Satire is dead.
Its obituary reads: Centuries-old literary device crushed by the falling ceiling of unacceptable possibilities.
When anything goes, how can you hold something up to ridicule and derision by comparing it to something unimaginable? When presidential czars have actually suggested putting birth control drugs in the water supply and appointing lawyers for animals, ridicule is a weapon without sting.
Take Jonathan Swift’s infamous “A Modest Proposal: For Preventing The Children of Poor People in Ireland From Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and For Making Them Beneficial to The Public.” Hand it to a certain ilk of citizen and, I venture to speculate, a plurality would stroke their imaginary chin whiskers and say, “Hmm, that would solve a couple of problems.”
Just the other day I was contemplating committing an act of flagrant satire, until a cold slap of reality shook me from my reverie.
I was thinking, now that President Obama and the Democrats have lawfully established health care as an unalienable perpetual right and requirement for all Americans no matter their ability pay, might it be time for them to move forward on some other previously unrealized rights and mandates?
Why, everybody in America has a “right” to news. It’s right there in the First Amendment: a free press. It would be no leap for a big stepper like Obama to say, sure ’nuff, it ought to be free. No charge. Gratis. On the house. Ignorance is no excuse and inexcusable.
That same day, as I cogitated this lampoon, across The Associated Press wire service comes this dispatch: “WASHINGTON — Public radio and TV stations across the country will receive more than $10 million over the next two years to boost local news coverage as newspapers decline.”
The story went on to explain that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — “the primary channel for federal funds distributed to public media” — was creating journalism centers for NPR and PBS stations for coverage of “key issues, including immigration, agribusiness, the economy and health care.”
Nothing like a little competition from your own government using your tax money. When it comes to news, we already have a public option, so why stop there?
I can hear Obama now, his voice rising in crescendos of umbrage and falling to those modulated, sincere tones:
“Our collective failure to meet this challenge — year after year, decade after decade — has led us to a breaking point. Everyone understands the extraordinary hardships that are placed on the uninformed, who live every day just one step away from intellectual poverty and social ostracism. But the jobless can’t afford a good newspaper, and the middle-class must choose between a newspaper and a plasma TV. Many other Americans who are willing and able to pay still don’t take a newspaper because they deny its basic necessity.
“We are the only advanced democracy on Earth — the only wealthy nation — that allows such hardships for millions of its people. Every day millions of Americans go to bed stupid.
“There are those on the left who believe that the only way to fix the system is through a single-payer system like Cuba’s or China’s, by which we would severely restrict the private news market and have the government provide coverage for everyone.
“But the plan I’m announcing will provide more security and stability to those who have a newspaper subscription. It will provide a newspaper to those who don’t. And it will slow the growth of newspaper costs for our families.
“First, if you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have a newspaper, nothing in this plan will require you to change your newspaper.
“Under this plan, it will be against the law for newspaper companies to deny you a paper simply because you refuse to pay for it. As soon as I sign this bill, it will be against the law for newspaper companies to drop you or deny a subscription. We will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because in the United States of America, no one should go ignorant because they don’t have a newspaper. And newspaper companies will be required to cover — with no extra charge — news, politics, sports, business, entertainment, TV listings and the latest on Tiger Woods.
“For those individuals and small businesses who still cannot afford the lower-priced newspaper available in the exchange, we will provide tax credits, the size of which will be based on your need. From each according to his means, to each according to his need.”
Sounds entirely too plausible.
Thomas Mitchell is editor of the Review-Journal and writes about the role of the press. He may be contacted at 383-0261 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at lvrj.com/blogs/mitchell.