With a few comments on my last post to spur me on, here are some hopefully final thoughts on the ironic life for the moment.
Irony is one of the characteristic social modes for Americans of at least the Generation X (that would be mine, i.e. 40ish) and younger. I can’t speak for how pervasive it is demographically in terms of race, class, or education: I certainly read R. Kelly’s “Trapped in the Closet” ironically.
While irony is generally interpreted as being the same as sarcasm, or satire, I saw something different in, say, South Park’s portrayal of Al Gore, which is so silly that I can’t see it as an actual criticism of global warming alarmism. Instead, it just uses our familiarity with this phenomenon as a premise for something comic. This is also my reading of Sacha Baron Cohen’s social commentary and Howard Stern’s arrogance. As detailed in my first post on this, I see in these examples some suspension of judgment on the part of the perpetrators: if it’s a commentary, it’s an ambiguous one, rooted in some recognition of the absurd.
What are the social and psychological affects of this phenomenon? Is it overall a good or bad thing? These are huge questions, and I don’t think I can do them justice here, but let me make a few points: