CSotD: If you’re laughing, you don’t get it

There are many Prigozhin cartoons on editorial pages at the moment, but Mike Smith (KFS) manages to tie up both the Russian and American significance of the event, with only a few inexplicable loose ends.

His take is witty without being funny. Editorial cartoons are only funny by happenstance, and generally only when they tackle something that doesn’t matter anyway.

By contrast, you may chuckle over a witty cartoon, but in appreciation of its cleverness, not because it’s humorous.

Smith contrasts the response to Prigozhin’s failed coup with the response to Trump’s failed coup and if you’re laughing, you surely don’t get it.

One of the inexplicable loose ends requires going back a few decades, to the false renaissance when the Soviet Union broke up and free market capitalism was loosed upon the black soil of Mother Russia.

There was a fleeting moment when it appeared Russia was about to join the West, fueled by a self-selected group of ex-Soviets who publicly wished for that to happen. But it seems the people we met, the ones who spoke up, were not a majority, because the magical rebirth of their country was quickly stifled by the oligarchs who combine authoritarianism with organized crime.

It’s hard to explain the shift from Gorbachev to Putin, but, then, that’s what is meant by “inexplicable.” Perhaps it’s obvious to Russians but it sure isn’t to us.

Still, we keep trying to explain in Western terms a reality that isn’t happening in Western terms.

People are laying flowers in the street to mourn Prigozhen, but if, two years from now, Putin is gone and some Westernizer is seated in the Kremlin, I will happily eat these words.

Christian Adams offers another combination which is certainly not any more humorous than Smith’s, though it offers something of a “The Whole World is Watching” perspective, suggesting that Trump is being made to answer for his actions, while Putin is not.

Or possibly he’s saying that neither of them really will be, which should stifle any inclination to laugh.

He seems to be dwelling on the similarities, not the differences.

Juxtaposition of the Day

Christian Mirra — Cartoon Movement (Spain)

Sharon Murdoch (New Zealand)

O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion

Two views from abroad, and I prefer Murdoch’s more direct point, but I’m willing to parse Mirra a bit, in part because there’s insight in his depiction of the elephants bowing to a clown, but also because clowns, in international usage, retain their other-worldly nature, and the clown in his cartoon is hardly depicted as an American-style cheerful dispenser of humor.

Even in this country, clowns are never supposed to be seen eating, because they are considered spirits rather than living beings, which may explain why so many kids are frightened by clowns rather than drawn to them.

In any case, Mirra does not draw a funny clown and the implication is clear that there’s nothing amusing in either the clown himself or in the deference being shown to him.

Still, the blunders and the foolish notions persist. We seem not to see what either cartoonist is showing us.

As for the cage in which Mirra’s clown is kept, Mike Luckovich makes a more immediate, less metaphorical point: The Jan 6 leadership is not being caged, except for one defendant who has a few other reasons he doesn’t qualify for bond.

But while there has been coverage of what an appalling hell-hole the Fulton County Jail is, it hardly matters: Dear Leader was in and out in 20 minutes, barely enough time to take his picture, get his fingerprints and set his bond.

Anyone who has been around the block once knows we live on at least two levels, and our prison system is only one fairly obvious example.

Fact is, no matter how strict the abortion laws may be in a particular state, you only need to be reasonably middleclass to get a D&C from the family doctor, who — if they ever bring back the draft — will also write a note for your brother about his disabling heel spurs.

What makes Preston Sturgis’s classic “Sullivan’s Travels” work is that Sullivan, who adopts the identity of a hobo out of curiosity, loses his ID and emergency money and finds himself genuinely trapped in that dangerous, unforgiving world where the other half lives and nobody wants to hear your problems.

It’s not that people with resources shouldn’t go have a look at that other world — they absolutely should.

But they need to recognize that they are only tourists there and are in danger of being dismissed as dabblers.

Pat Bagley unintentionally offers one such insight at which I think we are entitled to laugh: The rightwing, as Bagley notes, picked up on Oliver Anthony’s angry “Rich Men North of Richmond” and even made it the lead-off to the GOP debate.

