Friday, March 03, 2006

The Death Of Irony

I remember reading a story about the death of irony in media right after 911. But irony came back, of course, as these things do, and I assumed that this would always be the natural law of writing: styles fluctuate in suitability, fashions come and go but irony in some form will always be with us.

Now I'm not so sure. It is hard work to write irony on the Bush administration, almost impossible. This is one definition of irony:

1. The use of words to express something different from and often opposite to their literal meaning.
2. An expression or utterance marked by a deliberate contrast between apparent and intended meaning.
3. A literary style employing such contrasts for humorous or rhetorical effect.

How do you write irony about an adminstration which names it's anti-environment policies "The Clear Skies Initiative" or the "Healthy Forests Initiative", or which calls its plan to make it harder to us to know what our foods might contain "The Food Uniformity Act"? How do you write irony about an administration that believes water-boarding is not torture? Or how do you write irony about the wingnut state governments which call their anti-woman and pro-rapist abortion bans "Women's Health Initiatives"?

Note how the wingnuts have usurped the first two definitions of irony I listed above, and how they have made it impossible to use these contrasts for humor or rhetorical effect, because the ironist (is there such a word?) who tries to do this will just repeat what the wingnuts did in the first place.

One practical device in irony writing is to exaggerate, to take the opponent's argument one more step towards the edge, and to thereby show how ridiculous it is. But this doesn't work anymore, either, because there are no more steps towards the edge of real inanity.

Why can't I sue the government for causing me all this trouble?