If meme culture was around in the 80’s and 90’s, George Carlin would be its messiah. Still, today Carlin is one of the most prolific comedians of the modern era. Even though he has passed, his persona is used in many memes today. Back in Carlin’s heyday, the progressive left was where comedy lived, and the right is where it died. But times, they are a changin’, and now we see mainstream comedians like Tim Allen, Bill Burr, Jeff Foxworthy, Norm McDonald, Larry the Cable Guy, Lewis Black, Dave Chappell, Dennis Miller, etc. with acts clearly not intended for the “Woke” crowd, and thus comedy has now shifted somewhere to the right of center or at least center of sanity.
This switch occurred hand-in-hand with the rise of political correctness (PC), identity politics, and outrage culture. The right of center is now where comedy can live free from persecution of an overly-offended, progressive leftist culture. I wonder that if one of the greatest comedians of all time, Carlin, were alive today, how he’d view a culture that takes offense to what made him into a famous comedian: being politically incorrect.
Memes are a new addition to comedy as a whole and are largely a rebuke of the rise of PC. They carry the same basics of age-old joke telling, wherein there’s a premise, set up, and punchline. They are highly effective and have been a threat to the PC establishment with the rise and arguable peak of social media’s influence in the 2016 elections.
As such, they and their creators are now under attack of censorship and bans from social media platforms. Evidence of this can been seen with the censorship of figures like Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Steven Crowder. This censorship has proven a political bias against those exercising free speech by big tech companies like Facebook, Youtube and Twitter, with their justifications being that they were banned for “hate speech.” A definition that is truly so broad and unclear that it is nothing short of Orwellian.
PC culture is a cancer that has eroded and could kill freedom of speech entirely should more and more speech be deemed hate speech. It’s the modern-day way of throwing information down the 1984 memory lane hole. Currently, Conservatives and Libertarians are fighting for free speech; whereas 30 years ago it was instead Liberals and Libertarians.
As such, today’s Libertarians likely have more in common with the right than the left when it comes to free speech. They also have the ability to laugh at themselves, unlike the progressive left, which has now resorted to “clapter” instead of laughter. This inability to laugh at oneself by the progressives has led to them being trolled time and time again by the new Conservative and Libertarian coalition. “/POL/,” which is considered right wing, has been setting up the progressive left for comedic gold time after time; be it the “It’s OK to be white,” which the mainstream media lost its minds about, or Pepe the frog or the “OK” symbol.
The one thing that may help ideologies like Libertarianism, Conservatism and Liberalism come together is the ability to laugh at each other and ourselves. However, it would first require a resurgence of recognizing objective reality, and thus objective truths, as jokes rely on at least a half-truth. Post modernism relies on subjective truth, and with its acceptance from the progressive, PC left, jokes cannot exist in their world. This is largely the reason that the left cannot meme: because they cannot laugh at themselves.
Back in the day when Richard Pryor could make a crowd of Americans of every color, political ideology, and background laugh; movies like Mel Brook’s Blazing Saddles, who made a mockery of racism, actually helped bring us together by laughing together instead of at each other. We need to find a way to bring us all back together and comedy is the best way to do that. But it can only happen if we agree on objective truth and are not offended and “triggered” by anything and everything we don’t agree with. Horace Walpole once wrote, “Life is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those who feel.”