April 25, 2005


Interview with Brian C. Anderson, author of South Park Conservatives: The Revolt Against Liberal Media Bias (Orrin C. Judd, 4/25/05, Spero Forum)

Q: One of the things that connects various media that you cite in the revolt against liberal bias is the use of humor to skewer political correctness and the Left's dogmas, is there something about comedy in particular that makes it a better weapon for the Right than the Left?

BA: Humor is a powerful weapon for the Right these days in part because the cultural establishment in this country has been liberal for so long—and it almost never pokes fun at itself. For decades of network programming, it’s always been the priest or the businessman or the general or the adherent of traditional values who turns out to be the bad guy, the repressed maniac, the hypocrite, the butt of humor. The liberal do-gooder, the social worker, the progressive teacher, the wise, straight-talkin’ minority—they’ve all been celebrated, held up as paragons of meaningful life.

Reality isn’t like that. Liberals in entertainment and the news media have created a kind of ideological construct, a narcissistic bubble just begging to be burst. The liberal do-gooder might be driven by rage and resentment, might be a kind of micro-fascist; the minority might be a racist thug; maybe the social worker abets self- and community destroying behavior. Perhaps not all businessmen are evil! Maybe some of them legitimately practice business as a moral calling, as Michael Novak argues. Maybe the general is both moral and a hero. Maybe the priest is holy.

That’s why South Park is so satirically powerful—it pops that liberal bubble and let’s some truth in: tolerance can be carried to the point of oppressiveness; rights can be extended in ways that are morally indefensible; anti-business protesters can be mindlessly misguided; hippies are selfish narcissists. My book offers plenty of examples. Trey Parker and Matt Stone, South Park’s creators, go after conservatives too—I don’t mean to suggest they’re across-the-board right-wingers. But going after the Right is nothing new. What is new, especially in television humor, is skewering the Left so savagely.

As I mentioned earlier, a key reason the Left hasn’t done well in talk radio is its lack of humor. Jonah Goldberg, a pretty funny guy, makes the point that liberals have this "Coalition of the Oppressed" as their constituency, and if a liberal humorist targeted blacks or gays or animal rights activists, he’d be bombarded with complaints from his "base" saying: "How dare you laugh! That’s not sensitive!"

Conservatives have—or should have-a keen understanding of man’s propensity for evil, of the complexity of human motivations in a fallen world. They thus should have a proper dose of cynicism in their worldview, which makes it easier to laugh at human foibles, their own included.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 25, 2005 11:18 PM

It's easy to OD on that cynicism.

Posted by: ghostcat at April 26, 2005 12:06 AM

Yes, it is, ghostcat. That's where kids come in. There is nothing like the sense of being responsible for a child's dreams to slap one out of that deliciously addictive cynicism.

This issue is interesting. Canada has a bit of a reputation for providing good comedians to Hollywood and TV land, but almost all our popular humour--Red Green, SCTV, Mackenzie brothers, Air Farce, etc.--is based upon laughing at unsophisticates. I can't think of one that goes the other way or even both ways (although Quebecers are much better at that and often much funnier as a consequence). Some do it very well, like Red Green and John Candy, but it gets pretty forced after a while. I've always thought the best American comedies were successful because both the rubes and the beautiful people were fair game. The early years of Newhart, Cheers, Kramer and MTM come to mind, even if they date me.

Posted by: Peter B at April 26, 2005 7:18 AM

Speaking of Canadian performers in comedy, you could see the cracks starting in the facade two decades ago when the original "Ghostbusters" came out. The film was generally praised for it's hip cast and story, but if you read the reviews in New York and other liberal strongholds, there was always one note of regret added -- why did Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis have to make the Environmental Protection Agency the bad guys in the story?

(It's also interesting to note that Murray and Ramis would take apart Bill's own hipper-than-thou image nine years later in "Groundhog Day". Reviewers liked that too, but for the most part during the first release, the religious implacations of the movie's script were never broached by the mainstream outlets.)

Posted by: John at April 26, 2005 9:37 AM

South Park is the royal fool of America. Their job is to poke at everything and make fun of everyone.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at April 26, 2005 11:47 AM

Rush said that the reason for his sucess is that the left gives him an infinite amount of material.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at April 28, 2005 12:50 AM