Friday, August 19, 2011

Income Inequality Through Satirists' Lenses

Conor Friedersdorf has a great essay illustrating that Jon Stewart is a better satirist than Rush Limbaugh.  Given my attitude toward Limbaugh, I obviously believe that Friedersdorf damns with faint praise.  If fact,  Stewart and his running mate Stephen Colbert frequently rise to the level set by Jonathan Swift.

Recently both Stewart and Colbert have taken to the same subject matter that motivated Swift to pen his most famous satirical essay, "A Modest Proposal."  Swift's speaker begins,
It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great town or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads, and cabin doors, crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags and importuning every passenger for an alms. These mothers, instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in strolling to beg sustenance for their helpless infants: who as they grow up either turn thieves for want of work, or leave their dear native country to fight for the Pretender in Spain, or sell themselves to the Barbadoes.

I think it is agreed by all parties that this prodigious number of children in the arms, or on the backs, or at the heels of their mothers, and frequently of their fathers, is in the present deplorable state of the kingdom a very great additional grievance; and, therefore, whoever could find out a fair, cheap, and easy method of making these children sound, useful members of the commonwealth, would deserve so well of the public as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation.
In short the poor are responsible for their own condition and need to take charge of their lives.  Swift's black humor allows him to satirically suggest that the Irish sell their young as a food source for the rich.

Last night, Stewart takes on this sort of "class warfare."
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
World of Class Warfare - Warren Buffett vs. Wealthy Conservatives
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Steven Colbert takes on the same targets.

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