New conservatism of Western progressives is killing humour

New conservatism of Western progressives is killing humour, by Bill Leak, cartoonist for The Australian.

I told a joke at a dinner party in 1978 and no one laughed. I knew it was a good joke because I’d­ ­laughed until my tonsils showed when I first heard it and everyone I’d gone on to tell it to had done the same.

But not this mob. Their constipated faces suggested a belly laugh ready to emerge, but they seemed determined not to let it as they squirmed in their chairs, grimaced and flapped their hands in disgust.

My host, an intimidatingly ­intellectual Marxist academic lecturing not in art but in “visual communication”, launched into a vicious but eloquent tirade of abuse, excoriating me for having told a joke that was racist and sexist, and therefore unworthy of being told in his exalted company.

While I didn’t know it then, I’d been belted by someone wielding the weapon now known as political correctness. They were opening salvos in a war on ­humour itself that has forged a strange ­alliance between supposed Wes­tern progressive thinkers and the anti-progress force of Islam.

Oddly enough, I had a similar experience in 1981 with a bunch at university. The first whiffs of PC.

Bill Leak then draws attention to the similarity between Islam and PC. He doesn’t say it, but they are both totalitarian ideologies. (Totalitarianism is a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible.)

Political correctness has been thriving in the Islamic world since the seventh century. Not even the smuggest, most self-righteous ­social justice warrior in Australia today could hold a candle to ­Mohammed, who made the anti-guy guy David Morrison look like Rodney Rude. Mohammed ­occasionally smiled but would never display his tonsils, though one of his disciples once did report excitedly that he “indeed saw the Messenger of Allah laugh till his front teeth were exposed”. …

If you want to crack a gag at an Islamist open mic night you’ve got to make sure you stick within the guidelines as laid down in the Koran and Hadith. And that means “for humour to be in ­accordance with Islam, the joke should not insult anyone, should not frighten anyone, should be within the limits of Islamic tolerance, should tell the truth, should not be offensive, should not contain un-Islamic material or promote immorality or indecency”.

Sound familiar?

If you substitute PC for Islam in that set of rules you’ve got the rules governing humour as laid down by the progressive Left in the democracies of the modern world. Right there, in a nutshell. Except you’d have to leave out the one that demands you tell the truth because the primary purpose of PC is the avoidance of it.

Leak decries the loss of meaning of art that is demanded by the PC postmodernists, which leads us immediately to the new religion:

But by demanding of art that it must have a literal meaning, postmodernism has demeaned and suffocated art by reducing it to the level of illustration, and the whole idea of art as a means of accessing the transcendent has gone right out the door ….

So, with access to the sublime through art now denied and Christianity discredited, environmentalism has emerged to fill the higher power vacuum and ­become the religion of choice for everyone who claims not to have one. It is every bit as oppressive as Christianity used to be and Islam still is, its high priests preach just as much fire and brimstone from their pulpits, and its devotees are every bit as dull. Its influence is so pervasive that our post-religion, atheistic society has not only ­become a deeply religious one, it’s on the verge of transforming into a theocracy.

Oh dear, look at the treatment of heretics in Islam and PC:

If you’re found guilty of heresy against the new religion its perpetually offended and outraged adherents respond with the same sort of savagery that once drove Christians to burn witches and now drives Islamists to acts of mass murder.

If you’re found guilty of heresy against the new religion its perpetually offended and outraged adherents respond with the same sort of savagery that once drove Christians to burn witches and now drives Islamists to acts of mass murder. And you’re kidding yourself if you don’t ­believe they wouldn’t happily make the transition from metaphorical lynching on social media to actual lynching if given the chance.

Cripes, I wonder what they are going to make of this and this? The theory that carbon dioxide is causing global warming, the most sacred part of the new religion, is all based on a stupid modeling error, and global cooling is about to begin.

Prudishness used to be the prerogative of the straitlaced conservative who attended church and was derided as a Bible-basher. Today, virtue signalling and censoriousness are fashionable so it has become the prerogative of the hipster. And with the sanctimonious hordes lying in wait, armed to the teeth with Twitter and Facebook accounts and ready to ambush anyone who transgresses the ­unwritten laws of the new puritanism, the cartoonist’s job gets ­harder every day.

Excellent article by Bill Leak. Read it all. He also explains why most Australian cartoonists aren’t funny any more:

The cartoonist’s task has ­always been to reveal uncomfortable truths in a humorous way. People will pause to reflect on something, no matter how confronting it is, if they’re able to laugh at it first.

As a white, cisgendered Aussie male of a certain age, I could identify as a member of a persecuted minority myself and luxuriate in self-pity while being perpetually offended. Instead I find myself not only disillusioned but also frankly amazed that the contagion of political correctness could ever have spread to our shores.

Our legendary larrikin streak was one of our greatest ­national assets and, if it were still in good shape, would have made us immune to it. We used to be instinctively anti-authoritarian and cynical, which made it almost impossible to offend us, and was the reason Australia became a breeding ground for great cartoonists.

But it’s not any more because, instead of manning the barricades against this plague, our cartoonists, with a few honourable exceptions, rushed to embrace it. They abandoned a proud, national tradition of iconoclasm, wit and invective, and ­defected, en masse, to the purse-lipped prohibitionists and wow­sers of the green-left intelligentsia. It’s no wonder that so few of them have drawn a cartoon that was ­surprising, provocative or funny since. And how could they? As ­George Orwell said: “You cannot be really funny if your main aim is to flatter the comfortable classes.”

Leak has a sense of the three way war between Islam, PC, and the rest of us:

Islamists have declared war on our civilisation and the best our politically correct politicians can do is assure us that if we all delete the word Islam from our vocabularies the threat, along with the word, will somehow just magically disappear. And our cartoonists, whose job it is to ridicule politicians when they spout nonsense like that, are letting them get away with it. Well, they shouldn’t.

hat-tip Barry Corke