Duncan Smith, American Renaissance, December 13, 2018
It is both harder and easier to write political satire these days. Harder because real life is so absurd that satire is redundant. Easier because even the most far-fetched satirical tale seems plausible compared to real events. For example, imagine a story about a country whose citizens thought it was racist to stop an invasion. That would once have been silly but is no longer fanciful.
On the other hand, some works of fiction should be satire but aren’t. Consider The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood’s sci-fi story about a world in which women are enslaved to men and kept only for breeding. The book is 30 years old but is now a hit TV series. You might think it’s a satire of feminist paranoia, but it isn’t. Instead, it is taken so seriously that women dressed as handmaids to protest Brett Kavanaugh’s rise to the supreme court.
At a time when Western women are freer than ever before, some of them really think they’re on the brink of slavery. This makes as much sense as the people who photographed themselves mocking a naked Donald Trump statue in Los Angeles last year, while at the same time believing they live under the yoke of Trump’s “fascist regime.”
The success of The Handmaid’s Tale is fitting in an age in which victimhood is worn as a badge of honor. The publishing industry has played its part in the so-called Oppression Olympics. A decade or two ago, book shops were piled high with empowering tales of trauma and oppression. That trend went away for a while, but The Handmaid’s Tale has launched a revival.
Even so, some people still think there is white male privilege in publishing. An Australian author named Leon Carmen may beg to differ. So potent was his privilege that he could find a publisher only when he became a black woman. Writing as an aboriginal named Wanda Koolmatrie, he had a hit novel that received the Dobbie Literary Award. When he proposed a sequel to his publisher, his identity was exposed, causing a national scandal.
Literary hoaxes have a rich history and expose the follies of the time. Given the success of The Handmaid’s Tale, it is surprising that we have yet to see a racial equivalent.
This is the premise of Marla Okadigbo, my satirical novella about race. It’s the tale of a sensational literary scam. A white male author, Winkler Jones, writes a critical review of Handmaid and says it’s only a matter of time before a black American author writes a novel in which slavery is restored. Jones’ agent tells him to withdraw the review and write the slavery book himself. Jones does so, writing under the pen name Marla Okadigbo. His novel, The Watergirl’s Pitcher, is a hit and is praised as a powerful work of activism. When the author’s identity is exposed, the book becomes yet another example of oppression by white supremacists.
I think a book like The Watergirl’s Pitcher could be a bestseller. Radio-host Tavis Smiley, for example, has famously stated publicly that he thinks slavery could be reinstated in the United States. Consider also the hit music video “This is America” by Childish Gambino, which depicts the US as a country of racial oppression. It racked up 300 million views on YouTube. Oppression sells. For every Black Panther film with a Wakanda power fantasy, there’ll be one about how Wakanda is being prevented from happening.
Readers of Marla Okadigbo will recognize key elements of the recent racial landscape: the dubious claims of Black Lives Matter, academic lunacy, and the elevation of an absurd and mediocre novel to “greatness” for political reasons.
Some have wondered why art always seems to align with left-wing political views. I used to puzzle over why so many literary prizes were awarded to poorly written novels about immigration and multiculturalism. In hindsight, it’s clear that publishing was run by progressives who saw their role as pushing a political message as much as publishing good books.
But perhaps art naturally aligns with the Left. In the past, artists thought of themselves as underdogs and rebels, inclined to oppose the establishment. Yet times have changed. The Left is the establishment now, and this puts artists in an odd position. Their instinct to rebel should pit them against left-wing orthodoxy.
It hasn’t happened. What is most striking about today’s artists is how conformist most of them are. An artist is supposed to be an individualist, questioning norms and received wisdom. Yet in the era of Trump Derangement Syndrome, we’ve seen a procession of actors, writers, and musicians desperate to proclaim their hate for the president. Any artists who do hold conservative views are cowed into silence, knowing the likely reaction if they dare speak out.
Far from being rebels and free thinkers, most artists are not only highly conformist, they police the minds of others. There seems to be little self-awareness of this. Most artists don’t realize they are no longer rebels, or that the causes they support are hostile to free thought and individuality, both of which are vital for the creation of good art. One multi-millionaire after another poses as a marginalized victim, courageously fighting the system.
We can only hope that at least some artists will again start questioning the cult-like beliefs forced upon us. In automatically backing “progressive” causes, they should realize they are no longer part of the resistance. They’re now part of an establishment that uses art as propaganda to advance its vision of a Utopia. Only when artists start to question this will they resume their traditional role as rebels and pioneers.