Will Self’s essay “A Point of View: What’s the Point of Satire” discusses the role of satire in the modern context of society. This paper provides a summary ad critique of Will Self’s article exposing the strengths and weakness of his argumentation.
For a start, the aim of “A Point of View: What’s the Point of Satire” was to expose the flaws of modern use of satire as a literary tool that has lost its meaning in the context of the modern society. The author’s major argument is that the initial meaning of satire as “to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” and that this meaning is not compatible with the essence of the modern society where there is no “general consensus about what’s right and what’s wrong.” Will Self supports his argument with supportive evidence: he reveals the basics of the classical view of satire as aiming at “the moral reform of society,” traces the development of satire in Europe and its dependence on the Judeo-Christian moral tradition, and emphasizes the difference between the British irony as “a commitment to never saying what you mean, but only indicating it to those who are in the know” and French tradition of “violent satire.” He also supports his argument with the analysis of the current status of satire in the British society: although it attacks the rich in an attempt “to comfort the afflicted,” it does not bring any anticipated result, because rivalry ethical codes are regarded as merely alternate choices of lifestyle rather than “stairways to heaven and hell.” In the context of the murders of Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and journalists in Paris, this text urges to re-evaluate the actual purpose and nature of satire as a destructive tool, because it is “merely offensive, or egregiously offensive.”
The essay “A Point of View: What’s the Point of Satire” raises an important issue in today’s media realm: whether or not satire can be used as a means of critique of the religious views of certain members of European societies. On the one hand, increasing Muslim populations in a range of well-off European societies are viewed as a threat to the cultural traditions of the European nations; on the other hand, attacks on Islam through cartoons of Prophet Mohamed are thought to be a too radical measure to combat the spread of the Muslim tradition. Will Self, it seems, supports the second perspective. Yet, his strong point here is avoidance of moralizing and appeals to the ethical norms in journalism or cartoon art. Instead, as it can be seen, Will Self appeals to common sense revealing, on the one hand, the authentic purpose of satire as a regulator of what is wrong and what is right and exposing, on the other hand, the true nature of modern society where the boundaries between what is right and what is wrong are unclear and satire is no longer effective. His approach to backing up his argument is consistent, well-supported with evidence, and logical.
However, one is likely to have a reservation about this essay. It is true that satire has lost its meaning as an effective tool of achieving moral reforms in the society and it may also be true (as implied by the author) that the cartoons of Prophet Mohamed were merely insulting things rather than a tool of righteous struggle for cultural space. Yet, is there any ethical meaning in exposing the drawbacks of the satirical approach in connection with the mass murder of French cartoonists and journalists? In this sense, the approach of the author is one-sided. Will Smith exposes the drawback of satire use by the modern cartoonists but fails to acknowledge that the punishment for this drawback is too harsh. In this sense, the article lacks a balanced view on the problem, where the issue would be discussed in its broad scope.
Overall, “A Point of View: What’s the Point of Satire” is a well-constructed argumentative essay on the useless of use of satire in modern society due to its changed perceptions of wrong and right. It, however, fails to draw an objective link to the tragic events I Paris.