An Exegisis on the Schadenfreude That Some Movement Conservatives Call Humor

In her new diary at The Daily Caller — a publication I recommend reading here — SE Cupp has published what must be the worst article so far written by a movement conservative in 2010. Perhaps its most execrable quality is a certain kind of pseudo-humor seen every so often on the right from writers who conduct themselves as though they once read PJ O’Rourke but misunderstood.

The shtick in her introductory column is that the reader should learn all her shortcomings upfront “because it will lessen the blow later.” So pretend “we’re on our first date,” she writes, “and we’re getting to know each other.”

…I’m a misanthrope. That’s because most of the people I meet fall far short of the examples my mother and father set decades ago. Whereas they are compassionate, hard-working, down-to-earth, unpretentious, God-fearing common folk, you are an entitled, self-important, elitist and condescending snot weasel who wears his empty moral relativism and cheap “Daily Show” pieties like they are Olympic medals.

In addition to being a misanthrope, you should know I don’t care much for other living things either. I don’t really care that polar bears may not live to see the birth of my great-grandkids, or that I just shot a deer with my 12-gauge, since it will make for really tasty jerky, and I probably just prevented 14 future car accidents. I would fish every trout out of the Housatonic River if they let me, and grill them up with some lemon and dill. Catch-and-release is for wimps, and nature’s bounty is mine for the taking.

The so-called “environment” doesn’t really tug at my heart-strings either. I will use as much water as comes out of my faucet, kill enough trees to TP the White House, and burn enough electricity to power the Magic Kingdom, simply because you insist doing so will make me a “bad person.” I recycle because, in Manhattan, I’m required to, and if I had a car, I’d get the one that left the biggest carbon footprint, because the flatulent cows in Australia and your pampered dog Fluffy are worse for the planet than my Hummer would be. The ice caps may be melting in the Arctic, but I’ve got more pressing concerns — like my letter campaign to bring back the British “Office,” and pretty much everything else.

This excerpt is sufficient to understand her approach. What can we make of it? After a paragraph the reader surely thinks that it is a joke premised on the idea that the statements offered actually aren’t true — you’ve got the woman at the table explaining to her date how superior her family is, and how she hates people like him due to their shortcomings, even as she calls him condescending. A person possessed of any self-awareness couldn’t write such a thing in earnest.

But then what to make of that next two paragraphs? Here we have this movement conservative bragging about her utter disdain for the environment, using a tone that is neither serious nor satirical — it’s difficult to believe she celebrates the deliberate waste of natural resources, for example, but equally impossible to imagine that she’s being sarcastic, and is actually making a case for conservation. Her effort borrows some of the trappings of humor, like a toddler who has learned to make the drums go “ba dum ching” after some baby babble, but the words themselves are hollow non-jokes, mere delivery vehicles for the schadenfreude her audience craves.

So why not just write a column that says, “Liberals like the environment, so I say let it burn. I take amusement in their pain. I feel insecure when they judge me, so I set out to provoke their disapproval”? Ah, well, it’s rather embarrassing to think like that when it’s put so nakedly! Better to cloak one’s words in the illusion of confident humor, pose as a misanthrope, and rely on accusations of humorlessness against your critics should any challenge your work.

Well I’ve read PJ O’Rourke. And you, ma’am, are no PJ O’Rourke. What you are is a writer whose prose deserve to be marked by a poseur alert. Being familiar with many sports fisherman, I am tempted to nominate you for the inaccurate pose that true outdoorsmen like you disdain catch and release because it is for wimps — in fact, sports-fishermen as a whole are intent on preserving the resource, and champion catch and release — but you’ve left me no choice but to cite this passage:

So let’s pretend we’re on our first date, and we’re getting to know each other. You are sitting across the table from me at some trendy, low-lit, beautiful-people lounge that you picked and I probably hate. You’re sipping from a glass of small-batch bourbon that you ordered to prove how “old-school” you are, and I’m sipping from a glass of small-batch bourbon because that’s what I drink.

And name-check in columns, apparently.

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3 Responses to “An Exegisis on the Schadenfreude That Some Movement Conservatives Call Humor”

  1. shecky Says:

    What was that word? You know, that funny French word… that Julian Sanchez went on and on over about a month ago?

  2. silentbeep Says:

    Was that column suppose to be endearing to someone who’s actually interested in governing as oppose to scoring political points? First thought after reading this: what a total right-wing snob. Being hateful and condescending to people becaues they are supposedly hateful and condescending to you, wow, how God-fearing, compassionate and Christian. I’m impressed.

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