Trump Hasn’t Killed Comedy. He’s Killed Our Stupid Idea of Comedy.
The thing about “Ooh! Look at us! We’re such taboo-breakers!”, as Michaelis Maus will tell you, is that “Radical” is the new Conservative: it’s breaking obsolete taboos that not many people are fussed about anymore, and it’s not breaking the actual current taboos that matter. And patting itself on the back for it.
The alt-right are vile? Why yes. Historically, when you violate a taboo, that makes you vile! Taboos are there for a reason.
Comedy, evidently, is neither necessarily moral nor inevitably liberal. Andrew Anglin, a neo-Nazi blogger, has linked trolling to “culture jamming,” a late 20th-century wave of anti-consumerist media pranks. Mark Dery, who introduced the term to the mainstream with a 1990 essay in the New York Times, replied in a 2016 interview that Anglin’s tactics are actually a “bastardized form of cultural jamming” because they “discredit the official narrative” and “suggest a false equivalency between viewpoints and positions where there truly is a right and a wrong.” Never mind that the whole point of culture jamming was to discredit the official narrative: Anglin’s culture jamming must be wrong because it targets the wrong people. This is like saying that a gun is not a real gun because it was used in a homicide.
Which is not to suggest that racist trolling, like murder, is ever justified—just that it’s still a species of humor. A bad joke is a joke, just as Der Ewige Jude is a movie. Trolling, culture jamming, and deceit may currently be the comic armaments of people you don’t like, but it hasn’t always been this way. (Remember: “We called them lies.”) And comedy’s survival may depend on it not being so again.