I read Evan Draim’s letter to the editor in yesterday’s Daily Princetonian, and his conception of editorial responsibility and comprehensive understanding of satire made me think about the role of humor here at Princeton. As the chairman of Princeton’s humor magazine, I decided to investigate why articles like the Tory‘s list of useless courses remind me why the Tory is less of a gurgling font of satire and more of an intellectually engaged journal of conservative thought. But let’s put the original list aside—that’s neither here nor there (in part because it was scrubbed from the Tory‘s website)—let’s talk about Evan’s letter to the editor.
People say that satire has the power to educate and change and even assert its author’s own opinions. They are wrong. Satire is nothing but a handful of factually incorrect and inflammatory bullet points that by definition cannot ultimately make a real point. It’s just humor! When I read that Evan “never meant for [his] post…to be taken as a serious critique….[T]he piece was only intended to provide comedic value,” I realized that he single-handedly disproved the crude and ignorant opinion that humor is a real mode of expression right alongside “yelling obscenities through a megaphone” and “exposing yourself at Walmart.”
Humor writing can simply be dismissed as ‘just a joke’ and ‘not representative of its author’s opinions’ just because it’s supposed to be funny. To strip satire (and humor in general) of any power and artistry makes a lot of sense: it heaps bundles of validity onto the conceit of Evan’s original Tory article, which by his own admission sought to satirize ridiculous courses at Princeton. It may come as a surprise to many of our readers (not Evan) but humor is not a legitimate means of conveying opinions and is the real reason for how widespread the misunderstandings about his article were.
Perhaps one of the best and most relatable points in Evan’s letter relates both to the roles of satire and sterling editorial responsibility. He says, “the way that my article on the Tory blog was ultimately interpreted did not reflect my true convictions about the quality of Princeton courses and educators, and therefore I had no desire to defend it further,” and it made me realize that humor cannot say anything of meaning, but also that my own poor grades on papers had nothing to do with my claims and ideas. I have been so foolish! My professors just perceived it incorrectly, and the results were probably not correlated with the quality of my writing at all.
Hopefully, as a community, we can now move forward to discussing issues that warrant real debate. Humor is not one of them.
Yours in satire,
The Princeton Tiger