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Is Dilbert part of a much bigger Cancel?

Humor consists largely in identifying the difference between our aspirations and our achievements

People who love workplace comedy might be surprised to learn that Dilbert has been Canceled by many U.S. newspapers, whose editor are morally outraged

Comedy is one of the great casualties of wokeness. Comedians now have to navigate an ever expanding list of taboo subjects and forbidden targets. Superstar comedians like Dave Chappelle and Ricky Gervais stand accused of ‘punching down’ for mocking woke absurdities. Beloved characters in The Simpsons and even the knowingly offensive Family Guy have been altered following the charge of ‘cultural appropriation’. Meanwhile, many TV sketch shows and satirical programmes seem to have given up on telling jokes entirely, swapping humour for sermonising and ‘clapter’ comedy. So, is comedy doomed? Or is there hope outside of the mainstream?

Brendan O’Neill, “The death of mainstream comedy” at Spiked Online (September 28, 2022)

Who could improve on some of the much-cancelled Babylon Bee’s best titles? “10 Famous College Grads Who Prove How Smart College Makes You”?

Some hope that Netflix has saved comedy:

Netflix’s curation strategy is mostly agnostic. It operates like a video store, carrying everything on demand (regardless of politics). In April, when Netflix reported a net loss of 200,000 subscribers, Elon Musk blamed the dip on Netflix’s “wokeness,” which is the view of someone whirling inside the zeitgeist tornado, not reality. Bridgerton — which could be classified as “woke” — is the second-most watched English-language show in the history of Netflix. The feminist fantasy of The Queen’s Gambit drew 62 million viewers. “Hollywood’s racial shortcomings became Netflix’s arbitrage,” wrote Dan Runcie, founder of Trapital, which covers the business of hip-hop and black-focused content.

Art Tavana, “How Netflix saved comedy” at Spectator (August 22, 2022)

Others would say, not so fast. One of the consistently funniest satire sites on the American scene is Babylon Bee, is nonetheless rejected by every Big Tech boffin:

Last week, Facebook announced that it would clarify the “satire exception” to its “Hate Speech Community Standard.” While this is welcome news for the expansion of content on Facebook, the platform also suggested it would act as a kind of satire police, ruling out certain kinds of satire that “punch down” or communicates “hateful ideas.” Almost as if on cue, Slate published an article on Tuesday attacking The Babylon Bee for — you guessed it — “punching down.”

Tyler O’Neil, “Facebook’s New Announcement on Satire Doesn’t Bode Well for the Babylon Bee…” at PJ Media (June 23, 2021)

The Bee attracted attention for harmful information, a concept that needs to be carefully interpreted. It may not be possible to determine what is safely “funny” any more.

Humor consists largely in identifying the difference between our aspirations and our achievements. No one needs to hear that more than those in government. When comedy is totally in sync with government, something is wrong.

Denyse O'Leary

Denyse O'Leary is a freelance journalist based in Victoria, Canada. Specializing in faith and science issues, she is co-author, with neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, of The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul; and with neurosurgeon Michael Egnor of the forthcoming The Human Soul: What Neuroscience Shows Us about the Brain, the Mind, and the Difference Between the Two (Worthy, 2025). She received her degree in honors English language and literature.

Is Dilbert part of a much bigger Cancel?