This meme from Salman Rushdie is circulating on Facebook: “The moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible.” Such high-flown sentiment sounds so damn noble but it often masks a steaming pile of social hatred.
“Satire” when wielded by the elite against the oppressed is nothing but demeaning lies, ridicule, prejudices, stereotypes. It becomes abusive, violent, & the ideology of oppression. Blacks, women, Palestinians, Kashmiri, Dalits & other oppressed castes, Rohingya, Guarani & other indigenous peoples, & hundreds of other groups can testify to the psychological, economic, social, & political damage of that kind of satire. And to its utter repugnance.
And then there’s the satire of the oppressed where ridicule is reversed & turns power relations upside down; where social prejudice is scorned with contempt & takes no guff from power. That kind of satire has been violently repressed throughout human history & been forced to go “samizdat.”
The power elite have all the freedom in the world to ridicule & vilify the oppressed. Why do they find our satire so threatening & so insurrectionary? And what kind of satire is our man Rushdie talking about?