Irony – Now, More Than Ever

At least, that’s what Joan Didion seemed to say, per a NYT article, at a talk she gave a week after the U.S. election, when she “lamented that the United States in the era of Barack Obama had become an ‘irony-free zone,’ a vast Kool-Aid tank where ‘naïveté, translated into “hope,” was now in’ and where ‘innocence, even when it looked like ignorance, was now prized.'”

Columnist Roger Rosenblatt, after 9/11, “said that while irony had its place and time, this was not it.” Some events, he says, “are so big that they almost imply an obligation not to diminish [them] by clever comparisons.”

John H. McWhorter, “semiconservative black commentator,” sees a reduction in irony as a natural and praiseworthy reaction among white people to having voted Obama into office and in doing so expiating “white America’s sins” and “showing that you are past the nastiness.”

I gotta go with Joan. Irony (particularly phase III irony) is all about puncturing propaganda, “stating the lie in order to expose the lie,” pointing out the discrepancy between what is expected and what actually results, and in doing so examining the nature of human folly and vanity. So particularly when we’re feeling good about ourselves and what we’ve accomplished, and when much is expected and hoped, when so much faith and trust is put in one event, in one person (as New York magazine put it, a couple of weeks ago, “Obamaism: It’s a kind of religion. But one rooted in a deep faith in rationality.”), and when results are so sorely needed, we benefit from that “distanced perspective” of irony more than ever.

Like P.J. O’Rourke’s; he’s writing a column for The Weekly Standard with the working title, ‘Is It Too Soon to Start Talking About the Failed Obama Presidency Just Because He Isn’t President Yet?’


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