Oh, Banning Sarcasm, That’s a REALLY Good Idea!!

You may have read in the news recently that Kim Jong-un wants to ban sarcasm in North Korea, as he fears that people only agree with him ironically.

First of all, I have to congratulate him on his grasp of irony. As I’ve written about before, it can be a tricky concept that people often struggle to get their heads round. So that he understands that sarcasm is a form of irony gives me some degree of satisfaction. It doesn’t make up for everything he’s done, but at least it goes to show that not everyone is completely evil.

Of course, such a proposition forces one to wonder simply how he plans to ban sarcasm. Of course he can crack down on people using popular, sarcastic, anti-government phrases in public. The problem with that being that it’s very easy to be seen to be trying very hard to suppress something, which only makes people why you’d do that, and wonder what you’re suppressing. And look it up. And talk about it. Which quite defeats the purpose.

But obviously you can’t really ban sarcasm, and I think Kim Jong-un knows that very well. Like charity, sarcasm begins at home. Sarcasm, the potentially revolutionary kind Kim’s worried about, starts with two people laughing at their benevolent leader’s latest pronouncement against the West. “I hear we’re going to launch missiles against the contiguous United States, isn’t that great?” “Yes, I’m so proud of our magnificent leader, who doesn’t look like a big baby who needs to be burped at all. More grass?” That’s where revolution begins: in the pub, or the living room, or the corner shop.

And it begins with people talking. Just using their words to share their ideas, and that’s the core of a revolution that always remains. Yes, there’s the guns and bombs, but everything else is mostly words: protest slogans, placards, speeches: we try to affect change by saying why we want change and what we want to be different. Which isn’t so different from two people talking after work about how ridiculous their leader is. All the world’s weapons are purposeless without words first expressing why they should be used, or persuading people that they should be used against certain other people. Language is the world’s greatest weapon because it’s our most direct expression of our thoughts. And that’s why so many dictatorships want to deny freedom of speech. And sarcasm is really quite potentially revolutionary. It’s so simple and direct, you can’t hide from it. It doesn’t hide it’s meaning behind lots of rhetoric. It just takes what the establishment has said and by simply changing tone, it completely changes its meaning, negates it, reduces it to nothing. So of course dictators hate it, but I wonder if any of them have been self-conscious of how it might show how scared they are, how insecure about their position they feel? Not Kim Jong-un though, he’s a really great leader!

*sarcasm detector explodes*

 

3 thoughts on “Oh, Banning Sarcasm, That’s a REALLY Good Idea!!

  1. A sarcasm detector is such a funny idea. Have the time real people don’t know a sarcastic remark when they hear it and it isn’t only Big Bang’s Sheldon that needs to be notified.

    I once spent a whole evening at a party where we got on the subject of methane and concocted the “Methane Police” as a cure for global warming. The copy would stop you, bend you over, pull out a lighter and “light your fart”. If the flame didn’t burn your butt, you went to jail.

    Sorry to ruining such an erudite post but the idea of trying to ban a way of thinking and speaking seems almost as far fetched as arresting people for gas. ~~dru~~

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  2. The origin of the story about the sarcasm ‘ban’ came from The Sun, and then went viral. It, like many stories about North Korea, is nonsense. I’m not saying that North Korea isn’t a bizarre and secretive place, but it’s probably just because of this that when a tabloid or satire site/paper say something about North Korea (like Kim Jong-Un’s uncle being fed to dogs: completely made up on a Chinese social media site) people tend to fall for it unquestioningly.

    As Abraham Lincoln famously said, don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

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    • I assumed that was the case: that there was some nugget of truth behind it (i.e. cracking down on public dissent, some common examples of which are sarcastic), but there was no specific call to ban sarcasm. I’d love if Kim Jong-un had sarcastically joked about banning sarcasm, and he was then taken literally. That’d be a a recursion of irony that a man could get lost in.

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