alien & sedition.
Friday, March 09, 2007
  Frum: Failing to Find the Funny

Roy at alicublog deconstructs David Frum's dismay over the Half Hour News Thingy. It's not just that the show is a crime against comedy, Roy points out. The larger problem is how Frum's complaint itself illustrates the ideologue's inability to distinguish between art and propaganda. The artist works for the sake of creating art (ego notwithstanding) - for instance, the comedian who does a comedy show because he wants to be funny.
But the propagandist ... wants results. In his black, rubber heart, he does not get the appeal of Madame Bovary or Lolita or The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. What action plan follows upon these? What agenda is advanced? What polling results will be affected? Whereas a well-crafted Swift Boat ad, or blog, or National Review column will make people do things -- vote, or fail to vote, or stay mad at the people you want them mad at, or stay worshipful of the people you want to remain unquestioned.

That is why David Frum -- whose soul, if he ever had one, must be fatally wearied by the lifelong application of his verbal talents to propaganda -- looks at this failed comedy show and thinks -- says! -- that the great failure there was not a failure to clear a grateful public's minds and lungs with laughter, nor a failure to provide them with a fresh angle from which to view their world, but a failure to "create a conservative institution with cultural power."

To him culture is not a spring that refreshes the spirit, but a storehouse of destructive power to be used against his enemies.
This, too, goes some way towards illuminating what Frum means when he refers to "Comedy Central's clever cultural sabotage." He's performing the kind of agent detection common among ideologues: something milder than the conspiratorial mindset, but still very much inclined to see premeditation and coordination where none exists. You see this all the time when reading conservative writings about liberals - and about society at large, since it's a mindset that assumes liberals have collaborated to infiltrate and "sabotage" American culture.

Thus, Comedy Central, rather than simply getting lucky when one of their obscure shows was taken over by a very funny host who was in touch with the zeitgeist, must in fact have set out - cleverly - to commit cultural sabotage on behalf of the vast liberal conspiracy.

I'm putting words into Frum's mouth at this point, but as Roy notes, Frum's own complaint is revealing enough. His mindset is just the same as those who created the Half Hour News Hour: it's the belief that the Daily Show was intended as liberal propaganda, and it must be countered with conservative propaganda. The reason Frum is upset isn't that he thinks the show was misconceived - just that it's missing its target, that it's failing as propaganda.

But propaganda is not art, except occasionally as kitsch. And it's never funny - except as an object of derision. In which sense, I have to admit, the HHNH is a laff riot.

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