Is Irony Eating Itself

Quick thought – is irony eating itself? We hear so much about the ironic nature of hipsterism – a kind of post modernist ennui that deflects genuine feeling into wry skepticism.

There’s an argument to be made that this reliance on irony reflects hopelessness – a sense that there’s no point being passionately earnest about anything because it can only disappoint, so fuck it, let’s just try and find the humour in it or be contrarian in a different way.

But looking at Trumpism and the movement building around the ludicrous Jacob Rees Mogg, you can’t help wondering how much of their support is driven by irony. Rees Mogg in particular consciously trades in caricature and his supporters seem to love the idea of electing an anachronistic joke to high office.

The same with Trump – how many people who were abjectly disillusioned by the political process thought it would be hilarious to send the Donald clodhopping across the manicured lawns of Washington?

Perhaps most extraordinary is that as irony starts to inform things like political choices, it’s losing its bite, normalizing and setting up car crash after car crash on issues that really matter.

It’s almost as if life has been so comfortable in so many ways in the West over recent decades that we’ve forgotten what real catastrophe looks like, so why not treat politics as a good laugh – what’s the worst that can happen?

The thing about irony is that it’s supposed to highlight the absurd as a tool of critical analysis. Now it seems to either be a weird manifestation of apathy or a key current in recasting Western public consciousness as a massive reality TV show.

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