appeal to commutative justice. St. Thomas Aquinas, call your monastery!
But rather than concede more power to the state to play Pop-o-Matic property master, Matthews has a more straightforward policy for distribution: swinging with kids! He proposes, “the rich and poor should trade kids, and homeowners might swap children with their homeless neighbors.”
Just those three quotes alone should give the reader the feeling something is amiss. The last thing a mentally ill mendicant wants is a dependent mouth to feed. And the formulation “homeless neighbors” doesn’t make sense unless you live on the same block as a shelter.
The reader doesn’t need a Trey Parker-Matt Stone chrestomathy to recognize that Matthews is using that classic rhetorical trick of turning an ideologue’s terms of art against him. He evokes liberal buzzwords like “equity” and “privilege” to mask his real intention of pushing redistributionist logic to its ultimate conclusion. He even playfully casts disputants as narrow-minded bigots by describing them in favorable terms. “A few contrarians, lost in the empty chasm between American extremes, might object to this rational proposal on emotional grounds,” he remarks.
Yes, I can imagine more than a few parents reverting to feral wildebeests in fighting to keep a grip on their kids. Maybe even a mom with testosterone pumping faster through her body than Franzia on a Friday night heaving a hefty CPS worker through a concrete wall. Fiercely protecting a child is one of the few primordial instincts modern parents have that hasn’t been replaced by shoving iPads in front of their hair-tearing little terrors.
If all these resounding hints weren’t enough to reveal his facetiousness, Matthews openly quotes the source material. “But my proposal is quite modest,” he points out in an obvious Swiftian homage. He ends his spoof by winking out, “our relentless pursuit of equity might birth a brave new world.”
The entire sendup doesn’t even try to make an earnest case. Yet even the most fetid bait brings varmints. After Matthews’s woke squib was syndicated, a bunch of Trumpy teeth mashers blew vermillion steam out their ears in horror. The reaction was, erm, swift. A handful of conservative content farms copy-and-pasted it as the latest liberal war on kids. The president of the Parental Rights Foundation lambasted Matthews as a scourge, likening him to Plato. Even an unctuously MAGA congressional candidate in Tennessee fell for the bit. (Maybe that’s why Trump endorsed his opponent.)
Conservative poli-data doyen Michael Barone saw right through the gag, noting the various tip-offs, and sounding a tad disappointed that sober and respectful nationalists who were ready to hoist Mike Pence up a tumbril were so easily taken for a ride.
In partial defense of MAGAyte gullibility, some lefties aren’t exactly above pushing for the collective raising of children. Former MSNBC anchor Melissa Harris-Perry infamously argued: “We have to break through our private idea that children belong to their parents, or children belong to their families, and recognize that children belong to whole communities.” Noted presidential failure, Haiti savioress, and infant-blood imbiber (kidding!—only her husband enjoys the forbidden nubile fruit) Hillary Clinton forced an intern to draft a book in her name on why villages are necessary in the nurturing of kids. The Democrats recently conceded the Virginia governor’s mansion because their candidate told curious parents to buzz off about their kids’ pedagogy.
That the left wants to collectively organize everything from crèches to aphid colonies isn’t a shocking revelation. Surviving Branch Davidians can confirm. But furious distrust of liberals is desensitizing the right to the joy of laughter and whimsy.
Conservative chest thumpers have become that which they hate: emotional tinderboxes triggered by anything not tightly wrapped in Old Glory. “The distrust of wit is the beginning of tyranny,” said Edward Abbey. The right—particularly the diehard MAGA sect—needs to take itself less seriously. Lightening up won’t destroy the country, but not doing so may kill the soul.