For about an year, I’ve been thinking, in spite of myself, about irony and its relationship to political authority. And it seemed to me that authoritarian governments obsess over regulating its traffic. These governments might look the other way, at least sometimes, with regard to other perceived vices—drugs, porn, illegal booze, gambling. But it’s irony—that spiky variety of humor—that keeps them up at nights in their totalitarian beds.
Makes sense, I suppose; the logic (or momentum) of irony won’t broke sacred cows but authoritarian leaders justify their rule as unquestionable and worthy of deference; divine bovines, such leaders keenly cry out for ironic taunting.
It is in democracies where rambunctious irony is embraced, and the case can be made (or, has been sought to be made, anyway) that biting satire breeds the sort of impiety and insolence that helps to underwrite constitutional democracy.
But that’s just me; ask a better (if you'll pardon the dumb pun) authority. The People’s Republic of China. Ask, oh I don't know, the Party Leaders who they think is the Sexiest Man Alive.