But it turns out that, while Anthony doesn’t mind commercial success, he’s not too happy about the support he’s getting from those afore-mentioned tourists and dabblers:

Let us not, however, criticize the rightwingers as tourists and let the rest of the media off the hook.

David Horsey notes the bizarre partnership forming between Dear Leader and Vivek Ramaswamy, who, at the debate, declared him the greatest president of the 21st Century, high praise indeed, given that Trump and W were the only GOP presidents of the 21st Century. (See comments)

Ramaswamy was thereupon pronounced the winner of the debate by several commentators and declared a rising star by many more, an evaluation based on applying the same standards that had caused them, eight years ago, to donate millions of dollars worth of free coverage to a blustering reality program star.

In response, more well-balanced commentators are praising and forwarding Will Bunch’s excellent, well-reasoned plea that we abandon the irresponsible horse-race coverage of the past and try to cover the upcoming election as if it were about the future of the nation and not simply our own ratings.

It all reminds me of the old thing about how most Americans can rattle off the Seven Dwarfs or the cast of the Simpsons but can’t name the justices of the Supreme Court.

If that makes you laugh, you don’t get it.

12 thoughts on “CSotD: If you’re laughing, you don’t get it

  1. Trump was the only GOP President of the 21st century? Who was George W. Bush, then? Did the 21st century not really start until 2008?

      1. The difference between the bumbling puppet fool and the evil bumbling puppet fool is minimal, but significant.

  2. As to why many Russians embrace Putin and why “Westernization” is not a popular brand, it has a lot to do with the massive decline in living standards during the Yeltsin years. The ’90s were an incredibly grim time for most people in Russia, except for a handful of criminals and corrupt individuals.

    1. That one I might argue with. There’s a chicken-and-egg element to why the economy tanked, besides the fact that even knowledgeable industry leaders there didn’t understand market economies. Whether they botched it or were kept from making things work remains, IMHO, open. Probably a combination.

  3. “Even in this country, clowns are never supposed to be seen eating, because they are considered spirits rather than living beings, which may explain why so many kids are frightened by clowns rather than drawn to them.”

    Is that why eating was one of Emmett Kelly’s main gimmicks? Always seemed odd that merely *eating* was a big thing of his…

    tbf, I don’t know all that much about clown lore

  4. The Bulwark warns us: they may be clowns, but, they’re clowns with flamethrowers.
    I read rummyswummy’s 10 points and got so nauseous I almost threw-up.
    The two tiered justice system is defined by: money, corruption and power as opposed to the populace who just have to put up with abuse. Oh, and I’m self-reporting that I’m 6ft 8inches and 205 lbs.

  5. Umm…I suppose the shift from Obama to Trump wouldn’t be considered “inexplicable” given the racism factor.

    The last paragraph loses some of its humor when you realize that the Supreme Court today is more like the cast of the Simpsons or The Seven Dwarfs than ever before.

  6. I can’t explain modern kids being scared by clowns except for the dearth of circuses and the nasty clown horror movies that have been made. Even then, pretty recent kids used to love Ronald McDonald. Me, I’m too old for Ronald: It was Clarabell for me. I loved (and probably still love) him, and was heartbroken that Saturday when he turned to the camera and spoke for the first and only time: “Goodbye, kids.”

    And I’ve certainly never heard the “clowns are spirits (whatever THAT means)” theory. I’d be interested in learning what the source of such juvenile indoctrination in the 21st century might be? I’m nor saying some modern-day juvenile author hasn’t advanced it (Stine or somebody), but it wasn’t something from my generation, I would guess as clowns have never scared me. (Perhaps it was because Noah Beery’s Joey was always shown applying his make-up on CIRCUS BOY, so it was clear clowns are just (good) people and in costumes? Seems likely to me.)

    1. The confusion comes from the fact that clowns occupy very different places in different cultures. In several native cultures, clowns are chaotic manifestations that lure bad vibes away from the group, while Dostoevsky wrote about fools for Christ, a different but not entirely unrelated element. Clowns who are deep in either tradition honor this, many others don’t.

      As for kids, I think the Emmet Kelly type is generally appealing, but bright-colored, hyperactive odd people who get in your face are not and most clowns find spots in between those extremes. But that’s just a guess.

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