In the highly connected and recorded world that we live in today, it is easy for a comedian to fuck up, to try to make light of something and have it fall flat , or come off as insensitive, or be taken out of context, but a skilled comedian has the ability to poke fun of truely terrible issues and make us laugh about them.
Oswalt uses the example of classic Spider-Man comics to make his point about the power of humor and mockery to diffuse frightening situations. Anyone who has read a Spider-Man comic knows that one of the defining factors of Peter Parker as Spider-Man is that he is a smart ass. Spidey is constantly making mocking comments and insults while he is fighting a villain. In the example Oswalt uses Spider-Man is fighting a bad guy that fits the evil mastermind trope. During the fight, Parker is constantly mocking the powers, ego, and abilities of his opponent. The villain, wrapped up in his own sense of importance, starts to be effected by the insults. He becomes more and more angry, he starts to make mistakes, and Spider-Man triumphs. What is happening here is more than just Stan Lee’s desire to add witty dialogue in his creation, Spider-Man is engaging in what I consider tactical mockery.
Humor and mockery has the ability to take someone’s fear and replace it with courage and it can take power away from frightening and terrible things and render them impotent.
This all leads me to talk about the Bundy clowns, the Brokeback Militia.
When I first heard the misleading news report about hundreds of armed militia members taking over a wildlife preserve in Oregon I was furious. To be clear I am not pro government in any way. Throughout my career as an activist I have faced off against a countless number of government agencies over a variety of issues. I understand the overreach of the federal government and believe that our entire political process needs to be overhauled. But, and this is a very important but, I do not believe in no government. The laws that have been put in place to protect natural resources, endangered wildlife, and wilderness are the laws that I have put my life on the line to help create.
So when Aamon Bundy publicly states that he’ll leave Oregon when the government returns ranches to ranchers, forests to loggers, and mines to miners, he shows his true colonist nature. I’ve seen what happens when the land is left to miners, loggers, and ranchers without any regulation at all. Strip mining, clear cutting, overgrazing.
So to be fair, the Oregon yahoos, although morally questionable and dangerously uneducated, are not truely a threat to anyone but themselves and some protected bird species after their Slim Jims and Coors Light runs out. They are a sad group of angry children, confused as to why the world isn’t the way it supposed to be in their ignorant and limited world view and religious indoctrination. To them, they are white American men and the world should be their oyster. When they are told No! and have their hand slapped they get angry and confused.
As individuals and as a group they are nothing, the political relevance of a fart in the wind, but the philosophy that they represent, the philosophy of the white settler, of the conquistador, of the colonizer, the philosophy that says that we can do whatever we want and take whatever we want through force of arms is childish and toxic and should be called out and soundly mocked and discredited whenever it shows its face.
So we mock them, because there’s power in it. We mock them because it takes something that is frightening and makes it ridicioulous. We mock them because they see themselves as heroes and we want them and anyone else that is thinking about joining them to know that we see them as criminals, and bullies, and idiots. We compare them to Brokeback Mountain and to terrorists, not because being gay is bad or that we want more people charged under terrorism laws, we do it because being seen as gay and being seen as the equalivant of Islamic terrorists makes them angry and makes them doubt themselves. We mock them because it’s what they so desperately deserve and we mock them because their brand of willful ignorance, xenophobia, and sense of entitlement is worthy of mockery.