42 Comments
Aug 9, 2023Liked by Ed West

Great article, but the parallels with today are chilling.

Expand full comment

An acquaintance of mine who used to work with Gorbachev told me that he liked telling people this joke about himself:

A worker standing in a liquor line says: “I have had enough, save my place, I am going to shoot Gorbachev.”

Two hours later he returns to claim his place in line.

His friends ask, “Did you get him?”

“No, the line there was even longer than the line here.”

Expand full comment

Very thought-provoking article, Ed, especially when we think about these ideas in relation to recent woke-minded comedy (if it can be dignified with the word ‘comedy’). The sheer unfunniness of woke comedians is, at times, nothing short of toe-curling.

Expand full comment
Aug 9, 2023Liked by Ed West

Great article...BTW, P. J. O'Rourke once said that there were three types of humor: parody, in which we make fun of people who are smarter than we are; satire, in which we make fun of people who are richer than we are; and burlesque, in which we make fun of people by taking our clothes off.

Expand full comment
founding
Aug 9, 2023·edited Aug 9, 2023

Richard Hannia argues that the crystallisation of “the ideology” in the West could not have happened without the civil rights legislation from the 1960’s forward. There seems to be something to this. Civil rights law is obviously a system of differential rights, whereby the State seeks to level the playing field by limiting the rights of the majority (e.g. to free associate), whilst conferring on the individuals within any chosen minority greater rights than those enjoyed by individuals within the majority. This is regarded as adjacent to Marxism because it is. It seeks to equalise not wealth but social status, and it does so without democratic consent. For example, race relations legislation in the UK was introduced from the 1960s when the vast majority of the British (upwards of 80%) were hugely nativistic in outlook. Of course, this experiment in equalisation happens largely at the level of the pleb, and when it goes badly wrong the elites can always pretend the thing didn’t happen at all e.g. the Pakistani “grooming” gangs. And in recent years, the legal system has further embedded the ideology in crossing the critical line between civil law and criminal. Formerly you might find yourself in an employment tribunal, but more recently you can be jailed for thought and expression “crimes” against an identity group. This is an astonishing development, which means we can read about the police investigating a Conservative politician for seeking to raise, in the most innocuous way imaginable (not that this should matter), the issue of gypsy/traveller sites within a Welsh constituency. But rest easy Comrades, the police are to take no further action in this instance.

Expand full comment

"The Nazis coldly and precisely murdered their enemies but otherwise left obedient citizens alone; communism consumed its most sycophantic supporters in an absurd manner. Nazism was inherently evil in its intentions, while communism created evil out of human naivety; that made it both less morally repugnant, but also funnier."

I'd agree that Soviet Communism wasn't as good at identifying and killing its foes as Nazism, but suspect that it wasn't less evil, simply less efficient - and even today, one only has to compare the Germans with the Russians to see why.

Expand full comment
founding

NS Lyons has a very good piece today (link below) arguing that the final destination for the West is China : a system of endless, bureaucratic control by its elites in the name of the greater good and fostered by the endless opportunities provided by technology to coral and survey - or just de-bank and kill.

https://unherd.com/2023/08/the-west-and-china-share-the-same-fate/?tl_inbound=1&tl_groups[0]=18743&tl_period_type=3

Expand full comment

As a window into humor in the DDR, I highly recommend the German TV series Deutchsland '83 (and its sequels '86 and '89). Very clever, often funny, and pretty unsparing about the failings of the DDR. It has a good shredder scene too in the '89 series. Also quite eye opening about how people in the East saw the West (and the near world war caused by Operation Able Archer!)

Expand full comment

I'd disagree about the extreme Right being more brutal than the (extreme) Left, even if one agrees that all political movements can be classified that easily, and I'm not sure that they can. In the end, brutality tends to be proportional to the conviction with which the ideology is held.

Expand full comment
author

OT, but I will be in Poland late September so if any subscribers want to meet for a coffee, let me know!

Expand full comment

I like to think that, as well as humour, their faith helped the Russian people to survive communism. President Putin, addressing the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church:

‘The Church has always been with the people at every time, sharing with them all joys and sorrows…We shouldn’t forget the lessons to be learned from the dramatic events of the early twentieth century. It was in large part the erosion of our spiritual and national foundations that set our country on a course of destruction and precipitated it into revolution, upheaval, fratricidal conflict and war.’

A beautiful video (6¾m) of the first Divine Liturgy to be celebrated in the Grand Church of the Winter Palace since 1917:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2cRXymXEMY

The triumph of Good over Evil, of Christ over Antichrist. So heartening, and I’m not even a believer any more.

Expand full comment
Aug 9, 2023·edited Aug 9, 2023

Insightful piece. However, I need to be that guy who points out there was no humour in the Gulag. As Varlam Shalamov, Gulag survivor and author of the horrific Kolyma Tales summarised the lessons of his experience:

"A human turns into a beast in three weeks of hard work, cold, starvation and beating.... I've learned that friendship, solidarity never arise in difficult, I mean really hard conditions — when life is at stake.... spite is the last human emotion to survive. Only spite lets the starving man's flesh hold out — and he is indifferent to the rest. "

And:

"Seen what a forcible argument a simple slap could be for an intellectual..... Beating is almost irresistible as an argument."

See: https://web.archive.org/web/20100418200011/http://shalamov.ru/en/library/34/1.html

Expand full comment

However, just as officially approved comedy is narrowing and stagnating, I see more and more underground comedy that does poke fun at the regime. Like in the USSR, these are the jokes told among the working class. The word "Nazi" and "racist" are now effectively jokes as is "something-ist" (as in, "you can't say you don't like rats, that's rodent-ist"). The trans lunacy has spawned many as well. Among the working classes, the 2000's revolution has clearly jumped the shark.

What I'm not seeing is jokes that repudiate the '68 revolution. Jokes against no-fault-divorce or "if it feels good, do it". There's lots of potential humor there, but so far, I haven't heard it. Which implies those are still sacred cows even among the working classes.

BTW: I do not think "racist" being a joke is a good thing, but it is expected. A logical consequence of the overuse of "racist" as an insult is an inability to talk about real racism. Because if everything's racist, nothing is.

Expand full comment

The Jewish joke is the funniest.

Expand full comment

*Nazism was inherently evil in its intentions*

Hitler wrote about his intentions/hopes in his correspondence with Lord Rothermere in 1935:

‘An Anglo-German entente would form in Europe and thus in the world a force for peace and reason of 120 million of the most superior people. Britain’s sea power and unique colonial talent would be united with one of the world’s first soldier-races. Were this entente extended to embrace the American nation, then it would, indeed, be hard to see who in the world could disturb the peace without wilfully and consciously neglecting the interests of the White race.’—David Irving, ‘Churchill’s War’, 50

In today’s world, Hitler’s concern for the future of whites is proof indeed that he was evil.

Expand full comment

The plumber joke made me laugh out loud

Expand full comment