The power of ridicule

There are entire segments of the population that don’t have a sense of humor. It’s often people in power and politicians who are particularly prone to not having a sense of humor, to the point where they feel that anyone who has one should be prosecuted.  They don’t mind people having a laugh now and again, but they certainly don’t want anyone laughing at them or their policies.  This is a problem because politicians tend to be blustering blowhards with very little competence or real-world experience.  This makes their actions funny, and open to ridicule.

Ridicule is a politician’s worst nightmare because it exposes them to a weapon that’s nearly impossible to counter.  Politicians defend themselves with words, generally written by someone else, carefully parsed and thought through.   Very few can think clearly or articulate ideas on their feet, so ridicule puts them on the back foot.   They like to explain their positions and policies with rambling speeches that are delivered from on high.  The masses are expected to listen with rapt attention and be grateful for the privilege.

Instead, we the people find their pontificating hypocritical and comical, and we usually switch off.  Some in the media have the ability to write or draw funny things about office-bearers, and this is a valuable gift when skillfully wielded.  For example, picture an image of a huge, fat, sitting leader, ten stories high.  A wooden ramp goes from the ground, along the leader’s belly, and up into his open mouth.  A continuous stream of tiny flunkies haul baskets filled with money up the ramp and dump the contents into his gaping mouth.  In return for all this cash and gold, the leader hands out favors in the form of titles, positions, and lucrative government contracts.  If you were the target of an image like this, you would be offended, but you’d probably just laugh it off.  If you didn’t have a sense of humour, and you had the power to enforce your views, you might demand that the person who thought this up needed to be punished.  Harshly.  Six months in prison would sound about right.

This actually happened in Paris in 1831 to a brilliant 24-year old artist, Honoré Daumier.  Daumier, who drew so beautifully that it was said that ‘he had Michelangelo in his blood,’ was at the start of his career, and was drawing for a French satirical newspaper called La Caricature.  The person he drew was King Louis-Philippe, a largely forgotten monarch in an undistinguished period in French history.  But at the time Louis-Philippe was the most powerful person in France and did not like being made fun of.

It was said of Daumier’s editor at La Caricature that he spent more time in prison than in his office.  Eventually, the monarchy managed to shut the newspaper down, along with other papers that engaged in ridicule.  The closures came about in the usual ways, through strangling cash flow through government fines and red tape, to the point where operations became financially impossible.  Thin-skinned politicians who are arrogant and self-important can be vicious,  wanting to make examples of pesky cartoonists and others who have the audacity to deride them. 

In 2021, politicians don’t have the power to throw cartoonists or satirists in jail, but some might wish they did.  In America, we have the First Amendment that protects speech, but its erosion is happening apace.  There’s technically freedom of the press here as well, but only if you’re on the correct (left) team. 

But ridicule is important.  It’s essential for the people to make fun of silly, vapid politicians.  It’s a weapon that can swing elections.  We need more ridicule, not less.  We’re at a crossroads as a nation.  We need comprehensive change in the next two elections to preserve America for the next generation.  

Most of our current politicians deserve to be shamed, expelled, and consigned to the garbage dump of history.  Especially the ones that are protected by the media, who cover up their glaring stupidity.

Ridicule, properly wielded, can save America.


Image: Honoré Daumier, France, 1831, via WikiArt // public domain


Tim Mostert is a cartoonist and the author of 35 books, including Know Your Nation USA. He can be contacted at

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