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Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Tue 16
Aug
2016

Send in the Clowns

What Max Reckons I was thinking about how unfair it is that reality has evil right-wing corporate overlords named the Koch Brothers while if I wrote that in a novel people would call me shallow and juvenile. I mean, it would be true. But also unfair. You’re supposed to have more creative license in fiction, not less. Then there’s Trump, who does things on a daily basis that no satirical character could get away with. It makes you wonder where there is left to go.

But then people have been complaining that satire is dead forever. Satire has died a thousand times, apparently, at the hands of JFK, George W. Bush, in fact probably every US President since about 1960. Before then I’m not sure. But I imagine a long line of despairing intellectuals stretching back through the centuries.

So it’s probably just a failure of imagination. We have a set of societal standards, and when someone veers close to the line, we can satirize them by portraying what it would be like if they crossed right on over. Oh, you think taxes should be lower? WHAT IF THERE WERE NONE AT ALL. That kind of thing.

But when someone does cross the line, and stays there, like Trump, it’s a problem. It feels like there’s no way to satirize it because the only step farther is pure ridiculousness. Still, on reflection, I think you have to consider that the line has moved. It moves a little every year, in one direction or another, and this time it’s moving very pro-clown. Many US Presidents have been a little clownish—Reagan, Clinton, George W.—and in fact now I think about it, more Presidents than also-rans. It has been an asset to be clownish. No wonder we wound up here. But my point is that it’s probably fair to imagine a very clownish President in the future, and elections contested between clowns.

This time, crossing the line hurts Trump. And that does indeed put him beyond satire, as well as making him unelectable*. But he also moves the line, and nothing is as shocking the second time, so the next clown will seem more reasonable. The next clown will be more reasonable, having observed the hits and misses of Trump. They will keep all the goofy style over substance and just pare off the awkward Hitler parallels. So get ready for that. Maybe not next election. You wouldn’t run a second clown against Hillary if your first clown got obliterated. But after that. I see 2024, two clowns.

* Update (8-Nov-16): Okay, apparently that’s not unelectable. My mistake.

Comments

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1001.0010.0101 (#925)

Location: Turn left at your CPU
Quote: "How can something be deemed artificial if it is itself. e.g. A.I."
Posted: 345 days ago

Every country has got them.

Ike (#6641)

Location: Canada
Quote: "I like NationStates, Max love me pl0x"
Posted: 345 days ago

I don't think Republicans will nominate a second clown in 2020. They'll need to pick up the pieces from this election and learn to adapt to the increasingly non-white, non-male voting base of America, or they'll be going the way of the Whigs by 2028.

Machine Man subscriber Yannick (#3858)

Location: Heist, Belgium
Quote: "he reads things"
Posted: 345 days ago

Satire isn't dead, just the future of the first world. Honk honk.

Machine Man subscriber Lance Mertz (#3541)

Location: Seattle
Quote: "It wasn't me, I wasn't there and did nothing."
Posted: 345 days ago

As an American I am embarrassed and upset by Trump. He is a clown, but a dangerous one. A very good friend of mine is a supporter of his and I forgive him that. The funny thing is that today Trump gave a speech off a teleprompter, trying to be Presidential. Well, he did it, but my friend was livid that he went and used a teleprompter, meaning that he had someone write his speech for him. He did not do his stream of consciousness bullshit for once. My friend thinks he is selling out to the establishment now.

I think he is doing just that in a bid to come back and be competitive and also assuage the angst on the part of the Republican leadership. It is not going to work primarily because he has already shown his true colors to the public. Now, as far as his core supporters go... like my friend, he is just pissing them off. They expect Trump... no some cleaned up "presidential candidate" who is on a leash.

He has pushed the boundaries back, but will they stay there?

Valerie Robbins (#5458)

Location: Chicago
Quote: "I heart Max Barry!"
Posted: 345 days ago

Some of us already see two clowns.

Evan Cooper (#5262)

Location: Portland, OR
Quote: "*explosion* "
Posted: 345 days ago

Slightly more sophisticated, smarter sociopathic narcissist clown.

Joker 2024.

I'll keep my eyes peeled (although that seems like just the sort of cliché I shouldn't use if I want to keep my peepers intact under our new Clown Prince-Elect).

Machine Man subscriber Ben (#3924)

Location: Alberta, Canada
Quote: "I don't wanna ride the elevator."
Posted: 344 days ago

@Evan Cooper lol. At least it is better than Hitler 2016.

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