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A short history of satire.

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posted on Sep, 20 2012 @ 10:27 AM
With the current outrage over the now infamous Charlie Hebdo cartoons it is easy to think that cartoons such as these are a new phenomena, an offspring from our modern society that revels in rudeness, if you delve into history however you will find that satire both political, social and religious has been with us for as long as we have existed.

The first written example of satire comes to use from ancient Egypt, called The Satire of the Trades it is a document that pokes fun at peoples professions of the time ( Jeweller, Carpenter etc)

  The jeweler pierces stone in stringing beads in all kinds of hard stone. When he has completed the inlaying of the eye-amulets, his strength vanishes and he is tired out. He sits until the arrival of the sun, his knees and his back bent at (the place called) Aku-Re. 


We do not have a record of how this text was received by the public and its humour is rather lost in translation however its intention to poke fun and insult sections of society is still clear today.

Greek and Roman writing was also filled with satire, one of its most famous satirical writers being the playwright Aristophanes The Islamic world itself has seen a number of satirical writers one of the most famous being Obaid Zakani who was known for being both satirical and obscene

If we fast forward a few hundred years we start to find examples of the satirical cartoon like this one from James Gillray

This cartoon depicts the Prince Regent at the time as a fat, uncaring, fool and caused an uproar at the time

Foreign visitors who saw such prints could not believe that in England it was possible to ridicule the morals and manners of the heir to the throne in this way, especially at the time of the French Revolution, when monarchy was conspicuously vulnerable. In their eyes such prints confirmed the British reputation for free speech and liberty.


Satire also has a long and rich history in the United States through cartoonists such as Thomas Nast who not only helped to illustrate history but shape it giving us the recognisable versions of the Republican Elephant, the Democrat Donkey, Santa clause and a host of others As well as playing a large role in the election of Ulysses Grant through cartoons attacking his opponents

The invention of film and television gave satirists another outlet which they fully exploited with Monty Pythons The life of Brian being one of the most well known which on its release was banned from being shown in a number of countries including Ireland and Norway.

.... Yet the film was surrounded from its inception by intense anxiety, in some quarters of the Establishment, about the offence it might cause. As a result it gained a certificate for general release only after some cuts had been made. Perhaps more importantly still, the film was shunned by the BBC and ITV, who declined to show it for fear of offending Christians in this country

Forward to the present day and we have a veritable cornucopia of satire available from people like Jon Stewart in the political realm and comedians like Tim Minchin and the ever present South Park, all causing offence to the groups that they single out as targets for their humour.

I think what all of these examples illustrate is that Satirising our contemporaries and our perceived “betters” religious and political is a part of who we are as people, It has been a part of our art and culture forever and people have taken offence at it forever. It has helped shape our history our religion and our politics.

These “New” cartoons are indeed nothing new at all and we should remember that If we look at them as crass, offensive or just plain rude, that is what they were always intended to be, hopefully somewhere buried in the offence it also made you stop and think about your own preconceived ideas on the subject

posted on Sep, 20 2012 @ 11:46 AM
reply to post by davespanners

I agree,,, and you hardly need to hear it from me but nicely made thread

but,,, are there any lines to be drawn and not crossed? Should there be any rules, censorship, or regulation, in regards to freedom of speech/expression?

posted on Sep, 20 2012 @ 12:03 PM
reply to post by ImaFungi

I think personally that any subject should be open to be ridiculed and poked fun at no matter how preciously it is held by the society at the time.

The grey area I guess lies when people try to draw the distinction between humour and hatefulnesses (most examples I gave Im sure where seen as hateful by the groups which they were aimed at at the time) I think what separates satire from hate is its desire to convey a deeper hidden message or make a point rather then just being an attack on something for the sake of it.

posted on Sep, 20 2012 @ 12:11 PM
reply to post by davespanners

Of course,,,

The thing is, when poking fun at the ways of another,, the one receiving the scrutiny may be uncontrollably offended,.,.,. I do not want to go into this and im not "one of those" but it is most certainly related to the ego or ones personal perception of themselves,,, I live my whole life sternly believing in certain things,, and then you and thousands of other people are mocking me and making fun of me, the way I think about myself and surroundings,, and the way me and my family have lived our lives,, how can I not take that personally? No matter how good my sense of humor is,, how can that not hurt a little bit?

The reason I ask if lines should be drawn,, is because I think they already are,,, in terms of blatant threats and hatefulness,.,. Im sure there have been cartoons drawn of obama being beheaded by the KKK,,,,
A major problem is seen when it is up to "government" to determine whether a snippet of image and information is good old fashioned fun,, or law breaking hateful harmful content....
So then I must ask,, should there be no lines drawn,,, should a person or groups of people,, be allowed to say, and think, and feel, and write,, and show and tell whatever they can think of and want to, at any time, for any reason?
edit on 20-9-2012 by ImaFungi because: (no reason given)

posted on Sep, 20 2012 @ 03:18 PM
I'm not sure the government decides where the line is drawn (not in the UK anyway) most of the censorship I've personally seen has been from mass hysteria usually caused by the media.

In my personal view offence shouldn't ever be a reason to censor something however much offence it causes to however many people

posted on Sep, 20 2012 @ 04:26 PM

Originally posted by davespanners

In my personal view offence shouldn't ever be a reason to censor something however much offence it causes to however many people

really? ,.,.,.,. hypothetically ,,,.. Tomorrow your neighbor makes a cartoon of himself killing you and your family with much more graphic things included,,, and posts it up on street signs outside your house,, and sends copies to your hypothetical children.,.,,.., are you not offended? is your neighbor not out of line? ,.,..,..

what if it offends people because it is not true,,, still the freedom to express oneself as an idiot? for example I make a cartoon explaining why black people are stupid and inferior,, and i list 50 reasons.,.,.. this could potentially offend some people,,, but I should still be able to voice my "opinion",.,.,.,.

understand im not advocating anything,, just trying to play devils advocate to dissect these very real events and themes which play in our daily lives and world,,.

posted on Sep, 21 2012 @ 10:42 AM
I remember going to see life of brian in the theater. There were nuns protesting in the lobby of the theater. I asked them what they were protesting, and they said the movie was blasphemous. I then asked them how they knew this and they said that the head of the convent had said so.So I asked them if they had seen the movie and they said no.

So I said to them if you haven't seen the movie then how do you know what it is about? For this they had no answer. I said to them perhaps you should watch the movie instead of taking some one's word for what it was about. Why don't you judge it for yourself? They got quiet after that comment. I went in to see the movie and when I came out they were gone.

They had been told that the movie slandered christ which of course is not true. It's just a satire of the times of christ. They believed what they were told and like so many never questioned the information they were given. I think this is why so many people are offended by such things. They believe what they are told about something and don't think for themselves.

I'm willing to bet you that the vast majority of muslims who are protesting the stupid movie haven't seen it for themselves. They believe what they are told by others who probably haven't seen it either. Ignorance breeds ignorance.

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