Monday, August 28, 2006

Al Franken's "Supply Side Jesus": Irreverent, or Sharp-witted Satire?

I live in a swank town. How swank, do you ask? Swank enough that there is no trash pickup at the curb. We wouldn’t have those barrels on our sidewalks. You take all of your trash and garbage to what we used to call “the dump” years ago, but is now the “Recycling Center”. It is so nice, in fact, that there is a large section where people leave off their used books, often in mint condition. After dropping off my trash on Saturday, I was looking some of them over, when a woman arrived with several bags full of books. She explained that she needed to clean house to make room for all of her daughter’s textbooks. Before the professional vultures were able to grab up all of the books in those bags, I picked out a copy of a book I had seen for years, but had never opened up, Al Frankens’ Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.

As you all probably know, there is quite a cottage industry out there for the chattering skull class of apologists from the extreme left and the extreme right who are making a fine living out of telling us how the other side is screwing up the country and leading western civilization into total destruction. On the right, there are books like Laura Ingraham’s Shut Up and Sing: How Elites from Hollywood, Politics, and the UN are Subverting America, as well as books by people like Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, Michael Savage, and Sean Hannity. On the left there are books by Michael Moore, John Stewart, Bill Maher, and Al Franken.

Flipping through Franken’s book yesterday, I do have to admit that there was a lot to chuckle about. There was one chapter in particular, with a comic book spoof called “Supply Side Jesus”. Here Franken takes the religious right to task for hitching their wagon to country club “neo-con” economic libertarians. I thought the strip was quite funny and hard-hitting at the same time. Beliefnet has most of the cartoon panels here, with some interesting commentary from various readers thrown in. What do people think?


crystal said...

Supply Side Jesus ... I followed the link and saw the drawings. Too much fun :-)

BTW, I saw that you're reading a book about the gunpowder plot. I read a little about that a while ago. What I saw speculated that perhaps Protestants in the government had planned the plot to suck in some Catholic extremists and make things worse for Cathoics overall. What does the book you're reading have to say?

Jeff said...

Hi Crystal,

This author doesn't seem to think that Elizabeth's agents came up with the plot. she thinks the plot was real. What she does seem to think is that the crown agents found out about the plot through an intercepted letter nine days before they arrested Fawkes, and used the interval to maximize the outrage effect and to come up with a strategy to implicate the Jesuits, specifically Henry Garnet and John Gerard, whom they had been searching out for a long time.

crystal said...

I see. I read about Henry Garnet when I was looking up stuff about the plot. ... things seemed to be very tough for Catholics at that time. BTW, if you didn't see my reply on my blog, thanks for that book recommendation at Amazon - I sent for it.

Steve Bogner said...

I wonder what a Jesus-themed comic strip by the right, about the left, would look like?

I'm definitely in the middle of the road here; there is some merit to supply-side economics, welfare to work & etc; and there is merit in universal healthcare coverage, higher minimum wages and so on.

Mike McG... said...

The Al Franken "Supply Side Jesus" send up was hilarious. It reminds me of the humor delivered by The Onion (, a satirical weekly.

I do wonder, however, if I would have found it quite as humorous if Franken were skewering one of my sacred cows...and if Franken would laugh were his sacred cows skewered.

Ridicule is an incredibly powerful instrument. It renders the originator smug and self-satisfied and can intensify the alientation of those mocked.

I recently read informed speculation that Clarence Thomas moved meaningfully to the right as a result of the derision he has encountered from the left. Oh, the unanticipated consequences!

Take away: no one likes there sand castles knocked down. We need to tread softly in satirizing others' beliefs. We should never underestimate the resentments ridicule may generate.

Jeff said...

Hi Steve,

Oh, I’m sure the right would have a field day with “Bleeding Heart Jesus” (are you old enough to remember the 'Sargent Shriver’s Bleeding Heart’s Club Band' spoof in National Lampoon?). I’m sure there’s a parody out there somewhere. :-) Then again, strictly from a Catholic perspective, there are books by guys like Chris Ferrara that go to town on liberals all the time, and folks like Fr. Moderator on sites like Traditio keep the cavalcade of photos of supposed liturgical desecrations going on a daily basis. In a wider realm, I’m sure that Ann Coulter’s new book Godless: The Church of Liberalism, probably uses a broad-axe in response to Franken’s rapier.

I hear what you’re saying about being middle of the road. I’m a firm believer in free enterprise (history has shown that people just won’t take good care of what they don’t own), but I’m not a Social Darwinist either. I believe in regulated capitalism balanced with a strong labor movement. I’m sure you know that the middle is a tough place to walk. The supply-siders want nothing to do with a minimum wage and universal coverage, and the people who tend to push for those tend to find “trickle down” economics loathsome.

How’ve you been Mike?

The Onion is really funny, especially when the Chinese government quotes them as a source of information(!) I bet if you read Franken’s book, you’d find him slaughtering at least one of your sacred cows somewhere. :-)

Good point about ridicule and satire. Sometimes the consequences are far-reaching and unanticipated, for sure. Still, sometimes those who have no power are left with satire and mockery as their best and only weapons.

Liam said...

That was funny, Jeff.

I have to admit, I find Franken witty and intelligent, whereas I find Ann Coulter insulting and even loathesome. I certainly am much farther to the left than to the right in most of my politics, so I'm sure I'm not objective. Still, I think Franken has a bit more taste and relies on satire, not cruelty, but that might just be my point-of-view.

Jeff said...

Hi Liam,

No problem, my friend. I think I know where you're coming from in terms of politics, and it's OK by me. I noticed on your book meme that you were no fan of Ann Coulter's, so I am not surprised to hear you say so. Actually, the only person who directly took even a mild shot in this satire was Bill Bennett.