Punchinello’s Chronicles

Humor, Ignorance & the Coming Reality Crisis

I finally got a chance to watch the Sarah Palin interview with Katie Couric of CBS News. I don’t have a TV, so I get a lot of my television information through the Web. YouTube is great for all this, and a brilliant example of modern technology at its best!

Anyway; I’d been seeing the video of the Saturday Night Live (SNL) parody on that interview. It’s very funny, in my opinion, although not at all the same as my understanding of the real Gov. Palin. The gap between the two is what makes it so funny. But that means having two differing concepts of the same person and being able to hold both concepts in mind at the same time.

When I was growing up, pretty much everyone understood the diffference between reality, jokes, imagination, fantasy, delusion, illusion, and make-believe. To me, the humor of the SNL sketch is great, easily separated from reality, and just fun. Humor, after all, is the startling conflict between two seemingly equal realities.

Because I don’t watch TV all the time, I see that the jokes and sketches about Ms. Palin are all over the place. YouTube videos of commentary, satire, fake stories, and opinions are everywhere, almost seeming to be predominant. You have to intentionally sit down and do some nominal searching to find the original information. It’s not at all difficult, only that you have to deliberately make some effort.

I wanted to see the original interview, and found it quite easily. Watching Katie Couric’s eyes blinking made the SNL sketch even funnier! By gosh, she really does do all that eye-blinking! But the thing is, the portrayal of Sarah Palin is very, very different from the actual reality of the person.

The problem is that way too many people in today’s world take things literally and superficially. We live in what many would call The Age of Narcissism, with a comensurate lack of capacity for empathy. Narcissists can’t perceive the independent existence of other people and other minds. To the narcissist, only their own thoughts and beliefs are actually real.

Because of this disconnection, a developing majority of people can’t compensate for spur-of-the-moment speech, conversation, or interaction. It’s why conservatives understand that President Bush may not be a verbal master but still has a solid basis of values and philosophy. So too with Sarah Palin. Taking people only at face value, nobody asks whether or not the speaker means exactly what they said, or whether they made an error of articulation.

It’s true that Palin wasn’t easily facile at pouring out spontaneous gems of quotable sound bytes. She’s a regular American person, not trained as a public spokesperson. Katie Couric had plenty of time to develop a list of questions, go over them, and make sure they were interesting. Palin had to come up with answers moment by moment.

When people in an audience aren’t taught how to think for themselves, haven’t developed critical or analytic skills, and don’t understand the workings of anyone’s mind, what happens? They have to depend on what someone else tells them is true in order to understand reality. Humor is a lot more interesting than speeches, lectures, or reading factual material.

Humor and entertainment don’t require critical analysis at the time it takes place. Few people want to know why a joke is funny, they just enjoy that something is funny. But that doesn’t mean that jokes can replace thought and analysis entirely! When the Nazis began making jokes about Jews, it became a society-wide and constant process. At that point, people should have begun to analyze whether or not humor was replacing reality.

So too, when we find ourselves under a constant barrage of so-called jokes, satires, and other attempts to substitute derision for truth, we’re in trouble. But we’re really only in trouble if people can’t tell the difference between the humor or the truth. The scary thing is that I think we’ve reached that point. I just don’t know if it’s an actual majority of people with this problem, or only a highly visible minority with a wide distribution network.

I think what’s happening is that humor, because it’s entertaining, is taking the primary position as modern day news distribution. It’s becoming actually true that more people get their “hard” news from The Daily Show than other factual sources. News itself is vanishing, to be replaced by editorial opinion in many newspapers and TV news shows.

The result is that many people believe that the parody of Sarah Palin is exactly the same thing as the reality of Ms. Palin. The two are interchangeable, in their minds, and there isn’t any need to verify that belief. The only way the actual reality can be understood is to first understand that a humorous parody has only a small connection to reality itself. That’s what makes it humor.

Liberals and religious fundamentalists, trapped in dogmatism, depend on authorities to tell them what exists and how to think about it. Without objective perspective, they can’t laugh at themselves and only deride other people. It’s the humor of the grade-school playground. But with some education and maturity, we learn to separate humor from reality. The problem is the education.

This growing population of people simply don’t understand humor, don’t get the jokes, but rather believe that a joke is completely equal to a truth. This will lead to a massive crisis in reality. Far deeper than economic problems, political problems, and commerce problems, the inability to distinguish between reality and fantasy (jokes, parodies, illusions, etc.) will absolutely lead to catastrophe.

2 Comments »

  1. Palin has, supposedly, had a long and relevant political career as “chief executive” in which to develop her positions fully. As a politician she is supposed to be able to communicate those positions and bring others together around a common point of view. On both of those fronts she is a proven, unmitigated, spectacular failure. She obviously has some very attractive qualities, but she is NOT a credible politician, nor is she even remotely prepared to serve as VP. Neither am I, of course, but then, I’m not running for the second most important job in the world.

    This is a joke, right? You’re pulling our legs. You’re not really naive or stupid enough to really believe this drivel. I don’t believe it. It’s just not credible.

    Comment by Punchinello's daddy — September 29, 2008 @ 10:56 pm | Reply

  2. Palin has not at all had a “long and relevant political career.” Her bio clearly shows that she didn’t particularly want to be in politics all that much. Being that she is NOT a politician, she has no training in spouting empty sound bytes, but she can certainly get that training. Nor is she a proven, spectacular failure as governor of Alaska. Indeed, she’s been quite a success as governor and a significant number of people seem to agree. That’s not to say that if a million people say something smart (or stupid) it therefore is true. It’s only a consensus.

    I have no interest at all in whether anyone believes what I write. Nor am I concerned one whit about my credibility. This is a blog, after all, and unlike the mainstream news media, contains my opinions. The news media also is mostly opinion, it’s only that they claim to be revealing actual news.

    Comment by Punchinello — September 30, 2008 @ 2:58 pm | Reply


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